Posted on Leave a comment

A short introduction into different types of string for rackets

When it comes to getting a new string for your racket, the majority of players who step into my shop with some basic level of confidence in their preferred tension settings. When I tell them that this can be a great number to string with, depending on the type of string they would want to buy and install, things get a bit more confusing. As with the tires and tire pressure on a car, you’d ideally want to first choose your string and then adjust your tension accordingly. So in this article, we’ll be covering the different types of strings for rackets so you have a good idea of what to choose from once you’re in the shop. We’ll also explain the differences in string types for each racket sport.

Strings come in many materials and constructions ranging from a single monofilament to multifilament strings composed of thousands of separate filaments. Strings with more filaments tend to be softer but less durable, whereas a monofilament would be stiffer and more durable. Some strings are constructed with a center core of one to several larger filaments and with one to three layers of wraps around them for durability. Players choose soft strings because they have less shock on impact and a bit more power. Stiffer strings are chosen because they add control and many players like the “feedback” of a “crisper” feedback.

There are four variables in finding the perfect string. These are material, construction, gauge and tension. With these four variables we can make thousands and thousands of combinations. Finding the perfect mix for you as a customer, is a stringer’s job.

Materials

There are five general materials used in string construction.

Nylon or synthetic gut

Most players play with nylon strings, or more commonly known as synthetic guts. There are different grades of nylon, with varying levels of feel, so don’t be afraid to try out a few. All in all, synthetic gut delivers a good combination of playability and durability at a great price. In fact, nylon multifilaments offer impressive comfort and power. Unlike the more basic synthetic guts (which have a single, solid core), multifilaments are comprised of hundreds or thousands of ultra pliable, elbow-friendly fibers and are bundled together with flexible resins like poly-urethane.

Natural gut

Back in the day however, almost every tennis player played with natural gut made out of the intestines of cows. It is made with the from the thin stretchy membrane known as the serosa which surrounds the intestine and which allows the intestine to expand and contract as a cow digests its meal. The intestine of a cow is long enough to string a tennis racket, but the serosa is too thin to make even a 0.8 millimeter string. So it takes three cows to make a thick enough string for one tennis racket. The process takes a few days of cleaning, twisting, drying and polishing: that’s why natural gut is so expensive. However, the result is a string that is more elastic than any man-made synthetic, and it holds its tension better than any synthetic. The main problem is that is not as durable and tends to break more easily, especially if it gets wet. It is a string that offers a maximum feel and control due to it’s ultra low stiffness and that’s why some players on the ATP and WTA (and on the lesser known tours) still prefer it.

Polyester

Since the beginning of the 90’s and the “graphite era” however, it seems that professionals are in less and less need of the soft feel of natural gut because they intent to play almost every ball as hard as they can and this has even become more so the last few years. Therefore, they like to play with polyester because polyester is stiffer than natural gut and is also stiffer than nylon but still gives a lot of control on powerful shots. The incredible stroke speed enabled by polyester also translated into higher levels of spin, which literally changed the trajectories and angles available to players. A lot of manufacturers of polyester strings have begun to develop technologies to create “softer” polyester strings and a few have noticeably done a good job in that regard. Another popular way to play with polyester strings at a comfortable level is to use a so called “hybrid”, a set up where polyester strings are installed in the racket’s main, vertical strings and a softer nylon in the cross, horizontal strings, to create what is commonly known as the “best of both worlds”. Due to it’s high stiffness and relatively low power, polyester is not recommended for beginners or players with arm injuries.

Polyester and tension loss

Polyester has a big downside and that is that is loses tension faster than any other string. Many players say or claim that polyester holds its tension better than nylon, but laboratory tests prove otherwise. If a racket is strung with a nylon string at a tension of 60 pounds, then the tension will have dropped to around 55 pounds by the time the racket arrives on the court. However, because the polyester is so stiff, the strings will feel stiff even when the tension is low. The reason is that the strings stretch a few millimeters when they are used to hit a ball, and hence the tension rises rapidly due to the extra stretch while the ball is on the strings. With natural gut or nylon the rise in tension due to the stretching of the string is smaller, and the feel of the string depends more on the tension before the string starts to stretch.

Aramid

Kevlar, a Dupont product that has become the generic term for a category of materials known as “aramids” and is still the stiffest string out there. Therefore, it is usually combined with a soft nylon cross. Ultimately, Kevlar hybrids are the least powerful and least comfortable strings currently available. Players trying to Kevlar hybrids for the first time (switching from nylon strings) are recommended to reduce tension by 10% to compensate for the added stiffness. These strings are definitely not recommended for players with arm injuries.

Zyex

Polyektones or PEEK polymers are a newer class of material used in racket sports strings. Zyex offers low dynamic stiffness that allows it to deform and recover more completely than other synthetic materials. It can also be made to have exceptionally low creep under continuous tension, allowing racket strings to maintain tension and playability longer.

String construction

Monofilament

Polyester, co-polyester and nylon strings are extruded as a single strand. Traditional 100% polyester strings typically have higher stiffness values and are best for advanced players seeking maximum control and lots of durability. Co-polyester monofilaments are made with additives to increase elasticity and comfort, though they are still firmer than most nylon based strings. Many of today’s co-polyesters are constructed with low-friction coatings to enhance snapback which increases spin (and reduces breaking your string prematurely due to notching). Poly-based monofilaments are ideal for big hitting intermediate and advanced players who want durability, control and spin.

Solid core with single wrap

Most popular nylon string construction – majority of so-called synthetic gut strings are solid core/single wrap. Main benefits are tension maintenance and crisp feel. Quality of nylon center core, as well as size and orientation of outer wraps can influence the feel and comfort of the string.

Solid core with multiwrap

Provides additional playability and cushioning.

Multicore with multiwrap

Smaller multifilament core with one or more outer multifilament wraps. Offers similar comfort benefits to multifilament strings with added durability.

Multifilament

Bundles of micro synthetic fibers are twisted together, similar to natural gut. Nylon multifilaments are typically more comfortable than solid core strings due to the cushioning effect of hundreds or even thousands of micro fibers. Resultant effect is a soft and comfortable string, recommended for players suffering from arm problems who don’t want to pay the high price for natural gut. Normal use causes multifilament strings to fray, like gut, which can be alarming to players switching from solid core strings. With the exception of braided Kevlar, multifilament strings are generally classified as “soft” strings.

Textured

In recent years there has also been a tendency of manufacturers to start producing strings in a series of standard and textured versions of the same string. Textured strings can be found in nylon and polyester, giving all ability levels a way to get a little extra grip on the ball, or so it has been claimed by manufacturers. Nylon or synthetic guts typically derive their texture from an extra filament, raised ridge, on the surface. Polyesters typically derive their texture from a dented or rough surface. In each case these strings provide better friction, which is claimed to be enhancing spin but we’ll dive into that subject in another article.

Geometric

With the popularity of polyester strings, it is much easier to produce geometrical shaped strings, now available from three sided (triangular) to eight sided (octagonal) strings. The advantage of these strings are the sharp edges made grab the ball better offering more spin, or so it has been claimed by manufacturers. Some of the newer strings have five to eight rounded edges to allow for more snapback on the strings.

Conclusion

Nylon is still the preferred string of most recreational players because it is generally speaking cheaper and more durable than gut and is softer than polyester and Kevlar. As a side note, there is nothing in the rulebook to stop a player from using a steel string if he or she wants to, but it will feel really, really stiff and it will cut the ball to pieces. No seriously, do not mention this to your stringer or expect to be laughed at.

In fact, the International Tennis Federation’s rules don’t say much about strings at all. They state only that

“The hitting surface of the rackets shall be flat and consist of a pattern of crossed strings connected to a frame and alternately interlaced or bonded where they cross; and the stringing pattern shall be generally uniform, and in particular not less dense in the centre than in any other area. The racket shall be designed and strung such that the playing characteristics are identical on both faces.”

The rules go on to state that,

“The strings shall be free of attached objects and protrusions other than those utilised solely and specifically to limit or prevent wear and tear or vibration, and which are reasonable in size and placement for such purposes.”

