On the Battlefield
Bows and Crossbows
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What Was Before
How to Build a Bow String
by Bartholomew Hightower
I get quite a few questions about how to build bowstrings. I'm
certainly not an expert in making bowstrings, but I've had to try and learn as I
go along. I am fairly pleased with the way my strings are holding up, so I
thought I would make a page to describe the process.
Anyone that works with a crossbow long enough cannot escape dealing with
stringmaking at some point in time.
- You will need a string jig. You can buy these for
$200 from most archery supply places, or you can make a simple one for a
couple a bucks and some scrap wood, and a couple of cut-off 1/2" bolts
(10" in length):
You will also need some string-making supplies. I use
Brownell Dacron B50 to form the main part of the string. I use
Brownell 0.026" diamondback braid for the end servings (pictured
above), and I use a monofilament for the center servings. You should also be
able to get these items from your archery supply store
Here is the general serving technique you will use on
various parts of the string:
set aside an 18" piece of bowstring material
with one end of the serving thread, tie a granny knot
around the string where you want to start the serving, leaving a couple
of inches on the free end.
lay the free end down along the string where you intend
to put the serving.
using the serving jig, wrap the first inch over the free
end of the string. Keep the wraps tight and close.
continue serving (not over the free end) until you get
to about 1" from where you want the serving to stop. Just let
the free end hang out for now. Keep the wraps tight and close
Lay a loop formed from the string material you set aside
earlier, so that the loop end is beyond the end of the serving area.
serve over the top of the loop. relax the tension
on the serving jig a bit for this part.
finish the serving with a half hitch leaving three or
four inches free.
use the loop of bowstring material to pull the end of
the serving thread back under the wraps.
snip the free ends of the serving material to about
1/4" from the serving, then burn them down with a cigarette
Quick! Smoosh the molten ball of serving thread with a
wet finger (or a wet sponge if you are spineless).
Okay! Ready to make your string? Let's get to it:
Tie a short loop in the end of your string material and
clamp it temporarily to one of the pegs.
Put 20 wraps (40 strands total) around the pegs, taut but
not tight. Tie the end of the string off in the loop you tied
earlier. Pull it taut but not tight when you do this.
Serve 5" of half of the strands in the exact center of
the two pegs, as shown in the figure below. I have a couple of lines
on my board just to show me where. I use a couple of pieces of scrap
wood to spread the strings here. This allows me enough clearance to
use my serving jig. I use the diamondbraid for this part.
Here's a photo of a finished end. As I'm wrapping it, it
takes on a little spiral as the loop twists. I think it looks neat, so I
leave the twist in.
Finally, serve 6 inches for so in the center. I am
constantly tinkering with this part. Currently, for the center
serving, I am a using a layer of the same diamond braid that I use for the
After the diamond braid, I tie on an additional layer of
the same dacron cord I use for binding the prod
to the tiller I use an alternating half-hitch, as shown in the following
photo. I like this approach, because the dacron can be replaced by
anyone without the need for specialized tools, and can be done while the
string is still on the crossbow.
Congratulations. You have successfully completed basic