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View Full Version : when did the very first composite or graphite racket come out???


jimanuel12
02-16-2010, 11:17 AM
and who was the manufacturer?
it has been too long and i cannot remember.
i think the first aluminum rackets came out around 1974.
the wilson T2000 came out around 1970 or maybe 1969.
but the first composite or graphite, i don't know.
some help please????

Tennis Man
02-16-2010, 11:23 AM
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=289903

Bud
02-16-2010, 12:10 PM
Wasn't the C6 the first to use braided Carbon technology? I loved that racquet so therefore "Greatest"

Cheers
Warren

I think that distinction is shared by the C-6 and the Aldila Cannon.

Welcome to the T-W classic racquet forum by the way.

The C-6 and Aldila Cannon were the first true graphite racquets, IIRC. I think the Aldila was out before the C-6 but may be mistaken.


Aldila Cannon

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3Jwg4ynrDI/AAAAAAAANxI/cI9e5JlP9sg/s800/P1070229.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3JwhCeEz-I/AAAAAAAANxM/LgefKWK0rJY/s800/P1070230.JPG

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3JwhjCMfrI/AAAAAAAANxQ/_UTizywJQkg/s800/P1070232.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3JwksceHQI/AAAAAAAANyI/vmgS5_EY2Ro/s800/P1070241.JPG

Bud
02-16-2010, 12:11 PM
Aldila Cannon

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3Jwo6Vyk6I/AAAAAAAANyk/lcCObasTDhA/s800/P1070248.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3JwnC0YVXI/AAAAAAAANyY/UR-x4Z-zR10/s800/P1070245.JPG

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3JwiYOeitI/AAAAAAAANxY/jxbH_meEB_w/s800/P1070234.JPG

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_RLIYzXhfZQ0/S3JwiKnJk_I/AAAAAAAANxU/u8nqExZDEWQ/s800/P1070233.JPG

vsbabolat
02-16-2010, 01:03 PM
and who was the manufacturer?
it has been too long and i cannot remember.
i think the first aluminum rackets came out around 1974.
the wilson T2000 came out around 1970 or maybe 1969.
but the first composite or graphite, i don't know.
some help please????

The T2000 came out in 1963.

As far as the composites go or the first full Synthetics racquets were the HEAD Arther Ashe Competition and the Voelkl Zebra.
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra.html
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra-2.html
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra-3.html

jimanuel12
02-17-2010, 04:29 AM
The T2000 came out in 1963.

As far as the composites go or the first full Synthetics racquets were the HEAD Arther Ashe Competition and the Voelkl Zebra.
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra.html
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra-2.html
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra-3.html

i did not know that the T2000 came out that early, i thought that it came out in the late 60's or early 70's.
i first one i saw was in 1970 and it cost $40.00 and man, that was allot of money back in the day.

Rabbit
02-17-2010, 04:52 AM
I think the Fansteel Graphite predated the Adila Canon

joe sch
02-17-2010, 06:15 AM
The T2000 came out in 1963.

As far as the composites go or the first full Synthetics racquets were the HEAD Arther Ashe Competition and the Voelkl Zebra.
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra.html
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra-2.html
http://80s-tennis.com/pages/voelkl-zebra-3.html

Not clear which graphite racket was the first produced but Head was obviously part of this transition as the AA Comp transitioned the metal racket to a composite with the boron filler in between the aluminum plates. A metal sandwich :) I need to consult the Keubler and Cherry books to see what racket(s) they claimed were the first composite(s) ...

joe sch
02-17-2010, 06:19 AM
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=289903

This racket timeline could use some additions. Would be nice to see more of the initial composite rackets.

vsbabolat
02-17-2010, 06:52 AM
Not clear which graphite racket was the first produced but Head was obviously part of this transition as the AA Comp transitioned the metal racket to a composite with the boron filler in between the aluminum plates. A metal sandwich :) I need to consult the Keubler and Cherry books to see what racket(s) they claimed were the first composite(s) ...

The original Arthur Ashe Competition of about 1971 was a fiberglass core sandwiched between two aluminum sheets. The design was taken from the HEAD Ski of the time.:)

Rabbit
02-17-2010, 07:11 AM
OH yeah...the Kawasaki Graphite Ruler was a real early one as well....Cliff Drysdale was the endorser for that frame

schu47
02-18-2010, 07:36 PM
Here's the Trabert C-6 -- according to Kuebler's book, one of the first all-graphite racquets. He has it listed as 1974; the Aldila Cannon is listed as 1976. I haven't heard of any all-graphites earlier than that, but they're probably out there.

The C-6 was made by a company called ProGroup, Inc. in the USA. There doesn't seem to be much information on the company. This may be the only racquet they ever manufactured. Maybe some other folks on the forum can shed some light on them.

