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Be Your Own Bow Mechanic

BOW PRESS Setting up and working on your own bow can be fun and rewarding. As the saying goes, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." If you set up and tune your bow, you will take the time necessary to do it right the first time. The bow mechanics' most valuable tool is the bow press. Apple Archery makes a variety of bow presses from economical ones that cost a few hundred dollars to fancier models that cost more than $1,000. With a bow press, you can change your own strings and cables, tie on a string loop, put in a peep sight, and change out limbs, cams and many other tasks. Over time, a press will pay for itself over and over again.

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BOWMASTER If you are on a tight budget like many are these days, a few companies are offering portable bow presses that work great and are extremely economical. The Bowmaster Portable Press retails for less than $50 and can do everything a big press can. It fits in the palm of your hand so it can be taken into the field for bow emergencies or used at home. The Bowmaster is made completely of metal and utilizes a jack screw to take the pressure off the limbs. Simply turn the T-handle on the jack screw and the bow will quickly be ready to work on. The multi-stop cable can fit almost any bow and is what makes this press so lightweight and portable.
BOW VICE A bow vice is a must have. A bow vice makes putting on a rest or sight an easy job. C.W. Erickson makes a great bow vice that clamps onto the limb of the bow and can be adjusted 360 degrees so you can put the bow in the right spot so it's easy to work on. The vice can be screwed onto a work bench in a minute or less and you'll be ready to work.
MISCELLANEOUS TOOLS There are a few miscellaneous tools that make bow tuning easier. A string and arrow level can help you make sure your nocking point is perfect and your arrow is level as it sits in the rest. A Golden Key Center Gauge ensures that your arrow is perfectly centered so your arrow flies perfectly every time you shoot. A string loop being tied in the wrong place or an arrow not perfectly centered often makes arrows fly erratically so take your time when performing these tasks. Allen wrenches, nock pliers and screwdrivers are also needed. If you loose single allen wrenches all the time pick up a all in one allen wrench set. Pine Ridge Archery and others make them. If you are a high tech bowhunter, check out the Double Take Archery Bow Plane Laser. This unique laser is housed in a shaft similar to an arrow. Turn it on and it projects a laser 360 degrees around the inside perimeter of the bow and the string which makes finding the center a piece of cake.
ARROW CUT-OFF SAW If you enjoy setting up a bow, you will also enjoy building your own arrows. A must have tool for arrow building is an arrow cut-off saw which allows you to cut your arrows to their proper length. Cabela's and Apple Archery make great arrow saws. They have a tape measure on the saw so you know exactly how long the shaft is when you cut it. A simple tip: if you are using inexpensive shafts that aren't as straight as high dollar shafts, cut a little bit off both ends instead of just one end. Shafts are typically less straight at the ends. Cutting both ends will result in a straighter shaft.
FLETCHING JIG A good fletching jig is needed if you plan to build your own arrows. Bohning, Bitzenbuger and others make great jigs. I prefer a jig where I apply one fletching at a time so I can take my time instead of hurrying to get glue on all of my vanes at the same time.
SPIN TESTER Once your arrow is ready for flight, spin test it on a Pine Ridge Archery Spin Tester. If the arrow spins perfectly, it is ready for the field. If you notice a wobble as it spins, the insert probably isn't positioned properly in the shaft or something could be wrong with the broadhead or field tip. I've had to pull out and re-glue inserts several times. Making sure the insert is perfectly square in the shaft is crucial to having a perfect arrow. G5 makes an arrow squaring tool for this purpose.
GRAIN SCALE A grain scale is another nice tool to have. An arrow company might advertise the arrow you buy is 6 grains per inch and a broadhead company might say their 100-grain broadheads weigh exactly 100 grains but often that isn't the case. A grain scale will tell you exactly how much your arrows and broadheads weigh. I often sort my shafts and broadheads by weight so when I head to the woods my arrows weigh about the same.
PAPER TUNING When your bow and arrows are ready to shoot, you can test to see if you set everything up correctly by shooting an arrow through a large piece of paper. This is known as paper tuning. If you shoot an arrow through the paper and it goes through precisely – only showing a center hole and 3 precise tears where the fletching went through, your arrow is flying perfectly. If you notice erratic left or right tears, your arrow is probably kicking left or right as it leaves the bow and you will have to adjust your arrow rest left or right based on the tear. When paper tuning, it is best to shoot several arrows before adjusting anything so you know exactly what needs to be adjusted. Most archery shops have a paper tuning device that holds the paper tightly as you shoot through it and a crank to crank the old paper out of the way after you have shot several times. C.W. Erickson makes a great paper tuner.
CHRONOGRAPH A chronograph is a nice toy to have in the shop. It is by no means a necessary tool for setting up a bow but knowing how fast your bow is shooting and figuring out ways to make it faster is fun. I use an Easton Bow Mapper Chronograph that tells speed, kinetic energy and other facts. If the only thing you want to know is how fast your bow shoots arrows, you can pick up a decent chronograph for under $100. Like a car mechanic, it is up to you how many tools of the trade you want to purchase. For a few hundred dollars, you can pretty much be your own bow mechanic. If you want to get fancy, you can spend thousands on tools that make setting up and tuning bows on your own easier.

A quick and easy guide that will teach you how to become your own bow mechanic!