How To Make A Recurve Bowstring: A Complete Guide

by | Apr 1, 2023

Whether out of curiosity, or practicality, many archers are itching to learn how to make a recurve bowstring. And rightly so. Being able to make your own bowstrings is a pretty handy skill for an archer to have, and one that will pay you dividends over time.

But the skill of making bowstrings is largely passed on from person to person with no one central source of information.

So where to start?

To begin the process of how to make a recurve bowstring you’ll need a string jig, a serving jig, and string material. Anchor the string to the string jig, then begin wrapping the string around the posts until you have the right amount of thickness. Then rotate the jig posts to complete the end loops before rotating the posts back to finish off the centre serving.

Learning how to make a recurve bowstring can be a time-consuming and expensive past-time to begin with, but if archery is something you’re committed to, then over the long term, string-making is going to be your best friend.

In this article, we’ll break down exactly how to go about making your own strings, plus the right equipment you’ll need to get started.

How To Make A Recurve Bowstring: A Complete Guide

Not having the right equipment is probably the number 1 reason that stops people from learning how to make a recurve bowstring.

Aside from the essentials, we’ll also take a look at some of the other items that you should have on hand.

For this article, we’re going to focus on making an Endless Loop string, which is the more common type of string for a recurve bow.

List Of Materials You Will Need

1. String Jig

The string jig is the most important item on the list. You can’t make a bowstring without it. It’s also the biggest thing on the list as it has to cope with the entire length of the string.

There are different types of jigs depending on whether you’re making a flemish twist or an endless loop.

String Jig

String jigs are very specialised pieces of equipment, so you won’t find them in your average sporting goods stores or even smaller archery stores.

The major archery retailers like Merlin Archery and Lancaster Archery are your best bets for obtaining one.

2. String and Serving Material

It goes without saying that you’re going to need string material to make a bowstring, but we’re saying it anyway!

If this is your first string, then don’t go with expensive material. Pick something that has some flex to it like a Dacron string.

You’ll also need the serving thread in order to wrap your end loops and set up your nocking point.

3. Serving Jig

The only other specialised tool you need is a serving jig. This tool is used to wrap the serving thread around the bowstring.

Serving Jig

Lots of companies make their own serving jigs, but they are all basically the same. A decent one will only cost around $12.

4. String Tool

String tools are used to separate the strands out while you work on the string. This is particularly useful if you’re working on a string with more than one colour.

You can buy one for around $10, but alternatively, you could use a pen or something of a similar size.

Other materials:

  • Knife/Scissors – for cutting off loose ends
  • Lighter – for melting down and sealing serving material
  • String Wax – for sealing the string once you’re finished
  • Pliers – To grip and tighten the thread

The Bowstring-Making Process

There is no ‘one correct way’ to make a bowstring. In fact, there are quite a lot of different videos and tutorials online, and all of them will add something slightly different.

Here, we’ll go through the string-making process step-by-step:

1. Measure Out Your String

You’ll need to measure your string length. AMO standards say that your string length should be 3 inches shorter than the bow length. So for a 68-inch bow, you’ll need to measure out a 65-inch length of string.

*Better to be on the longer side, as you can’t lengthen a shorter string!

2. Set Up The Jig

First, we want to rotate the jig posts so that they are in line with the jig. Make sure to tighten the locking nuts after so that they remain fixed in place.

3. Anchor The End Of The String

Tie the end of the string around the jig screws at one end. You won’t be tying any knots in the string, just wrap the string around the screw until it’s secured.

4. Pass The String Around The End Posts

Now you’re going to build up the string by wrapping it around the posts at the other end of the jig.

The number of times you do this depends on how many strands you want on your bow. This also depends on the material you’re using, the draw weight of the bow, and the thickness of the string you need to suit your nocks.

For a recurve bow of around a 40lb draw weight, an 18-strand string is a good recommendation.

If you’re going to make that 18-strand string, then you would need to wrap the string around the posts 9 times.

Most bow manufacturers will supply guidelines for the number of strands they recommend. There are also plenty of tables to be found online.

* Generally, heavier bows require more strands for durability, but more strands will reduce speed.

5. Tie Off The String

Once you have wrapped the string enough times around the posts, cut and tie off the end of the string to the second post.

At this stage, the string should be fairly taught without any slack.