I have two C-6s, and so have been able to take them out a couple of times to hit with my 18-year-old son. It was a lot of fun. They're great racquets, heavy, solid and well-balanced, and I was amazed at how well we could rally with them -- but we really had to concentrate on our form to hit that little sweet spot. My son was raised on the Babolat Pure Drive, and I think it was good for him to get out and give an old classic a try, gain an appreciation for the level of skill and consistency needed to play with a frame with a 70-in. head.


http://lh6.ggpht.com/_R75QH658YRs/SkP2S96vusI/AAAAAAAAao8/vy9DMNbrijI/s800/P1020830.JPG

schu47
02-18-2010, 07:41 PM
The Fansteel Graphite and the Kawasaki Ruler both are listed as coming out in 1977.

retrowagen
02-18-2010, 08:21 PM
The beforementioned Völkl "Zebra" was the first fully composite (epoxy matrix) racquet, as I recall.

jimbo333
03-05-2010, 10:50 AM
The beforementioned Völkl "Zebra" was the first fully composite (epoxy matrix) racquet, as I recall.

Yes, the Volkl Zebra is regarded as the first fully composite racquet, it was released in 1973!

jimbo333
03-05-2010, 10:53 AM
The original Arthur Ashe Competition of about 1971 was a fiberglass core sandwiched between two aluminum sheets. The design was taken from the HEAD Ski of the time.:)

Well it may have been released to the public in 1971!

But Arthur Ashe won the Australian Open in 1970 with this racquet amazingly, so it was probably around in 1969, at least for the PRO's:)

Bud
03-06-2010, 04:33 PM
Yes, the Volkl Zebra is regarded as the first fully composite racquet, it was released in 1973!

Jimbo, is the Zebra 100% graphite (not including the matrix)?

joe sch
03-06-2010, 05:15 PM
One of the first non wood/metal rackets, was the PDP Fiberstaff racket, which played really soft and flexible, maybe more like a woody than any other composite rackets ever produced.

The Fiberstaff was all fiberglass and US made. Pdp is an abbreviation for Professionally Designed Products.

Take a look:

http://woodtennis.com/pdp/pdp_fiberstaff1.jpg
http://woodtennis.com/pdp/pdp_fiberstaff2.jpg
http://woodtennis.com/pdp/pdp_fiberstaff3.jpg

vsbabolat
03-06-2010, 07:44 PM
Jimbo, is the Zebra 100% graphite (not including the matrix)?

I think this will answer your question.
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w50/vsbabolat/voelkl-zebra-3.jpg

vsbabolat
03-06-2010, 07:50 PM
Well it may have been released to the public in 1971!

But Arthur Ashe won the Australian Open in 1970 with this racquet amazingly, so it was probably around in 1969, at least for the PRO's:)

You are right the Arther Ashe Competition came out in 1970. I was off by a year.:oops:
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w50/vsbabolat/Ashe_1970_Wimbledon.jpg

coachrick
03-07-2010, 09:07 AM
I demo'd and broke(in about 5 minutes--one overhead) a Leach graphite racket VERY early on. The handle was some other composition and snapped just at the junction of the handle and the graphite throat. Guess that helped them decide to stick with racquetball. That MAY have been the first 'mostly' graphite model I remember.

I agree that the AA Comp would qualify as the first 'composite'(as opposed to all metal or wood-based frame), with Voelkl being the first 'all' fiberglass model. Anybody remember that Lorne Greene played with the Zebra? May have been the 'first' celebrity 'must have' racket. Head was very popular with celebs a couple of years later.

retrowagen
03-07-2010, 10:05 AM
I demo'd and broke(in about 5 minutes--one overhead) a Leach graphite racket VERY early on. The handle was some other composition and snapped just at the junction of the handle and the graphite throat. Guess that helped them decide to stick with racquetball. That MAY have been the first 'mostly' graphite model I remember.

One of my first coaches had one of those Leach frames; it looked like an adaptation of their successful (and virtually ubiquitous at the time) racquetball frame. I was hitting with the Kneissl White Star Pro Masters at the time and hit his frame and mine back to back one session. I think that Leach still qualifies as the most flexible tennis racquet I've ever experienced - with every impact with the ball, it deflected so severely that it felt like it was hinged in the middle and about to fold up!

Bud
03-08-2010, 07:12 AM
I think this will answer your question.
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w50/vsbabolat/voelkl-zebra-3.jpg

So, the Zebra wasn't graphite (or composite)... it was 100% fiberglass.

So, back to one of the original question posed in the OP... what was the first 100% graphite racquet.

