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Is it worth restringing a badminton racket?

The stringing of badminton rackets is somewhat of a speciality within the guild of racket stringing and racket stringers. You might wonder why of course, as you may find that a ‘racket is a racket’, right? Truth is that the majority of professional racket stringers prefer to only string tennis rackets, maybe some squash rackets but rather skip badminton rackets. Why is this? In this article I’ll explain you a bit a about the background of stringing badminton rackets and how this applies to you.

In short: yes, it is worth restringing your badminton racket (except for rackets made out of alloy). This is calculated quite simply. Let’s say you bought a badminton racket around the price of 50 euro’s. Assuming you are an average player and you want to restring at least once per season. With current prices at the most competitive stringing services you can actually get your racket restrung at 10 euro’s with the most basic string setup. This would then result in 5 seasons of playing. Buying a new racket when you brake a string just doesn’t add up.

Tweaking and testing

In addition, there is the argument for tweaking your racket and string setup but I can imagine this only applies to intermediate and advanced level players, because they are more interested in getting the most of their gear to become a better player. But this could nevertheless be a valid argument for any beginner to start getting to know more about gear and racket strings (by reading more of my blogs for example…)

O boy, it is made out of alloy

Now, to be honest, there is actually one exception to the general rule described above and that concerns rackets made of alloy. You’ll recognise these ones by the special clinging sound they make when you tap the frame a few times. Sometimes you’ll even see some silver coming through the scratches of the frame on top or the side. Composite rackets tend to be blacked out or have a combination of black and white underneath their paint coatings. Generally speaking, alloy badminton rackets also tend to be the cheapest on the market, priced at around 10 or 15 euro’s. If you go on holidays or just having a laugh in the park with some friends, go ahead and buy an alloy frame. Just don’t expect them to last long or getting them restrung properly. The downside of producing rackets of alloy is, except from being quite cheap to work with, that they can definitely bend during the stringing proces, because they are under relatively high pressures by the string and stringing machine.

This means that you can maybe get a restring for a few times (let’s say 4 or 5 times before you’ll definitely start to see the frame bending) but in terms of economics, you’d be better of switching to a cheap, composite frame because you can have as many restrings as you’d want. Also, the problem of getting an alloy badminton racket restrung, is that there are not much stringers willing to work with alloy frames as they want to prevent possible warranty discussion with the client about the bending of the frame.

Getting a competitive advantage

To expand a bit on why you’d want to restring any racket for yourself, you’ll find that this has much to do with how much you want to test and experiment with yourself, rather than the pure economics of the game. I tend to find that players who enjoy playing badminton and start with experimenting with different strings and setups (think rackets, tension settings, gripping et cetera), generally start to test more and more and then settle with their best option. Truth be told, while this is good for business, it is also a crucial part of getting to know your gear and then have some options to work with. The key takeaway here is that you are not looking for perfection, but getting the gear that might win you your next point, game or match.

Conclusion

To conclude and in my experience, it is always recommended and worth it to restring your badminton racket, even if you are unsure about your gear or setup. You’ll only be told not to get a restring for your racket if it is made out of alloy, but even then, going to the shop and talking to a professional stringer might benefit you because you can definitely discuss what to look for in buying your next racket. Just make sure you leave the silver on the table this time.

What about your experiences with restringing your badminton racket? Did you have positive or negative experiences? And why would you string your racket or prefer not to? Share your thoughts by letting us know in the comment section down below.

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Can you make money stringing rackets?

About three years ago I decided to reboot my racket stringing service and to try to develop into a professional racket stringing service. Now when I started stringing rackets here in Holland, back in 2010, there was already some competition but there were less options. In the last years competition definitely increased so I knew it was going to be a tough challenge, especially because some really big retailers had hit the market. Luckily, I had one thing going for me: I really didn’t have any other option than to start stringing rackets as much as I could. In this article I’ll try to explain you how my journey looked like and how you can actually make money stringing rackets.

In short: yes, you can make money stringing rackets. I have done it myself in the last three years. It requires some dedication and focus, but it does not require you to invest a lot of money upfront, but just some common sense. I have found that if you build up your small business, purely based upon reliable customer service such as fast delivery time and good communication, you can earn about 2000-3000 euro per month within three years. It doesn’t require any marketing costs and nothing more than your own stringing machine, time and effort.

