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Holabird Sports


Stringing Guide

Contents:

1. Preparations
  1.1. Required tools
  1.2. Measuring the string
  1.3. Preparing and mounting your frame
  1.4. Adjusting the weight
2. The stringing process
  2.1. Determining the stringing pattern
  2.2. Pulling the main strings
  2.3. Knots
  2.4. Pulling the cross strings
3. After stringing
  3.1. String savers
  3.2. Vibration dampeners
4. Stringing badminton racquets


1. Preparations

    Here you'll find out which tools you need and which preparations are to be done before you can actually start to string. Most of the following may sound trivial but nevertheless I won't leave out anything for the sake of completeness. This way people who are playing with the thought of buying a stringing machine will get a complete view of the matter.

1.1. Required tools

    Your most important "tool" - besides your hands - is of course your stringing machine. There are a lot of different types of machines; below I will assume you have a drop weight tensioner machine with two fixed single action clamps. Read more about stringing machines here.
    Check the integrity of your machine. Remove oil from spots which should fix something, like the clamps, when you notice that the string slips through or the clamp is moving. Sometimes you also have to tighten screws. Once again the clamps are affected: for example you have to tighten them when you are stringing a thinner string. But be careful: if the string is fixed too tight it might get damaged!
    But you do need oil on moving parts of the machine, such as the rod or the turntable. Grease according parts from time to time. With careful service you will automatically increase the lifetime of your machine.

Tools

    Your machine can be in best shape, but without the appropriate accessories you won't get far. For measuring and cutting the strings you need a yard stick/meter rule, a diagonal cutter [1] and a marker, for tying the knot you need an awl [3] to fix the string and I recommend using parallel jaw pliers to tighten the knot. Sometimes you'll be happy if you own a so-called pathfinder awl [4]. You can retract such an awl's point within an outer sheath, so you can insert a string into the sheath, enabling you to thread strings through grommets that are blocked by another string. You can manage without a pathfinder awl, but sometimes that's a torture. Handle your pathfinder awl carefully, it's quite a delicate instrument.
    If you're stringing an older racquet that has damaged grommets and the string is in danger of running along sharp edges you should use a string tubing. That's a simple tube that's inserted into a grommet hole. If your grommets should be too narrow - bad luck - you'll have to buy a new grommet...

1.2. Measuring the string

    If you are stringing a racquet for the first time you should determine which way the racquet has to be strung. Read more about that below (2.1. "Determining the stringing pattern").
    If you got yourself a 200m (660') reel you'll have to cut off an appropriate piece for your racquet. How much string you need depends on your racquet's size and string pattern. I suggest you cut off 12m (39') at the very first time, that should be enough. Then after stringing measure how much string you cut off and calculate how much you will need next time. But don't forget to add the distance you needed to tighten each knot (about 2') to enable a racquet-friendly stringing. In general, better use too much string than not enough. Imagine your anger when you reach the end of the racquet and notice that your string is one foot too short! For a 95 sq.in. racquet with 16 mains and 19 crosses you need about 11.5m (38').
    Unfold your meter rule to one meter, position it in front of you and measure the string meter by meter (respectively use a yard stick). Make sure that the string doesn't get tangled up while unwinding it. At best you hang up the reel so it can rotate, enabling the string to unreel. Then cut the string as diagonally as possible so you can handle it a lot easier later on. If you are using a set of strings you don't have to cut anything, of course. Most sets are 36' to 41' (11m-12.5m) long.
    If you are stringing mains and crosses separately (two piece stringing), you have to make another cut. If your racquet has 18 main strings I suggest you use 7.0m (23') for the first time. The remaining string (if you cut off 12m / 39') should be sufficient for the cross strings. For 16 main strings, measure 6.4m (21') respectively.
    When you use the same piece of string for the mains and crosses (one piece stringing) you only have to mark the string to divide it into two parts. You need to know the length that is used for exactly half of the main strings. Thus this length varies with the total number of main strings in your racquet (mostly 16 or 18). For 9 mains start with 3.5m (11'7"), for 8 mains take 3.2m (10'7"). Do not mark the string by notching it, even if your string is black! The effects on the durability of the string would be fatal. Better use a solvent-free felt tip or permanent marker (in case of a black string just don't mark anything and hold the spot with one hand while pulling the string with the other hand).
    Also for two piece stringing it is useful to mark the middle of the piece you use for the mains. Alternatively, when starting, you can thread the string in such a way that the overhanging ends have the same length.

1.3. Preparing and mounting your frame

    It's best if you cut out the strings as soon as possible after they tore to avoid unnecessary stress on the frame. Cut a cross symmetrically from the middle to the outside. The same you have to do when you've been playing with the same string for a very long time so its elasticity has decreased and you've decided to restring your racquet.
    After removing the strings you should check the grommets for damage. In no case the string should run over sharp edges. Especially delicate are the outer mains. Neither should there be any clay in the grommets.
    When mounting the frame make sure to fix it in a balanced way. The frame is exposed to immense force during stringing, so it can easily be damaged when it's unequally stressed too often. I recommend using a 6-point mounting system, yet there are many different types. What's important is that your racquet cannot move during stringing. But don't fix your racquet too tightly. At best just as tight as necessary so it doesn't move when you shake the grip.