Was it the C-6 or the Cannon?

jimbo333
03-08-2010, 10:27 AM
Jimbo, is the Zebra 100% graphite (not including the matrix)?

Sorry, I was way too slow there:???:

jimbo333
03-08-2010, 10:31 AM
You are right the Arther Ashe Competition came out in 1970. I was off by a year.:oops:
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w50/vsbabolat/Ashe_1970_Wimbledon.jpg

Believe me, I'm embarassed being right about it:oops:

Would you or anyone else know what racquet Ashe used to win the US Open in 1968?

It was a wood Wilson, but would be interested to know which one?

coachrick
03-08-2010, 01:56 PM
Believe me, I'm embarassed being right about it:oops:

Would you or anyone else know what racquet Ashe used to win the US Open in 1968?

It was a wood Wilson, but would be interested to know which one?

Over the years, it reminded me of the Stan Smith Autograph...could it have been a Tony Trabert Auto?

Bud
03-08-2010, 08:21 PM
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/[IMG]http://i48.tinypic.com/23h0ev5.jpghttp://i48.tinypic.com/23h0ev5.jpg

jimbo333
03-09-2010, 04:02 AM
Over the years, it reminded me of the Stan Smith Autograph...could it have been a Tony Trabert Auto?

Thanks:)

If I remember from a photo it did look a bit like a SS Autograph!

It could be a TT Auto, but I've never seen one so I don't know, anyone else?

jimbo333
03-09-2010, 04:03 AM
http://cache3.asset-cache.net/xc/82286302.jpg?v=1&c=NewsMaker&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA548630B770FD429886A 4842C98FADFFB865D380E07D14F8BCEE

That photo isn't showing for me:(

ericsson
03-09-2010, 04:18 AM
That photo isn't showing for me:(

Let's help Bud a little ;-)

http://i48.tinypic.com/23h0ev5.jpg

vsbabolat
03-09-2010, 04:53 AM
Here is another photo of Ashe.
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w50/vsbabolat/Arthur_Ashe_US_Open_1968.jpg

ericsson
03-09-2010, 05:14 AM
And another one:

http://i49.tinypic.com/ixc9r5.jpg

jimbo333
03-09-2010, 08:34 AM
Thanks as usual to Vsbabolat, Ericsson and Bud:)

Not much doubt then, definitely a TT Autograph!

Just wondered what it was, as it looked like a SS Autograph, but was different in a photo I saw!

Does anyone know when the Stan Smith Autograph was first issued please? Stan Smith won the US Open in 1971, was he using the first version of the Stan Smith Autograph by then?

Bud
03-09-2010, 10:03 AM
Thanks as usual to Vsbabolat, Ericsson and Bud:)

Not much doubt then, definitely a TT Autograph!

Just wondered what it was, as it looked like a SS Autograph, but was different in a photo I saw!

Does anyone know when the Stan Smith Autograph was first issued please? Stan Smith won the US Open in 1971, was he using the first version of the Stan Smith Autograph by then?

Jimbo... the racquet in post #32 (TT Auto) is different from the racquet he's using at the USO in posts #30 and 31 :)

Check out the graphics on the hoop

ericsson
03-09-2010, 11:18 PM
Jimbo... the racquet in post #32 (TT Auto) is different from the racquet he's using at the USO in posts #30 and 31 :)

Check out the graphics on the hoop

Yes it is but take a look at the signature...

jimbo333
03-10-2010, 04:02 AM
Jimbo... the racquet in post #32 (TT Auto) is different from the racquet he's using at the USO in posts #30 and 31 :)

Check out the graphics on the hoop

LOL:)

Yes I can see that now!

Must be 2 different version:)

jimbo333
03-10-2010, 04:05 AM
Over the years, it reminded me of the Stan Smith Autograph...could it have been a Tony Trabert Auto?

Thanks again for spotting the TT Auto:)

Would you know when the Stan Smith Autograph first was released?

Stan Smith won the US Open in 1971, and just wondered if he was using the SS Auto by then?

Bud
03-10-2010, 09:00 PM
Yes it is but take a look at the signature...

LOL

Yes I can see that now!

Must be 2 different version:)

Does anyone have a good pic of this racquet with the signature?

I can't read Trabert's signature on any of these frames.

BTW, I was 6 months old when this pic was taken (b. March 68 ) :shock:

http://i48.tinypic.com/23h0ev5.jpg

coachrick
03-11-2010, 07:38 AM
Does anyone have a good pic of this racquet with the signature?

I can't read Trabert's signature on any of these frames.

