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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 a serving jig ('servings' are the tightly wrapped sections of the string that form the ends and the place where the string hits the arrow).  I use a cavalier serving jig, available for about $12 at most archer supply locations:

  • 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 lighter.

    • 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.


  • Then rotate the string till the servings is centered on one of the end pegs, and mark the location of the other serving with tape....

  • ...then rotate it again so you can serve it when the end is in the middle of the pegs. 

  • Finally, rotate it back so the served ends are centered on the pegs.


  • Now you are ready to finish the end servings.  Position the unfinished end serving so that the free end is about 1/4" shorter than the other side.  Pinch the strings together and finish serving the first end.  Give yourself 4 or 5 inches of serving for this. Then pinch the other end together and serve that.  Aren't you glad you left yourself a little slack earlier?

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 loops.  

  • 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.



  • Rub lots of wax into the string.  Use beeswax if you can get it, or use a readily available silicon bowstring wax, which doesn't smell or work nearly as nice.

  • Job done!

Congratulations.  You have successfully completed basic Stringmaking 101.