How to Choose the Right Recurve/Longbow String

Getting the right size string for your recurve or longbow is critical to getting the best performance out of that bow.

To do so, you’ve got to get a string that’s the correct length for your bow, and has the correct number of strands.


When figuring out the correct length for your bowstring, you’re likely to come across the acronym “AMO.” This stands for Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization, and it represents a uniform system of measurement for recurve and longbow bowstrings.

Let’s say you have a 68-inch recurve bow. You might think, “Well, I need a 68-inch string.” What you need is a 68-inch AMO string, which will actually measure 64 to 65.25 inches long depending on the bow and the string material. 

According to AMO standards, the correct bowstring length for a particular bow is three inches shorter than the stated bow length. That is a good rule of thumb, but it’s not guaranteed to be optimal in every case.  The latest modern materials (such as BCY DF 97 or 8125 Dyneema) and string-building methods give us bowstrings that do not stretch nearly as much as Dacron B-50 or Flemish bundle-made bow strings. 

Dacron bow strings can measure up to one inch shorter untaught then they would under 100 pounds of tension, while a new material, such as BCY DF 97 or 8125, may only vary by a quarter-inch. 

Using the correct string length allows you to achieve the correct brace height to ensure quietness and maximum performance for that bow once it’s strung.

Brace height can be easily adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of twists over a wide range in your bowstring.  For example, on a string for a 68-inch bow, anywhere from 20-60 twists will produce world-class results in order to get your bow’s brace height correct.

Usually, the bow will have its length measurement printed somewhere on it. But what if you have a bow that doesn’t indicate its length anywhere? You can measure it for yourself.

Set the unstrung bow on its side on a flat surface. Now measure a longbow from string groove to string groove on the belly (grip facing you) side of the bow. For recurves, your groove-to-groove measurement should follow the curvature of the top limb, run straight over the riser, and follow the curvature of the bottom limb.

That measurement is the length of your bow, and the string you put on it should have an AMO measurement to match it. Again, a 68-inch bow gets a 68-inch AMO string.

By understanding this standard, you can then match a string that doesn’t have an AMO designation with the proper bow. If a string measures 65 inches long, then you know it should be used on a 68-inch bow.


A bowstring is a collection of individual fiber strands bound together by serving. Generally, you’ll find recurve and longbow bowstrings with anywhere from 10-20 strands. The number of strands needed in a bowstring depends on the draw weight of the bow.

Modern bowstrings for recurves and longbows are generally made from one of two types of material – Dacron(Polyester) or Dyneema/Spectra (HMPE- High Molecular Polyethylene). 

If your bow was made prior to 1990, only use a Dacron bowstring to avoid damage.  Dacron is more forgiving on limb tips and string grooves as it elongates, or gives a bit, on each shot. Dyneema or Fastflight/Spectra bowstrings offer very little creep/stretch and higher arrow speeds on newer bows.

Dyneema materials such as BCY’s DF 97 and 8125 offer even less creep than Fastflight strings made of Spectra material. 

Bowstrings made of Vectran or Vectran/Dyneema blend are rarely used on recurves and longbows due to the harshness created by zero creep or stretch. 

The number of strands required for your bowstring can vary depending on string material and serving thread.  Be careful to check your arrow’s nock fit onto the center serving. It should lightly click onto the string, but not require more than a tap on the bowstring to dislodge.

Here’s the strand guide our recurve and longbow experts at Lancaster Archery follow:

For bows with draw weights from 10-30 pounds, use Dacron strings with 10-12 strands or Dyneema/Fastflight strings with 12-14 strands.

For bows with draw weights from 30-40 pounds, use Dacron strings with 14 strands or Dyneema/Fastflight strings with 16 strands.

For bows with draw weights over 40 pounds, use Dacron strings with 16 strands or Dyneema/Fastflight strings with 18-20 strands.

Finding the “perfect” bow string for your bow can make a huge difference with accuracy, quietness and performance.  The most important factors are brace height and proper nock fit on the serving.

Guide to Traditional Archery Arrow Rests

Traditional archers are known for their simplicity. Everything about their gear is uncomplicated.

The rests they choose for their bows are no different. They’re simple, but functional.


Before you start to pick a rest, take a look at your bow’s riser. If it’s bare above the shelf, with no holes in it, your rest choices are more limited than if it is drilled and tapped.

Here’s your guide to traditional archery rests.

SHELF RESTS – These are perhaps the simplest of the traditional bow rests, and are widely favored by traditional bowhunters. They are designed for archers who shoot their arrows off the shelf. That is, their arrows simply rest on the riser shelf, above the handle.

Shelf rests commonly are made of felt, leather, feathers or hair. Some are flat pieces of material that simply cover the shelf wood, while others are slightly raised to hold the arrow a little above the shelf.


Shelf rests are intended for archers who shoot arrows fletched with feathers. The down feather folds flat as the arrow slides across the shelf rest. A plastic vane would jump when it hits the shelf, causing erratic arrow flight.

