How to Refinish a Recurve Bow
Refinishing a recurve bow is easy - you just need to plan ahead and be patient during the entire process. Also, knowing your gear's condition is also important in knowing how you can refinish your recurve bow. It wouldn't be of much help if the limbs have lots of notches or cracks in the first place!
Still, there is this one important reminder to keep in mind...
Sanding needs to be done in a thorough manner. Work your way up from the lowest grit. Once you're done sanding, finish it off with a good tack cloth rubdown.
Any cavities, cracks, or sight holes can be remedied with some putty and some filling material, such as toothpick for holes, etc. Just make sure that these filled-up areas have enough time to dry before sanding it!
Also, using masking tape to cover any logos or important bow information details will help you keep these areas from being wiped clean from the sanding and coating process.
In terms of coating, several options are available to use. Application is fairly easy - experimenting with different combinations to get the right hue is key!
Lastly, always take your time in sanding, coating, and waiting for the finish to dry. Good things come in time, and this especially rings true when you are refinishing your recurve bow!
Get Your Tools Ready
Some prep work and checking of tools you'll need will help you refinish your recurve bow in a hassle-free manner. Make sure that you've got these tools handy to avoid any frustration once you're on the job!
For starters, you'd need:
- Epoxy Sealer
- Sandpaper (preferably both stripping and finishing variants; #80 and #320 grit textures)
- Safety Gloves
- Safety Goggles
- Masking Tape (painting variant)
- Tack Cloth
- Toothpicks (optional)
- Wood and Glue Putty (optional)
- Steel Wool
Also, making sure that your workplace is clean and free from dust and grime will save yourself from any pesky accidents that may happen. Additionally, proper lighting should always be available when you're refinish your bow, just so you can do a thorough and proper job.
Time to Sand Your Recurve Bow
For the initial sanding process, it's a great idea to take a picture of the bow poundage. This is usually found on the riser of the bow. Also, you may want to mask the area where the manufacturer's logo is found. You'd want to make sure that this spot isn't touched (for warranty and other situations when you'd want the manufacturer to check your gear).
For the actual sanding, prepare some #80 grit sandpaper. Work your way and sand along all the wood sections of your recurve bow. Make sure you are only sanding in the direction of the bow's wood grain. Do not attempt to sand any glass sections of your recurve bow. If you feel it'll help you, use some painter's masking tape to block off your sandpaper away from these surfaces.
Basic Bow Refinishing Sanding Tips:
- When sanding all wood accents of your recurve bow, aim for a dull finish.
- A moderate hand pressure is recommended when sanding with the #80 grit sandpaper. This pressure would be enough to take sand all wooden areas of your bow. It should also be enough to take out any shiny spots of the recurve bow.
- Always wear safety gloves and goggles when sanding! The gloves, particularly, will protect the wooden areas of your recurve bow from any skin oils that may come in contact from your skin.
Focusing on the Limbs
Have these tips in mind when it comes to sanding your recurve bow's hand section and other wood layers:
- Look for the wooden laminated surface between the fiberglass layers of your recurve bow. These are often missed, so a good sanding towards a dull finish should do the trick for these areas.
- When it comes to the hand area of your recurve bow, always sand towards the direction of the wooden grain area.
- When sanding the riser shelf area, do this towards the direction of the wooden grain as well.
More about Sanding Fiberglass Bow Limbs
Here's the somewhat tricky part of the refinishing process:
- A good thought to have in mind is that for your recurve bow's limb areas, always shift to using a #320 grit sandpaper. Doing so will help preserve your gear!
- Using the #320 grit sandpaper should be done just to scuff the surface to the recurve bow. Keep it easy and smooth!
- Additionally, check for any shiny or missed spots on your recurve bow. You're going for a dull finish – any missed spots can be resanded.
- Fiberglass finish can be simply scratched with the #320 grit sandpaper. This should result in an attractive shine on your fiberglass limb overlays of the recurve bow.
Constant Checking is Key
Almost done - just some quick checks and you're good to go in refinishing your recurve bow:
- Inspect your recurve bow. Again, if there are any shiny spots, resand with the #320 grit sandpaper.
- For best results, use a tack cloth to wipe and remove any dust that may have settled on your recurve bow.
- Optional: your recurve bow's sight screw holes found on the riser can be refinished. Fill these holes with a toothpick coated with putty. Set some time for these to dry. Once dried, cut off any excess putty or toothpick material. You can now use the #320 grit sandpaper to sand over these covered areas. Note while using a toothpick is not important, using wood that has already dried out is! Otherwise the filling material will contract later and may even fall out.
- Once you are done and satisfied with the dull finish on your recurve bow, apply the layer of epoxy sealer. You are done refinishing your recurve bow!
Detailed Process of Refinishing Bow Limbs
Each recurve bow has its own "personality". Depending on the wear and tear of your gear, refinishing may involve some strenuous sanding from your end. With that said, let's focus on the important factors when sanding a recurve bow's limbs. Remember: this is on a case-to-case basis. But knowing what to do when refinishing is always helpful in case you do encounter something similar with your gear (also, for this case, we're using different grit combinations of sandpaper)!
