So you’ve been an archer for a while. You have all the kit and are shooting regularly but things are starting to wear or get damaged or come loose. Well, you could go ask a more senior member of the club to help you out (never a bad idea) OR you could start to pick up the kit you need to keep your bow in perfect trim. So, let’s assume you’ve decided to do your own maintenance but where to start?
Important: Just before we get started its always a good idea to have spares for items that get easily damaged. Spare nocks and fletches are mandatory otherwise you will run out of shootable arrows fast. A dozen spare nocks and a dozen of each colour of fletch on your arrows as well as a spare string and a rest is the minimum you should have squirreled away. So back to maintenance kit …
Fletching Jig: Arrows take a beating. Not just every time they are shot but also when rattling around in your arrow tube and heat/humidity can affect the fletching glue as well. So, your first piece of maintenance kit should probably be a jig for putting the fletches back onto your arrows when they fall off or get damaged.
In essence this is a frame that holds the new fletch steady against your arrow in a clamp while the glue on the fletch “sets” (let it sit for at least 10 mins before doing the next one). The frame will then allow the arrow to be rotated 120′ and the next fletch attached. An additional buy (and a pretty smart one) is either a strong spring loaded or G clamp so the jig can be securely attached to a desk, table or workbench.
For specialist fletch glue there are several brands available. These tend to be a rubberized compound that while it will fail at some point, it’s easy to clean off the shaft for the next fletch. I abrade it off using leather cut from a gardening glove. Alternatively, superglue can be used BUT while the fletch will never fall off, if the fletch is damaged and needs replaced .. cleaning the shaft for the next fletch is a nightmare. I have no idea what superglue will do to carbon in a A/C shaft and don’t ever want to find out! A good example of specialist fletching glue is Saunders NPV. (The club owns several jigs if you would like to try your hand at fletching)
Serving Jig: Next most useful, a serving jig is a small frame that holds a reel of serving thread at a constant tension using butterfly screws while you wind the thread around your string. These need not be expensive although cheaper ones tend to have issues keeping the tension steady. This is due to the butterfly screws moving while you wind. I resolved this with a big blob of blu tack holding the butterfly screw secure. More expensive jigs can come with lockable nuts. A serving jig will allow you to re-serve your string’s central serving while the string is on the bow. This is the most likely serving to fail due to wear on your bracer post shot. (End servings are another story and in addition to the serving jig, needs a string jig as well – see below)
Knowing how to serve a string is the first step in being able to make your own strings.
A good thread for general purpose work is BCY nylon 400. Its quite chunky, wears well, isn’t expensive and works anywhere on your string. A more durable option for a central serving is Brownell’s Diamondback thread but its a very bad material for end servings.
(GA owns a couple of serving jigs and thread as well if you need to patch up a string and want to learn how.)
Vice: Unless you are blessed with having a minion who can come lend an extra set of hands to any archery task (honestly, every archery maintenance task requires at least 3 hands!) … then a small hobby vice is a good purchase if you have somewhere to put it. You’d be amazed just how often a vice is a better option than pliers or indeed, how many other things you can do with them. Stanley do this rather durable little beast often to be found under £20 … Stanley 183069 Multi Angle Hobby Vice review
General Tools: So here were talking general generic tools that are useful in an archery workshop. Sharp hobby knives/box cutters, hex keys, scissors, masking tape, screwdrivers of various sized and heads (flat/phillips), more hex keys, g-clamps, surgical spirit (cleaning shafts/vanes for fletching), methylated spirit burner, screwtite, pliers, ruler, blutack, grain scales, tape measure, file (precision), lighters, even more hex keys, tweezers, bow scales, small rubber sheet (for grip) … as you can see this list is damn near endless. Its about things that make maintenance tasks easier. Here a good imagination/flexibility is your friend. Dremels can be occasionally useful but if you don’t already have one, it’s not important.
Additionally, if you want to make traditional wooden arrows add a small hacksaw, 24hr epoxy, taper tools, sandpaper and danish oil + paint brush (large modelling NOT woodwork or ceiling sized! ;o) as well. Larger Poundlands can be a great source of these sorts of things supplying functional items at very low cost.
SO … you now have a good start in your workshop. You can fix fletches, you can repair strings, a selection of helpful tools and you have an extra pair of hands. What’s next? Well, it depends!
String Jig: If you want to make your own strings then the next addition should be a string jig. Coupled with the serving jig, this is a frame that allows you to make, twist and serve the endless loop that is the modern bow string. The string jig is one of those items in archery that you get what you paid for. Cheaper string jigs mean lighter materials and can be a bit fragile. More expensive are made of heavier materials and are far more resilient. Cheaper are usually easily storable. Expensive become furniture in your home. A real case of buyer beware here so best to investigate opinions/reviews and consider the space you have available. (GA have a lightweight collapsible aluminium one if club members would like to try their hand at an infinite loop.)
Bow Press: If you are a compounder (my commiserations), you are going to need a bow press at some point. A bow press is used to take the tension off the string by compressing the limbs. This allows work to be done on the compound’s cams and string ie change cam timing or lean, install peeps or even replace strings and cables. They can be quite expensive, are in the main large and aren’t the sort of thing to buy if you live in a small flat unless you want to share your living space with a large, metal, modern sculpture. To be honest, these are better owned at club level. Some manufacturers have tried to get round this size/cost issue with convenient, ingeniously minimal and inexpensive products like the Bowmaster® Portable Bow Press but we have no idea if they are any good or indeed, are safe on all compounds due to the various differing limb configurations. You need to do some research here. If you do use one, then the vice or something like the Beiter Rip Clutch/Vice combination will be a godsend to hold everything steady.
Arrow Saw: To be honest, there is no need for anyone other than professional archers, archery stores or clubs to buy an arrow saw. This is absolutely one of those pieces of kit (like the bow press) that needs to be owned at a higher level although knowing how to use one is useful knowledge. At GA we have a good one (Decut is always solid kit) that is lovingly cared for by a club member (if you have visited us at GA, you will easily guess who it is). If you are a GA member and need arrows cut to size, ask a committee member or go straight to the Keeper of the Saw assuming you’ve guessed who it is.
Storage: Finally, we get to the elephant in the room … or at least the elephant sized pile of spare parts, piles, fletches, string, servings, glue, knives, files, hex keys, lighters, dental floss, saws, tape-measures, grain scales, dremels etc etc etc. Where do you put all these bits? Well, here the evil empire of IKEA is your friend. They do rather nifty drawer units and separator trays that are ideal for sorting out all those bits. My favourite (shown below) is the ALEX.
So here .. for your edification .. is one I
dusted and tidied created earlier. The vice is the Stanley multi angle hobby reviewed above, the saw is Decut as is the fletching jig. The bottle is Boots own brand surgical spirit useful for cleaning arrows and fletches before gluing. The Decut string jig took up residence in the living room and so far, it has resisted all attempts to evict it.
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Pictures used for the purposes of review and education. No ownership is implied except for the one of my workshop which is mine so there!