The $450 Bow Shop

On a budget? Well who isn't nowadays. Here's an inexpensive list of all the tools you need to tune a bow.

Unless the owner of your local archery shop is your best friend, you have to pay each time your bow needs a tune-up or a tweak. In the long run you’d save money by investing in some tuning equipment. In fact, when you see how inexpensive most of the necessary tools are, you might kick yourself for not having invested in them earlier. Here’s a list of everything you need to construct a total home bow shop; of course, you can just buy as you go.


Shooting an arrow through a chronograph to gauge its top speed is an important measure of bow performance. When you tune your bow, a chronograph allows you to determine whether your changes are increasing or decreasing your bow’s speed. A chronograph is also helpful when comparing different combinations of arrow shaft, broadhead and rest so you can find the best mix. A quality unit takes the guesswork out of fine-tuning your setup, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get one. Shooting Chrony’s Reconditioned Model F-1 chronograph is a good example of a unit with high-end features at a low-end price. ($49.95; 800-385-3161;

Bow Press

Without a bow press, changing something as straightforward as a cable-slide is a struggle. And if something major goes wrong during a trip, you could miss a lot of hunting. Cost isn’t even an obstacle. Prototech Industries’ Bowmaster portable bow press costs less than most sights and fits into a fanny pack. The bow press hooks into the limb tips and uses a steel cable to pull the limbs together. ($49.45; 800-523-3109;

Bow Vise

Working on a bow without a vise is like trying to rebuild your car’s transmission on the kitchen floor. If you’re even slightly serious about tuning your own bow, you need a vise. Apple Archery’s Infinitely Adjustable Bow Vise is a heavy-duty, pro-shop-quality vise that permanently mounts to any table or workbench and allows you to secure a bow in any imaginable position. ($49.99; 800-745-8190; www.

Grain Scale

Archery is a numbers game. A grain scale is used to weigh arrows, field tips and broadheads, so you can be sure everything matches-you’d be surprised how much weights can vary from one field tip to another. A grain scale gives you one figure you need to know to calculate your arrow’s kinetic energy. Check out Lyman’s 500-grain Pro Archers Arrow Scale. It has a notched scale cup for small parts and easily holds arrow shafts. ($47.95; 800-225-9626;

Paper Tuner

A solid paper stand is a must for accurate paper tuning. There’s no need to buy one, however; you can build your own with a cardboard box. Just cut out the bottom of the box and replace it with some butcher paper or newspaper. Then shoot through the paper into a target that is placed a little more than an arrow’s length behind it. If your arrow punches a small, straight hole, your bow is in tune.

Tool Box

Ziploc bags are great for groceries and leftovers, but they’re no place for archery gear. Plano’s Field Box will organize all those gadgets. ($18.99; 800-226-9868;

Arrow Fletcher

An arrow handicapped with a damaged fletching is about as worthless as a bicycle with a flat tire. Some pro shops will charge upward of $3 per arrow for refletching; as a result, the cost to refletch just a dozen arrows would be enough to pay for Grayling’s Fletching Jig and Clamp. ($29.99; 800-426-8929)

Cut-off Saw

Building arrows is fun, but you have to cut them to length. Cir-Cut Archery’s Shaft Cut-Off Kit (aluminum shafts only) neatly trims shafts to custom lengths. Models that will cut carbon shafts are also on the market. ($33.95; 215-324-1000)

Fletching Remover

It’s always good to have the right tool for the job. The Saunders Pro-Sttripper safely and quickly removes vanes, feathers and old glue without damaging expensive shafts. The price of one razor-blade-buggered carbon shaft will pay for this handy tool. ($15.95; 800-228-1408;

Arrow Tester

Poor arrow groups due to slightly bent aluminum or out-of-round carbon shafts can cause you to doubt your shooting skills. To avoid this problem, try the Arrow Inspector, a gadget that spin-tests arrows to cull the bad ones. Manufactured by Pine Ridge Archery, the Arrow Inspector also finds misaligned field points and broadheads. ($28.95; 877-746-7434;

Center-Shot Gauge

Determining the correct alignment of your nock, sight and arrow rest without a center-shot gauge is difficult. Golden Key Futura’s Tru-Center Gauge simplifies tuning your bow after installing gadgets. ($15; 970-249-6700;

Bow Scale

Accurate measure of draw weight is essential when calculating kinetic energy and determining the correct arrow spine. The Cabela’s Bow Scale is a compact unit that removes the guesswork. ($27.99; 800-237-4444;

Serving Tool

If you are unable to reserve your string, you may find yourself several zip codes away attempting to get your string rewrapped. Bohning Company’s Serve-Tite Bow String Server makes quick work of reserving chores. ($9.73; 800-253-0136;

Bow Square

A bow square is a handy tool for positioning and installing nocks and kisser buttons. When precision tuning is the goal, a product like Eastman Outfitters’ Pro Bow Square is an absolute necessity. ($6.50; 800-241-4833;

Assorted Tools

In 1986, the Archery Trade Association (formerly the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization) adopted engineering standards for bow and arrow manufacturers. As a result, an Allen wrench set, a small adjustable wrench and a few assorted screwdrivers are all you’ll need for miscellaneous repairs. Cabela’s Wrench Tool & Repair Kit has more than 100 popular repair parts including screws, bolts and a multi-Allen tool. ($19.99; 800-237-4444;

Calculating Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy (or KE) is simply the amount of energy an arrow is carrying when it leaves the bow. The larger the number, the harder an arrow hits. Arrow weight and speed are the two factors that determine KE. You can calculate KE in pounds by taking your arrow speed and multiplying it by itself and multiplying that number by the arrow’s weight, then dividing the total by 450,240. (Speed squared times weight divided by 450,240 equals kinetic energy.)

Or you can visit www.bowhunting, enter your specs and hit “calculate” for an instant KE measurement. The rule of thumb for hunting is that your arrows need to have at least 45 pounds of KE for whitetails and 55 pounds for larger game.