Dusting off your Neglected Bow

Real life has been a pain. Stuff has been dragging you away from the things you love for months. Recreation, when you get some, is vegetating in front of the tv till you go to bed and physically .. your butt grows daily! One day you are trying to find something in a cupboard and you come across a backpack. Its your archery kit and you instantly make the resolution to get back on the line ASAP. However, in what state is your once cherished bow?

Bows are fragile things. They are susceptible to conditions they are stored in. If you haven’t shot your bow for a while, there is a chance that the bow is not quite as sound as it was the last time you hit the field. But what to look for? What are the danger signs of a bow that has been on the shelf too long? Well, lets take a look at that bow…



Pit crew doing mid round repairs on a compound

The scariest bow to resurrect from the crypt is the compound. These things can go cattywampus if you take your eye off them for 2 minutes while on the line! God knows what they can get up to in a cupboard for a year. Problems can be as diverse as cables stretching, cams going out of synchronisation (“timing”), cams going out of alignment (“leaning”), drop away rests that don’t as well as 3rd axis issues on the sight. Release aids can become rough to operate or seize completely and things that should move, have locked in place.


“Give me your unsynchronized, your stretched, your rusted release aids yearning to shoot free … “

The solution is a little dramatic and will cost but having the bow serviced by a reputable archery store is the best thing you can do for your bow. Merlin in Bishop Auckland have brought GA member’s compounds back from the dead after dry fires so a service is well within their capability. In a perfect world someone at GA would wave a magic wand and be able to fix these things but we are a predominately recurve club and really don’t have the skills to patch up a dusty compound. Our archery gnu is good but when shown a compound, he will pull out garlic and a crucifix! So phone Merlin and see what they say.


Here we will split things into Longbow/selfbow and everything else but there’s not a great deal of difference. Longbows and selfbows are made of just wood. Wood does not fare well in overly moist or cold or hot environments so where and how your bow was stored is vitally important.
First examine the shape of the stave or bow. You are looking for warping or twisting. Then examine the wood. Are there any signs of cracks especially in the sections that flex when drawn or at the tips? If anything is showing up in these checks, this a massive red flag that your bow is not safe to shoot. Assuming no cracks or warping, now examine your string(s). If well waxed, it should be ok (conditions permitting) but examine the strands closely. The material could have rotted or frayed or been eaten (mice apparently enjoy dacron!).
Lets assume the bow passes the visual check. String the bow slowly and carefully. Set it down, step back and wait a little. This will be the first time the wood has been put under tension in some time and it needs to acclimatise itself. After 10 minutes or so begin warming up the bow i.e. drawing the bow slightly then coming down. Slowly increase the amount of pull each subsequent draw and again, gently come down. Listen for any ominous sounds. Once up to full draw, come down and make a further visual check. If it looks fine. You are probably about as sure as you can be your bow is safe. Now go organise somewhere to safely shoot. For extra piece of mind, get a second opinion if shooting at the club.


This horsebow was placed on a flat surface and checked for left/right rocking where it rests on the orange card. There was none so no twisting at the limbs.

Other traditional bows such as american flatbows, horsebows and one piece field bows are probably a lamination of materials so are a bit more resilient and a little less prone to the above issues. However, the same sort of process as above should be gone through .. its just you probably don’t need to hold your breath while drawing the bow!

Recurve/Barebow/Take Down Fieldbow


Using Beiter limb gauges, you can see the slight twist. The string would be out of its groove if flat against the limb

Here the focus is on the string and the limbs. The riser is a one piece lump of aluminium or carbon and should be fine. Give it the once over to be sure. You might find a little rust on some parts like the clicker or rest or even in the stabilizer bushings. This can usually be cleaned up with care. Wooden risers should be checked more thoroughly since they are wood but unless there was some extreme conditions experienced, it should be fine. Sights might need the lightest touch of oil on the thread to smoothly turn. Does the button still feel springy? The string should be checked as above looking for any degradation in the material. If there’s any doubt, discard and get a new one.
The main focus for these bows are the limbs. Give the limbs a good, close look. Warping, twisting and splits/cracks in the limb surface are all warning signs that something horrible has happened to the limbs and should not be shot. Even modern, laminated carbon and foam core limbs are susceptible to extremes of temperature. If all well, string up the bow carefully and have a look at tillering, brace height and string location in relation to the limb bolts. This check will show up any torquing in the bow under stress or the fact the limbs aren’t going to function properly. Draw a few times looking at where the string is in relation to the limb tips/riser – hopefully nice and central. Get someone to look over your shoulder if necessary. Is the bow flexing smoothly. Does the weight feel about right (they haven’t lost power) remembering your archery muscles will have degraded as you slouched about modern life.
If all these are good and there’s nothing giving you sweaty palms, get somewhere to safely shoot organized and as above, if its the club, get a second opinion just to be sure.
Note: Twisted limbs can be fixed although its by no means guaranteed. This article by White Gekko has some techniques that may work to straighten slight twists but as always with archery stuff on the internet, it’s a buyer beware situation.



While beeswax is traditional for waterproofing wooden shafts, this stuff works SO much better.

Carbon and aluminium arrows are resilient beasts. They decelerate at hundreds of gravities if you shoot them into a bosses’ wooden frame. They accelerate from 0 to 120mph (or higher) in 1/100th of a second. They take a pounding but keep on keeping on. Depending on storage conditions, your arrows may need refletching after a long layoff. Other than that just make sure there’s no bends in the ali’s, cracks in the carbons, the nocks are not damaged/cracked from shooting before your layoff … and those puppies are good to go.
Woodies on the other hand are made of … anyone? … Yup, wood and we’re back to warping again. If the shafts were well protected with danish oil or other sealant they should be fine. To check, make the arrow spin point down in the palm of your hand and look at the nock as it spins. If the shaft is warped, the nock will wobble horribly. This works for all arrows when looking for bends. While woodies are never perfectly straight, being badly warped will affect their flight. In worst case scenarios, you may now be able to perform round the corner trick shots! ;o) Also check the fletches in case the glue has perished or the feathers are mangled (hotfix for scraggly feathers) and as before, that the nocks are intact.

rusts pointsArrow Case Study: Our archery gnu was given a set of wooden arrows that had been sitting in a damp cellar for (a legitimate) 10 years. As he had originally made them, he knew the shafts were well protected (3 coats of danish oil) and indeed the shafts were found to be straight and true. The fletches were all still firmly attached but the points were actually deformed with rust (hopefully visible in the pic). This he fixed with a vice, a metal file and some wire wool. 10 years in the damp and the arrows were perfect once more with a little TLC.

So with the new year coming and you know what to look for, what better time to make a resolution, check that bow and get back on the line!

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Commissioned by the GA club secretary who likes long archery articles to read during caf breaks!

Glasgow Archers

We are an amateur archery club based in the centre of Glasgow.

1 Response

  1. June 18, 2023

    […] should the moisture get past the waterproofing and into the wood as was noted at the bottom of this article. We had a woodie disintegrate recently because the wood behind the point had rotted. On […]

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