BTW, I was 6 months old when this pic was taken (b. March 68 ) :shock:

http://i48.tinypic.com/23h0ev5.jpg

The Trabert suggestion was a bit of a wild guess. I wasn't playing in '69...started working in the tennis shop in '72. I don't recall ever selling a Tony Trabert model but we had the Stan Smith then...I'm guessing I actually bought my first Stan Smith in '71 but not sure. I didn't know nuthin' 'bout nuthin' back then! :)

retrowagen
03-11-2010, 08:03 AM
And another one:

http://i49.tinypic.com/ixc9r5.jpg

The "Trabert" sig is just barely visible in this pic.

jimbo333
03-12-2010, 12:23 PM
Does anyone have a good pic of this racquet with the signature?

I can't read Trabert's signature on any of these frames.

BTW, I was 6 months old when this pic was taken (b. March 68 ) :shock:

http://i48.tinypic.com/23h0ev5.jpg

Here is one:)

http://i41.tinypic.com/24pfl8g.jpg

And I was yet to be born (just)!

jimbo333
03-22-2010, 01:37 PM
And here is one I've just acquired:)

http://i41.tinypic.com/11kcoxf.jpg

coachrick
03-22-2010, 03:38 PM
And here is one I've just acquired:)

http://i41.tinypic.com/11kcoxf.jpg

Good job! It's interesting, I think, that I started working in a tennis shop in '72, sold many Stan Smith Autos and even a Cliff Richey or two but never even laid eyes on a Trabert. I guess he became old news in a hurry with the tennis boom years! I wonder if he and Wilson had a falling out?

jimbo333
03-22-2010, 04:13 PM
Good job! It's interesting, I think, that I started working in a tennis shop in '72, sold many Stan Smith Autos and even a Cliff Richey or two but never even laid eyes on a Trabert. I guess he became old news in a hurry with the tennis boom years! I wonder if he and Wilson had a falling out?

Yeah that makes sense, I've been doing some research and the Stan Smith Auto basically took over from the Tony Trabert Auto in 71/72, production of the TT Auto seemed to end in 71!

I'm still trying to find out which racquet Stan Smith played when winning the US Open in 71, if anyone knows, please let me know:)

WORLDWITHINAWORLD
03-25-2010, 06:32 PM
Here's the Trabert C-6 -- according to Kuebler's book, one of the first all-graphite racquets. He has it listed as 1974; the Aldila Cannon is listed as 1976. I haven't heard of any all-graphites earlier than that, but they're probably out there.

The C-6 was made by a company called ProGroup, Inc. in the USA. There doesn't seem to be much information on the company. This may be the only racquet they ever manufactured. Maybe some other folks on the forum can shed some light on them.

I have two C-6s, and so have been able to take them out a couple of times to hit with my 18-year-old son. It was a lot of fun. They're great racquets, heavy, solid and well-balanced, and I was amazed at how well we could rally with them -- but we really had to concentrate on our form to hit that little sweet spot. My son was raised on the Babolat Pure Drive, and I think it was good for him to get out and give an old classic a try, gain an appreciation for the level of skill and consistency needed to play with a frame with a 70-in. head.


http://lh6.ggpht.com/_R75QH658YRs/SkP2S96vusI/AAAAAAAAao8/vy9DMNbrijI/s800/P1020830.JPG
I had a Tony Trabert c-6 in about 1975.It was the first graphite racket to sell in large quantities in the U.S. The Yamaha 30 and 50 fiberglass had been around for a few years earlier.I thought that the Yamaha 30 played very stiff and the TT c-6 seemed even stiffer. My prior rackets were a t-2000 and a Seamco Ken Rosewell,so maybe I was too used to them.I had been playing only about 3 years and my ground-strokes were weak . I concentrated on serve and volley. I was very satisfied with the way the Ken Rosewell suited me,but it cracked and I had to change frames. The TT c-6 cost $300 retail when it first came out.Thats something like $ 1000 today.I payed $150 for mine. All the good players that tested other c-6 s did not like them - too stiff they said. So ,for an experiment I strung mine with leather power pads on every string-main and cross.These same people liked my c-6.I wanted to like the c-6 ,it was unique and I felt avante -garde playing with it. But it did not like me .Probably because I was not the player that I wanted to be and it demanded.Also, the carbon fibers started to burst out of the top of the frame-like a cancer.It was still playable and I gave it to a friend that was taking up tennis.About this time Prince came out with its first oversized aluminum racket.I started playing with the green aluminum yonex, which suited my game pretty well. Things came full circle this January when I bought 2 unstrung TT c-6 s. I have yet to string them,but I will.Himmmm should I do power pads ?????

coachrick
03-25-2010, 07:59 PM
I would say the majority of the C-6 rackets I worked on were strung with nat gut...the frame was still popular in Atlanta in 1980. Greenie grips and VS gut...I installed a BUNCH of that! The nat gut probably mitigated the high tensions popular at that time. If the Trabert had employed grommets or string strips, it may have stayed around even longer.