Now of course, the short answer above requires some context. You don’t get that pay check overnight. And I would definitely not advise you to leave your job immediately to start stringing. If you rely on worth of mouth for your marketing efforts, like I have done because I didn’t have the budget (yet) to invest in marketing, than you just simply have to accept the fact that this will be a slow proces. But this can be actually in good thing. The art and craft of stringing is something that has to be perfected by putting in the hours. You’ll get better, faster and get to know more brands and models.

So the first thing you have to decide for yourself, is how your (future) business is going to be structured. Is it something you will start on the side, while working on your day job too, or can it be your full time challenge? These are two very important distinctions because it will require a completely different approach to making money as a racket stringer.

As for the most of us, you’ll probably start by stringing some rackets for yourself and while doing this, you might start with a couple of rackets for friends and family maybe. This is how you get in the game. But I also know some colleagues who started full time, more or less, because they we’re already a tennis coach or trainer and stringing rackets full time, by starting a business made a lot of sense. Let me give you a short example. A friend and colleague of mine, who was a trainer and knew how to string rackets for herself and students, decided to start a small retail business and go all-in so to say on racket stringing. She created a cool shop, bought a lot of inventory upfront and had some other start up cost involved with starting a brick-and-mortar business and of course then could convert former students and friends into paying clients in her shop. This is a solid approach, but I would not recommend this for racket sports enthusiasts starting out. You’ll take on a huge commitment for quite some years and it requires a lot of dedication.

There is actually another reason why I don’t recommend this option, but it’s more of a strategic reason than any other, which I personally believe in but does not necessarily has to be something you agree on. When I did my research before starting on this venture and also after talking to a lot of retailers in racket sports, I noticed that all of the shops and small business owners put a lot of time and effort in honing their stringing skills. Stringing also cost them the biggest part of their work day. So I asked them how the revenue of stringing in their shops related to the revenue of selling products and other services. To my surprise almost every single one agreed upon the fact that stringing rackets brought in 60 to 90(!) percent of their total business revenue. Now, as a entrepreneur you have to calculate in risks associated with your business, but that’s just an tricky outcome to bet on. Instead, and with these numbers in mind, I decided to focus on that 60 to 90 percent and leave the traditional, inventory based web shop model to others.

Next, because I already owned a small, electric stringing machine, I decided to look for a backup stringing machine of the same make and model, so that if I had an incoming order and, somehow, my machine would brake down, I could always serve the customer and have the racket back in time. I really made sure I had my proces in place of not having to say “no” to the customer because my gear was not well prepared. I actually did experience some occasions where my machine broke down and I felt assured that I had my backup machine in place. Now, this does not have to be an expensive endeavour. When I started, I was stringing on a Pro’s Pro TX-600 for around 500 euro and then bought a second hand model of Ebay for around 250 euro. This was a perfectly fine setup for years of stringing if you know how to service these models (which I’ll write about in another blogpost).

So I had my gear in place, which I just put in a corner of my office back then but you could just as easily put in the corner of your study room or spare room. I had bought some necessary tools from Pro’s Pro too (which I’ll write about in another blogpost too), which of course are not the best quality out there, but depending on how much rackets you want the string, will serve the most stringers starting up their service. I also bought a few basic sets of strings (which you can find in the ‘Recommended gear & tools section’) and that was it.

Basically, I was ready to go and start stringing. Now I still had a small group of friends and acquaintances who I could inform that I was stringing rackets again, which I did of course. This helped me put the first word out and start the first mouth-to-mouth marketing efforts.

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The complete guide on Wilson tennis string patterns

Did you ever wonder how to find the exact string pattern for your racket? Were you ever stuck in the middle of restringing an older racket for a client and wondering where to tie off? Of course you have! Everybody has at least a couple of times in their stringing careers. No need to dwell on that, but it would be great if there was a resource for you to check once in a while, right?

