Archery Bowstrings 101
Frequently Asked Questions
Like: “How Often Should I Wax My Bowstring?” & “How Often Should I Replace My Bowstring?”
Taking care of your bowstrings. Why should I wax my bowstring?
Bowstrings are put under a lot of stress and caring for it should be a priority for accuracy, durability and safety.
Waxing the string will help maintain the string by preventing it absorbing moisture. It also helps keep the bundles together and helps lubricate the strands/fibres from rubbing together.
Regardless if you shoot a compound, longbow or recurve bow, you should wax your bowstring.
How often should I wax my bowstring?
This depends on how much you shoot it and the environment. If you are shooting every day, possibly wax it once a week. Otherwise once a month may be sufficient.
If bowhunting in wet and rough conditions, every couple of days might be best.
Rub off the excess by rubbing your fingers up and down the bowstring quickly. This also generates heat and helps the wax penetrate between the strands.
Visit – How Often Should You Wax Your Bowstring? for more information.
Can I wax the center and end servings?
It won’t hurt the string, but not really necessary unless in very wet conditions, where the wax will help repel the water soaking in the serving.
For compounds excess wax on end servings and cables may clog up in the cam grooves or cable slide.
How often should I replace my bowstring?
This will depend on the amount of use. A common practice among some archers is replacing the string routinely every one to two years of use.
If you shoot every day in rugged conditions, the string may get knocked about and it may need replacing in 6 months.
On the other hand shooting just a few times in a year, the bowstring may last for ten years or more if stored properly and out of sunlight.
Always visually inspect the string for frayed strands and wear, if in doubt replace it.
For recurve and longbows, always inspect string nock grooves on the limb tips for sharp edges that may cut into the string or cause excessive wear.
For compound bows, check the cam edges and make sure they don’t have any bumps or burs that might wear the cables.
In any case it is always good to have a spare bowstring. Some archers will put a new bowstring on and use their old one as a spare.
The older compound bows, cable guard slides can eat up cables, so visually check that area often.
Some Olympic archery target shooters might have several spare bowstrings, already pre-shot in and fitted with noc sets, etc.
How do I find the length of my compound bowstring?
For most modern compound bows the manufacture will have that information on their website.
Another way is to measure from axle to axle. Depending on the material used, some types of bowstrings can stretch, (Creep.) so be mindful of that.
Your stretched bowstring might be longer than the proper length bowstring. Check your brace height and bow specs, to make sure this is spot on.
For older models of compound bows that you can’t find any information on, measure the string from axle to axle.
Cables are a bit harder to measure. You might get some string and follow it around the wheels or cams and go around giving you a rough length.
A more accurate way is to put the bow in a press and take the bowstring and cables off. (Danger – safety first. Ideally get the pro bow shop do it, as the bow limbs are under a lot of pressure.)
Check your brace height before taking the string off.
Older type bow string materials may have stretched. (Creep.) Especially on a well-used old compound bow.
My bowstring is too short or too long, what can I do?
Double check your brace height specs to check what it should be.
You can twist the string up / or untwist it (Be careful with Flemish strings as not to untwist too much.) down a bit to adjust brace height.
However, this only works a small amount and won’t work on too long, or too short of a bowstring.
Why is the top loop of my bowstring bigger, compared to the bottom loop?
For recurve and longbow bowstrings, the top loop is slightly larger.
This is so you can slide the bowstring down the top limb when un-stringing your bow. This helps the string from untwisting and alter your preferred brace height and also stops a Flemish string from untwisting.
What length center serving is on a bowstring?
For recurves and longbows, the center serving length will be around 7 inches (Over 17 centimeters.) in length.
This length will cover split and three under release methods as well as cater for most different bow set ups, such as shooting off the shelf, or using an elevated arrow rest.
For compound bows the length can vary dramatically.
For bows that are promoting top speeds, they might serve with only three or four inches of center serving length. This is because you don’t need much center serving with a release device attached to the string. This helps reduce the weight of the string for a potentially higher arrow speed.
For some cheap strings the center serving can be short to save on materials. For other company’s the center serving is very long so it covers the specs of the cheap made bows.
How many strands is a bowstring?
This will really depend on type of bow, such as recurve, compound or longbow. Bow draw weight, string material or play a part, so it can vary greatly.
The bowstring might have 10, 12, 14 or more strands in it.
What is the difference between a Flemish twist and endless loop bowstrings?
Mainly the way they are constructed.
Above image: Top two bowstrings are Flemish twist bowstrings. Bottom is a endless loop bowstring.
An endless loop bowstring is a single strand of bowstring material looped around in one continuous loop and then bound together with serving or the tag string ends. It may be more consistent and less prone to creeping because of the construction process.
Endless loop bowstrings are generally used by recurve target shooters. Compound bows use endless loop bowstrings.
A Flemish twist bowstring (Also called a Flemish Splice string.) is braided or spliced together with twists to hold the end loops together.
The Flemish string should never be untwisted too many times, or it may come apart. Because of the construction process it may be a tiny little bit slower than the endless loop, however a Flemish string may be a touch quieter.
The Flemish bowstring has an old traditional look about it and popular with a longbow and recurve bowhunters.
What is the difference between bowstring stretch and creep?
