Danstevensí guide to stringing machines
Since there are a lot of posts in the stringing forum requesting stringing machine ideas, I thought Iíd make a thread to hopefully give beginners a good starting reference point. There is a thread like this on Tennis-Warehouse and it seemed like a good idea to have one here more concerned with badminton stringing. In the guide, I hope to cover some of the basic questions asked by people new to stringing. I am still relatively new to stringing and donít have firsthand experience on a vast amount of machines (I've used a few though) but I have searched these forums, the internet and asked some local pro stringers for their ideas and thoughts on stringing machines.
If you donít know how to string, check out Peter the greatest's online stringing video collection and the video of our much loved forum member Dinkalot stringing a racket. There are some good knot tying videos on YULitleís Youtube channel
Should I buy a stringing machine?
Only you can answer that but if any of the following statements sound like you, in my opinion, there is little doubt that you can justify buying a stringing machine if you want to.
1.) My stringer charges too much to string with basic strings such as Yonex BG-65. Work out the labour costs and decide whether you think this is fair or not. Please bear in mind; only you know what too much is because it is a.)A personal thing and b.)Something that is subjective to where you live.
2.) My stringer is incompetent. If you stringer has ever broken one of your rackets stringing at low tensions, ties off outside the frame or does anything else that has been discussed previously as a sign of a bad stringer, now would be a good time to change stringer or get a machine of your own. Inconsistency is also a sign of a bad stringer.
3.) My stringer refuses to string at the tension I want and/or tries to pass off a lower tension as the one I requested
4.) The place where I get my rackets strung is a long way away making it inconvenient.
5.) My stringer takes too long to string my rackets. This isnít referring to stringing time (as in the time taken to actually string the frame), this is referring to when the frame is available to you. Do they do it whilst you wait or make you wait a week? You decide how long is acceptable.
6.) I am a serial tweaker. If you like to change your string setup a lot, youíll probably save quite a lot of money in the long run by opting to go alone.
7.) I break strings frequently. If you pop a lot of strings, youíre likely to save a lot of time and money by buying a machine of your own.
They are the main reasons I can think of but each person may have a more personal reason for buying a stringing machine, I know some of you are in love with your rackets and canít face time apart from them .
Guide to stringing machine tensioner types
The tensioner type of the machine is very important. If decides whether it is constant pull or not, how accurate it is (and potential for human error) and how fast it is. Some people upgrade the tension head at a time after purchase with a thing called a WISE. This is an electronic tension head for converting dropweights or cranks in to ECP (electronic constant pull) stringing machines. Just in case you didnít know, constant pull is where the tensioner keeps pulling the set tension even after it has been reached. This is more accurate (and generally, preferable to lock out tensioning mechanisms). Constant pull machines tend to produce jobs that feel slightly tighter than lock out ones. Bare this in mind if you have been used to one and then switch to the other. Anyway, letís get on with it.
Dropweights:- these are the simplest tensioning mechanism. It uses a weight and gravity to work, hence the name, dropweight. These are very accurate, at least as accurate as electronic constant pull tensioning systems due to the fact they rely only on gravity. They are constant pull because the force of gravity, where-ever you are on Earth, is always pulling towards the centre and so, is always pulling the weight down Ė it never locks out like a crank. The one issue you may have with dropweight machines is either not letting the arm drop fully or pushing it down. Both of these will cause issues with the accuracy of the tensioning so donít do them. Dropweight machines tend to be at the fairly inexpensive end of the market Ė most of the low end machines are dropweights but this is not bad thing. Whereas a cheap electronic machine could indicate poor quality and likelihood to break (this isnít always the case though), a cheap dropweight might not be much (if any) worse than one of the top end dropweights. There is very little to go wrong as the tensioning only really relies on gravity (which is always there) and the string gripper. Dropweights are the slowest tensioning mechanism but probably the least likely to go wrong and very accurate. Finally, dropweights never need calibration because gravity, as long as you string on Earth, will remain the same.
Cranks:- Crank machines require the user to crank a handle during the tensioning process. This cranking motion applies force on a spring which is the tensioning mechanism. They lock out when the tension has been released meaning they are not constant pull. Cranks require more physical work than other tension heads but it still really isnít much. Cranks are fast, probably the fastest tensioning mechanism out there if you value speed above all else, theyíre a good option. If you are considering buying a crank machine, bear in mind there is much more chance for human error than the other types of machine Ė itís a good idea to crank relatively slowly but at a consistent speed throughout. Make sure speed is consistent throughout all the strings you tension. Cranks fit in to all price brackets, from the bargain basement Proís pro Shuttle express to the professional grade workhorse that is the Prince Neos 1000.
Electric/electronic machines:- Although commonly confused as to meaning the same thing, electronic and electric machines are two very different species. Electric means the use of electricity whereas electronic means the use of electronic components (think PCBs in school electronic lessons). Electric machines tend to be much cheaper than electronic machines but not all are constant pull. A lot just use a motor to apply force to a spring, like the cranks we learned about earlier but without having to crank. These tend to be best avoided as they cost more than an equivalent crank and donít offer anything extra. Electronic machines are probably the pinnacle of stringing technology. They use sophisticated circuitry and other general witchcraft to tension the string. They are almost always constant pull and tend to be the reserve of hardcore enthusiasts and professionals. You can often tell if a machine is electric or electronic just by looking at it. Electronic machines generally have buttons to choose tension and pre-stretch (Iíll explain more about this term later) and stuff The WISE tension head is an electronic constant pull tension head and is used in place of the traditional crank or dropweight tension head. Most cranks willingly take it without modification but most dropweights will require some handiwork from you to fit the WISE. Donít worry though, in most cases, it isnít too difficult.