Check the Limbs' Condition
Always inspect your recurve bow's condition before sanding. You'd want to look for any gouges on the limbs. Also, think through how the bow was stored - moisture, molds, or liquids that settled on the bow may deteriorate some of its parts.
The Importance of the Sandpaper Grit
Using a #80 grit sandpaper will apply the right amount of roughness in evening out scratches on your recurve bow's limbs. It also has the right amount of surface, so that it won't further damage your gear.
Why Go For the Dull Look
A good sanding using the #80 grit sandpaper should result in a stripped (or dull) finish. Part of the reason in getting that stripped finish is for you to find out of other issues on your recurve bow such as cracks. This is particularly helpful on the limbs - spotting any defects will allow you to choose the best way to resolve it!
Shifting to Different Sandpaper Grit Variants
Once you're done sanding using the #80 grit sandpaper, shift to a higher foam sanding block.
A good practice is to start low - with #80 as the lowest, shift to #100, #150, then all the way to #320.
Of course, it does depend on your recurve bow's condition. In most cases a #80 and #150 grit sandpaper would be more than enough. But the in-between values between those two variants will give you a nice idea on giving your recurve bow the refinishing it deserves!
A Steel Wool Will Help!
Once you're done sanding, use a steel wool to get into those hard-to-sand areas of your recurve bow.
The same rule applies when using a steel wool - like using sandpaper, always sand/stroke towards the direction of the wooden grain of the recurve bow.
Remember: Always Towards the Wood Grain
Why sand or stroke towards this particular direction? You are sanding towards the wooden grain because you'd want to take out any defects as possible during the refinishing process without hurting the wood the bow is made out of.
After the sandpaper and steel wool process, a good rubdown using a tack cloth should always be done. After wiping away any dust on your recurve bow, any missed spots or remaining shiny areas should be sanded.
Repeat as needed the cycle of sanding (or stroking with a steel wool) and wiping with a tack cloth. You'd want to have a really clean recurve bow at the end of the process!
Seal the Deal
Epoxy sealers are usually applied to refinish a recurve bow. It does depend on the bow - some suggest using high-gloss tung oil. For other suggestions, check out recommendations from an archery pro shop!
Best Clear Coat for Longbow Tips!
Let us now talk more about the coating process. Applying is easy, but of course, knowing a little more on the coating process will help a lot (even more so if you're aiming for a particular look or finish!)!
Similar to how we did it above, here's a list of helpful tips to keep in mind:
To Strip or Not to Strip?
Just like on why you should always inspect your recurve bow's condition, considering if you'll strip some layers off your recurve bow should be pondered first! As a rule of thumb, stripping should always be a last resort. You would always want to retain the original shape of your recurve bow. Still, if you really need to strip, consider using a refurbisher instead of typical paint strippers. This way, you can soften the original or old finish and still be able to address any minor issues on your recurve bow. Paint strippers may contain harsh chemicals that will damage your recurve bow (which is why a refurbisher is highly-suggested!).
Simple Stripping Process
Here are the basic steps on how to strip (remember - this is a last resort!):
- Apply the refurbisher/paint stripper on your recurve bow starting on the riser.
- From the riser, work towards the upper belly, then the back of the upper belly.
- Once that's done, do the lower belly, then the back of that side.
- After applying the stripper, rub down the area with a damp cloth.
- Take your time applying.
Taking Out Old Varnish
Varnish can be removed from your recurve bow by using a plastic scraper. Make sure that when scraping varnish, do it in a direction that will lead you from the riser towards the nocks. You're doing this to prevent the fiberglass from being ripped out of your recurve bow!
Spar Varnish for the Win
Again, it does depend on one's preference, but a good and nice alternative to epoxy sealers is spar varnish. Used in sailing ships, this nice coat should also give your recurve bow not only a beautiful shine, but some much-needed protection from the elements out in the wild. Spar varnish also comes in both spray and hand-application forms. Use which one that you'd be most comfortable applying!
Of Gloss and Satin Details
Regardless of the coating you decide to use, you may come across options of gloss, semi-gloss, and satin choices. Semi-gloss is a common choice since it matches with almost all recurve bow looks. A gloss variant does allow you to experiment - it has a harder finish compared to the other options, and can be dulled in such a way to get a unique and nice appearance (for example by sanding it with #320 a bit once it has cured).
Patience Will Reward You
After applying the coating, set aside your recurve bow at least 24 hours for it to dry. You'd want it dry and nice before actually using it!
- Want to find more information on how to refinish a recurve bow? Check out these resources:
- Kirk Lavender's Youtube video shows a really nice way to sand a recurve bow's limbs!
- This New Jersey Hunter thread shares some nice tips on how to refinish fiberglass coated limbs on a recurve bow.
- This Reddit thread tackles a nice question whether (or not!) you've sanded a fiberglass layer, and what to do about it!