So don’t worry, you can perfectly install a vibration dampener…

 

Posted on 3 Comments

An introductory bit of theory on why racket strings break

tennisracket bespannen

It is the moment many racket sports player fear… the breaking point of your racket’s string. Everybody who plays racket sports knows it’s part of the game, though it’s frequency varies from sport to sport. But then it also greatly can vary from player to player and that makes this question quite interesting. Why do some players have the fortune to play for longer period of times with one set of strings, while others seem to break them right out of the gate? Of course and as always, there are a lot of variables in the mix. To better understand this process and to check what we can do to prevent or minimise string breakage, we first need to find out why rackets strings do break in the first place.

Notching causes most racket strings to break

Notching causes most rackets strings to break. This is a result of the string pattern or weaves and the forces that are applied to it while swinging away (in an upward motion) to create spin. The vertical strings are often the first to snap after rubbing against the cross strings as a player puts spin on the ball. This rubbing causes a notch or a dent on the string, which eventually snaps. Players that play with a lot of topspin are more likely to break their strings more often because generating topspin causes more grip on the ball of the main strings, and thus movement in the strings and therefore more wear and tear. The same process applies to players who play with a minimal amount of spin, but playing with a lot of spin just fast forwards this process.

Mishits

While the main strings on a racket slide along the crosses during ball contact, the strings also stretch and deflect which create a trampoline-like effect on the ball. This deflection is most prominent in the rackets “sweet spot” since that is the area with greatest distance from the frame where the strings are longer and more flexible.

The closer the ball makes contact with the stringbed near the frame, the less the strings are able to stretch, absorb energy from the ball and deflect the ball. This is because the strings must enter the frame of the racquet through a grommet and make a 180-degree hairpin turn back through an adjacent grommet, which causes more resistance in that spot and less flexibility. This could cause an overload (or overstretch) that leads to the breaking of a string.

Mishits that occur toward the head of the racquet will more often break strings since the racket will tend not to twist (and thus, absorb less energy) like a mishit toward the left and right edges of the stringbed. If you, by mistake, hit your ball or shuttle in the top location or bottom location of the stringbed, the lack of cross strings will cause the main strings to bend back (and stretch) more than usual.

By doing that, the main strings are under more stress and that can make them break more easily. As with notching, the more powerful the shot, the higher the chance that breakage will happen. So, if you play a smash, the chances of breaking the string due to overstretching are higher than if you perform a drop shot.

Damaged or missing grommets

The grommets are a plastic element that is placed inside each hole where the string goes through. The grommets basically ensure that the string does not touch the frame directly. Since the frame tends to end up with sharp corners, the grommets ensure a smooth transition and an easier life for the string.

Over time, grommets will stretch and often tear, exposing the string to the sharp edges of the frame, usually where the paint of the frame is also diminishing. Grommets most likely to exhibit damage are in the 10, 2, 4, and 8 o’clock positions of the hoop where main strings make a 90-degree turn or are knotted, sometime through a shared hole with a cross string.

Excessive bumper guard wear at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions can expose string to the court surface. Stringers usually have tubing in stock to cut temporary tubings in order to finish the stringing process.

Weather

Extreme heat, cold, and humidity can severely weaken strings, especially when left in a hot vehicle for a long time. In addition, damp conditions like rain or a sweat soaked shirt in your tennis bag can have catastrophic effects on natural gut. Also, playing in rainy conditions with natural gut is a no go… the individual strains of the gut wil start to uncoil and create the perfect spot to break the string.

Stringing mistakes

Dirty clamps, mishandled string, and improper stringing techniques at home or in the shop can result in string breakage on the court. Broken strings are part of tennis, and all strings, no matter the type or cost, will eventually break if not replaced on a regular basis. String breakage is hard on the racket due to the sudden redistribution of force and tension, so anything you can do to avoid breaking strings will result in a happier, healthier racquet.

Fabrication faults

While rare, sometimes string is damaged during the manufacturing or packaging process. If not closely inspected before installation, damaged string can prematurely break. Also, string that is being kept in stock but exposed to air, high temperatures and humidity over a longer period of time can prematurely break.

Some recommendations to minimise string breakage

  1. Inspect your string as much as possible. Slight notching and some fraying in strings are okay.  Deep notching and excessive fraying are indicators that your strings are nearing end of life. In fact, it is recommended to get a new restring when the tension has decreased by 20 percent. So invest in a tension meter or a recommended app on your smartphone to test this regularly.
  2. Restring your racquet on a regular basis. We’ve created a specific post on this topic. All things being equal, and on the lower end of the spectrum, we recommend changing your strings at least at the beginning of the new season.
  3. Avoid mishits.  Yes, they happen, but learning and improving on your technique will help minimise off center shots.
  4. Ensure your string setup is suited for your playing style. Players who frequently break multifilament string should consider switching to poly strings.  If you’re avoiding poly due to arm or comfort issues, consider a hybrid setup with poly in the mains and multifilament or natural gut in the crosses or string at a lower tension.
  5. Keep your racquets cool and dry. Some modern racquet bags come with insulated racquet storage, which is a worthwhile investment. Store your racquets and wet clothes in separate compartments in your bag.
  6. While you’re inspecting your strings, inspect your grommets and bumper guard too.  Not all stringers are meticulous about inspecting racquets prior to restringing them. It usually depends on the service level they provide whether they take care of this for you or not. Let your stringer know if you spot torn grommets or areas of your bumper guard so worn down that the string is exposed to the playing surface. Individual grommets can be repaired or replaced, sometimes with nylon tubing to protect the string. When more than 6-7 grommets are excessively damaged, your stringer might recommend replacing the entire grommet and bumper guard set.
  7. For home stringers, closely inspect your string and clamps prior to use.  You should get into the habit of physically and visually inspecting your string. Clean the jaws of your clamps with isopropyl alcohol and an old toothbrush to get rid of residual string coating and grit. Don’t make the (easy) mistake of adjusting your clamps to tight if your clamps are a bit greasy. This could damage the strings too much leading to premature breakage.

Your experience

What about your experiences? What can you tell us about breaking, and especially about saving racket strings! Please let us know in the comments. We, and other racket sports enthusiasts will be grateful for sharing your thoughts with us.

Posted on 5 Comments

Should I string my own racquets (and buy my own stringing machine)?

When players start to play their favourite racket sport more frequently, they are confronted with this question… usually after checking their wallets in the local sport shops: should I string my own racquets and is it worth to buy my own stringing machine? Although the answer to this question mainly depends on how often you break your strings, there are definitely some pro’s and con’s against both ways and that’s exactly why we took the time to discuss these with you here.

When we take a trip down memory lane, it is understandable how you did end up here… Just like most people here, you probably started with nothing more than your first racket and enthusiasm and started hitting the ball! Only to find out that playing racket sport is a lot about getting your strings restrung in time… and within in budget. So only at a fair price, if not, you could be spending a fortune, right? As time progresses you weigh playing comfort against costs and find your range. However, there comes a point where you must really wonder… is it time to start stringing myself? So, let’s start with an overview of what comes with the precious art of stringing your own rackets.

Do you even have the time?

Do you even have the time to string your own racket? Sound’s pretty obvious, right? And it is for the main part… We have written a comprehensive post about how long it takes to string a tennis, badminton or squash racket here. Take your time to read it because those will be the times you will be stringing at… eventually. When you start out, becoming better every time, stringing rackets just takes time. Just to put things in easy perspective, consider if you can spare up till an hour on average per racket. Now before you come back at me again by saying: “An hour? I’ll beat you 9 out of 10 in speed!”…. I would just like to check if you have considered the complete process, right from ordering and unpacking your strings, up until starting over again because you unfortunately broke a string and cleaned your machine again. Averaging in all activities related sounds more like an hour per racket, right? Don’t worry, for the most of us, it still can be a good deal but I certainly meet a lot of clients who can earn quite a lot more per hour than me so in that case it does not make a lot of sense to start stringing your own rackets…

Does buying a stringing machine fit within budget?

Racket sports have been known for being an ‘elite’ sport by tradition, but those days are long gone and rightfully so, if you ask me. Racket sport should be available for all of us and luckily so, prices are dropping for a lot of gear. However, to start stringing your own rackets, you definitely need some budget, which might just be a bit too much for some of us. Of course, you’ll need a stringing machine and they come in a lot of varieties and a lot of different price ranges. You can find drop weight machines that are on the cheaper side of the spectrum, but have a big downside in not keeping constant tension. That means they work by the so called ‘lockout’ principal like a torque wrench. Most electronic machines however, work with a constant pulling tensioning mechanism but these machines are definitely more expensive. Also, with just a machine, you are not there yet. Of course, you’ll need to buy your strings in bulk (meaning you’ll buy them on 100 or 200 meter reels). You’ll start saving money from the get go, but it’ll take a bit more capital to buy the reels upfront. Also, you’ll gonna need some tools and that takes up a bit of cash too. We’ll take a closer look at those costs later.

