Whether you use a bow and arrows for recreation or hunting, keeping it maintained is essential for an effective shot every single time. But buying the parts can be expensive, and it can feel like an accomplishment in and of itself to use your own materials.
That’s why the purpose of this article is to teach you how to make a bow string with items you may already have lying around your home. There are a variety of methods that have been used to make bow string, as well as an assortment of materials, so you can adapt whatever you have lying around in order to create a versatile bow string for when you need it.
How to make a flemish twist bow string
This is one of the simplest methods in making a bow string, but does require some additional tools that you’ll need to obtain.
One of the biggest things you’ll need is a string making jig. You can choose to buy one from the store, or if you’re skilled enough, you can make one yourself. To make your own, you’ll need the following materials:
- a 1×6 pine board that’s at least 28 inches long.
- 2 dozen 1-inch long finishing nails
- 1 10 penny common nail
Draw a line down the middle of your board. On one end, 2 inches away from the end of the board, start making a line of dots on either side of the middle for where your nails will be. Each row should be 1.25 inches away from the middle. Draw each dot at least .375 inches away from each other.
At the other end of the board should be two nails in line with the rows at the other end, again 2 inches from the end of the board and 1.25 inches away from the middle. Using a 5/32-inch drill bit drill 16 holes along the middle line of the board starting with one between the two nails.
The holes should be at least one inch apart from each other. These are for your 10 penny nail to be used as an adjustable peg. Starting at the fourth hole, write “48”, and then add increments of two to each hole (50, 52, 54, 56, et cetera). These numbers are for the length of your bow so you’ll know how much string to use.
Now that your jig has been made, it’s time to learn how to actually make your string. It may be a good idea to also use a pencil or a marker on your jig to draw a path when winding your string so that you don’t forget.
Starting with your row of strings on the right side of the board, you’ll want to tie the end around the nail closest to the side that’s away from you, draw the string towards you, and then around the last nail. Bring your string towards the nail at the left end of the board, then around your peg, and then around the other nail, and back up to the first row of nails.
But instead of wrapping around the last nail, you’re going to go between the last and second to last nails. Each time you complete a row, you’re going to decrease the number of nails you’re wrapping your thread around. This is an easy way to know how many times you’ve wrapped your string around the jig.
When making your actual bow string, it’s a good idea to have two different colors so that you can keep track of what you’re doing. The materials you’ll need are:
- Dacron B-50 bow string or fast flight string
- One cake of string makers wax or bees wax
- Spool of monofilament or nylon serving line
The next step is to decide whether you want to make a two-ply or three-ply string. In regards to a two-ply, they are made from two bundles of twisted strands, while three-play are made from three bundles. This process involves the two-ply method.
How many strands you’ll need is dependent on the weight range of your bow. For example:
- For the 40-50 lb. range, you’ll need 12 strands;
- for 50-70, you’ll need 14 strands;
- for 70-80, you’ll need 18 strands.
For a two-play string, you would need two bundles of 6 strings each, while a three-ply would require three bundles of 4 strands each. Practice and repeat the method stated above until you have 6 strands on the jig. Then, cut the strands with a sharp knife through the center line between the top nails.
Carefully remove your string from the jig and ensure that the ends don’t move. The ends of each strand should be shorter than the one before it. Doing this helps each strand to lock in place as you make the bowstring loops. Set this aside for the time being and repeat the process with a different color.
Wax both ends of each bundle, up to about ten inches. Warming the wax would be a good idea so that it will stick to the strings much better. Then, lay the bundles side by side so that the longest strand in each bundle is aligned with each other.
Using a rule, grab the bundles about 7 inches away from the ends between you thumbs and your forefingers and twist six to seven times in a counterclockwise motion. Take your twisted bundle and rotate it over the top of the bottom bundle (towards you); that will make the bottom bundle be on top. Repeat the twisting and rotating process until all of the strands have been incorporated into your bow string. Once you’re done, you’ve formed the top limb of your bow, and should be wide enough to slide down the bow at least five to six inches when it’s unstrung.
Now it’s time to arrange your bow string on the ground. Form your twisted bundle into a loop, with one colored strand on the left and the other color on the right. Grasp the bottom of the loop and twist the two bundles of the same color together on each side.
Now hold these two bundles together and perform the same twisting and rotating procedure as before until the last end has been braided into the string. Once that’s done, separate both bundles all the way to the bottom. Then, using the same 7-inch measurement, repeat the entire process on the other end of your bow string. While braiding and creating the bottom loop, you should keep the rest of the strands separated throughout the length of the bow string.