1.4. Adjusting the weight

    Before you actually start to string you have to know how hard you want to string your racquet. Ask the person who previously used to string your racquet about the tension so you get an approximate value. As you now have the total control over your own string tension you can easily try different tensions, check out how you play with half a kilo more or less. Less tension provides more power, more tension provides more control. The more power, the less control. Just evaluate the speed of your swing - the faster your swing the more tension you should use. Stiff racquet frames, above all Widebodies, and also oversize racquets should be strung with a higher tension to equalize their power.
    The tension is mostly measured with two figures, e.g. 27/26 kg, where "27" is the tension of the main strings and "26" is the tension of the cross strings. It's recommendable to string the cross strings with 1 kg (1 kg equals 2.2 lbs)) less weight than the main strings; by that you equalize the different length of mains and crosses.

Adjusting the weight on the rod

    With a drop weight tensioner you just have to move the weight to the desired position on the rod. With spring tensioners you adjust the tension using a screw and with electronic machines the tension is entered digitally.


2. The stringing process

2.1. Determining the stringing pattern

    Before you string your racquet for the very first time you have to determine whether one-piece or two-piece stringing has to be performed. In principle any racquet can be strung using one piece of string, but to maximize the life of your racquet the cross strings should always be strung from the head to the throat (during stringing the frame is deformed and because the throat is more stable the deformation is not as high). So for some racquets it is necessary to string and tie the mains and crosses separately (-> 4 knots).
    Now how do you know which method you should apply to a foreign racquet? You have to know two things: first the total number of main strings in the racquet, second the number of main strings that are in the throat. Use one-piece stringing if the racquet has 16 mains and 8 among them in the throat, or 18 mains and 6 among them in the throat. Use two-piece stringing if the racquet has 16 mains and 6 among them in the throat, or 18 mains and 8 among them in the throat.
    The number of mains in the throat also decides about which mains you start stringing. If there are 6 mains in the throat you start with the two central main strings, if there are 8 mains in the throat you start with two mains just beyond the center of the racquet.

2.2. Pulling the main strings

    If you have a brand new machine make sure it has a mark for the exact horizontal position. If there isn't such a mark you have to draw one using a spirit-level. The exact horizontal position is so important because the drop weight rod only pulls with the desired weight when standing in a position exactly parallel to the ground. Even small deviations from the horizontal position can cause large deviations of the string tension.

The first two rows

    Usually the main strings are pulled one row at a time. For better convenience, I always pull two mains at once so that I only work at the racquet head and don't get into trouble with the grip. The disadvantage is that you lose some of the tension due to friction. To minimize the loss of tension you can pluck the mains being pulled firmly ("upwards" out of the racquet plane).
    Thread the short end (the 3.5m/11'7" or something) of the string (resp. half of the string you cut off for the mains for two-piece stringing) into the grommet so that the string beyond the mark runs exactly through one half of the racquet. In the above picture the racquet has 18 mains and because there are 8 mains in the throat one has to start with two mains next to the center and the mark is at the racquet head. If the racquet had 6 mains in the throat one would start with the two central mains and the mark would be in the throat.
    Tighten both ends of the string with one hand while fixing the first row (from head to grip) with one of the two clamps using your other hand.

Inserting the string into the string gripper

    Now insert the short end into the string gripper and slowly move the rod into the horizontal position. It will hardly come to rest in the exact horizontal position, rather it will drop further down. If the rod doesn't even reach the horizontal position you will have to release it, insert the string a little looser and try once again. If the rod drops further down you have to hold the string gripper with one hand while you move the rod a little back above the horizontal position using the other hand. Now let it drop down again and repeat this procedure until the rod comes to rest in the exact horizontal position. You will get a feeling for this procedure soon.
    In this position the string is tightened with the tension adjusted on the rod. Now fix the second row with the second clamp and release the weight rod into the vertical position while taking the string out of the tensioner.
    If you're using a spring tensioner you have to crank until the spring reaches the tension you have adjusted and automatically locks out the crank mechanism.
    Follow the same scheme for the rest of the main strings. It's important that you do not string one half and then the other half of the racquet; you should rather string symmetrically to lower the stress on the racquet. While the weight rod is in the horizontal position, release the clamp next to the string being tightened and fix the currently tightened row with it. Never release the outermost clamp! You would have to start from the beginning!
    Soon as you have reached the last row with the short end of the string tighten and fix it (can be on the racquet head or on the bottom). Now you have to tie the string to one of the preceding rows. Choose the next grommet which is wide enough to carry two strings. In most cases there is a grommet which is a bit wider than the others just for this purpose. Pull the string through this grommet and tighten it. But it's better if you don't tighten it 180° over the frame, rather you should fix your turntable (if possible) and tighten the string across the whole racquet. You will need a little more string but it is much milder to the frame and the grommets.
    While the weight rod is in the horizontal position, thread the awl through the grommet hole containing the two strings to fix the string being tightened. Make sure not to damage the grommet or one of the strings. If the grommet hole is too wide just insert one or two additional temporary string fragments.