Do you have enough focus to string your own rackets?

You maybe wouldn’t think so at first sight, but stringing an racket is something in between an art and science. That actually means it will take some effort to become aware of the theory behind rackets and strings. Of course, you don’t have to get a certificate right away, but you’ll have to start reading a bit or watching some tutorials. There are quite some good books out there that can surely help you out. Also, you’ll have to prioritise knowledge as some books make it an academic effort to filter what is nice-to-know and what is need-to-know. Now this is where we come in too. Testing different strings is something you can do on your own and you don’t even have to string yourself for this. But once you have a stringing machine of yourself, will make you want to start testing a lot more. This is good for developing more knowledge, but not for your focus. I must confess that it happened quite a few times that I did string a fresh pair of rackets with two different strings only to find out that I did not like one during matchplay which basically meant I had still only one racket to play the match with. Not ideal… A good stringer can help you finding a good string while still keeping your rackets as identical as possible.

Stringing itself can be quite a tedious job. It definitely suits people who have focus good by nature. If you know yourself, you know if this applies to you. If you get distracted all the time, chances are that you’ll take too long stringing a racket and you might increase the risk to make mistakes. It’s a great exercise for training your perseverance as you sometimes make a small mistake which forces you to do a lot of stringing again. In addition, stringing badminton rackets makes this even more tedious as everything is even smaller than with other rackets.

Let’s calculate if it’s worth buying your own stringing machine?

So now you know the factors involved in making a decision whether or not you should string your own rackets, now let’s take a look at the breakdown of the cost. To keep calculations universal across our blog, we are calculating here with the Babolat RPM Blast 1.25 string here, just like in our other posts. It is the string we have sold the most throughout the years, so it represents a great deal of our clients.

Description Purchase price Number Subtotal Note
Stringing machine 338,00 1 338 Cheapest drop weight machine on the market.
Starting clamp 24,95 1 24,95 We definitely recommend stringing with a starting clamp. Even on a minimum budget.
String scissors 10,95 1 10,95 To cut out strings and cut strings after knots.
Babolat RPM Blast 1.25 200M reel 109,95 1 109,95 You’ll have to reorder after stringing approximately 17 rackets with an average cost per racket of 6,47. Comparing against the cheapest local sports shop price of 17,99 (without labour) you’ll save 11,52 per racket.
Total initial investment 483,85
Break-even-point 42 Meaning you’ll have to string 42 rackets to cover your initial investment and start saving money right away. However, if you want to hit break-even-point while doing so, you do have to consider the extra variable cost of buying more string. We found that in that case you’ll actually need to buy 6 reels, to string 90 rackets. You can then string 12 more ‘free’ rackets, saving you enough to buy another reel and to be cashflow positive.

Of course, this rough calculation is not even taking into account the time it takes you to string a racket. Roughly said you could say that, if you can make more than a clean 11,52 per hour, you’d be better of letting the stringer do the stringing for you.

Your experience

What about your experiences with saving money while stringing? Maybe you have some valuable contributions to this calculation or do you disagree with some parts? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Posted on 4 Comments

The latest and most practical technique to check racket string tension

When it comes to science of stringing rackets, it’s the numbers that tell the tale. And when it comes to numbers, we should focus on proper measurements. That’s why we decided to write a detailed post about the latest and most practical technique to check your racket string tension, whether you want to do checkups on your tennis, badminton or squash racket string tension.

As we mentioned in another post, string tension is a contributing factor to overall “stringbed stifness”, where parts of the frame, head size, string pattern and suspension system also play their part. So when we talk about checking string tension, we will actually be referring to measuring stringbed stiffness. It’s good to point out that stringbed stiffness consequently influences power, control and feel.

Stringbed stifness is measured in two ways. Dynamic stiffness refers to how much the stringbed will deflect perpendicular to the strings when it is impacted with an object of given energy, let’s say a tennis ball. So the best way to imagine this is the amount of distance the frame will bounce back from hitting a ball. The scientific calculation of course needs some explanation, but this gives you an idea of what we’re looking for.

Measuring dynamic stiffness of a stringbed is the most relevant test, but it is also complicated to measure. That’s why the most common method of measuring stringbed stiffness is via a static stiffness test. This method measures the string deflection when a force is applied slowly (so no collision impact) to a certain area of the stringbed. This normally is the centre of the stringbed. The deflection that is being measured then is the result of all stringbed factors mentioned above.

Stringbed stiffness and string stiffness (or string tension) are not the same thing, but string stiffness contributes to stringbed stiffness. String stiffness in itself is a measurement of string material and gauge.

Tourna Stringmeter

An example of a relatively cheap option to do a quick static stiffness test is to use the Tourna Stringmeter. Now it’s crucial to point out this is not the most reliable way of measuring, but it can give you a quick glance at how your string tension is doing over time. It works on a relatively simple idea of a turning mechanism that eventually lines up with your center main string to give you a reading of the corresponding string tension. If you are just looking for a cheap option, or just having a backup for your smartphone, we think it could be useful picking up a Tourna Stringmeter.

Understanding and measuring dynamic tension

There actually are some valuable tools that can help you measure dynamic stringbed stiffness by simulating an ball impact. The outcome of such tests are measured in Dynamic Tension-value (or short DT-value). Dynamic tension is ball power in kilopond (kp) required to deflect the stringbed 1cm at the sweet spot (ball impact). International standards for this are kp/cm or Newton/mm.

ERT300

One of the most frequently used tools by stringers in local shops and on the tour is the ERT300 by Beers Technic Professional Sports Equipment. It’s a tool of great quality and priced as such at 192 euro.

  1. Clip the ERT300 to the strings
  2. Push the start button to automatic measurement
  3. Wait a few seconds and read the values.
  4. Use the included DT system disc to determine string tension in kp (lbs)

Included in the kit are the ERT300, a soft case of 20x20x4cm, manuals in English, Deutsch, Francais and Italiano, the DT-system disc (to calculate the appropriate string tension), 2 CR2032 batteries. However, as mentioned by one of our readers in the comment section, the ERT300 unfortunately seems to be out of stock all over the web. Luckily, there is a great alternative now and that is the MSV Ministt, which you can order here at Racquet Depot UK and ships worldwide. As a bonus, it’s priced quite a bit cheaper then the ERT300 at 72 euro.

RacquetTune

RacquetTune is one of the first mobile applications that was developed to create a more practical way to measure your string tension (more frequently). All you need to do is tap the strings – RacquetTune then uses the sound generated to calculate the tension. In addition, the interactive swingweight calculator aids in customizing your racquet to fit your own stroke pattern, while the stiffness calculator allows you to simulate different combinations of strings and tension. We will actually test this feature in another post.

Tension measurement

  • A quick and easy way to determine tension and stringbed stiffness.
  • Able to detect changes in tension as small as 0.1 kg/0.2 lb.
  • An accuracy indicator ensures consistent results.
  • Graphical presentation of sound waves to help you find the ideal way of tapping the strings, in order to obtain the highest possible accuracy.
  • Racquet and string data can be saved for further analysis.
  • Settings can be customized for tennis, squash, racquetball and badminton racquets, respectively.
  • View the tension history for each racquet as a list or a graph.
  • Email a spreadsheet with test data

Swingweight calculator

  • Add as many weights as you wish to the frame.
  • Move and change weights to visualize how swingweight, balance and sweet spot location are affected.
  • Enter target values for the racquet and let RacquetTune distribute the weights automatically.

Stringbed stiffness calculator

  • Simulate various racquet and string configurations.
  • Vary tension, string type, and racquet head size.
  • Shows load-displacement curves, stiffness and elastic energies.
  • Handles the large deformations encountered in actual play.

