Tag Archives: Bow Strings

Bowstrings: A Quick Survey

I had a lesson the other day with one of my Olympic Recurve students and he was complaining that the bowstrings he bought for his 68˝ recurve bow produced brace heights that were too high, even with no twists. I asked if the strings had been “shot in” and he said they were.

Bowstrings made with modern materials need many fewer shots to temper them than do older materials (Dacron and earlier). The old rule of thumb was 100 shots were needed, now I would estimate 30-35 should be recurve_bow_stringsufficient. After any stretch has occurred, the string is twisted to create the desired brace height. But this process is of no help if the untwisted string is too short.

This situation reminded me that on many occasions when buying large numbers of bowstrings for archery programs that many, if not most, were too short, producing quite high brace heights. On beginner bows this is not so much of a problem, the only one I could think of is making sure the archer’s armguards were placed farther from the wrist to provide the protection necessary. But on recurve bows of serious archers …

So, here is my question (please respond with a comment):

Have you experienced buying commercial bowstrings that turned out to be too short for normal use?

Any wisdom you want to share regarding how you cope with this would be nice. (I make my own bowstrings, but this is not an option for most archers.)

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Sticking with Strings

QandA logoAs a follow-up on my last post about waxing bowstrings I received a query about breaking in new bowstrings.

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First, a separation must be made between modern and post-modern bowstring materials (my definitions). I say this because no one is using traditional materials (silk, hemp, linen, cotton, sinew, etc.) in target archery so we do not need to talk about them. (Yes, primitive archers are using such materials but not to seriously compete against others in ordinary target archery venues.) And, there is a big difference between the first-generation modern string materials and those that came after.

So, the first “modern” string material and the only one worth considering is Dacron® (still available for purchase, by the way). Dacron® was much stronger than most of the materials and cheaper and more regular, etc. But Dacron® was also “stretchy.” So, when a new Dacron® bowstring was placed on a bow, several procedures were used to remove some of the stretch. One common technique was to place the strung bow, back down, in one’s lap and press down on the limbs. After some of the stretch occurred, the string would be twisted up and shot. Unfortunately, Dacron® never stops stretching so one needs to keep twisting over the life of the string.

The first post-modern string material (in my scheme of things) was Spectra® marketed under the brand name “Fast Flight.” This string material was primarily ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, a slightly modified version of the material used to make black plastic garbage bags. And, there was Kevlar® (poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide—Aramid fiber), and yes the stuff used to make bullet proof vests, but Kevlar strings had the nasty habit of breaking … at full draw so achieve only a temporary popularity.Recurve bow string

Most newer bowstring materials are made from two such materials, their fibers twisted together to make “blended string materials.”

The point here is that once you get past Dacron®, the “stretchiness” is much, much less. (There are technical terms used, such as “creep” which have technical definitions (stretch that doesn’t recover, stretch that does recover, etc.) but my argument doesn’t require a foray into the itty-bitty details.) Because of the low level of stretch in these materials “string break in” is a simple procedure: string the bow and shoot it.

The “old” rule of thumb (Fast Flight came out in the late 1980’s, so we are talking about the last 30 years or so) was 100 shots and you were good to go. Basically 30 will probably do it. After that adjust your brace height or eccentric positions and you are good to go. Yes, you still need to check these things regularly because things do go wrong, but don’t expect large changes after break in, they just don’t happen with these “post-modern” materials.

And, if you keep your ears open you will hear old-timers talking about things like “sinking in” their new bow by shooting their heaviest arrows. These are traditional self-bow archers who are not talking about their strings so much as they are their bows. But keep listening, just be sure you associate what you hear with what is really being talked about and don’t just extrapolate that to you and your archer’s archery.

PS I still use Fast Flight string material for compound strings and cables and the occasional recurve or longbow strings. Good stuff. But (Warning!) do not use modern string materials on older recurves or longbows that do not have limb tip reinforcements. These materials are so unyielding that they can cut right into the bare wood of such bows. Most archers use dacron strings on those older bows as the springyness of the string lessens the shock on the limb tips. (No charge for that tip.)

 

 

 

 

 

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