When I bought my first recurve bow, the guy at the shop insisted that I should always use a stringer to string the bow.
And I stuck to the tool for the first 3 years.
I have, however, recently shifted to stringing by hand after lessons from my big brother – he is really good at it.
And yes, it’s easier than you think.
So, can I show you how to string a recurve bow + unstring using both methods?
You can then adopt the method that you feel comfortable using.
How to string a recurve bow using a stringer
A stringer saves you precious time and is less of a hassle.
Experts also contend that bow stringers are much safer, provided you don’t cut corners.
In fact, some of the biggest recurve bow manufacturers including Bear archery won’t warranty bows strung using other techniques because of the risk of damage.
You will need to buy a good stringer to start with.
But what is a bow stringer?
It’s simply a device designed to help you safely string your recurve without compromising/twisting the limbs sideways, an occurrence which can make the bow dangerous to handle.
That’s because a loose limb may suddenly shoot out with huge force as to snap your bow.
A stringer is actually a length of durable cord with pockets at both ends or one pocket (on one side) and a pad/saddle on the other.
You will find some brilliant bow stringers online or in your neighborhood archery store.
1. Properly position the string
Grab and first slide the bigger string loop over the recurve bow’s upper limb. At the same time, locate the notch on your bow’s lower limb and fit the other loop (the smaller) in there.
Be sure to double check that it fits snug.
2. Fix the stringer on the bow
With the string in place, it’s time to add the stringer to the bow.
Here is what to know regarding the stringer design:
For double-pocket types, one pocket will be larger than it’s opposite.
You will place it over your bow’s lower limb (Remember for the string the bigger loop went to the upper limb).
If you happened to select a pocket/saddle stringer, it’s the pocket that goes to the lower end.
You can guess the remaining bit..
Place the smaller pocket (for double-pocket designs) over the bow’s upper limb.
You will, of course, loop the saddle over the same limb (for pocket-saddle types) just below the bowstring’s loop.
Note that some saddles won’t secure against the bow unless you hold them in place.
Congratulations. We will now move to the actual stringing…
3. Stringing the bow
Hold the bow’s central grip using one hand (preferably the weaker hand) horizontally.
Your stronger hand will, in the meantime, hold the still loose string loop to ensure it remains firmly in place.
Orient the bow such that the limb tips are pointing upward while the stringer and bowstring remain underneath.
You then lower the bow (you need to bend) until the stringer touches the ground.
Next step on the stringer (now touching the ground) using both feet, ideally shoulder-width apart.
Now take the slack in the bow’s stringer and draw the recurve up using one hand.
Your second arm should meanwhile slide the larger (top) loop of the string into its notch.
4. Inspect the string
Having engaged the upper string into the groove, confirm that it’s firmly fixed.
Just run fingers gently on the said string loop to test.
Are you happy with your efforts so far?
Very well, we are almost done.
5. Remove the stringer
Start by gently lowering the bow. The stringer should become slack.
Be extra cautious as you do this as the bow’s limbs can slingshot to your face if you hasten the process.
If satisfied, turn it around to have the limbs face away from you and test the string loops once more.
Then remove the stringer and that should be it!
You have just perfectly strung your recurve bow and it’s ready for shooting!
- Carry out the stringing steps without having anyone near because of the risk of accidents.
- One foot can be fine but to be more stable, try to use both your feet. This is especially crucial for children and shorter adults.
- You may use rubber bands to secure the stringer pockets if need be.
- If your stringer has frayed, don’t use it. In fact, you will need to replace immediately lest it snaps during use.
How to unstring a recurve bow using a stringer.
To unstring, you run the steps in reverse. The process is quite simple if you have mastered how to string it..
Take a look:
1. Add the stringer
I hope you recall what we had said about the stringer design so I will go direct.
You will start by placing the bigger pocket over your bow’s lower limb. Needless to say, the other pocket goes to the upper limb (double-pocket stringers).