If you don’t want to create a permanent loop, you can choose to braid at least 8 to 10 inches of the bottom bundles, and then tie a timber hitch to the loop in order to make it adjustable.
Once completed, you need to put a twist into the bow string. The twist should be in the same direct as the braids, or you’ll end up untwisting all the loops that you’ve made. Once done, put the string on your bow, and adjust it for the proper brace height. Leave your bow for a day or two and allow it to become accustomed to the new string you’ve placed on it. Take a few shots with your bow to ensure that everything is in working order. Remember to adjust the brace height by twisting and untwisting the string on a regular basis until all of the stretch has been worked out of it.
On your string, mark where you think your nocking point will be, and mark two inches above this point and six inches below it. This area is where you’ll the monofilament serving in order to provide added strength to your bow string. Place your spool on the serving tool and pull out a few inches of your line. Adjust the tension of your serving tool so that you have a tight wrap around the bow string. Using too much tension may end up cutting your bow string, so it’s important to fight the right level.
Separate the bow string at either end of the serving area and insert 1 inch of the monofilament through the string. Start wrapping it around the bow string while the loose end is kept under the serving wrap – you should continue wrapping until you are 1/4 inch from the end of the serving area.
Now it’s time to use your B-50 string. Cut about a 10-12 inch strand and form a loop at one end. Lay it on the bow string with the loop facing towards the end of the limb then wrap the monofilament over this string at least 6 to 8 more times; these should be kept loose.
Add a few more inches of monofilament once you’re at the end of the serving area, and cut the line. Insert the end through the loop of the B-50 string, and pull the ends under the last few wraps of monofilament. Then give it a good session of waxing; use a piece of old leather to get the job done. You’ll need to rub the wax in hard and fast in order to melt it and ensure that it gets between all of the strings.
If the instructions above were a bit too difficult to follow, here’s a helpful video detailing the entire process. However, the jig is already pre-made but it does give you an idea of what it should look like, should you chose to make it yourself:
a video showing how to do a Flemish bow string without the use of a string making jig.
How to make a bow string for a crossbow
Crossbows are a bit different from regular bows and require a slightly different kind of string. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t spend the time making your own.
The string jig that you’ll need is much different from the one mentioned above. In making your own, all you need is a 2×6 scrap of board, and 10-inch 1/2 inch bolt with the tops cut off. Simply attach them to the wood; the distance between them should be the desired length of the finished string. You will also need a serving jig to attach string where your arrow will be notched. Lastly, you’ll need some string; B-50 does the trick and should form the main part of the string, and monofilament can be used for the center servings.
First, you’ll need to set aside 18 inches of bow string and, using one end of the serving thread, tie a granny known around the string where you want to start the serving. A few inches should be left on the free end. Lay this end along the string where you intend to put the serving. Using the serving jig, wrap the first inch over the end of the string, and continue to serve until you get to an inch from where you want the serving to end.
Using the 18″ of string from earlier, lay a loop so that the end is beyond the serving area. Serve over the top of the loop and make your wraps a bit looser than your previous wraps. Finish the serving with a half hitch, leaving about three to four inches free. Using the loop to pull the end of the serving thread back under the wraps, and time the free ends of the material about 1/4″ from the serving. Burn the ends down with a cigarette lighter to finish them. Once melted, smoosh the melted plastic with your wet finger or with a wet sponge.
Now that that’s done, tie a short loop to the end of your string material and clamp it temporarily to one of the pegs. Put 20 wraps around the pegs and make sure they’re not too tight. Tie the end of the string to the loop you made earlier, and pull it taut.
Serve 5 inches of half of the strands to the center of the two pegs, then spread the strings, using a scrap piece of wood or a diamond braid. Rotate the string until the servings are centered on one of the pegs. Mark the location with tape and then rotate it again until your end is in the middle of your pegs. Rotate it back when you’re done.
Position the finished end of the serving so that the free end is 1/4 inch shorter than the other side. Pinch the ends together and serve the first end. Four to five inches of serving should be enough for this. Then pinch the other end together and serve that. Then serve 6 inches for the center. Add plenty of wax to your string so that the threads bonds nicely together.
These methods take a lot of practice, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it on your first try. Once you get the steps down, you’ll be making your own bow string like a pro in no time, and you won’t have to bother sifting through the various bow strings at the store to find what you’re looking for.
There’s also some amount of satisfaction in taking care of your bow on your own and ensuring that it’s in working order without having to shell out money for a new string. If you’re invested in being more self-sufficient in the maintenance of your bow, then you should definitely give making your own bow string a try.