Bowstrings 101 – 2021 Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Jeff
| Last Updated April 5, 2021

Bowstrings are a vital part of your bow, but they can seem complex to a new archer.

The various types of strings and the long list of terminology don’t make it any simpler. 

Don’t worry! In this extensive guide, we’ll cover everything from how string-makers make bowstrings to what type is best for you. 

Photo credit: simplearchery.com

Bowstring Terminology and Common Concepts

Before we dive in, let’s cover some of the basic terms you’ll need to know:

  • Bowstring: The string used to draw a bow, historically made from sinew, animal hides, and plant fibers but now made from synthetic materials 

  • Bow Length: The length measured from nock to nock 

  • Draw Weight: Measurement of the force needed to draw; also called poundage
     
  • Draw Length: The length in inches you draw a bow
     
  • Stretch: Bowstrings stretch slightly when used; some stretch is good, while too much stretch will slow down the arrow 

  • Creep: Similar to stretching; however, when a string stretches, it can go back to normal, and when it creeps, it can’t 

  • Shot Reaction: How the bow reacts after your shoot 

  • Brace Height: Length from the string to the deepest part of grip 

Photo credit: tacticalhuntr.com

  • Flemish Twist: Bowstring with braided loops on each end 

  • Endless Loop: String with loops formed by wrapping serving material around it

  • Serving Material: Braided string wrapped around bowstring to protect it 

  • Compound Bowstring: Comes in multiple parts—the main string and one or more cables connected to the cams

  • Cams: Round or oval disks attached to the end of the limbs on a compound bow 

  • Standard Bowstring: Made of durable materials that have some stretch 

  • Advanced Bowstring: Strings made with materials that have very little to no stretch, which increases arrow speed 

  • Candy Stripe: Multi-colored strings with a pattern resembling a candy cane

  • Custom Bowstrings: Made by people focused on building the highest quality string possible 

  • Peep Sight: A hole in the bowstring that allows a line of sight your eye, the pin, and the target 

  • Material Strands: The number of strands in the bowstring 

  • Bowstring Wax: Used to maintain and strengthen the string

Photo credit: wikipedia.org

What Are Bowstrings? 

A bowstring is a string that draws a bow. When you pull back the arrow, the bowstring transfers energy from the bow to the arrow. Read below to learn how string-makers make them and what they make them with.

What Are Bowstrings Made Of?

In the past, people made bowstrings with sinew, animal hides, and plant fibers. Now they’re made from synthetics. These materials became popular because they increase shooting speed, reliability, and accuracy. 

Dacron was one of the first synthetics used and is still used today on beginner bows. Archers liked this material because it was moisture-proofed, less affected by dramatic temperature changes, and more durable. However, Dacron also has a lot of stretches. 

The introduction of Spectra and Dyneema strings solved this problem. These materials are excellent because they have much less stretch. But, stretch and creep can become a problem for these products in high temperatures and under tension. 

Some bowstrings use a blended fiber called Vectran. This material is a liquid-crystal polymer that has almost no creep. These strings break down faster than other materials, but you can counteract this issue with proper maintenance. Some archers find Vectran negatively affects shot reaction. 

Photo credit: archery360.com

How Are Bowstrings Made?

So, how are bowstrings made? First, the string-maker uses a computer program to figure out how long to make the bowstring. The program bases this measurement on the desired finished length, material, and number of twists. 

Next, they set up by wrapping the material around the posts on a string-making jig. Wrapping serving around the strands holds them together.

The string-maker then adds the twists and leaves the bowstring on a stretcher overnight. After stretching, they add the loops and center-serving. 

Types of Bowstrings

There are a few types of bowstrings: Flemish Twist, Endless Loop, standard, advanced, candy-striped, and custom. We’ll go into each one in detail below. 

Flemish Twist

Flemish Twists have braided loops on each end and have a more traditional look than other bowstrings. Many archers choose this type because of this aesthetic. Some find them quieter than Endless Loops. 

Each bow has a recommended brace height. Bows with longer brace heights minimize mistakes more than those with shorter ones. Most people agree that these bowstrings have a more significant effect on this measurement. 

Photo credit: 3riversarchery.com

Endless Loops

Endless Loops have loops that are formed by wrapping serving material around the bowstring. Target archers often prefer these strings because of their preciseness. Some people have found this type to be faster than the Flemish Twist. 

String-makers have found it easier to make these bowstrings stable. However, a well-made Flemish Twist can also have exceptional stability. 

Standard

Standard bowstrings have durable materials with some stretch. This feature provides reliable shooting while still minimizing any mistakes you make. Beginners often use these strings with recurve bows. 

Advanced

Advanced bowstrings use materials that have very little or no stretch. This feature is fantastic for maximizing arrow speed. Faster arrows lay flatter while in the air and are less affected by wind. Once you’ve got the basics of shooting down, these arrows are excellent ways to improve your accuracy. 

Candy-Striped

Candy-striped strings have multiple colors in a pattern that resemble a candy cane. People often use these bowstrings because they look sharp. They don’t have any advantages in shooting, as they work the same as other bowstring types. 

Photo credit: archerybusiness.com

Custom Bowstrings

Like candy-striped strings, custom bowstrings can have multiple colors and look fabulous. However, these bowstrings do have some advantages.

People who specialize in building high-quality strings make these products. They tend to last longer than the stock ones that come with your bow. Custom bowstrings also keep your peep sight aligned, cams synchronized, and servings from separating.  Unfortunately, buying these strings costs more than going with the standard ones already equipped to your bow. 