6. Rotate The Jig Arm 90 Degrees

Now you’re ready to work on the first end loop. To do this, you need to rotate the jig arm so that the posts are perpendicular to the rest of the jig.

Take the serving jig and lay out a piece of thread so that it’s flat across the string.

Next, while keeping the thread in place, wrap the serving jig several times around the string overlapping the loose end so that it secures the thread.

Once you’ve done this several times, the jig should hold itself in place. Tighten up the thread using the pliers if you need to. You can then slide it along the string to the desired length.

Now you can cut off the excess thread using the knife.

* You can measure the exact distance from the post with a ruler

7. Finish Off The Serving

Next, you’re going to complete the serving by spinning the serving jig around the string. The string should sit in the serving jig groove as you spin around multiple times.

Serving Jig

Try to find a consistent rhythm so that the covering is nice and even with no gaps.

* The string will most likely twist as you’re doing this, but as long as it doesn’t work its way past the post it will be fine.

8. Rotate The Jig Posts Back

Before starting on the other end loop, you need to rotate the jig posts back to their original position.

9. Cut The Anchor Strings

Now that the serving is holding the string together, you can cut the anchoring strings.

10. Complete The Loop

Now you’re going to extend the serving further down the string to create and seal the loop.

Measure out some extra thread from the serving jig and wrap it several times around both strings at the point where your loop will end.

Keep spinning the jig around the string while working your way back towards the end of the string.

11. Tie Off The Serving

Give yourself a long length of thread and cut it from the serving jig. Make a loop from the thread, and keep wrapping it around the string, this time working in the opposite direction.

Wrap the serving thread about 10 times. Then hold the loose thread in place, then start wrapping the loop around the string.

Once you reach the end, pull the loose thread though. This will tighten the end of the serving.

Once you’ve done that, cut off the excess thread and burn it with the lighter to prevent any fraying or unravelling.

12. Repeat Steps 1 – 11 for the opposite end loop

If your jig only has one rotating arm, then you will need to remove the string and reverse it before starting again.

* The second loop will be slightly smaller than the first loop. So remember to measure out a shorter length of serving thread.

13. Remove The String From The Jig

You can remove the string from the jig once you’ve completed the second end loop. It’s now time to work on the centre serving.

Some people like to work on the serving while the string is still in the jig, but we found that we got the best results from putting the string straight onto the bow.

Related: How To Choose The Right Recurve Bowstring

14. Adding The Centre Serving

The centre serving needs to cover the nock point and the forearm of the bow. As a rough guideline, a good place to start the serving is a couple of inches above the arrow rest and continue down to the bottom of the grip.

Remember that if you’re right-handed, you’ll need to wrap the serving in the same direction that tightens it while shooting with your fingers.

  • Begin the serving the same way you started the end loops
  • Spin the jig around to work the serving to the desired length
  • Tie off the serving the same way you finished off the end loops
  • Use a lighter to burn and seal the serving

15. Putting On The Nock Points

Before you add the nock points, make sure that your brace height is correct. If you already know the correct position of the nocks then you put them on right away.

If not, consider putting on a loose nock set until you’ve tuned your bow. You can put on a permanent nock once you’re satisfied with the alignment.

Nock Points

Many strings start out with a brass nock set, but due to the extra weight, this option is not very popular with experienced archers who prefer to use serving thread instead.

There are a number of ways to do this, but we find the easiest way is to create a small serving on either side of the nock while it’s on the string.

Using the serving jig, you can follow the above steps for adding the centre serving to add your nock points.

And You’re Done!

16. Wax the String

One final step is to give the string a good coat of wax to seal everything together.

Get the string warmed up by giving it a good rub with your fingers or a piece of leather. Once you’ve done that, apply a generous layer of wax. The heat helps to work the wax deeper into the strands.

To remove the excess wax, loop a piece of thread once around the string and slide it down all the way. This should peel off any excess wax.

Your string is now complete.

*We’d recommend leaving the bow strung overnight to stretch your new string out.

What Is The Best Material To Make A Recurve Bowstring?

Choosing the string for your bow isn’t as simple as picking the coolest colour. Most people will tell you that it’s a matter of preference as to which material you choose.

If this is your first time making your own recurve bowstring, it can be really confusing to sort your way through the different brands and code numbers.

Why So Many Options?

Traditionally, strings were made from natural fibres, modern strings are modern from synthetic material.

A particular string may be made from a combination of two different types of materials, with each material having different properties to suit different kinds of bows.