2.3. Knots

    Now you can release the rod and tie the end of the string to the main string (left picture).

Knot Alternative knot
normal knot alternative knoten for polyester strings

The normal knot won't be useful when trying to tie a wire-like string. In such cases I prefer a simpler version (right picture). The knot is tightened with the parallel jaw pliers. After that you can remove the awl and cut off the end of the string at the height of the frame. From now on you will only need one clamp.

2.4. Pulling the cross strings

Change from mains to crosses

    Having reached the last main row on the other half of the racquet you have to change to the first cross row when using the one-piece method. Often you will find the desired grommet hole right next to the one you just came out of. For two-piece stringing, you have to tie the last main string again (analog to the first knot).

Weaving the cross strings

    For two-piece stringing you have to tie the cross string to a main string at the racquet head. For that use a grommet that is a little wider than the other ones, tie the cross string around the main string and pull tight with your hand. Then thread the other end through the hole for the first cross row. The knot is tightened when you tension the first cross string.
    Now the cross string has to be "weaved" through the main strings. To do that take the end of the string between both index fingers, one above, the other below the main strings, and guide the string alternately above and below past the main strings. Before actually pulling the string you should make sure not to have run over or under a main string twice. Don't worry, this process will become routine pretty soon.

Pulling the cross strings

    While pulling the string make sure not to damage the main strings at the intersections due to friction heat. To avoid that, bend the cross string during pulling so it doesn't touch the mains at the same spots all the time. But before tightening it, push the cross string back into a straight line as good as possible. That's necessary because if you tighten the cross string while it is not straight you will automatically get a loss of tension.
    For one-piece stringing, tighten the first cross string with the same weight as the mains. Then readjust the weight on the rod if you want a different tension for the cross strings. For two-piece stringing change the tension now and make sure the knot is not pulled through the hole while tensioning.
    The cross strings are tightened row by row because the friction is so high that you wouldn't get the full tension when tightening two rows at the same time.
    After tightening the last cross string, search for a suitable main grommet once again and proceed just like you did at the first knot (except that you haven't got as much space in many cases). Now you can release your racquet from the mounting. Finished! Wait, not yet...


3. After stringing

    In principle your racquet is now ready for play, yet there are a couple of things to be done:

    First you will notice that the cross strings aren't straight. You get a more uniform string bed when you make the effort and straighten the cross strings. And it also looks better.
    It's better if you don't immediately play with the fresh racquet because the tension loss would be very high. It's best if you let your racquet "rest" one or two days.

   Now you have the chance to increase the durability of the string or to do some racquet tuning:

3.1. String savers

    You may have noticed in some tennis broadcast on TV that many players (for example Sampras and Korda) use a dispenser to insert small platelets into their strings from time to time. Those platelets are called Elastocross, Super Cross, String Cross or something like that. The platelets are inserted at the string intersections to avoid the wearing of the strings. By that the durability of the strings is considerably increased. Top spin players will like the fact that the strings don't move as much as without string savers. Also you get more spin. I personally cannot play without those platelets any more.

Inserting the string savers

    There are two types of those string savers: as mentioned above, one comes in a dispenser. But if you're no professional who needs to manipulate his strings during a match I recommend using the second type. Here the platelets are carried on a support tree from which they can easily be separated. Those platelets are much more durable than those in the device. You can reuse the platelets over and over again by inserting them with tweezers.

String savers

    The price of about $7 and 20 minutes of additional work really pay off, considering that one package lasts about one to two years. Try it!

3.2. Vibration dampeners

    Almost every player uses a vibration dampener. But those rubber parts which are inserted at the lowest section of the strings have nearly nothing to do with arm protection or related stuff. They do absorb the subtle vibrations of the strings, but the by far stronger vibrations of the frame are not affected. Nevertheless vibration dampeners have a positive effect on most players, otherwise they wouldn't be so popular. The dampener ony modifies the sound when hitting the ball. It just sounds better when there's a faint "click" instead of a "pling".
    Vibration dampeners come in many different shapes. The larger the dampener, the better the absorption. The price is between $2 and $5.


4. Stringing badminton racquets

The only source I know so far for instructions on badminton stringing is Prospeed's Step by Step Instructions. There you find a comprehensive guide with a lot of illustrations.

© Jens Barthelmes

Photos: Martin Lazak