Stretch is when the string stretches like a rubber band, then contracts back to the same length as it was originally.
Creep is when it lengthens (but doesn’t contract back) and stays longer. Creep is more common in some older string materials like Dacron B50 and B500.
Creep is undesirable trait as it can affect the tune of a compound bows, recurves and longbows. As the string lengthens the brace height shortens.
You may have to compensate for the change in the brace height by twisting the bowstring back into the correct brace height. (In compound bows, creep can effect peep rotation, draw length, draw weight and tune.)
Will my bowstring creep?
This depends on what bow string material you choose.
Some material, like B50 and B55 designed for older bows will creep. Or the older generic fast flight materials will have some little creep.
Bowstrings made with the latest materials can have very little or no creep.
Good manufactures and builders of custom bowstrings, stretch the strings under tension and try to eliminate as much creep as possible.
(Measuring – AMO string guidelines are at 100 lbs tension at 20 seconds. Dacron strings on bows of 40 pounds or under are measured at 50lbs tension at 20 seconds.)
How many pounds is a bowstrings stretched with?
Depending on the materials and process, some manufactures can use from 100lb to up to 300lbs for stretching.
What are skinny bowstrings? Do they increase arrow speed?
In some cases using a skinny string (Also called a low count strand bowstring.) you will see a rise in performance, however this will depend on the string material and bow set up, etc.
Not all bows will see an advantage using a lighter string. Archery companies go to great lengths to research, test and measure their bows to get the most speed out of them.
You also have to weigh up durability, safety, hand shock and nock fit with performance. Because you are using less material, the string may be more prone to creeping. For heavy poundage bows, there may be a safety aspect.
I have used many low count strand bowstrings on a lot of my bow rigs myself. However there is no magic bowstring, string material or construction process that will suddenly add blistering arrow speed using a skinny string. You may or may not gain some feet per second in speed. Also, you have to weigh up the trade-offs.
My bow has a lot of hand shock, is it the string?
In some cases it might be, but before we throw away the string and order a new one, let’s first eliminate some common causes of hand shock.
Brace height, check this is in specs with the manufactures recommendations. If you still have some shock try raising and lowering the brace height. (By putting more twists in the string. Do not untwist a Flemish string too much, as it may come apart.)
Play around with the brace height to get that correct height for your bow.
Putting some string silencers like cat whiskers, wool puffs or string leeches will help with vibration.
Limb savers or similar may take out some vibration. Even a bit of bicycle tube rubber wrapped around the fade-outs may also help.
Using too lighter weight arrows can be another cause of excess vibration. Shooting a very light G.P.I. (Grains per inch.) arrow may lead to the bow not transferring the energy from the limbs effectively. Try changing to a heavier arrow if practical.
Sometimes attaching a bow quiver if appropriate may take out some vibration.
String material and strand count will also have an effect on vibration. Some bows will like the softer Dacron / polyester type of materials like B50, B55. Other times a high performance material skinny string will help depending on the design of the bow.
Certain poorly designed bows, will have a bit of hand shock no matter what you do.
Changing bows – If you swap around shooting several types of bows you may notice more hand shock as well.
An example could be: If you shoot a recurve with a heavy wooden riser design, then switch to a light older designed longbow, you may notice a lot of hand shock then.
If you just shoot one bow after a few weeks, you may not even notice any hand shock as you get used of it. You hear of stories that a friend shoots his mates bow and states, “It has got a bit of hand shock.” The mate says, “What hand shock!”
My bow makes a lot of noise, is it the string?
Excessive bow noise can be caused by similar issues to hand shock. Try the above remedies as well as check your spine of your arrows are correct.
Clearance issues from contacting the arrow rest can also cause some noise. You might try some powder on your arrows and see if any excess contact is being made. Sometimes a bad release will cause a bit of noise and / or an out of tune bow.
If your bow has accessories, try shacking the bow or hitting it with your palm and listen if anything is loose. An un-tightened sight, loose quiver or accessories could be the cause.
Too tight of a nock fit may cause noise. Click on, How Tight Should My Arrow Nock Be? for more information.
The nock should just be firm enough to support the weight of the arrow hanging vertical from the string. To test the nock fit is correct, all it should take is a gentle tap with the fingers on the nock to bump it off the string.
If string silencers don’t help for recurves try some limb pads as well.
A Flemish twist string, padded loops or a different type of string material or strand count, may help.
Sometime it is may be your perception as you are holding the bow. Have an experienced archer turn his back and listen to you shoot your bow, see if he thinks it is quiet or not.
What are bowstrings made from?
An archery bowstring can be made from all type of materials like Dacron / polyester types, to high performance strings made out of Dyneema and Vectran materials.
Hundreds of years ago, medieval and primitive bowstrings were made from some plant materials and animal sinew and rawhide.
Should I twist my bow string?
Yes, you should have a twist in the bowstring. This helps it shoot better as the bundles are firmer and wont balloon out when shot.
How many shots does a bow string last?
A well looked after, modern bowstring will last thousands of shots. Make sure you wax the string and look out for any strands that are frayed, cut or damaged.
Is it OK to leave a bow strung?
A compound bow will remain strung all the time.
It is advisable to un-string recurve bows and longbows when not using them. Make sure you use a bow-stringer for safety and convenience.