One of the main properties is elasticity. There are a couple of terms that come with elasticity; one of them being ‘creep’.

Creep

Creep refers to the permanent elasticity of the string, which is generally not a good thing.

Modern strings are designed so that there is minimal creep.

The other term associated with elasticity is stretch.

Stretch

Stretch describes the amount of stretch the string has when the string is being used. Depending on what type of bow you’re using, this may or may not be desirable.

Compound bowstrings are made so that they don’t stretch while they are being used, while recurve bows need a bit of stretch so that there is less stress on the limb tips. This is especially true for traditional bows.

Other properties you need to consider are speed and weight.

Compound bows will use stronger, more durable materials with more strands, whereas recurve strings are made from lighter, faster materials.

Traditional recurve bows aren’t made for modern strings, so they need something slower, with more stretch.

Older, traditional bows will commonly use a brand of string like Dacron. The appeal of Dacron string is that it’s quite stretchy. This is good for the older, traditional recurves as they aren’t built to handle the speed of modern strings.

If you’re looking to get started in making bowstrings, then Dacron strings are a great choice because they are very cheap to buy. A spool of Darcron will only set you back about $10 and from that, you can make around a dozen strings.

This makes it very good for practising with as you shouldn’t be going for expensive material for your first few strings.

Why You Should Make Your Own Recurve Bowstrings

Most recurve bows that you buy come with their own bowstrings. They are tough and durable enough to last for well over a year depending on how often you use them.

A competitive archer may chew through a string in about 6 months, but that’s not a problem as bowstrings are readily available and cheap to buy.

In fact, buying a new string is the easiest option with big brand names like Win and Win and Cartel offering factory-made strings relatively cheaply. Or you can buy a string and have a pro shop make it up.

This is another good option as you can pick and choose the colours you want and the specific length and brace height you want.

You could even get away with never having to learn how to make your own bowstrings throughout your entire archery career, and that’s totally fine.

Even the price of a bowstring is easy on your pocket. A Dacron bowstring will only set you back about $10, while a high-performance, fast-flight string for a modern bow will only cost about $18.

Bowstring Material

Now compare that with the cost of learning how to make a recurve bowstring. First, you would need a string jig. That would set you back about $160. You could make your own, but then you’d still need the materials to make it.

Then you’d need the string material. They come in different-sized spools with brands like Dacron and Dyneema charging anywhere between $10-$40 per spool. And then there’s your serving material on top of that.

So if you’re only ever going to make one string, it’s really not worth spending that much on equipment and materials.

Big Savings

If you’re in a position where you need to make many strings, then being able to make your own is a HUGE asset.

Outside of working in a pro shop, the other obvious advantage is being in the club. Clubs have many bows that are suffering from wear and tear, so to have someone in the club that can make bowstrings and bring those old bows back to life is a huge advantage.

Clubs will also have members that will need new strings. They could go to a ProShop, but then they would need to wait for it to be made and sent to them.

If you made the string for them, then you could customise it for them on the spot, thus avoiding them having to pay for shipping costs and waiting weeks to receive it.

From an individual point of view, you have complete control over how your string looks. You can choose the colours, the servings, and the material.

Cost

Then let’s talk about the actual cost of making your own recurve bowstrings.

Aside from the cost of the jig, a spool of the string will cost around $30. From one spool you’ll likely be able to produce up to 10 strings.

The typical cost for one fast-flight string is $25.

Factor in the cost of the serving material, and a personally handmade string is roughly a quarter of the cost of buying a factory-made string.

Prices for buying a string in a shop will factor in things like time, effort and labour. If you make your own strings, then you’re cutting all that out.

You may not even have to pay for the materials or the jig if your club has them already. The use of them may be covered by your membership fee!

The bottom line is that if you’re learning how to make a recurve bowstring string for yourself or your club, it’s much more cost-effective to make your own strings.

String Maintenance

A secondary benefit of learning to make your own strings is learning how to maintain them. Bowstrings are one of the parts of your bow that require maintenance. Servings can come loose, and strands of the string can become frayed.

Knowing how to identify and quickly fix these issues, will only make you a more complete archer.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to make a recurve bowstring can be extremely rewarding. With enough time and patience, you can save yourself a lot of money if you plan on having a long career in archery.

I would suggest asking your local club to see if you can use their string jig before you decide on whether or not string-making is something you want to pursue.

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