TennisTension

TennisTension claims to be the first working mobile app that instantly measures the momentous string tension of a tennis racquet with extreme consistency and accuracy (the error is less than 0.2 kg). However, we doubt this is actually the case because RacquetTune was the first app to our knowledge. TennisTension tracks the tension loss of the racquet’s string all the time from the moment the racquet is strung. It records and analyzes the ringing sound heard from the strings when they are hit anywhere with any stiff object (pen, pencil, another racquet, fingernails, et cetera). Hybrid strings also can be measured. The app calculates the average tension between mains and crosses. If a racquet is strung 24/23kg, then the shown result will be 23.5kg.

It has a feature to put a specific profile for everything stringer that you use. Every different stringer puts different tension compared with another when they are told to put the same tension. Define the type of “Stringing”. For example, if the stringing machine is in a very good condition and/or the stringer is a very experienced one, then the user must choose “tight” or even “very tight” from the popup menu of the “stringing” button.

The team behind TennisTension claims that the app has been systematically tested with different racquets and strings by players at a different level of play – from beginners to ATP professionals. However, when we tried to lookup more information on the app, we couldn’t reach the website.

Stringster

The team behind Stringster claim to have developed their app exclusively for badminton players, but at first sight their technology and features seem to match up pretty comparable to RaquetTune and TennisTension. The reason as wo why to market this specifically as an badminton app, is something we would really like to know because at first sight, the app really is looking good.

Update: and luckily, our prayers have been heared! The team behind Stringster now has released a tennis edition of their app and I am super excited to test if it seems to work just as good. I’ll be updating this article as soon as possible.

Conclusion

In the long term, by using an app to measure your string tension regularly, every player can improve his on court performance by choosing the right string and racquet model, the relevant string tension, adjusting it better with the playing conditions, understanding, tracking and coping with the tension loss, and adjusting faster to the way the different stringers string at various sites and tournaments. Apps of course are practical, because almost everybody has a smartphone which makes checking regularly very easy. However, when it comes to accuracy, the DT check of the ERT300 still gives the most reliable results, time after time. If you are a stringing hobbyist, we definitely understand your decision to go for an app, but if you are a professional stringer you might definitely want to free up some budget to invest in an ERT300 or MSV Ministt.

Posted on Leave a comment

How to tell if your strings are dead and when to restring your racket

When you unfortunately break string at match point, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll need to switch rackets… However, you’ll find that in practice you won’t always break a string while still feeling your stringbed is going ‘dead’ after a while. What’s more, some players haven’t broken a string in years. So, is there an objective rule to determine how often you should restring your racket?

Basically, there is a practical answer and a scientific answer. Our practical answer is mostly concerned with string breakage and this scientific answer focusses more on tension loss. We will adres both in this post.

In practice, we found that there is no way to establish a good rule of thumb for when exactly you string will break. It depends too much on other factors. We base this upon our own years of stringing experience, talking to and interviewing our clients, looking at playing frequency, technique, material, frames and so on. The only general advice we can give you here is to at least change your strings once a season, as tension will definitely drop over time and strings tend to dry out a bit. However, when we focus on tension loss, we can argue that you should definitely get a restring after your stringbed stiffness (which we will explain in detail in this post) has dropped by 20 percent. Obviously, your string didn’t break yet in this phase, but the feel of your shots will have became less satisfying and your unforced errors will have probably increased. 

Sale
Tourna String Meter String Tension Tester Black ,One Size
446 Reviews
Tourna String Meter String Tension Tester Black ,One Size
  • The String Meter lets you know if your racquet is strung to your desired tension and when its time to restring
  • Easy to use, just align the pins where strings intersect, twist until the unit is in line with main, then note your reading.
  • Great for players who want to measure the consistency of their string jobs.
  • Great for players who want to monitor their string tension loss over time to know when to restring.
  • Great for personal racquet stringers looking to test and validate their work..Measures string tension during the stringing process.Measures string gauge size.Measures tension in pounds and kilograms.Full instructions about how to use it are included

To cut a long story short, we decided to write this article because we wanted to address this persistent belief within the stringing community. We are not sure of when and where, but it seems to be an established rule of thumb that the best way to decide how often you should restring your racket is as follows.

“How many times you play per week is approximately the number of times you should restring your racket per year.”

I’ve been thinking about a decent way of putting this… this rule is total nonsense.

It absolutely depends on a variety of factors not mentioned in this formula, although there surely could be a group of players for which this ‘magical’ formula might apply. For the rest, my advice is to forget it as quickly as you can.

Accounting for different elements

Ok, so why is this rule of thumb so worthless then? Well, because the art of stringing is all about accounting for different elements of your gear and playing style and you guessed it… that’s very unique for each player.

  1. So let’s start with the most obvious one: your choice of string. Let’s say all other things being equal, playing with a synthetic gut as opposed to playing with a stiff poly will definitely change the outcome of the total number of restrings you’ll need. This is true for intermediate players and even more so for advanced players. It’s just the physical properties of playing with these type of strings that make them wear down more quickly.
  2. Secondly, your level of play and power level will heavenly influence the amount of strings you will break per season. Let’s say I just started out playing on a beginner level and have a control oriented style of play which focusses on keep the ball in play while minimising spin. Now compare this to a 6″2 heavy hitting power player that uses spin on his serve and plays with a ability to produce a lot of winners. Totally different ball game right there.
  3. Third, the frame, string pattern and grommet system you choose will also have a big influence. All in all, most rackets will have the same effect on string wear and tear but there are some frames who actually do a terrible job on this aspect. Consider the O-Zone frames by Prince with some great features in terms of playability and power, actually are a disaster for your wallet. While paint chips are breaking away from the O-ports, your string is being exposed to the actual graphite fibers all around the ports.
  4. Fourth, frequency of play will surely influence string breakage. However, this has much more to do with the elements described above then frequency as a factor by itself. Are you a heavy hitter and are playing almost every day? Prepare to buy some strings in bulk? Pretty advanced but defending player keeping the ball in play? You’d be surprised how long you’ll be able to play with some strings.
  5. Fifth, playing conditions will surely impact how long your strings will last and warm conditions almost always shorten the life span of your strings, even though the ball will fly through the air a bit faster which might cause you to hit the ball with a bit less power. Hight temperatures will definitely increase tension loss and that’s why you should never leave your rackets in a car on a hot summer day for example… Once tension is gone, it’s gone for good.

Stringbed stiffness and tension loss

Now we know that focussing on string breakage is only part of the answer, how about tension loss? Well, as mentioned before, there is a good understanding in literature of tension loss and loss of feel or consistency in play that increases while tension loss increases, and it is stated that the best moment to go for a restring while your string is still without breaking is around a 20 percent decrease of so called stringbed stiffness.

Stringbed is the keyword

First of all, it’s good to understand that strings are only one part of the stringbed system. In this context, stringbed is the keyword.  In the course of time, all great racket and string manufacturers have contributed to releasing new technologies when it comes to the performance of the string plane, like head size, string pattern, suspension systems, string materials, gauge and tension. However, what the combination all these different developments boil down to is actually pretty simple – affecting the total stiffness of the racket stringbed. This is often difficult to read in between bold marketing statements of brands that actually aren’t very accurate. But in fact it’s just the increasing or decreasing stringbed stiffness that really impacts play in a meaningful way.

There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ value

Also, it’s good to realise at this point that there is no good or bad, because some players will like different values for different reasons. Some players might find a softer string ‘comfortable’, while others might find it ‘mushy’. Some players might find a stiffer string ‘crisp’, while others will call it ‘harsh’. This means that the one thing we can more objectively understand is consistency of your stringbed. When we take a look at strings it is also true that the combination of string material, construction, gauge and tension all influence string stiffness and in turn affect stringbed stiffness, which in turn affects power, control and feel of your frame.

Dynamic and static stringbed stiffness

Stringbed stifness is measured in two ways. Dynamic stiffness refers to how much the stringbed will deflect perpendicular to the strings when it is impacted by an object (with a given amount of energy). It is the most relevant value, but also a bit more complicated to measure, so you won’t find this on packaging materials. The most common method of measuring stringbed stiffness is a static stiffness test. This method measures the string deflection when a force is applied slowly to a certain area of the stringbed (normally the center of the stringbed). The deflection is result of all the stringbed factors described above. If you want to learn more about ways you can measure stringbed stiffness (and DT values) yourself, you can read more about that in our article The latest and most practical technique to check racket string tension.