STICK-ON RESTS – Any traditional bow can receive these rests. Like their name implies, they stick to the riser above the shelf, usually by way of double-sided tape.


These rests will have an arm built into them, which is meant to support the arrow. Arrows bearing vanes or feathers can be shot from these rests.

SCREW-IN RESTS – These rests are limited to those bows drilled and tapped to accept them. They have arms to support arrows, and they bolt into place through the riser mount. They function just like the stick-on rests, but they are more secure.


REST-PLUNGER COMBO – This is the most advanced of the traditional rests, and it’s not as widely used as the others. It’s primarily favored by traditional archers who shoot competitively. It can only be used with bows that have the threaded plunger hole mounts above the shelf on the riser.

The rest employs a wire arm, and it’s used in concert with a cushion plunger, which sits against the arrow. The plunger cushions the flexing of an arrow as it leaves the bow to promote consistent arrow flight.


Selway Archery quivers and a youth movement in traditional archery

Traditional archery is enjoying an infusion of young blood, according to Drew Kohlhofer of Selway Archery.

“I’m seeing an influx of guys coming in that are in that 20-40 age bracket,” he said.

Kohlhofer shares his observations on the youth movement, and talks about the unique quivers his company makes for traditional archers, with LAS TechXpert P.J. Reilly at the 2016 Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous in northcentral Pennsylvania.

This is the largest gathering of traditional archers in the U.S., where people of all ages come to shoot their sticks with strings, camp, eat, share hunting stories and just have a good time in the mountains of Potter County.

LAS sent a video team to the 2016 event to gather information and create content about traditional archery and its passionate fans.

Selway is indicative of the type of company that works in traditional archery. It’s family owned; the owners are avid traditional archers themselves; and the product line emphasizes customization over volume.

Selway produces high-quality leather quivers that attach to recurve bows and longbows. They are handmade and hand stitched, and have that traditional look and feel.

Kohlhofer said he believes the recent influx of younger people in traditional archery is the result of compound archers seeking new and bigger challenges. They’ve accomplished much with their modern archery gear, and now they want to “go back in time” and try to find success as legends like Fred Bear did.

Traditional Archery Bows Explained

In traditional archery, the bows often are compared to works of art, rather than simple, arrow-delivering tools.

Traditional archers carry their bows with pride, and they’ll gladly rattle off the specs – draw weight, construction material, string type, manufacturer, etc.

In the compound-bow world, the differences between bows boils down to the manufacturers. But in the end, however, all are compound bows.

Not so in traditional archery. There are several different types of bows, and you’ve got to know what you’re holding.

In this video, Lancaster Archery Supply and TradTech TechXPert John Wert describes the various types of traditional bows – self-bow, classic longbow, modern longbow, one-piece recurve, take-down recurve and ILF takedown recurve.

In doing so, Wert discusses their construction, what it feels like to shoot them and how they fit in the traditional world.

Wert delivers his traditional-bow dissertation on the grounds of the 2016 Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous in Potter County, Pa. It is the largest gathering of traditional archers in the U.S.

As Wert talks, you can see traditional archers of all ages shooting their bows in the background.

Each of the bows Wert describes was represented at the rendezvous.

Living Traditional: Exploring Archery’s Roots

Living Traditional: Exploring Archery’s Roots is a Lancaster Archery Supply short that explores the world of traditional archery.

Shot during the 2016 Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous – the largest gathering of traditional archers in the U.S. – the film focuses on three perspectives on traditional archery – the newcomers, the rendezvous organizer and the life-long traditional archer.

Through their words and our video, we try to answer the question of, “What is traditional archery?”

How to wax a bowstring and perform other basic string maintenance

Think of your bowstring as the engine that drives your bow, whether it’s a compound, a recurve or a longbow.

To get energy out of the bow to propel an arrow, you must put energy into it. And to do that, you have to draw the string.

Duane Price

Photo by Jeff Sanchez – BowDoc Archery

Your car engine needs regular maintenance to keep up with wear and tear. Same goes for a bowstring.

(And our discussion of bowstrings here includes the cables on a compound bow.)


The simplest thing you can do to maintain your string is to wax it. How often should you wax it? That depends on many factors – humidity, how often you shoot, the presence of dirt, etc.

Basically, you should be able to touch your string at any time and feel a slight tackiness to it. That’s a well-waxed string. If it feels slick and dry, give it a shot of wax.

When you see “hairs” start to stick up from the strands of the bowstring, like the string is getting furry, it’s time to apply some wax. If you see individual strands sticking out, that’s a damaged bowstring, and it has to be replaced.


Here’s a string that needs to be waxed. Notice how the string looks fuzzy.


Here’s the string shown above after it was waxed.

Applying wax to a bowstring is simple. Most bowstring wax comes in a stick, like deodorant. Just rub the stick up and down the string to apply wax, and then rub it into the string by running your thumb and forefinger up and down the string. Use enough pressure so that your fingers heat up. That will cause the string to melt between your fingers as you work it up and down the string.


Applying wax to a string.


Rub your fingers up and down the string to spread the wax and massage it into the string fibers.