OK, now you know about all the main tension heads and their pros and cons, you should be able to make an informed decision as to which one will be best for you. Before buying also consider the pros and cons of upright machines vs tabletops. Uprights are more comfortable to use and probably easier to store because they stand up. Table tops donít need to be an eyesore as they are easier to stow away that uprights which are difficult to hide. Iím sure you can work the other advantages/disadvantages out for yourselves. Next weíll look in to some stringing terminology and what it means.
Do you speak stringer?
When buying or even talking about stringing machines and stringing, you hear lots of terms that you might not understand. Here is a glossary of some of the main stringing terms and names for stringing tools. Anyone who has strung before may as well skip this Ėyouíll probably know what all of the words mean without this. Experienced stringers, if you can think of another term a beginner might not understand that I have missed, weíll see if a mod/admin can add it in.
Six point/two point mounting These are terms for how much support the racket is given whilst on the machine. 2 point means it is secured at two places and 6 point means it is secured at, you guessed it, six points. Six point is generally better than two point as it offers the racket more support and so, helps to prevent racket distortion. 2 point is faster but there is more risk involved. If you plan to be stringing at high tensions, Iíd recommend 6 point mounting. Itís no excuse for carelessness though.
Fixed clamps These are the clamps that are built on to the machine. Not all machines have these. They are considered to be more secure than flying/floating clamps but you may find flying clamps easier to use although this is a matter of personal preference.
Flying/floating clamps They both mean the same thing Ė clamps that are not attached to the machine and can move freely. Brands of fixed clamps to look out for are Yonex and Hi-Qua. Iíd go for a mix of the two as the HQ ones are good for mains but the Yonex ones are better for crosses.
Awls and string movers These are tools that make stringing easier. Their purpose is really, just to move strings or help free blocked grommets. Be careful when using them though Ė you may damage the frame it you are too aggressive with the awl.
Pre-stretch To make the string hold tension better, some stringers stretch it before stringing. This can be done either by hand or certain electronic machines will do it for you (by pulling tighter and then dropping the tension to the one you asked for). Pre-stretching also makes the string easier to work with when weaving as it helps to remove the coil memory the string has.
What stringing machine should I buy?
Again, this is one only you can really answer but Iíll offer some advice to get you started and give you guidance. I split stringing machines in to 3 categories: beginner, bridge and advanced/professional. Two should be self explanatory but by ďbridgeĒ machines, I mean ones that bridge the gap between the low end, just starting out machines and the pro machines like the Babolat Sensor and Wilson Baiardo. Please note that in some cases, Eagnasí customer support has been a little sketchy, if you live close to the warehouse, things are more likely to be OK but people have had problems with dealing with them over the phone.
Machines in this bracket should be relatively low price and simple Ė they are designed for beginners and people on a budget. Good dropweight choices are the Klipper M140 (if you go for the Klipper, check this bit of advice from Grandmasters Silentheart and Lazybuddy) and the Eagnas Challenger 1 (or any variant Ėie the Proís pro Challenger 1). There are many low end dropweights you can consider though and there is little wrong with many of them. The Cranks that are worth getting in this price bracket are the Proís pro shuttle express (or any variant Ė ie the HQ machine on MyBadmintonstore), the Victor M 3000 and the Eagnas ST-200 or 250 and any of their varients such as the Centring one on Tennisnuts.
These are mid range machines in both price and performance. A low price crank (Proís pro XP plus or the Eagnas that looks just like it) with a WISE tension head would be a great option at this level. If you have a beginner machine and are looking to upgrade, the Eagnas/Proís pro Challengers are easily able to take the WISE with a few small modifications. Other than that, perhaps look at some of the Eagnas electronic models (make sure theyíre electronic and not just electric) or a crank like the Prince Neos Ė this only has 2 point supports but I do believe there is a way of modifying it to 4 or 6. The Neos is often available used and at very low prices as well.
Are you seriously expecting me to offer much advice in this sector? If you need one, youíll know what you want and what makes a good machine. In my eyes, the Babolat Sensor, Yonex ES5PRO, Prince 6000 and the Wilson Baiardo are the top choices but youíre the pro, not me.
If you are wanting to buy a stringing machine but donít know where to get one, I recommend you look at this sticky for somewhere (preferably in your area) to buy from.
What other tools will I need?
Well, that depends on what machine you buy. It may come with everything or you may end up with just the machine. An electronic fishing scale is very useful for calibration and checking the scale on a dropweight. An awl and string mover are likely to make things easier, as are 2 Yonex and 2 Hi-Qua flying clamps. Youíll also need a good pair of scissors or other cutting tool in order to make clean cuts in the string. Other than that, Iíd say everything else is pretty optional, I suppose really, for a lot of machines, the flying clamps are optional and although you may not NEED an awl and a string mover, youíll probably find them useful at some point.
OK then, I think thatís it, you should be able to make your first (or not first) foray in to stringing, I hope this guide has helped and if anyone feels they have anything to add or amend, feel free to.