Sale
Tourna String Meter String Tension Tester Black ,One Size
446 Reviews
Tourna String Meter String Tension Tester Black ,One Size
  • The String Meter lets you know if your racquet is strung to your desired tension and when its time to restring
  • Easy to use, just align the pins where strings intersect, twist until the unit is in line with main, then note your reading.
  • Great for players who want to measure the consistency of their string jobs.
  • Great for players who want to monitor their string tension loss over time to know when to restring.
  • Great for personal racquet stringers looking to test and validate their work..Measures string tension during the stringing process.Measures string gauge size.Measures tension in pounds and kilograms.Full instructions about how to use it are included

You can control string material and tension

The one thing to remember for now is, given the racket you are playing with, string material and tension are the most important factors in stringbed performance because in the end, they are all you can really change on a day-to-day basis. When you change the stringbed stiffness, you are primarily altering the feel (shock and vibration) and control. Changing stringbed stiffness does not have an effect on spin and just a small effect on power.

Tension and power

If you change the stringbed stiffness by raising tension or changing to a stiffer material, then the stringbed will be stiffer than the ball and will not deflect as much. As a result, the ball will compress more. More energy is directed into the ball (of which it loses about 45 percent!) and the ejection speed of the ball is less. The opposite is true if you decrease the stringbed stiffness by lowering tension. The strings will absorb a greater share of the impact energy, leaving less for the ball to loose.

So, how much extra ball speed you want to know, right? Well, it’s not as great as you might think… It’s not that the old saying “string loose for power, tight for control” is not true, just not to the extend that most people claim. If you drop tension by 10 pounds (or 4.5 kilograms), the percentage gain in ball velocity will be less than two percent, or about 1.2 miles per hour on 60 miles per hour groundstroke. Well, isn’t that a reality check…

However, the ball tends to land a bit deeper in the court at lower tensions because of three reasons. First, it actually is travelling a bit faster so it get’s a bit further in the court for the same amount of travel time. Second, because the ball stays on the racket longer with looser strings, the player will swing through a larger vertical arc during this time, and the ball will therefore, take off at a higher angle and travel a bit further. In addition, the launch angle relative to the court will also be relatively higher by looser strings and this might even be the most important. Perhaps we should revise the old adage to “string loose for depth, and tight for safety”.

Tension loss and going ‘dead’

When a string loses tension, it becomes softer. That’s basically all that changes in a string. It does not lose power, resiliency or go ‘dead’ in a way that we can actually measure. It simply becomes less stiff, and thus feels different to the player. A string does not lose resiliency, meaning it will also return to its pre-impact length every time. Of course, if it wouldn’t, your strings would start to sag in the middle. Nor does a string lose elasticity. And old string used for many years will stretch less than when it was new, but it will still return 95 percent of its elastic stretch energy when impacted.

However, many players describe a phenomenon as their strings going ‘dead’, what basically means that their string has lost tension. It hasn’t lost power or the power to return energy. The string power is the same, if not more. It is known that as tension declines, the string actually takes in, and thus gives back, more energy (which translates to ball velocity). So practically, ‘dead’ equals not less power or ball velocity, but diminished force of impact, shock and feedback – in other words, less ‘feel’.

Consistency of feel is very important for maintaining a good level of play. This is exactly why top players have so many rackets strung.

Tension loss and feel

You don’t get the same ‘punch’ when you hit the ball with decreased tension. Because you have actually lost ‘control’, as you notice by seeing the ball travel further into the court, you may back off your stroke speed, which lessens the feel of impact even more. So you haven’t lost power itself, but you have actually lost the feel of providing the power, being in control and getting the right feedback confirmation from the racket punch. Not as much feedback basically is not as much ‘shock’. So when you choose a string, you are actually choosing the level of shock that feels good to you.

However, the rate of loss continually slows down and eventually stabilises with time. So for example, a relatively ‘fast changing’ string may still be slow enough to stay within your own ‘feel range’ for an acceptable amount of playing time. That will depend on your sensitivity and response to change.

Nonetheless, a rule of thumb does apply. The amount of tension loss is irrelevant as long as the remaining stiffness feels good to you. So, tension loss is in itself necessarily a good or a bad thing. But, if you are not satisfied with how long your string maintains it’s ‘feel’, then try a string of the same stiffness but that loses less tension over time.

Tension loss and control

Losing tension affects control in a couple of ways. First, as mentioned before, lower tension will result in a slightly faster ball that will travel a bit further with the same swing. Secondly, a lower tension results in a longer dwell time. This means that ball stays on the strings for a longer time. The angle of your shot will be therefore at a higher point and create a higher angle. And third, if you hit off center, the ball will twist the racket for a longer time, also resulting in a different angle launch.

So players sometimes refer to the combination of this effect as a “trampoline effect” or something like “the ball flies all over the place”… which leaves you as a player with only one thing to do: increase the stringbed by increasing tension or choosing a stiffer string.

Tension loss and sound

The importance of hearing your impact is demonstrated by one very striking fact: about half of all players can’t play without a string dampener, and the other half can’t play with one. This auditory cue, or lack thereof, is rather necessary to most players in terms of feedback as to the quality of their shot. Some like to hear the ‘thing’ and others find it difficult to listen to.

ZRM&E 4pcs Tennis Racquet Dampeners Natural Rubber Tennis Racket Damper Shock Absorber, Black
132 Reviews
ZRM&E 4pcs Tennis Racquet Dampeners Natural Rubber Tennis Racket Damper Shock Absorber, Black
  • Made of soft, lightweight and strong rubber, it is very effective in stopping string vibration and damping.
  • Unique and fashionable pattern. Easy to get on and fits snugly on racquets.
  • The perfect combination of minimalism and shock absorption, slim, can optimize your tennis game.
  • Easy to install, you don’t have to worry about it falling off the racket.
  • Improve the control of the racket in advance, and bring more comfort and consistency to the players.

Losing tension changes the sound of the impact. The pitch is lower. You can go from a ‘twing’ to a ‘twang’. The first sound more responsive, elastic, and crisp than the second one. A lower pitch will affect the psychology of your play. Of course, the secret is to tune your strings. So, the stiffer the string, the more you’ll ping! Did you know the sound of your strings actually serves as way of measuring your stringbed stiffness? You’ll only need a smartphone! You can read more about this in The latest and most practical technique to check racket string tension.

Tension loss and prestretching

When a string is stretched and tied off at it’s stretched length, the tension starts dropping immediately (actually it will drop off even while still in the machine). You could theoretically restore the tension by undoing the string and stretching and tying it again, and after which it would drop in tension again. However, the second time around not as much and quickly as the first time around. Some players therefore like to pre-stretch their strings once or twice before installing it in their rackets. This almost every time the case for players who play with natural gut. By pre-stretching you can slow the tension loss, but the string will also play stiffer at any given tension because some of the stretch will be taken out of it. Alternatively, it is simpler to string the racket at a higher tension than in the first case.

Tension and spin

Another famous saying is “string tight for spin”… However, tests have shown that string tension, gauge or material virtually have no effect on spin. Yet players insists they are able to play with more spin, so who’s right?

Well, both, probably. First, because tighter strings produces less depth in your shots, a player swings harder to get extra depth. Consequently, a faster swing will then produce more spin. The second reason might be the illusion of more spin. If the ball is leaving the racket slower with tight strings but with the same spin, the spin to speed ratio will be higher and the ball will bounce as if it has more spin. So, in short, we might rewrite this saying to “string tight if you, yourself, want to add more spin”.

Tension and player perceptiveness

Almost every player will tell you he or she can tell you the difference in string tensions. You might even had some customers who wanted to return their frames because they were not on the correct tension. Although possible, tests have shown evidence that bring those claims into serious question.

“In a test of 41 advanced recreational players, only 11 (27 percent) could determine a difference of 11 pounds or less. In fact, 15 (37 percent) couldn’t correctly identify the difference even when the tension between two rackets varied by 22 pounds. A small number were able to discern a two pound difference, however. Players were not allowed to touch the strings or vibrate them to guess tension, and each racket had a vibration dampener to take away auditory cues.