When you’re done, there should be no visible chunks of wax.

Do not apply wax to any serving material. The wax can work its way under the serving material, causing it to slide and separate.

Be sure you don’t over-wax your string. This can adversely affect performance.


Closely inspect all of the serving on your strings and cables. Serving is thread that’s tied in over top of the string.

All bowstrings have serving in the nocking area. The ends of strings, where they attach to the cams or the limb tips usually are served. Also, most compound strings and cables have serving anywhere they touch a cam, roller guard or string stop.

You want the serving to sit in tight coils, neatly stacked one on top of the other, on top of your string.

Any separation in the serving in the nocking area must be addressed ASAP. This can affect accuracy.

Slight separation of the serving coils in other places isn’t a pressing concern, but it’s only going to get worse, and it will have to be fixed at some time.


Slight serving separation.

If the serving breaks, it must be fixed no matter where it is on the string or cable.


Broken section of serving.


This is the string shown above after the serving was repaired.

Your local archery pro shop can fix serving issues, or you can learn to do it yourself. Reserving some area on compound bows, however, will require a bow press.

Be aware that serving thread comes in different thicknesses. Serving thickness is most critical in the nocking area, since you want to use whatever thread allows for proper nock fit.


Recurve archers will want to constantly measure their bow’s brace height to check for string stretch. The brace height is the distance between the throat of the grip and the string. Over time, the brace height on a recurve can shrink if the string stretches – especially within the first few days after a new string is put on a bow.

measure brace height

Here’s an archer measuring brace height – the distance from the throat of the grip to the string.

In that case, unstring the bow and add twists to it until the brace height is where it needs to be. Twisting the string will increase the brace height.

On compound bows, archers need to check cam timing to determine if there’s been any stretching of the cables. You want the cams on dual-cam bows to roll over perfectly in synch. If they are out of synch, accuracy will suffer. Twisting a cable will bring out-of-synch cams back together.

If you have a single-cam bow, check with the manufacturer to find out how to determine proper cam position for your bow. The fix for cable stretch still will be to twist a cable.

Fans going wild for Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 bows

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opens this weekend in theaters across the country. And already, people are talking about the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 bows shot by Katniss Everdeen and other archers in the film.

This is the fourth film in the Hunger Games series. In each one, Katniss – played by actress Jennifer Lawrence – has used a different bow. In some of the movies, she’s shot more than one bow.

Here at Lancaster Archery Supply, we’ve got several bows which are very similar to the ones strung by Miss Katniss throughout the Hunger Games series.

If you’re feeling a desire to get in touch with your inner Katniss and let loose a few arrows, here are a couple of bows to consider.

  1. Rebellion Longbow – Katniss starts out with a longbow in the very first Hunger Games movie. The Rebellion is a nice imitation of that bow. It’s a 54-inch longbow with a 25-pound draw weight. You can get this bow by itself or as part of a set, which includes three aluminum arrows.

Rebellion longbow

Rebellion Longbow

  1. Capitol Recurve Bow – There are two of these bows – one is silver and the other is black. These are the best value for beginners age 11 through adult, with bows available individually, or as sets that include three arrows selling for under $70. Each bow can be shot right and left handed, with a draw weight of 20-25 pounds, depending on your draw length.

Capitol recurve

Capitol Recurve

  1. Victor Recurve Bow – This is a 66-inch bow similar to the one Katniss wields during Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Though she shot this bow bare, it has threaded holes for accessories such as a sight, rest and plunger and stabilizer. It’s suitable for archers up to 6 feet tall. This bow is sold as part of a set that includes three Easton aluminum arrows.

Vector recurve

Vector Recurve

  1. District Primitive Longbow – This is a traditional-style recurve bow made of wood and featuring a leather grip. It is available by itself or as part of a set that includes three wooden arrows. You can shoot this bow right and left handed, since it has shelf cuts on both sides of the riser. This is another good starter bow, or a bow for a family or camp, priced to sell at under $100.

District longbow

District Primitive Longbow

  1. Hoyt Buffalo Traditional Recurve – The Buffalo reportedly is the bow model Katniss used in Catching Fire. This is an advanced bow that – at a cost of $799.99 – is probably priced for experienced archers and bowhunters who plan to stick with archery for a while. You can choose from a number of color options and draw weights ranging from 35 to 65 pounds. Separate bows are made for right and left-handed archers.

Hoyt Buffalo

Hoyt Buffalo Recurve

Eagle’s Flight Navajo Jumbo Quiver

Lancaster Archery Supply TechXPert John Wert describes the function and features of the Eagle’s Flight Navajo Jumbo Quiver. This attractive, leather quiver holds four arrows, and is designed for traditional recurve bows and longbows.

As Wert explains, there are three versions of this quiver. One features an elongated lower bar to set the arrows back toward the string, which makes the setup more streamlined. Then there’s the standard bracket, which simply holds the arrows vertical. Both of those quivers attach to the limbs via straps.

There’s also a version that mounts to takedown bows by a bracket that’s attached through the limb bolts.