Setting up your bow

Most traditional longbows are shot right off the shelf.
Beginners Recurves have no adjustable rests or plungers.
With these kinds of bows, it may be easier to tune the arrow to your bow.

If your bow comes to you ready to shoot, consider yourself lucky. Most new bows need to have an arrow rest and arrow plate installed before you shoot them.
Many beginners use plastic arrow rests incorporating a small inner tab (taking the place of the plunger) – the arrow rest is attached to the riser and serves as a soft, smooth surface for your arrow to launch from. Some people remove the inner tab from the plastic arrow rest and add a conventional plunger, but if you’re doing this, you might as well fit a full magnetic arrow rest and plunger

When purchasing a new bow, make sure the seller throws in a bow stringer. You’ll avoid potential physical danger to yourself and your bow and the old “step-through” methodis totally unsafe for you and the bow, and should NOT be done.
Using a stringer is simply something you must do!

There are quite a few bow stringers to choose from and they’re all pretty good. Follow the directions included with the stringer, and you should have no problem stringing or un-stringing your bow. Some are designed for both longbows and recurves, so with these, you’ll be set for any bow you might encounter.

Using a Bow Stringer to String your bow
Stringing a longbow

When you buy a new longbow or recurve, chances are the bow has never been strung before or certainly hasn’t been shot much.
Recurve: We recommend that you string your new recurve bow and let it sit overnight (but not more than 8-10 hours).
Longbow: New longbow bow strings, especially the Flemish-twist style, will stretch. With a Longbow, set it up daily for a week and give the strings a few pulls to stretch it (more as you go through the week or take it out and shoot it straight away.
This will cause the string to settle-in and stretch about as much as it’s going to. As a bow string stretches your brace height and nocking point will change so measure only after these exercises.
Bear that in mind that when “shooting in” a new string, once the initial stretch is gone, your string should be much more consistent and you should notice little if any additional stretching.

Tournament Tip: Always carry at least one spare pre-stretched and set-up string with you. If you accidentally cut or break a string, it’s good to know you have one ready to go that shoots just like the old one.

Brace Heights
What is the perfect brace height? Whatever your bow shoots best with!
Brace height is the distance between the string and the deepest part of the bow grip.
You can experiment to find the best brace height for you and your set-up, but there are guidelines where you should start from.
(Change arrows and you need to start again. I know recurve archers with three sets of arrows and who have 3 brace heights (one per arrow) and a different plunger per arrow).
You have to actually shoot arrows from the bow to see how the changes in brace height affect your arrow flight. Here are some guidelines…

Longbows generally are never braced lower than six inches and recurves rarely less than seven. If you’re hitting your arm regularly with a longbow and you’re holding it right, it’s probably not enough brace height. Many modern longbows like to be braced at or around seven inches and recurves, depending on design, between seven and nine inches, although the bowyer should have advised you when they supplied the bow about their preferred brace height. *Use a proper t-guage or brace-guage to measure.

As a general rule:
Bow Length Brace Height
58 7 1/4″ to 7 3/4″
60 7 1/2″ to 8 1/4″
62 7 3/4″ to 8 1/2″
64 8″ to 8 3/4″
66 8 1/4″ to 9″
68 8 1/2″ to 9 1/4″
70 8 3/4″ to 9 1/2″
source: Lancaster Archery

Checking Brace Height with a T-Square
Checking Brace Height with a T-Square

If you brace a bow too low, the feathers will hit the shelf before the nock leaves the string. The arrow actually stays on the string past the brace height measurement. It travels forward a bit before pulling itself loose. If the feathers come into contact with the shelf before the nock clears the string, your arrow flight will be erratic. You’ll be prone to having the string slap your wrist with ultra-low brace heights too.

The bow will be a bit smoother and pull a little less at the lower brace heights and conversely if you short-string your bow, the weight will increase slightly and the angle of string pinch will increase.

You can’t hurt a bow with a high brace height, but you can hurt performance. The bow will pull harder and the short string will force the limbs to stop short in their travel path, robbing you of energy.

You should be looking for the “sweet spot” – that special brace height where the bow feels good during the draw and release, and your arrow flight is crisp, clean, and straight.

With Longbows, it’s best to start at thebowyer’s suggested brace height and twist up and down from there. When using Flemish twist bow strings, you can twist the string tighter to shorten it, thus raising the brace height or you can remove twists to lengthen it, lowering the brace height.
Caution: You must be careful when removing twists from a Flemish twist string. These strings rely on opposing twists to stay together. If you remove too many twists, the string loops may unravel and your string may come apart. (It can be re-twisted, but many archers don’t know how to do that.)

Anyone shooting traditional bows needs a T-Square for both measuring brace height and for measuring string nock location. It is a safe bet, that there is a T-Square found in nearly every archery tackle box.

Setting the Nock Point
Setting the Nock Point

Once you have your brace height figured out, you need to get a nocking point in place. A nocking point allows you to nock your arrow at the same place on the string every time. You can use the common brass crimp-on nock sets, or you can tie on a nocking point using regular string material.

For installing brass nocking points you’ll need a set of nocking pliers and a pack of brass nock sets.

Tip: Don’t crimp the nocking point too tightly, until you’re sure! Crimp just enough to keep it in place, once you get it where it needs to be, then crimp firmly.

Step 1: Most traditional bows are best with the nocking point approximately 1/2 inch above the shelf. (i.e. the bottom of the brass nock grip is 1/2 inch above the arrow shelf). This is where the T-Square is essential;
Step 2: Place your arrow on the string under the brass nock;
Step 3: Set the other brass nock grip on the other side of the arrow, but not so tight that it’s difficult to nock the arrow.

If your arrow flight looks good, congratulations!
Tip: If you see an up-and-down “porpoising” of your arrows, you’ll need to try raising and lowering your nocking point until the flight is straight, and really all you see is your arrow nock flying straight away from you.
Tip: If the arrows are wagging side-to-side (fish tailing), you arrow spine is wrong for the bow. (Fish tailing can be manipulated by trying points of different weights).
Tip: Typically for a RH archer, if your arrow looks like it wants to go straight but always impacts the target to the left of where you’re shooting, it’s too stiff. (opposite for a left-handed archer).

(Test by switching to a heavier point. If your arrows impact more directly in line with where you’re aiming, then your arrows were a bit stiff and needed the extra point weight to make them flex more.
(Likewise if your arrows are more or less jumping out of your bow and impacting right of where you’re aiming, try a lighter point as the arrow may be too weak and needs to flexed less).

Tip: Put these details, brace height, arrow observations in your archery notr book. Keep a record of each of your bows and the set-ups that works best with it.