Using earplugs to further dampen auditory cues lowered the succes rates even more. Players were only allowed to hit four hits with each racket, so the only data the player was interpreting was feel, not an accumulated history of location and ball placement that could be used to deduce string tension. Some players said they noticed the difference, but then incorrectly chose which racket had a higher tension.” (Cross & Lindsey, 2005)

These finding bring into question what players actually feel or think they feel. If they can’t properly differentiate string tensions, let alone the feel of power, spin and tension… what do they actually feel then? Of course, what is actually felt is the shock and vibration of the handle hitting the hand plus the push or pull on the arm. This sensation is made up of the rotation, translation and bending of the racket.

The brain has to analyse this information and turn it into our popular vocabulary, ‘feel’ for example. It is important to remember, it is our interpretation of feel, not a raw, measurable feel. The natural conclusion is that players ‘experience’ their strings. This is a holistic approach that includes feel, sight, sound, proper understanding of the placement of shots and how a player knowingly or unknowingly alters his or her strokes as a result of those shot outcomes. Finally, the player attributes this feeling as a characteristic of the tested strings, like for example “these strings have a lot of bite”.

However, we know that in the end string materials, tensions, gauge and more influence the performance of a racket and its player. Future string research should help clarify those phenomena and help us to properly talk about them, but in the meantime we will have to interpret each others common language. We hope we did a a good job clarifying just a bit right here and hope to do that for you in our future posts.

Posted on Leave a comment

Our own professional data on how long it takes to string a racket

So, spit it up, how long does it take you to string a racket? When you have been to a gym for a while, you’d probably recognise that moment that a semi professional bodybuilder that you know asks you: “So how much do you bench?”… It seems the multimillion dollar question as if by measuring the output of this one exercise, everybody knows how fit you exactly are. It seems a bit one sided, but every sport or business has a big benchmark like this.

In the stringing business, the multimillion dollar question of course the time it takes you to string a racket. It’s not that stringing a racket fast, makes you a good stringer but rather it takes a good stringer to string a racket in a decent time. In fact, if you’re going to make work of getting a certification from an association, like ERSA for example, part of your examination will be to string a racket in a specified amount of time, while still maintaining the quality level that they demand.

On average, most people should be able to string a tennis racket in about 30 minutes while maintaining complete focus and still paying attention to detail, 30 minutes to string a squash racket and 45 minutes to string a badminton racket. We found these average numbers by our own stringing experience and teaching others. In addition, I would like to mention that are probably stringers who claim that they can string significantly faster, however, we found that in practice speedy stringing jobs normally correlate with sloppy stringing and will result in more friction burn or crossover mistakes at the outside of the frame and grommets. 

Of course, with practice you can definitely increase your stringing speed while still maintaining an overall level of quality.  Of course, by speeding up your stringing you might risk some common pitfalls but we will discuss these and how to prevent them in an another post. There are definitely some points to look at when thinking of increasing your stringing speed. I’ll discuss them here.

What is the fastest time to string a racket

Allright, so first of all, what about the pro’s? Surely working at the big tours will make you work a bit faster, right? Of course! In this article by CNBC they took a quick tour behind the scenes at the 2015 US Open and got the answer: pro tour stringers will string a racket in about 15 minutes. That’s pretty fast! Stringing itself takes about 11 minutes, they claim, but everything together another 4 minutes or so. Take a look at this great Wimbledon video of a couple of years ago with some official tournament times.

However, there is a vibrant community of unofficial record holders and if you check this video by Tennis Warehouse you can see that it’s possible to string even faster.

So, how about badminton? Surely, badminton can’t be strung this fast, right? Well, not that fast but still… really fast. Check out this crazy video by Walter Mak.

We couldn’t find a good video for really fast squash stringing, but in general squash frames are strung faster than tennis or badminton rackets so you can do the math…

How to string a racket faster

First of all, make sure you have serviced your machine properly. This may seem a bit obvious but especially on cheaper machines this tip can save you a lot of time. Especially make sure that the clamp rails are thoroughly cleaned because having a smooth clamp base motion will free up a lot of time (and make stringing quite a bit more pleasant). Also, make sure your clamps are cleaned regularly and that your tensioning mechanism is on the proper pulling speed. Sometimes the pulling speed is set to knot, which makes it extra safe while pulling a knot but takes a lot of time.

Second, try to handle your string properly right from the start. That means preventing your string from ‘uncoiling’. Of course, being packed for so long and in such way, the string wants to jump out right away. A quick tip to prevent is just to take the set of string in your right hand and then uncoil it with care with your left hand. Then, uncoil only so far that you need to start stringing your mains and get a elastic band and put it around the remaining coil. This way, you can pick up uncoiling when you need more string for the remaining mains. Believe me, this is definitely something you want to get the hang of because trying to unclutter your strings in front of your customers looks quite unprofessional anyway.

Third, sure that you weave your crosses with enough string per weave. I still see a lot of people who start weaving their crosses right away which means they have to pull with a lot of friction. If you free up some extra string while just crossing to the next weave, this way you safe up some extra time.

Fourth, please make sure to straighten up your crosses while weaving and clamping because the crosses while have a natural tendency to bend in an curved shape as you string along. This means at the end of your stringing you’l have to correct that and it will take a bit more time if you have to do it all at once. In addition, by doing it while stringing you will actually reduce friction burn and create a slightly stiffer stringbed. You can even do this better by weaving to or 2 crosses after you’re last and then tensioning the first. This way the string is not able to curve as much.

Fifth, entering the final phase of stringing your crosses you want to check your remaining string length. Just put them across the frame while keeping track of the necessary length and then make one final measurement to your tension head gripper. You’ll almost certainly find that you still have quite some remaining string after that. So, cut it of! What’s the point of weaving that if you are not going to use it. This also reduces friction burn. A quick tip here, make sure you cut of the proper length so you might want to measure at least twice, just to be sure. If you cut of too short, there really is no time saving in starting all over again, huh? So please make sure you got it correct.

Do not focus on speed, focus on quality

The real question here is of course how you can optimize your stringing speed. There always be some differences in stringing techniques and also in customer preferences, so if you’re working in your shop, forget record setting speed. Just focus on what you are doing and why, and try to become better at it every single time. Most importantly, you are stringing for a customer and therefore need to be laser focused on reducing friction burn and correct tie offs. Also, stringing consistent is more importantly in my opinion than stringing fast. Customers demand reliability, they don’t expect a racket back in 6 minutes.

However, by keeping an eye open for new techniques you can definitely shave off some valuable time. Therefore I can definitely recommend watching some more videos on YouTube to get an idea of different stringing techniques.

Posted on Leave a comment

How long can a racket last?

Racket sports fans generally are divided in two groups. The first group rather buys a new frame every season, inspired by the new frame of their favourite pro’s. This group is almost certainly certain that having the newest gear will help them win those decisive points and moments on court. The other group… well, let’s just say these players finally get ultimate confidence when their rackets just reached their 10th birthday! If they’d have an option to play with wooden frames, they’d do it… It’s just so hard to string a wooden frame properly, isn’t it?

Just kidding around… In the end, you probably know good players from both groups. So is there something safe to say about their gear? Can we objectively state that a racket has a life expectancy? How long can a racket really last?

In short, and all other things being equal, a racket for an intermediate, frequent player can last about two to three years. In this case we would consider the player player about two or three times a week and getting his or her racket restrung at least once a month. And especially this last factor influences life span majorly. That’s because stringing a racket practically means warping the frame a bit when applying tension to the strings and thus, the frame. Only when all strings are installed correctly, the frame will be in balance again and returned to it’s original shape. That means, in addition to hitting the ball with your racket, the total number of stringing jobs will in turn cause fibers to eventually lose RA or flex. 

Material makes confident

Brands are constantly developing rackets and materials and need to keep researching in order to win the majorly competitive sales battles in sport shops and on the internet. More importantly, most of us can definitely relate to a certain placebo effect when it comes to your own gear. If you have the idea that you’re playing with the best racket ever because it’s new, than chances are great that you are actually playing with a lot of confidence. We have to acknowledge that racket sports fall within the space of tough, mental games and whether you like it or not, how you step on to the court has a great influence in the outcome of your games.

Pro’s (almost) never switch

However, when we look at pro’s and their life long careers we can’t help but notice that during their careers they almost never switch their gear. Why is this? Well, first of all, it must not come as a surprise that all of these top player are top earners of the game. Their livelyhoods and those of their family members all depend on their ability to keep scoring points, week after week after week. So it’s completely understandable that switching a frame is a major deal for these guys and girls.