I'd go with a soft multi around 50# or so(unless you want to try nat gut--be sure to tube the throat and first two mains outside the throat.

IIRC, the MatchMate graphite racket was also sold through ProGroup(who also had a golf division).

WORLDWITHINAWORLD
03-29-2010, 08:09 PM
Thank you Coachrick. I will,surely,take that advice when I string my TT c-6 's. Not sure who sold MatchMates. I know I liked them. I had a titanium and much later, a graphite. Looking back, I think they would have sold more graphites if they were standard length- 27 inches. I have 2 now, maybe I should cut one down to 27 ? They are not valuable, not being collected. I guess they would be if Michael Chang had used them.

Autodidactic player
08-30-2014, 09:56 AM
I demo'd and broke(in about 5 minutes--one overhead) a Leach graphite racket VERY early on. The handle was some other composition and snapped just at the junction of the handle and the graphite throat. Guess that helped them decide to stick with racquetball. That MAY have been the first 'mostly' graphite model I remember.

I agree that the AA Comp would qualify as the first 'composite'(as opposed to all metal or wood-based frame), with Voelkl being the first 'all' fiberglass model. Anybody remember that Lorne Greene played with the Zebra? May have been the 'first' celebrity 'must have' racket. Head was very popular with celebs a couple of years later.


One of my first coaches had one of those Leach frames; it looked like an adaptation of their successful (and virtually ubiquitous at the time) racquetball frame. I was hitting with the Kneissl White Star Pro Masters at the time and hit his frame and mine back to back one session. I think that Leach still qualifies as the most flexible tennis racquet I've ever experienced - with every impact with the ball, it deflected so severely that it felt like it was hinged in the middle and about to fold up!

Is this the Leach you guys are talking about? I'm afraid to hit with it after your comments!

http://i60.tinypic.com/2mqvihw.jpg

retrowagen
08-30-2014, 07:28 PM
Yes, I do believe that is the one! Careful...

BlueB
09-01-2014, 12:15 AM
So, the Zebra wasn't graphite (or composite)... it was 100% fiberglass.

So, back to one of the original question posed in the OP... what was the first 100% graphite racquet.

Was it the C-6 or the Cannon?

100 percent fiberglass epoxy means composite. It implies use of the fibers bonded together in a matrix (epoxy resin). It can have other types of fiber or fillers on the mix, or even sheets of other materials. So the fame goes to Volkl, IMO.

Artur Ashe would count as a sandwich construction. I do not think the core is fiberglass, but don't feel like researching what kind of solid polymer right now.

BlueB
09-01-2014, 12:19 AM
Not clear which graphite racket was the first produced but Head was obviously part of this transition as the AA Comp transitioned the metal racket to a composite with the boron filler in between the aluminum plates. A metal sandwich :) I need to consult the Keubler and Cherry books to see what racket(s) they claimed were the first composite(s) ...

I agree on metal sandwich. However, Boron was not in the core, just plastic. One of the versions had boron sheets instead of aluminum.

joe sch
09-01-2014, 04:45 AM
I agree on metal sandwich. However, Boron was not in the core, just plastic. One of the versions had boron sheets instead of aluminum.

I have all the AA Head versions which surely appear to have metal sandwich designs. The fillers were black and tan in color and described differently in the marketing including Boron which is metallic like and usually used as a filler. The below pictures shows 4 of the different models.

http://www.woodtennis.com/ashe/aasheRacs1.jpg

I have been planning to make a Arthur Ashe racket web page with these pics, here are a few others with two of Aurthurs books.

http://www.woodtennis.com/ashe/ashe3a.jpg

Sanglier
09-01-2014, 12:27 PM
The thread title said "composite -OR- graphite"; it's really two questions in one, since the two terms are not synonymous.

I think it's fairly well established that the Voelkl Zebra was the first commercially available 100% composite frame in the world, but the identity of the first 100% graphite frame continues to invite debate to this day. I have been researching this topic for some time now, and still have more questions than answers, but this is what I have learned so far:

Fansteel made the C-6 for The Pro Group, with heavy personal input from Tony Trabert. Recently, I had the opportunity to examine a prototype of the C-6, circa 1973, from the estate of one of the engineering leads who developed the frame. The racquet was hand-painted, but looked very similar to the final product, which was commercially launched in late 1975.

Fansteel also produced the short-lived Slazenger Phantom, which was made to Slazenger specs (of course), and released at the end of 1975/early 1976 (Kuebler was way off on this in his book, unless he was referring to a prototype of this particular frame).

