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How to Unstring a Vintage Compound Bow and Do Maintenance

My son Richard sleeping while I do some maintenance.
September 3rd, 2017.

On Friday I received my "new" compound bow, which is a vintage Model T Jennings (70 lb draw, 50% let off). The Model T is one of the first compound bows ever marketed, and as such should probably be in a museum.

The one I received was purchased off eBay and asides from a little wear and tear, it is in otherwise pretty cherry condition - barely used.

I also want to note just how HUGE the Model T Jennings compound bow is. It measures roughly 48.5 inches long, from tip to tip. From axle to axle it is roughly 46 inches. By compound bow standards, that is gigantic.

However the bow was in need of some cleaning and some maintenance. So lets get to it.

Step One - Identify What Things Need to be Cleaned / Repaired, if Any

So in my case I made the following list of things to do:

The bowstring needs to be twisted properly, which means it needs to be unstrung first.

The bowstring needs to be freshly waxed.

The whole bow needs to be cleaned. It is a tad dusty and has a few stains on it.

It needs a new arrowrest, which means the old arrowrest needs to be scraped off and sanded a bit first.

You should also figure out what order you want to do each of these steps in. eg. Definitely clean the bow before adding the arrowrest. But you should probably clean after you do the waxing and other tasks.

Step Two - Figure out a Way to Unstring your Bow, without using a Bow Press

On a vintage bow this isn't really that hard to do. Just find some bolts or screws of a suitable size, and get ready to put them in place in the holes in the cam.

A. Sit down on the floor and place two feet on the bow handle.

B. With both hands, pull the bowstring back to full draw.

C. Drop the bolts into the holes in the cams so that they lock into place.

D. You can now ease back on the bowstring and the bowstring will now be slack (see next photo below).

E. You can now unstring your bow easily at your leisure.

F. To restring the bow, simply draw back to full draw again, remove the bolts and then go back down slowly using both hands so you don't accidentally dry fire your bow.

Step Three - Twist your Bowstring

Easy peasy, lemon squeesy.

Simply twist it enough times so you no longer see gaps between the individual strands of the bowstring.

See on the photo above how the strands are parallel instead of twisted together? That shows that the previous owner probably didn't have a clue what they were doing with the bowstring.

Step Four -  Take Note of How the Bowstring attaches to the Cable

I have seen similar things on other vintage compound bows, but this one is actually quite elegant. I really like how this was designed.

In the future I could do a whole post on different ways compound bow cables are attached. This one is certainly a goodie.

Step Five, Restring Your Bow

See Step 2, Part F above.

And admire how it looks. If it looks bad in anyway, perhaps add something else to your do do list.

Or not. Everything here looks pretty good to me.

Step Six, Time to Wax the Bowstring

Step Seven, Cleaning
  • Dishsoap.
  • Water.
  • Sponge.
  • Paper towels.
  • Sandpaper any tough spots.
Before Cleaning

After Cleaning

Before Cleaning

After Cleaning

Before Sanding

After Sanding
Step Eight, New Arrowrest

Follow the instructions that come with your arrowrest.

I chose the Bear Archery "Bear Hair Rest".

Applied, before trimming.

Freshly trimmed, saving the trimmings for another bow.

Step Nine, Admire your "new" Vintage Compound Bow

I am looking forward to shooting my circa 1970 Model T Jennings.

I may make one or two more adjustments to it, like possibly adding dampeners to make it quieter. I have no idea how loud it currently is, but lets assume that it is loud.

I might decide to use black, brown or green dampeners on it - and possibly make them "homemade" out of yarn.

I might also decide to wrap the handle with leather to protect the handle from wear/tear, and to make it more comfortable.

Once I get used to it I will also need to adjust the sights for shooting different distances.

I kind of like the Centaur side quiver, so that can stay. I will also need to make a bag for carrying it around in. At 48.5 inches long I don't know of any compound bow cases big enough to actually store this bow in, so I will need to do a custom job... I wonder if I can find some fabric with centaurs on it...

I have a tendency to give my favourite bows names. "Centaur" sounds like a good name for this bow. I think it works.

As older compound bows it looks pretty good too. Modern compound bows tend to look pretty ugly, but older compound bows either look really good or mediocre. This is one of the better looking ones (like a 6.5 or 7 out of 10), although certainly not as pretty as my Black Hawk.

Context wise, I would not expect a compound bow that is approx. 47 years old to be in such good condition. But it is, and I intend to keep it that way by shooting it for fun once in awhile and most of the time it will stay in storage.

Note - I currently have 32 bows. I need to sell a few I don't shoot that often. I keep my favourites.

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