Bow Tuning – Basic Setup

IMG_7304For a beginner, if you purchased your bow from an archery shop, hopefully they worked with you to “basically” setup and tune it for you. If you are in the unfortunate situation were you do not have a pro shop near by and/or purchased your bow online you will need to perform the basic setup yourself. This may be a difficult task if it is your first bow and you are a green horn to archery. Shooting form has the most impact on your performance and you need to be relatively consistent to see any major impact from bow tuning.

That said in the first couple of blogs, I will give a basic overview of how to setup your bow so you can begin shooting with it. Later in the series we will discuss the intricacies of tuning each area of the bow.

For any bow setup you should have a couple of basic bow tuning tools

IMG_7604Bow Square: T-shaped tool for measuring brace height, tiller and nock position.

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IMG_7606Nock Pliers:  Specially designed pliers for installing nock points.

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IMG_7608Bow Stringer: Provides a safe and convenient way to string recurve or long bows.

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You may also need an Allen Wrench Set (Hex Keys), Pliers, adjustable wrench, scissors and/or various screwdrivers depending on the composition of your equipment. Reference the manufacturer’s manuals for necessary tools. There are a ton of additional bow tuning tools such as a pressure button measuring tool, bow scale, electronic chronograph, bow press and leveling tools. These are optional and will not be used for the basic tuning.

Completely assemble your bow, for a quick and simple step-by-step guide check out my earlier post about Putting an Olympic Bow Together.

Make sure you gather all the pieces that you are going to use including the riser, limbs, stabilizer system, string, nock, arrow rest, sight, clicker and plunger. It is important to start with everything when tuning, since even one change can have you starting all over again.  Start by making sure that all the pieces fit together, and are correctly assembled so you have a tight fit.

In the first blog we will make sure your limb alignment is correct, the string and brace height are within specifications, and the tiller is properly set so the limbs are correctly set. Olympic bows are typically take-down bows with risers that have International Limb Fittings (ILF) so you can easily replace them. It is very important that limbs are aligned straight and that both limbs are aligned with the center of the grip. Some risers ILF slots can be adjusted side-to-side and you may need to make some adjustments to align the limbs.

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For good limb alignments the things to check are…

  • The limbs are correctly installed and the top limbs in the in top slot, and bottom in the bottom. (this may sound obvious but it would not be the first time someone got their limbs mixed up)
  • The string is lined up with the center of each limb and the center of the grip.
  • The limbs are not twisted – check out my earlier blog about Twisted Limbs.

brace-heightNext we need to make sure you are using the correct string for the bow. This is measured using the brace height or the distance between the center of the string and the grip when the bow is strung using a bow square. Each bow manufacturer provides the specific tolerances for the brace height however the following chart is a pretty good guide.

62” Bow            7 3/4″ – 8 1/4″              197 – 210 mm
64” Bow            8” – 8 1/2”                    203 – 216 mm
66” Bow            8 1/4” – 8 3/4”              210 – 223 mm
68” Bow            8 1/2” – 9”                    216 – 229 mm
70” Bow            8 3/4” – 9 1/2”              223 – 242 mm

If your brace height is just slightly out of range you can try to add a couple of string twists to adjust within the specific tolerance however never put more that 20 twists in a string.

tiller-measureNext we need to make sure the correct amount of draw weight is shared between the limbs. The difference between the top tiller and the bottom tiller will effect the bow reaction on release and your ability to hold steady at full draw and aim. Your hand on the grip is centered in the bow however your arrow is actually above center, the bottom limbs needs to be slightly heavier to compensate. This is accomplished on an Olympic bow using the adjustable tiller. Most risers are shipped with the tillers adjusted to the correct depth. Adjusting the tiller is an extremely advanced bow tuning technique, and should ONLY be adjusted by a someone with experience. The thing for you to check is to make sure that top tiller is about 1/8” to 1/4″ (3-8 mm) greater than the bottom tiller, if not take your bow to a professional pro-shop or coach to help you adjust it.

In the next post, we will cover installing the arrow rest, nocking point and setting up your center shot.

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Competition Baby Powder

This past weekend, I participated in the Ontario Spring Classic held at Woodlands Park in Toronto, Ontario. Toronto just happened to have very hot and humid weather during the tournament.

Heat and humidity can affect your arrow flight. Humidity can cause your arrows not to spin as quickly leaving your shot grouping lower since they do not gain as much distance. Heat affects the archer too with hot and sweaty hands. Sweaty hands affect your grip on the bow possibly changing your point of power and the heat causing your hands to swell which in turn affects your feel for the string in your fingers. Check out my previous blog about other effects of various weather conditions.

 Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.  -Terri Guillemets

This year I packed baby powder, something that every competitive archer needs to bring with them to every outdoor competition.

A little baby powder on your…

…under your anchor point will help allow your hand ride along your chin smoothly

…inside of your string arm keeps your arm from becoming too sticky keeping your draw and release smooth.

…bow hand helps deal with sweaty hands that can affect your grip of the bow

… string fingers to allow your fingers to have a good grip on your finger tab making it easier to control your drawing and releasing of the string cleanly.

…cheek bones under your eyes, if you wear glasses or sunglasses, will help prevent them from fogging up.