The Aldila Cannon actually appeared in magazine ads before the C-6, in 1975, and may or may not have been available in pro shops slightly before the C-6, but the engineer chiefly responsible for its design was a "defector" from the original Fansteel team, who did some corner-cutting while adapting the Fansteel design to the Cannon. Consequently, the Fansteel group regarded Aldila with pure contempt, and considered the Cannon a vastly inferior imitation of the C-6.

DuraFiber is the only other contender for the title of the maker of the first fully graphite frame, as Herb Jenks had been working on 100% composite designs since the late '60s. Jenks lived and worked in SoCal before he went to Nevada; there is some hint that he was acquainted with the principals of the Fansteel R&D team responsible for the C-6. It's not clear however whether there had been any direct collaboration between the two groups, as the DuraFiber frame design was entirely hollow, while the Fansteel frames were foam-filled according to very precise formulas and protocols. The first DuraFiber graphite frame was also released towards the end of 1975, but I have not been able to determine whether it's 100% graphite or a graphite/fiberglass blend. I am still waiting anxiously for Joe Sch to dig out the two DuraFiber graphite frames that he had promised to sell to me more than a month ago, so that I can continue my research :)

The Leach frame David posted above intrigues me as well. Leach Industries was founded in 1977 in San Diego, and had strong ties to Kunnan Industries at one point (Charles Drake of Leach was the one who suggested adding "Pro" to the "Kennex" brand name to help overcome a trademark challenge). Aldila was also in the neighborhood, not far from the Pro Kennex office. Given that Kunnan quickly and enthusiastically embraced graphite technology, first licensing it from a US manufacturer (Fansteel? DuraFiber?) before developing and patenting their own manufacturing technique (which combined elements from both the Fansteel and DuraFiber patents and made them into something much less expensive), I wonder if Kunnan and/or Aldila had had a hand in producing this early Leach frame, even though it was apparently a POS in use. Since this racquet couldn't have been made before 1977, it cannot possibly claim the title of the earliest 100% graphite frame (if it is even 100% graphite), but I suspect there is still an interesting back story behind it that deserves to be rediscovered.

---

Autodidactic player
09-01-2014, 01:23 PM
... Fansteel also produced the short-lived Slazenger Phantom, which was made to Slazenger specs (of course), and released at the end of 1975/early 1976 (Kuebler was way off on this in his book, unless he was referring to a prototype of this particular frame) ...

I can't add a lot to Sanglier's excellent post but I do have a Slazenger catalog from 1977 which shows the Phantom listed at $130.00! Must have been the most expensive racket available from any manufacturer in 1977. Here are a couple of pictures. The first one shows the racket, the second shows a model holding the racket in "short-shorts" which was the style back then and the final is my Phantom which I think is earlier than the one pictured in the catalog.

http://i60.tinypic.com/9gk67n.jpg

http://i61.tinypic.com/358ywyx.jpg

http://i58.tinypic.com/34pe0kl.jpg

Autodidactic player
09-01-2014, 02:46 PM
... The Leach frame David posted above intrigues me as well. Leach Industries was founded in 1977 in San Diego, and had strong ties to Kunnan Industries at one point (Leach was the one who suggested adding "Pro" to the "Kennex" brand name to help overcome a trademark challenge). Aldila was also in the neighborhood, not far from the Pro Kennex office. Given that Kunnan quickly and enthusiastically embraced graphite technology, first licensing it from a US manufacturer (Fansteel? DuraFiber?) before developing and patenting their own manufacturing technique (which combined elements from both the Fansteel and DuraFiber patents and made them into something much less expensive), I wonder if Kunnan and/or Aldila had had a hand in producing this early Leach frame, even though it was apparently a POS in use. Since this racquet couldn't have been made before 1977, it cannot possibly claim the title of the earliest 100% graphite frame (if it is even 100% graphite), but I suspect there is still an interesting back story behind it that deserves to be rediscovered.

According the United States Racquetball Museum (http://www.racquetballmuseum.com/index.html), Leach introduced their first fiberglass racquetball racquet in 1972. (http://www.racquetballmuseum.com/historicaltimeline.html) Leach's first racquetball catalog (http://www.racquetballmuseum.com/documents/historical/Doc-1st-RB-Brochure.pdf) is also available on that site but it does not include any tennis rackets and, unfortunately, it is undated. If the museum's information is correct, the Leach tennis racket could be from prior to 1977. My racket has a sticker on it which says "Graphite Fiber" but there is nothing to indicate whether the racket is 100% graphite or some composite. My guess, since the name of the racket is "Carbon Flite," is that it is completely graphite since graphite is made almost entirely of carbon atoms.

