bow maintenance recurve bow care recurve bows

When to Replace Your Recurve Bow String (And Why)

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I own two recurve bows and recently decided they both need their strings replaced.  I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned about when and why to replace recurve bow strings.

A Recurve bowstring should be replaced every 2-3 years under normal use. The string should be replaced sooner if it becomes frayed, worn, or otherwise damaged.  Modern synthetic materials are very durable but stretch and wear out over time. Natural strings should be replaced more often. Inspect your bowstring for damage at each use.

Replacing your bowstring is an important part of bow maintenance. Knowing when and why to replace your string will keep you safe and shooting your best. Keep reading to learn more!

Know When to Change Your Recurve’s Bowstring

Knowing when to change your bowstring is a critical element in maintaining your bow. On a recurve it’s pretty much 1 of 2 of the main elements of your bow.

How Long Can You Go?

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Speaking strictly in terms of time, a properly maintained bow string can last upwards of 3 years.  Some archers can get 4-6 years out of a modern bowstring when properly taken care of depending on how much they shoot. That being said, 3 years is a reasonable average.

The longer you go between string replacement, the more critical proper care and inspection is.  Make sure and check the string each time you shoot for any damage.

Age isn’t the only issue

The reason you need to inspect your bowstring regularly is because as you use it, store it, and expose it to the elements it will become worn and/or damaged.  It’s important to recognize any damage before it becomes a problem or safety issue.

Knicks and cuts

A bowstring is made up of individual strands of natural or synthetic material.  The number of strands used has been carefully considered for the strength needed to be safe and effective for the bow style and draw weight.

If even 1 of the strands is cut, the string needs to be replaced.  It will not be safe to shoot and I would recommend unstringing your recurve as soon as possible to remove the load from the string.  A single strand cut probably isn’t cause for immediate concern, but better safe than sorry.

Knicks are a bit harder to diagnose because a very small knick in a single strand is probably not cause for alarm but it will start to fray (see below).  But this string’s days are numbered and you need to keep a close eye on it.


Fraying String

A bowstring can start to fray over time from repetitive use or if something is rubbing against it. Usually you’ll notice the string starting to look a bit fuzzy if it’s starting to fray.

You can combat minor string fraying by keeping your bowstring waxed regularly.  Modern materials such as Vectran and Dyneema may not need to be waxed as often as older synthetic materials such as Dacron or natural materials.

Why should you change your bowstring? 

You might be wondering why you need to change your string, I mean what’s the worst that can happen right?  Sure, I’ve seen some recurve bows that had decades old strings on them. I would’t want to fire an arrow out of it though.

The first and foremost reason to change your string is safety.  When at full draw the limbs of a bow are loaded with a lot of energy.  If the string were to suddenly break, releasing all that energy without resistance, you could damage your bow or even be injured.

In addition to safety, another reason to change your bowstring is that after time it will stretch.  This is more true for some string materials than others but THEY ALL STRETCH to some degree.

A new string will stretch as it’s “breaking in” and this is perfectly normal. But an old string will start to stretch again. Some people will add a few twists to the string and get a little more life out of it, but my suggestion would be to go ahead and replace it.

How to give your string a long happy life

Sure you can get 3 or more years out of your recurve’s bowstring, but only if you take proper care of it.

When you purchase a new bowstring (or a new bow for that matter) the string will be coated with wax.  This has two main purposes. First, it helps to stick all the individual strands together that make up the string. It also helps protect the string from moisture, dust, and other debris.

This is why it’s important to make sure the string retains this wax, it provides protection.  This is done by waxing your string regularly. Beeswax used to be the standard but these days there are better options made especially for the modern materials used in bowstrings.

In addition to waxing, it’s important to care for your string by handling it and your bow with care and storing them properly.  Avoid leaning the bow against things that could damage it, or setting things on the string. Remember, knicks and cuts will damage the string causing the need for replacement.

Anything that rubs against the string is a potential hazard to it’s health.  Follow good care and maintenance and you’re sure to get 3+ years out of your string.

What Will it Cost to Replace a Recurve Bowstring

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There are a few different things that will affect how much your bowstring will cost.  The biggest thing that will dictate the cost is what the string is made of. There are a number of options including dacron which is a very popular and affordable string material.

Sometimes, but not always, the number of strands that make up the string will also play a role in the price.  This is usually dictated by the draw weight of your bow.

The length of your string may also change the price, especially if you need an uncommon string length.

All of those things considered, you’ll find that most bowstrings for a recurve bow only cost between $10 and $30.

Related Questions

What is the Best String for a Recurve Bow?  What makes the best bow string can be subjective and depends on your specific needs.  Dacron makes a great general purpose bowstring material and is also very affordable. This makes it the perfect choice for most recurve shooters.

What Happens if a bowstring breaks?  Best case scenario when a bowstring breaks is that nothing will be harmed except for the string.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. A bow can be severely damaged or even break possibly causing injury to the shooter.

Jason Brooks

I've been involved with archery for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. I've taken part in local tournaments and even 3D course setup.