On the other hand, they also receive a great deal of their income by being endorsed by racket manufacturers and major brands. These sponsors want to sell their latest frames and that’s where tension starts to heat up. Just because brands update their paint jobs on frames, it does not mean pro’s are happy to say goodbye to their long trusted money makers. It actually rarely happens that pro players make an immediate switch, but most of the times do some testing and eventually, some times make a sudden switch because in the end they think they have found a tweak in their game.

A famous example concerns Roger Federer and his Pro Staff’s, where he decided to play with new frames of head size 97, rather than 90. They increase in power he got used to playing with eventually led him up the top rankings again. And this is exactly why I would advise you to always be careful when selecting rackets based on pro’s who tend to allegedly play with these frames. In short, they are not. And they are not playing with the frames that you buy in the store, because almost every model you see on your tv screen is what is called in the industry, a ‘pro stock’ version of the frame. Meaning it is customised specifically for this pro player. It could be something just as easy as placing some lead tape at certain places or regripping the grips to match a certain shape type (sometimes to match the grip mould of another brand).

As these tweaks are being researched and developed by brands and professionals specifically for these pro’s, chances are they you’ll see a player featuring a black out version of a certain type of frame. Sometimes this can even be another brand and the string logo is supposed to hide this fact. Well, well, well… so much for trying to put together an honest game, right?

Never change a winning team?

It’s understandable that a lot of club players eventually experience something similar in the fact that they have found the perfect match and they are happy to keep it this way for years. In the end, practice makes perfect, right? In fact, rumour has it that Pete Sampras was advised to make the same switch as Roger Feder, e.g. to step over to a bigger head size. As you can guess, he declined the advise but experts think he could have extended his career at least by a couple of years, benefitting from the increase of power in his shots.

In any case, there a tons of different reasons to switch or not to switch frames and it will always be a somewhat difficult discussion to win. The question we are posing here of course is a bit more scientific by nature. If we just focus on the more physical and technical aspects of a frame, will there an end to it’s life span? And does this differ per racket sport?

Do not throw it away

As we mentioned earlier, the number of stringing jobs is a major factor in the life expectancy of a frame. But it’s worth mentioning here, that this will definitely not mean that a frame will break while being in the stringing machine (although, it’s possible in the reality this rarely happens and normally only when the stringer makes an essential mistake). It just basically means that during the course of it’s life span of two to three years the stiffness of the frame, measured in RA value or flex, will gradually decrease. This means that the fibre structure with which the frame was build, will soften a bit and loosen up a bit. When you’ll be hitting the ball in a couple years from now, you would be able to tell that the frame does not match up to a newly bought frame. But as you normally don’t test it like this and the decrease happens so gradually, the vast majority of players can’t even notice this process. In fact, you’ll probably be adjusting your game accordingly without you even knowing it. That’s just how psychology of the game works… But of course, physic always has an absolute answer.

What is your experience with the life expectancy of frames? And do you notice differences between tennis, badminton and squash frames? Please let us know by leaving a comment and join the discussion. 

Posted on Leave a comment

A practical guide on how much string you need to string a racket

Wouldn’t it be a total disaster that after you have proudly strung your first racket, you would find out that just as your try to weave and knot your last cross you would come up short… meaning you’ll have to start over. Obviously, a total waste of time! So, is there a way to know how much string you specifically need? Luckily, there is (and also some rule of thumb).

You’ll need approximately 12 meter string in order to string a tennis racket correctly and with some margin. For a badminton racket, you’ll actually need a little less string with approximately 11 meter. And last and in this case also least, for a squash racket you are going to need approximately 10 meters of string. The main reason we included some margin in these numbers is that some stringing machines have tensioning mechanisms that require a bit extra. Also, in order to make a proper tie-off knot, you’ll want to be on the safe side of the average numbers. 

Of course, the numbers above are averages with some proper margin and the real numbers will vary per racket brand and racket type. However, if you become a more experienced stringer you’ll probably want to start trimming down some of these numbers as you find you’re way around different machines easier and thus know what to expect with each machine. In this post I’ll explain some things in more detail to help you on your way to be aware of some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

The length of string you’ll need to string a tennis racket

The length of string you’ll need in order to string a tennis racket will depend on the specific model you’ll be stringing. Of course, there are over sized frames or frames with a really small head size, like Pete Sampras‘ Wilson Pro Staff 85. Furthermore, there are string patterns designed for control (18×20) or for enhancing your spin potential (16×19), diverging string patterns (squash players refer to these as ‘power fans’) or special requirements of your customer like hybrid stringing or two piece stringing. Even your own machine may require a bit extra or a bit less. That is normally just a matter of testing a bit.

Luckily, there are some rules of thumb that can help out a bit. A tennis racket will need approximately 12 meters of string with two piece stringing or 4 tie-off knots. With one piece stringing you can take the same, but you’ll just keep a bit more margin. Some stringing machines come with a measurement tape included, but most don’t. Of course, you can actually add some adhesive measuring tape to your work bench or machine, so you can easily measure the string. One measuring tape I really like is the Win Tape Workbench Ruler (link to check it’s current price at Amazon), because it measures just around one meter, which makes for easy and precise measuring of string.

Stringers usually also have some other tricks for this, like measuring the total width span of your upper body for example and then calculate back how many spans you’ll need in order to make 12 meter.

My personal rule of thumb for tennis string measurement

I usually just account for normal racket head sizes up till 645 squared centimeters (or 100 squared inches) and the ones that are bigger than that, over sized. With normal head sizes I’ll measure 17.5 times the length of a racket and with over sized frames I’ll take 18, just to give me some margin. Actually, I have strung thousands of rackets this way and have never ran into trouble like that.

Here you’ll find some popular models with recommended string lengths.

Frame Length – meter SS (short side) – meter 2 piece M X C (mains x crosses)
Blade 98 16×19 11,1 3,1 6×5,1
Pure Aero Tour 11,9 3 6,1×5,8
Pure Drive 11,7 3,3 6×5,7
Head Flexpoint Radical Tour 11,7 3 6×5,1
Average 11,6 3,1 6×5,4

The length of string you’ll need to string a badminton racket

A string for a badminton racket follows much of the same theory mentioned above but string patters will vary a bit. The usual pattern is 22 mains and 22 crosses.

Frame Length – meter SS (short side) – meter 2 piece M X C (mains x crosses)
Yonex Voltric 3 5,1×4,8
Yonex Arc Saber 7 5,1×4,8
Prince Hornet 5,7×5,1
Wilson BLX Force 9,9 2,7 5,4×4,5
Average 5,3×4,8

The length of string you’ll need to string a squash racket

Squashrackets will need the least amount of string length. Here you’ll find some popular models and actual recommend lengths.

Frame Length – meter SS (short side) – meter 2 piece M X C (mains x crosses)
Tecnifibre Carboflex Basaltex 130 9,0 2,6 4,6×3,4
Head Metallix 140 8,1 2,3 4,5×3,4
Dunlop Biomimetic Max 9,1 2,6 5,2×4,3
Wilson Blade BLX 10,7 2,7 5,5×5,2
Average 9,2 2,6 5×4,1

The difference between a ‘set’ and a ‘reel’ or ‘coil’

Allright, so what to do with these numbers? You might wonder why this poses a question at all as you may have bought all your strings in your local shop and considered they probably should always be delivered with enough string. And maybe you wish to do so in the future. However, did you know you could actually save quite a bit of money if you are prepared to buy your strings in bulk?

In fact, strings can be bought in ‘sets’ of 12 meter or in ‘reels’ of 100 or 200 meter for a long time now. Of course, 200 meter will feel like a huge number, especially if you’re just looking to replace your current string, but buying one might actually be an interesting option for you, depending on the frequency of playing (and breaking your strings). Personally, I’ve been able to save quite a bit of money by buying one of my favourite string’s, the Signum Pro Poly Plasma 1.28m 200m (link to check it’s current price at Amazon) on a 200 meter reel.