Sanglier
09-01-2014, 06:26 PM
You are right, David. The San Diego based "Leach Industries" formed in 1977 was a subsidiary of a Delaware corporation, which may or may not have had anything to do with the San Diego based "Leach Industries" formed in 1961 that made racquets. I wish these companies were a little bit more creative when naming themselves, whether or not they were related!

The racquet-making Leach Industries was located on Kearny Villa Road, 5 miles south of the original Pro Kennex office building on the same street (which PK sold in 2000 for a paltry 2.5M USD).

Does your Carbon Flite have a metal channel? Can you show a close-up of the holes? How in the world do you find these rare birds!!!!

The earliest patent application filed by Leach was in 1976, for a metal/plastic composite frame having a unitary plastic core surrounded by a metal channel. As late as 1981, they were still filing patents based on the same design principles. Given what coachrick and retro had said about this Carbon Flite frame, and if it was indeed an in-house effort (rather than the work of Aldila or Kunnan), I would imagine that it too was more or less made in this manner, using an extruded/molded carbon matrix core (like the one found on the Tremont MAG I T201) reinforced by a metal channel (perhaps molded into the frame?), which was a stronger structure than what they were using for their racquetball products, but nowhere near strong enough for normal tennis play. However, I would be extremely surprised if this effort pre-dated the Fansteel and DuraFiber offerings, as no one seemed to have noticed it back then (neither the engineers at Fansteel nor the tennis magazine equipment review people).

Regardless, I want one!! :)

joe sch
09-02-2014, 03:33 AM
The thread title said "composite -OR- graphite"; it's really two questions in one, since the two terms are not synonymous.

I think it's fairly well established that the Voelkl Zebra was the first commercially available 100% composite frame in the world, but the identity of the first 100% graphite frame continues to invite debate to this day. I have been researching this topic for some time now, and still have more questions than answers, but this is what I have learned so far:

Fansteel made the C-6 for The Pro Group, with heavy personal input from Tony Trabert. Recently, I had the opportunity to examine a prototype of the C-6, circa 1973, from the estate of one of the engineering leads who developed the frame. The racquet was hand-painted, but looked very similar to the final product, which was commercially launched in late 1975.

Fansteel also produced the short-lived Slazenger Phantom, which was made to Slazenger specs (of course), and released at the end of 1975/early 1976 (Kuebler was way off on this in his book, unless he was referring to a prototype of this particular frame).

The Aldila Cannon actually appeared in magazine ads before the C-6, in 1975, and may or may not have been available in pro shops slightly before the C-6, but the engineer chiefly responsible for its design was a "defector" from the original Fansteel team, who did some corner-cutting while adapting the Fansteel design to the Cannon. Consequently, the Fansteel group regarded Aldila with pure contempt, and considered the Cannon a vastly inferior imitation of the C-6.

DuraFiber is the only other contender for the title of the maker of the first fully graphite frame, as Herb Jenks had been working on 100% composite designs since the late '60s. Jenks lived and worked in SoCal before he went to Nevada; there is some hint that he was acquainted with the principals of the Fansteel R&D team responsible for the C-6. It's not clear however whether there had been any direct collaboration between the two groups, as the DuraFiber frame design was entirely hollow, while the Fansteel frames were foam-filled according to very precise formulas and protocols. The first DuraFiber graphite frame was also released towards the end of 1975, but I have not been able to determine whether it's 100% graphite or a graphite/fiberglass blend. I am still waiting anxiously for Joe Sch to dig out the two DuraFiber graphite frames that he had promised to sell to me more than a month ago, so that I can continue my research :)

The Leach frame David posted above intrigues me as well. Leach Industries was founded in 1977 in San Diego, and had strong ties to Kunnan Industries at one point (Leach was the one who suggested adding "Pro" to the "Kennex" brand name to help overcome a trademark challenge). Aldila was also in the neighborhood, not far from the Pro Kennex office. Given that Kunnan quickly and enthusiastically embraced graphite technology, first licensing it from a US manufacturer (Fansteel? DuraFiber?) before developing and patenting their own manufacturing technique (which combined elements from both the Fansteel and DuraFiber patents and made them into something much less expensive), I wonder if Kunnan and/or Aldila had had a hand in producing this early Leach frame, even though it was apparently a POS in use. Since this racquet couldn't have been made before 1977, it cannot possibly claim the title of the earliest 100% graphite frame (if it is even 100% graphite), but I suspect there is still an interesting back story behind it that deserves to be rediscovered.

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Gene, Great research and story behind this very important transition in tennis racket history. I did not realize until reading this post that you were the emailer requesting those 2 durafiber rackets, just figured it was someone that wanted the first rackets they played with as a youth. I will continue my search, been difficult after several moves but should still have those sticks.