The Ontario Spring Classic is a two-day tournament with high-performance archers including past, current and future Olympians hopefuls with the winner in each category receiving $500.00 prize money. This open tournament is a great way to measure your development against some of the best archers in Canada. If you are ready to take the next step in competition in Canada, I suggest you plan on attending next year and pack a little baby powder just in case.

Instinctive Archery World Champion: Peter Garrett Interview

In September 2011, a friend of mine Peter Garrett, shocked the World and became Canada’s First World Champion in Instinctive Archery capturing Gold at the World 3D championships in Austria. Recently, Peter agreed to participate in an interview describing his experience and what it was like to reach the top of the podium for Canada.

Jordan: Congratulations again Peter, first can you give our readers a little information about your shooting background. What got you interested in archery and at what age?

Peter: When I was 49, I moved to Kitchener and joined the Elmira Rod and Gun in 2004 so I could continue my pistol shooting that I had been doing for 25 years. My 11 year son saw the rubber 3D animal targets there and wanted to shoot at them so I bought us each a bow and started archery. After 3 years my son lost interest but I loved it and shot my first provincial championship in 2005.

Jordan: As you are aware North America is dominated by compound bow shooters, what made you want to shoot bare bow and instinctive?

Peter: I started out with an unsighted compound bow but there was hardly any competition, so I switched to a recurve bow as there was lots of competition and I could always put sights on it and make it an Olympic style bow.

Jordan: What inspired you to “take it to the next level” and compete on the national and international level?

Peter: I won my first provincial championship, something I had never accomplished in 25 years of pistol shooting and it really inspired me. The next year the 3D Nationals were held in Ontario so I attended it and won as well. As there was nowhere to go in unsighted compound, I switched to an instinctive bow and have been enjoying it ever since.

Jordan: What is your typical practice routine & how often do you practice?

Peter: My typical practice was to shoot 60 arrows about 3 times a week

Jordan: How do you prepare both physically and mentally for an international match such as the World 3D championships?

Peter: I won two 3D National Championships and had a chance to represent Canada at the World 3 D Championships in Italy in 2009. When I got there I realized how poorly prepared I was. They had different rules, most of the other countries had full sponsorship and they trained 2 to 3 times a day. I was so nervous I missed 3 of my first 4 targets, I hit the next 36 but it was too late and I finished 2nd last. I decided if I went again I would be properly prepared. The 3D worlds are held every two years, so I learned all the rules and started training twice a day in September 2010. I was shocked in December 2010 when World Archery announced a rule change that banned my 3 finger under the arrow grip and made a split finger grip mandatory. I had to change my bow and relearn the way I shot in order to meet the new rules. I got a loaner riser from Lancaster Archery and started practicing 2 to 3 times a day in early January and kept that up until the end of August when I went to the worlds in Austria.

Jordan: I hear that bare bow and instinctive are far more popular in Europe, what was it like competing in the World 3D championships?

Peter: In Canada in 3D, there are about 15 compound archers for every non compound archers. In Europe there are 5 non compound archers for every compound archer, a huge switch. On our Canadian team 6 of 8 archers shot compound bows but their practice area was ¼ the size and number of targets as mine for non compound archers. There is a lot of prestige associated with the non compound archers and the best of the best were in attendance. Both French and Austrian archers told me about 100 archers tried out for their countries 3 Instinctive positions at the Worlds. Canada only had myself in Instinctive and Brock Patton in Longbow.

Jordan: Here in North America, the landscape for archers is different from that of Austria how did you prepare for shooting on hills, valleys, etc…

Peter: I practiced hills by occasionally going to a ravine near by and shooting at any club I knew had a lot of hills. The Flying Feathers Club in Madawaska had the overall best variety of shooting conditions so I tried to go there whenever they had a competition or I was allowed to practice there.

Jordan: Who are your coaches and how did they help prepare you for this journey?

Peter: I did not have a coach for 3D Instinctive archery for a variety of reasons. I did receive help in the spring with general bowman ship and dealing with distractions from Kathy Millar. Larry Smith set up my new bow, figured out the best arrow to use and gave me some great training tips on judging distances.

Jordan: Do you have any sponsors that have supported you through this adventure?

Peter: Lancaster Archery had lent me a 17” Trad Tech Titan riser to try until their 19” was in full production. As the new riser was not released in time I used the 17” at the world championships. Since then Goldtip arrows and Trad Tech have helped me with my equipment as I used their product to win the World Championships.

Jordan: What was the most memorable part of the whole experience?

Peter: The most memorable moment was hearing my team mates and wife sing O’Canada from the stands as they raised the Canadian flag and played the National Anthem. I had great support from my wife and team mates throughout this event that made it extra special.

Jordan: Now that you have succeeded in becoming World Champion, what are your new archery goals for the future?

Peter: This is a great question, I stopped shooting completely for 3 months as I needed a break. I thought I might quit but I love to shoot archery and I have started again. In January World Archery changed the rules again so now I need to use a wooden bow and other significant changes that at this point I am not planning to relearn so I can shoot at the world in 2013. I am just having fun shooting right now and with retirement from work ahead in the near future I am not sure what I will do.

Jordan: Would you be interested in doing a periodic blog now and then for our readers?

Peter: I would be happy to and answer any questions someone may have.