How to Hold the Bowstring

You must hold your bow correctly to shoot consistently. You want to create a hook with your fingers. To set up an accurate and repeatable shot, first identify where your string sits on your fingers. 

You should have it sitting on or just in front of the notch in your index finger. The string should rest on the pad of your ring finger. 

With the knuckles at the base of your fingers, flex outwards. This positioning allows the string to pass through your fingers with less movement. 

Keep your wrist bent inwards, with your thumb and your pinkie back towards your wrist. You should look like you're holding a small ball against your wrist. This position helps keep your fingers and wrist bent. It also makes your shot stronger and better aligned. 

For a visual representation of this explanation, check out the video below. 

How to Maintain Your Bowstring

Your bowstrings won’t last forever. However, you can prolong their life by properly maintaining them. Let’s talk about storage and waxing.

How Should I Store My Bow?

You should store your bow in a climate-controlled area because this will help prevent creeping. You don’t want to put your bow somewhere where it’ll experience drastic changes in temperature or humidity. 

Keep your string dry. If you have a recurve or longbow, remove the string when you aren’t using it. 

What Does Waxing a String Do?

Waxing a string prevents it from fraying. If you see any fuzz on your string or it feels dry, it needs to be waxed. Wax also adds waterproofing, preventing water from getting into the string and making it heavier. It also helps retain twists. 

How Often Should I Wax My Bowstring?

Your bow should feel smooth and slightly tacky. If it feels dry, you need to wax it. You also need to wax if it appears discolored or fuzzy. Most archers wax every two to three weeks. If you notice loose strands or frays, waxing won’t help. Throw out the string and buy a new one. 

Photo credit: worldarchery.sport

Factors That Affect the Performance and Durability of Bowstrings

Several factors affect the performance and durability of bowstrings.

Weight

The weight of your bowstring has a similar effect to the weight of your arrow. More weight on your string will slow your arrow down, while less will make it move faster. 

In the past, archers have said that you gain one foot-per-second for every four grains of weight you reduce. However, the wide variety of string types today causes some variance in this measurement. 

Serving

Wrapping serving material around your string protects it from degrading, which increases the lifespan and durability. 

Twisting

Twisting a bowstring can keep the strands together, adjust the draw length after creeping occurs, and correct peep rotation. How much twisting you need depends on what bow you’re using. For example, a standard compound bow should have 1/2 to 3/4 twists per inch of string. 

Creep

Creep is an elongation of a bowstring that isn’t recoverable. Creeping causes peep rotation and affects the draw weight and draw length. Blends of Dyneema and Vectran have no creep. However, some archers opt for other materials that have some creep, but not very much. They make this decision because blends of Vectran are slower than other materials. 

Material Strands

The number of strands you need in your bowstring depends on your draw weight. Bows that need more force to pull back the string need more strands. Lower draw weights don’t need as many. 

Photo credit: gistgear.com

What Kind of Bowstring Do I Need?

So, how do you know what kind of bowstring you need? Well, that depends on what type of bow you’re using. 

Recurve and Longbows

In recurve and longbows, consider bow length and material strands when picking a bowstring. 

Measure the length of your bow from string groove to string groove. For recurve bows, your string should be four inches shorter. For longbows, you need a bowstring that is three inches shorter.

Next, figure out how many material strands you want. Again, draw weight determines this requirement. You can also look at your owner’s manual for your bow or consult an archery shop. 

Compound Bows

Compound bows have the bowstring and cable lengths written on the bow or in the owner’s manual. Once you know these measurements, choose what color string you want, and you’re good to go. 

Speed

If you’re looking for speed, go for a lighter-weight string. You’ll also want to avoid blends of Vectran. 

Endless Loop vs Flemish Twist

An Endless Loop has serving wrapped around the string, while a Flemish Twist has braided loops on each end. The Flemish Twist is a more traditional look. However, in performance, there aren’t that many differences between the two. 

Most people agree that Flemish Twist bowstrings affect brace height more. Some people find Endless Loops to be a little bit faster but slightly louder. Also, string-makers have an easier time making Endless Loops that are stable. 

Photo credit: bowhunting.com

Conclusion

Bowstrings are strings made from synthetic materials that draw bows. There are several types, including the Endless Loop and the Flemish Twist. These two strings are pretty similar. They do have a few minor differences, though.

Your bowstrings will last longer if you properly store them and wax them. What kind you need depends on what type of bow you’re using and how fast you want the arrow to be. 

Now that you know all about bowstrings, you can increase your accuracy and work on making a perfect shot every time!

People Also Ask

Have more questions? Look for the answer below!

How Often Should You Change Bowstrings?

Properly maintained bowstrings should last about three years before being replaced. You should also change bowstrings when they’re frayed or have a broken strand. 

How Many Shots Do Bowstrings Last?

There isn’t a set amount of shots a bowstring should last. However, new strings have a break-in period of 200 shots. After this, your bow might shoot differently, so take your bow in for a tuneup. 

Can You Use Candle Wax on Bowstrings?

No, you can’t use candle wax on bowstrings. Chemicals in this wax can digest the fibers instead of protecting them. 

Photo credit: youtube.com

What Happens if My Bow String Breaks?

If your bowstring breaks, you will need to buy a new one. 

Is It Okay to Hang a Bow By Its String?

No, you shouldn’t hand a bow by its string. You can cause wear on the string. 

Why Does the Bowstring Always Hit My Arm?

There are several reasons a bowstring could keep hitting your arm. Your grip could be too tight, you could be using the wrong part of your hand to hold the bow, your draw length could be too long, or you could have an improper stance.

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.