String jig setup

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Updated: Aug 29

8125, 652, 97, 99, 450, 8190, 777 ... bingo??? It sounds like the number edition of alphabet soup. What does all this mean and how do I choose the best string material for my needs?

Let's start from the beginning. Where do string materials come from? The raw fibers come from these 5 manufacturers:

  • Dupont - Dacron polyester fiber

  • Honeywell - Spectra HMPE fiber

  • Toyobo - Izanas SK60 & SK71 fibers

  • DSM - Dyneema SK75 & SK99 fibers

  • Kuraray - Vectran fiber

All our string materials are one or more of those base materials. So how does it get so complicated? I've spent the last few months mapping this out:

String Materials - OCD Strings

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Different materials will have different characteristics and figuring out your preference for each will help you determine what bow string material is right for you.


These chart above is organized by stretch with the most stretch on the left and the least stretch on the right. Why does this matter? The more stretch in a string material the more shock it will absorb when you shoot. If more shock is going into your string then less shock is going into your bow. On the other end of the spectrum is a dry fire, where all the shock is going into the bow because no energy is being transferred to the arrow. We all know that much shock is bad for a bow and can cause serious damage and injury. Well the stiffer a string material is the closer it gets to that end of the spectrum.

In talking with Douglas Denton (the recurve engineer at Hoyt) he says he recommends 652 Spectra and 8125 was his second choice. He shared that at Hoyt they did a 3000 dry fire test to test out new risers and when a set of limbs breaks, they just put on a new set and keep going. When they were using BCY X as the string material they went through 52 sets of limbs before encountering riser failure. When they used 652 Spectra they went through 16 sets of limbs. The stiffer material is clearly much harder on the limbs and caused them to fail much faster.

Arrow Speed

The stretchier materials will give you less arrow speed while the least stretchy materials will give you more arrow speed (at least when it comes to Dacron, Spectra, and Dyneema fibers). BCY says Vectran blends will be slighter slower than pure Dyneema or Spectra.

Shot Feel

Strings with more stretch can feel "squishy" or "softer" than strings with less stretch. Stiffer strings tend to feel a bit "snappier" or "more responsive".

Brace Height

Stretchier strings tend to have a longer break in period and the brace height needs to be checked and adjusted more often. Stiffer strings won't move as much (if at all) and the brace height will remain more consistent.

Bow Type

With a stiffer string, more energy is going back into the bow. If you are shooting a modern recurve with reinforced limb tips, that may not be a big deal. However if you are shooting a traditional bow or one without reinforced limb tips it may not be able to handle the shock after each shot. This vibration can cause small cracks to form over time and you may not notice until you have a catastrophic limb failure.

Manufacturer Recommendation

Bow manufacturers may have recommendations for what material is to be used with their bows but not all of them include such information in their user manuals. I've reached out to the major olympic recurve and barebow manufacturers and asked them:

  • Do you have recommendations for what type of string material should be used with your recurve bows?

  • Are there any materials that would void a bow's warranty and should not be used?

Here's what they had to say:


  • Anything with Vectran in it should not be used for recurve or longbows. It is only appropriate for compounds. It's too stiff and will put too much vibration into the limbs.

  • BCY 8125 and BCY D97 are the same material, but different diameters. D97 is much larger than 8125.

I have reached out directly to the manufacturers in collecting this information. If anyone has contradictory information, please reach out and provide your source. The goal here is to provide complete and accurate information so archers can make the best choice for their bowstring material.

If all this information is too much for you and you just want someone to tell you where to start, please contact us at OCD Strings or refer to our recommendations.

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Taking care of your string will extend its life and provide endless hours of happy shooting. Here's are a few things to keep in mind:


  • Keep your end loops together to make sure you don't lose your twists. This will help keep your brace height consistent.

  • Method 1:

  • Method 2:

  • Do not bend your serving when you store your string. That goes for both the end servings and the center servings. If you do it could cause issues like this:

You can fold up your string by bending the string material.

  • Do not leave your bow strung. When you are not shooting unstring your bow, even if you don't completely disassemble it. Not keeping tension on your string all the time can help your string last longer. Unlike compound materials, recurve and longbow materials are designed to have a little stretch. Keeping the bow strung for long periods of time reduces that and shortens the life of your string.

Care & Maintenance

  • Wax your string on a regular basis. If you don't feel any wax on your string or if you are starting to see it get a bit fuzzy, it's time to wax. It's best to just get in the habit of doing this on a regular basis and it can help extend the life your string.

Other Hazards

  • Keep away from sharp objects ... for obvious reasons

  • Also fire. Keep it away from fire.

  • Also Water. Just keep it away from all the elements. A wet string is heavier and shoots much differently than a dry one. If a string does get wet let it dry out or at the very least pluck it prior to shooting to get as much water out as possible.

  • When stringing, make sure the string is in the limb groove before releasing all pressure from the bow stringer.

  • Every effort should be taken to avoid knots in your string. If they are tight they are next to impossible to get out without damaging the string material.

  • When stringing your bow, the large loop goes on the top limb and the small loop goes on the bottom limb. The top loop is designed to slide down the limb when unstringing. The bottom loop is not. Allowing the bottom loop to slide down the length of the limb can force it open wider than it was built to be and damage the serving material, exposing the string material beneath. This is to be avoided.

When is it time for a new string?

Even the most meticulously cared for strings need replacement after a while just because the string material eventually has no stretch left to it and the shot feels more dead. It’s kind of like sneakers. You often don’t realize how bad your old ones were until you get new ones. When in doubt, it's always a good idea to have a new string on hand and ready to go in case anything happens to your primary string.

Following this simple guide will help you get the most out of your string and enjoy lots of great shooting!

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