Down below you’ll find my complete guide on string patterns. If new frames are released, they will be added to this database as soon as possible. Can’t find a pattern or are you missing a frame? Contact me via info@racketstringers.com. 

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The complete guide on Head tennis string patterns

Did you ever wonder how to find the exact string pattern for your racket? Were you ever stuck in the middle of restringing an older racket for a client and wondering where to tie off? Of course you have! Everybody has at least a couple of times in their stringing careers. No need to dwell on that, but it would be great if there was a resource for you to check once in a while, right?

Down below you’ll find my complete guide on string patterns. If new frames are released, they will be added to this database as soon as possible. Can’t find a pattern or are you missing a frame? Contact me via info@racketstringers.com. 

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The complete guide on Babolat tennis string patterns

Did you ever wonder how to find the exact string pattern for your racket? Were you ever stuck in the middle of restringing an older racket for a client and wondering where to tie off? Of course you have! Everybody has at least a couple of times in their stringing careers. No need to dwell on that, but it would be great if there was a resource for you to check once in a while, right?

Down below you’ll find my complete guide on string patterns. If new frames are released, they will be added to this database as soon as possible. Can’t find a pattern or are you missing a frame? Contact me via info@racketstringers.com. 

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How to pratically select the best gauge of string for your racket

Selecting the best strings for your racket is one of the most important tasks when it comes to taking care of your racket. Not only are there quite a few different materials to choose from, they are available in different sizes. Racket strings are made in different thicknesses, called gauges. The thicker the gauge, the more durability and control, while the thinner the gauge, the more power and comfort. In the end string gauge is a personal preference with various advantages and disadvantages on both ends of the spectrum, which I’ll explain further in the rest of this article.

Basic gauge sizing for tennis rackets

To start things off, let’s take a look at all the gauge sizes out there, with their respective international indicators. As you can see, it’s not the most logical way of putting things in order, so take a moment to study the different labels and diameters.

U.S. International Diameter (mm)
13 12 1.65-1.80
14 11 1.50-1.65
15 9.5 1.41-1.49
15L 9 1.33-1.41
16 8.5 1.26-1.34
16L 8 1.22-1.30
17 7.5 1.16-1.24
18 7 1.06-.1.16
19 4 0.90-1.06
20 3.5 0.80-0.90
21 3 0.70-0.80
22 2.5 0.60-0.70

Because some gauge labels can overlap with respect to their diameter (mm), we tend to stick with the diameter (just as ERSA does) as the best way to describe and classify different string gauges. However, on packaging materials, you’ll normally find the U.S. labels.

Common gauges and recommendations

We’ll take a deeper dive into string gauges in the rest of the article, but I wanted to see if I could simply things a bit at the start here. Now there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to racket gear but here are the most common gauges and who I’d recommend each for.

  • 15/1.40mm: Thickest gauge; best for advanced players looking for maximum durability and control. However, these strings might be considered so durable that the trade-off with ‘feel’ and spin potential might be a bit too much.
  • 16/1.30mm: Medium-thick gauge; best for heavy hitting competitive players who break strings frequently.
  • 16L/1.28mm: Medium gauge found in Luxilon strings; best for competitive players looking for a blend of power and control.
  • 17/1.25mm: Medium thin gauge; best for beginner, intermediate and all-round players who are looking for power and comfort.
  • 17L/1.20mm: Thin gauge; best for players looking for increased touch and feel and don’t mind spending a bit more on restringing.
  • 18/1.15mm: Thinnest gauge; best for players wanting maximum touch and feel and will have to restring very often.

Please keep in mind though that this is a basic overview and that a lot of players tend to deviate from this, for their own specific reasons (whether that is in their benefit or not).

A bit of theory on string gauges and their “ping”

When you string two identical rackets with different gauge of the same strings and perform the palm test (meaning you use the palm of your hand to ‘clap’ your racket and hand together) with the strung rackets, the thinner gauge will have a higher “ping”. Most people would logically assume the thinner string is tighter.

Even though little difference is found when measured statistically (i.e. RA test), the racket with the thinner gauge may feel less stiff in play, due to a greater elasticity of the thinner string. Generally a 17 gauge string will be about twice as elastic (100%) as a 15 gauge string, all other factors being equal. This increased elasticity results in lower dynamic stiffness (meaning the strings will feel more elastic) during ball contact.