Autodidactic player
09-02-2014, 03:58 AM
... Does your Carbon Flite have a metal channel? Can you show a close-up of the holes? ...

Here are a few close-ups. There is only one hole, other than string holes, on the racket. That hole is at the top of the shaft. I'm certainly no structural engineer but I believe that the hole indicates that the shaft is hollow and might be built on a metal - or some other structural reinforcing - frame material. There is no way to tell by looking at the racket.

A small clue to the age of the racket is the string which appears to be "Blue Star" which was very popular in the mid 1970's through the 1980's. I remember playing with Blue Star as early as 1975. I still have several sets but, unfortunately, none have dates on the package.

http://i62.tinypic.com/2s6t2tw.jpg

http://i59.tinypic.com/fegal1.jpg

http://i57.tinypic.com/2507aya.jpg

http://i59.tinypic.com/30a6xjp.jpg

magnut
09-02-2014, 06:47 AM
might be off topic, sorry for that. Does anyone know when the the Head XRC came out. I think thats the earliest frame I play with other than wood. Guessing the yamaha yfgs came out after the xrc and dunlop 200g.

Sanglier
09-02-2014, 11:37 AM
Joe: I identified myself to you on at least two occasions, but your mail reader kept truncating my messages; which was probably why I remained 'anonymous' until now. :)

Magnut: The XRC was introduced in 1977, and credited to John Howe, the same man responsible for the 1972 Arthur Ashe sandwich patent. Supposedly the design had been in development since 1973. The Yamaha YFG-30 came out much earlier. It, along with the Austrian-made Adidas Adistar (which claimed to be the first tubular fiberglass design in the world), the DuraFiber Lite, and the Voelkl Explosiv (which followed the Zebra), were featured in the World Tennis review of 100% fiberglass frames in December 1975.

David: Thanks for the close-ups! Given that the racquet was US-made, it couldn't have been a Kunnan effort. The fact that it is hollow also militates against Aldila involvement. So it really was an in-house product, evidently to its detriment. I am almost tempted to get one of their racquetball frames (which seem quite common and appear to be made the same way) to do an autopsy on, just to see how they were put together. Those mold lines and the drain hole suggest there was some sort of injection molding step along the way, perhaps similar in part to the way the Max 200G was made?

I went back and looked through my notes and all the grainy cell phone photos I took when I spent a day last year scanning through a stack of old World Tennis magazines at a library. I couldn't find any mention of the Leach, but this is the order of appearance of the first graphite frames in magazine ads (which doesn't necessarily reflect the order in which they appeared on pro shop racks). I don't know what the lead time was at World Tennis back then, but I would imagine that the December equipment review article had to have been written by mid-November at the latest. So conservatively, I would estimate that all but the Slazenger Phantom were available through select retail outlets by October 1975, and very likely months earlier:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v15/sanglier/WTAdsSm_zps7f581357.jpg~original

The review writer either had no idea that two of the four frames he evaluated were made by the same people, with the third being the work of a 'defector' from that group, or was pretending to be ignorant of the goings-on behind the scenes in what was then a very small world. Investigative journalist he most certainly wasn't! :)

That talented Fansteel team was also responsible for the very first graphite golf club shafts in the world, released circa 1973, right about the time they turned their attention to tennis. They split up eventually, after Prince gave the POG contract to Kunnan to save on costs (the earliest grommetless US-made POG was developed and manufactured by them however), with the lead engineers going into the airliner seat design and manufacture business (their company is still active and has a significant chunk of the global market), while the rest continued to make racquets and golf clubs well into the mid/late '80s. They went through several ownership changes and re-orgs along the way, so tracking them down was not a straightforward task. I see these people as unsung heroes of this sport, just like with any other sport, where the pro athletes are feted and worshipped as demigods, while the engineers who make the sport accessible to us common peasants live and die in complete obscurity...

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magnut
09-02-2014, 12:42 PM
thanks Sanglier. i actually play with the XRCs right now as well as the Yamaha YFGs. XRC is probably the most demanding frame I use. Makes the ashe comps feel downright easy.

vsbabolat
09-02-2014, 04:26 PM
Well it may have been released to the public in 1971!

But Arthur Ashe won the Australian Open in 1970 with this racquet amazingly, so it was probably around in 1969, at least for the PRO's:)

It was 1969! Here is a great ad from HEAD with Arthur Ashe saying he and HEAD have been working together since 1969.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a859pvOz8wo

joe sch
09-02-2014, 06:39 PM
It was 1969! Here is a great ad from HEAD with Arthur Ashe saying he and HEAD have been working together since 1969.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a859pvOz8wo

Yes indeed !
Its nice to see Arthur tell everyone they can actually buy the stock Head AA CompII racket that is the same of the one he plays.