If you divide 200 meters by 12 meters, you’ll know you will be able to string roughly 17 rackets with a reel. If you know or can guesstimate how many times you’ll break your strings (or just simply want to replace them), you’ll be able to tell if this is an investment for you. Let’s try an example with one of the strings I have sold the most in my shop: the Babolat RPM Blast 1.25 (link to check it’s current price at Amazon). This string costs around 17.99 euro (or $ 17.95) a set and 101.99 (or $ 158) a reel (of 200 meter) – at the time of writing this post.

Let’s divide and you’ll get to a cost price of 5.66 euro per racket. That’ll save you more than 12 euro on every restrung racket! And a total save of more than 200 euro! Not bad for a quick calculation…

For whom might reels be interesting?

Now, hold on… please don’t run to the store right away to get your first reel. Let’s just pause a minute an think for whom this actually might be interesting. Aren’t you sure of your current setup and string choice? Then I would definitely advise you to keep buying sets for now while your still in the experimenting phase. If you don’t like the next string you’ll test, you’ll just move on to the next one. Also, you’ll may find that if you’re switching strings you all of a sudden don’t experience string breakage that much anymore. Finally, from experience I know that reels of string can dry out in the course of time, especially if you happen to put the reels in warm and sunny storage space. This can in the end cause premature breakage of strings, even while stringing. I think you should try using all of your stock within a season or two or three.

On the other hand, are you a true string breaker? A power player? A true combination of Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal? Have you actually tested quite a few strings and are you confident with your current set up? Than it would be crazy for you not to be buying strings from a reel! You would be actually stealing money from yourself! Well, no, but you’ll get the idea… Also, often you’ll find that you can even increase a bit of savings if you can buy even a couple of reels all at once. Though, not every business offers these discounts and always keep the safeguards mentioned above in your thoughts.

To measure is to know for sure

Of course, we stringers make an art of tweaking our savings and with good reason. But you can do this to. The rules of thumb are good to get you going, but you’ll find that it might depend a bit on your specific stringing technique (one piece vs two piece stringing, around the world). On tip is to make some notes of you’re work while you’re stringing. I did the same when I started. You’ll probably start out with just a few rackets so you can easily keep track of it. You can do this in a simple notebook, Excel-sheet or even just write it down on some adhesive labels and stick it to the racket and write down some extra info too, like the string type and the preferred racket tension. I’ve found these waterproof kitchen labels (link to check it’s current price at Amazon) but you can easily find ones that work for you by searching a bit. Of course, if you’re stringing a racket for clients, be sure to check with them if adding a label works for them.

As a final thought, I just would like to emphasise that making a few mistakes here and there is no problem at all actually. Just remember that by stringing yourself and buying your strings in bulk, you’ll already be saving enough to account for some minor losses. Losing a bit, in stringing and in racket sports, are just part of life.

So what about you? Do you ever run into string shortages on your final weave? And how do you prevent it from happening again? Please let us know by placing a comment down below and help out your fellow stringers with your experience.  

Posted on Leave a comment

A small study on how much it costs to string a racket

Though we all love racket sports here, we don’t like spending to much on restringing our rackets. Of course we know every once in a while we need a freshly strung racket, but what is a normal amount to spend on this job? We’ve called a couple of local suppliers to find out what they charge for their services.

On average and across different suppliers, we found that you’ll pay 15 euro’s for strings and 12,50 euro’s for labour costs. Thus, in total it will cost you 27,50 euro to restring your racket. Of course, this depends on a couple of factors that we’ll discuss in this post.

In this example, we chose Babolat RPM Blast 1.25 as our string of choice but also asked for the possibility to bring our own string. We’ve put our findings in a small comparative table so you can understand different parts of the cost structure better.

Supplier String String cost Labour cost (Average) return time Pick-up and return
Decathlon Babolat RPM Blast 1.25 17.99 None* 3 work days
Decathlon own string 8.00 3 work days
Intersport Pacific Poly Power** 23.75 1 work day
Intersport own string 15.00 1 work day
Daka Babolat RPM Blast 1.25 22.99 10.00 1 work day
Daka own string 10.00 1 work day
Racketshop de Bataaf Babolat RPM Blast 1.25 17.50 12.50 1 work day
Racketshop de Bataaf own string 12.50 1 work day
*Decathlon does not charge labour costs if you have a customer card. If not, you’ll be charged the standard amount of 8 euro’s.
**In this case, the contacted supplier had no RPM Blast available on stock, but recommended a similar string.

Comparing prices in this case seems simple, but in fact it’s not. There are a couple of different factors to be aware of. There are of course two main factors that influence the total costs. One, of course, the string of your choice. Two, the service level of your choice. Often you’ll find on your invoice that local sport shops will split the total amount between string costs and labour costs. Pretty clear, but where do you find some more options to choose from then?

Different rackets, different prices

There is a difference between tennis, badminton and squash rackets en thus, there is a difference in the time and effort it takes to restring them. Obviously your stringer needs to string a badminton racket at a different tension, as compared to your tennis racket and lucky for you, he knows that too. But did you also know that it actually takes more time for a stringer to string a badminton racket? You can probably imagine that it is really quite a struggle to weave those small nylon strings through tiny grommets. Logically, your stringers charges a bit more for badminton rackets. Tennis rackets are not all exactly the same of course, but in general they are all charged for the same amount of labour costs. Squash rackets generally are restrung the quickest because of their relatively small head size and smooth strings.

Different strings, different prices

It certainly deserves a moment to consider what type of strings are actually being offered by your favourite stringer. Probably one that suits you, otherwise you wouldn’t get your restrings there, right? But how do you know for sure if you have never tried other strings? In sport shops the strings that are being invoiced normally are so called ‘sets’, which are cut of at the specific length to string one racket with. Because these are in demand the most by the majority of customers, prices are a bit higher than compared to the relative cost per racket of so called ‘reels’. If you want to know more about this, we suggest to read our article on different types of strings.

Different stringers, different offers

That being said, the most price differences are in the service levels offered by various stringers. And yes, rule of thumb is that prices of sport shops are generally higher. That’s not strange when you consider all the fixed costs these businesses have to account for, like rent. Small independent professionals and hobbyists of course don’t have these costs. In addition, sport shops have to spend valuable time on other activities than only stringing rackets, like selling shoes or shirts.

Trainers are making a bit on the side

Trainers at local clubs normally offer to string rackets for their students and other members. Pretty understandable, as this makes for a nice bonus in a business where booked hours vary from one season to another. Often they have build strong relationships with their students and these students trust in the ability of their teacher to string their rackets properly. Plus, it saves them some time of dropping the racket of at a shop and then picking it up. Also, because club trainers aren’t dependent of the racket income they can normally keep labour costs low, even if we see that trainers don’t always actually do that. In any case, they don’t have the need to invest in the latest and newest stringing machines because they can be strung in the comfort of their homes.

What started as a hobby…

Private individuals and hobby stringers often start stringing rackets because of interest or in order to save some money on the costs of stringing their own rackets. They normally then offer their services to family, friends and other members at their clubs. Because in this fase they consider it a hobby, prices are generally the lowest. They are satisfied with making a bit money on the side, with which they can maintain their stringing machines and own purchases of new strings. Because of their passion and low prices, interest for their services can grow quickly. These hobbyists then are faced with the question: keep stringing as a hobby or grow into a (semi)professional service? In fact, this is exactly the question we faced in 2010 and of course, we decided to start our business.

Service time

What poses you as a customer for an interesting question: when do I really need my racket back? Of course, we all would like to have our rackets back as fast as possible and there are definitely some stringers that offer these services. But it differs from stringer to stringer how much they charger for these services. Also worth mentioning is that swings in demand in some cases will mean that when you could have your racket back in a couple of hours in the past, does not mean you’ll get it back that fast in the future. It can help to contact your stringer in advance about this. Club trainers are a good example of this as they normally give you your racket the next week, which may bother you as you would like to go play earlier.

Quality level

Last but not least, quality level may seem like something you could save some money on but it actually should be a consistent factor when comparing prices across the board. Finding a certified stringer gives you the confidence that he or she knows how to consistently get your favourite strings in, without any damage or breakages to the string. This is difficult to guarantee of course, so the experience of the stringer self will be an important aspect to consider. Also, you’ll find that having a stringer who can really do a proper job of advising you on choosing the right string for your playing style and technique can have a great benefit to your game. A good tip is, to ask if the stringer keeps record of your past orders and tension preferences, so that you can build a history of testing and tweaking with the goal of finding that one perfect setup.