A player changing to a thicker string (for greater durability, for example) may complain the that the “ping” isn’t the same as with his thinner gauge string. However, increasing tension to reproduce that harmonic pitch would probably result in a stringbed stiffness too hard for his liking. So the main takeaway here is: string for feel, not for the “ping”. Don’t focus too much on sound…

String gauge and performance

Of course, knowing string gauge isn’t all that helpful if you’re not clear on how the thickness of a string impacts performance. There are three main factors players usually consider when selecting a string gauge: durability, spin potential, and feel.

Durability

When comparing different gauges for the same string, the heavier the gauge or thicker the string will be more durable and long-lasting.

When you play tennis, your strings produce friction at the cross-sections where they overlap each other. Over time you’ll notice that your strings cut into each other and begin to notch, so naturally, the thicker they are, the longer they’ll last. Thicker strings can also withstand greater impact, which helps extend the life, too.

However, when it comes to durability, keep in mind that a wide variety of factors can influence the longevity of a string, including material, construction, tension, and a string pattern’s density.

All else equal, thicker strings are more durable, and it’s a great rule of thumb to use when evaluating strings.

Spin potential

Beyond durability, players also rely on their string gauge to influence their racket setups for generating spin. The thinner the string, the more potential for spin, while the thicker the string, the less spin potential.

Thinner strings bury themselves deeper into the ball, and as a result, “grab” the ball a bit better, which results in more spin. A thicker string has less “bite”, resulting in a lower potential for spin.

However, just because you have thin strings doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to generate massive spin. It’s one of many factors that can influence spin. However, your grip, technique, and racket head speed will have the most significant influence over spin. Also, keep in mind that when players step on the court with the idea of having a string optimised for “spin”, they tend to hit the ball with a lot more spin themselves, which actually generates more spin (but from stroke technique, and not from the string itself).

Feel

Another area where you’ll notice changes with different gauge is the feel of the strings as many players report enhanced feel with thinner strings. Of course, this is a personal matter per definition.

I happen to love the sensation of a 16L gauge string, even in a more durable option like polyester, I tend to break them fairly easily, so 16 is the lowest gauge I typically string.

Which string gauge should you use?

Every player’s needs and preferences are different. With this in mind, you can keep in mind a variety of factors when evaluating strings and determining which is best for you.

Types of string

The type of string your using frequently has an impact on the gauge that you choose. Here’s a brief look at the different types of strings:

  • Natural gut: high power, comfort, tension maintenance, exceptional feel, prone to breakage, and susceptible to moisture
  • Synthetic gut: mid-range tennis strings offering well-rounded performance across the board, typically lack durability
  • Multifilament: the synthetic alternative to natural gut, these strings offer power, comfort, and hold their tension well
  • Polyester: low powered spin-friendly strings that are stiff and durable, but tend to lose their tension quicker than other strings
  • Kevlar: the most durable strings that maintain their tension well

As you read the descriptions, it might begin to make sense why you might consider a higher or lower gauge for each. For example, you might string with a lower gauge (thicker) tennis string if you’re using synthetic or natural gut to help increase the durability or life of your strings. Whereas, if you’re using polyester strings, you may opt for a higher gauge (thinner) option to help maximize spin.

Budget

If you can’t afford to string your racquet frequently, I’d recommend you string with a thicker or low gauge string to help avoid breakage and increase your strings durability. Racket stringing can be expensive (though here at our platform we try to provide every customer with a fair price), especially when you take into consideration the labor to string your racquet. You can go thicker, but 16 will usually do the trick while helping maintain solid playability and spin potential.

If you want to play with a thinner gauge, but budget is a limiting factor, you may want to consider using string savers to get the benefit of a higher gauge without breaking the bank. However, personally I do not recommend using them as they might limit ‘snapback’ from the strings.

What about your own experiences with string gauge? What is the size you play with? Are there any combinations you’d recommend out of your own experience? Please let me know in the comment section down below.

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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…

 

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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.

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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.

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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.