As usual, have them fit snugly.
You know what to do if you have a pocket/saddle stringer. Don’t you?
Here you go: Fit the pocket to the lower and the saddle the bow’s upper limb.
2. Hold and step on it
This we had seen above.
Hold the bow horizontally, lower it (till the stringer’s cord is on the ground) and step on the stringer- use both feet, shoulder-width apart.
3. Pull the bow
You now want the bow’s string to become slack so pull the bow up slowly. Have you succeeded?
If so, it’s now a good moment to remove the bowstring from both limbs.
4. Detach the string
We will start with the upper limb.
To do this, hoist the slack bowstring using your free hand from the upper nock. You don’t want it to touch the ground so leave it dangling slack on the limb.
Proceed to the nock on the lower limb and similarly unhook the string.
Now to the last step.
5. Remove your bowstring and stringer
Again lower the recurve bow smoothly.
Two things will happen: First, the stringer cord will again become slack and secondly, and this is critical, the limbs relax in their position.
Have you witnessed this?
If yes, remove both the string and your stringer.
Stringing your recurve bow by hand
As I mentioned, this method is not popular among manufacturers for the reasons I gave and you might lose your warranty.
But hey, if you’re like me and love to try out new things, why not?
That said, this technique can be immensely difficult if you own a heavy bow so stick to the stringer.
Anyway, let’s go through the steps.
- Hold the recurve bow toward you.
- From there, position the tip of your bow’s lower limb in your shoe- aim for the arch.
- Now turn to the upper limb and hold the tip with your preferred hand. This gives you a stable angle to pull the bow’s riser towards your body. Do it.
- At this point, you will need to carefully slide the larger string loop on the upper limb.
- You then let the riser down slowly until the bowstring firmly holds the limbs in place. And while at it, be sure to retain the string loops safely in their notches.
- What remains is for you to pluck the string lightly- almost like a guitar. Of course, you will exercise care to avoid dry-firing the bow when doing this. Voila, you’re done!
How often to unstring by hand
Unstringing by hand is forthright.
- Step through your leg – the left one- into the bow while holding the recurve’s top side with your hand.
- Next, put your other leg – right- through it and drag the bow closer to your body. Hold it tight in the bench press angle and slide the bow gently down to remove the string.
Recurve bow unstringing/re-stringing: FAQ (Frequently asked questions)
Q: How often should I Unstring?
A: Traditionally, it’s best to unstring at the end of each session. And so you should develop a habit to unstring after sessions if you purchased one of the older wood models.
The story is different for contemporary recurve bows. Because of the improved materials – I am referring to carbon and foam (synthetic), it’s not a must to unstring.
Sure, the limbs still face tension but these materials are resilient meaning leaving it strung will hardly impact the limbs negatively.
It might, however, be a good idea to unstring it if you’ll not be shooting for an extended duration.
Q: How long does stringing/unstringing take?
A: It comes down to your experience. I take about 2-3 minutes with a stringer but I have met shooters who spend between 5-10 minutes.
It may take you a bit longer if it’s your first time since you are still familiarizing yourself to the process. Also, expect to take more time with a new string/stringer.
Q: What is the best kind of string to use?
A: Well, the market is teeming with various types each with its own advantages and issues and it, in the end, depends on your personal preferences.
You will meet a lot of information online so you can start your research there. Your nearest archery shop can also guide you.
Many accidents happen when stringing/unstringing a bow so it’s vital that you follow the steps to the latter.
I should also add that proper using a bow stringer makes stringing/unstringing your bow incredibly easy, quick, and safe.
It’s not also lost on me that some of us really struggle with DIY stuff and will have problems undertaking the process.
If you belong to this category, don’t panic- most archery shops are more than willing to offer a helping hand.
For the others, that’s how to string a recurve bow.
You can request an experienced friend to assess your technique to see how good you are. Otherwise, your limbs may become damaged over time due to minor mistakes.
As always, drop us your questions in the comments.