Is this the FIRST FIBREGLASS RACKET MADE???? THE JAPANESE PLACKET AIR SPEED

rodracquet

Rookie
Introducing one of the oddest racquets I have seen' the USA marketed by SPORTCRAFT AIR SPEED....Made in Japan from Plastic Glass Fibre it is even called the PLACKET and on the butt cap it boldly says DO NOT USE A PRESS. Sportcraft sold a host of badminton and other sporting goods and the logo on the racquet matches the logo I found elsewhere online.

When you look at the first fibreglass models such as VOLKL ZEBRA and others they all have a more modern design. This AIR SPEED looks like an old woodie.

The patent numbers UK USA etc are all bogus as they are missing digits etc so none have been confirmed. (update they were application numbers not patent numbers which are now below as links in other comments from me) (the original date was 1955 created but not patented until 1961 in the USA) (it is a punched out wood core with fibreglass wrapped around in a heat press to 140 deg+ 2 miinutes then ready) (more like a modern graphite technique)

Love to date this pre 1972 to be the earliest known fibre glass model even though it will be a total cheapie I guess. But hey maybe no one probably bought them, yet alone kept them and therefore it's a rare thing.







 
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joe sch

Legend
Very interesting Airspeed model marked "Laminated Plastic Glass Fiber Construction". Looks like a woody that is plastic covered and should has glass fiber/glass laminations per the description. I would not consider the first fiberglass racket since many wood rackets were adding composite laminations for more power and this racket probably not much different than those earlier models. I don't think you can compare it against all fiberglass models like the Zebra, PDP, or Yamaha models.
 

PBODY99

Legend
i see signs of wooden construction.

Under the D there is a void, so I am pretty sure it is a wood frame. In the late 1960's the Sport Craft frames were sold in Woolworth in Philadelphia.
Clean example of a rec frame of the era.
 

rodracquet

Rookie
The void seems more like a paint chip and the surface underneath is light grey glossy surface. Like you I am skeptical but why not say it is a wood plastic fibreglass....then again why would the patent numbers by bogus? Anyway there is no comparison to VOLKL etc with the potential exception that it may be a first non wood attempt. Remember never the let the truth get in the way of a good story!!! PS I don't won't to drill a hole in it to find out either. Although if I took the grip tape off that would reveal frame I could have a go at!!!!
 

retrowagen

Hall of Fame
Fascinating! Its colours, graphics, and overall look have a sort of gentle playfulness to them, which was emblematic of early-to mid-1960's Japanese design.

Also, fibreglass sheet molding had been in popular use from the 1950's on, in the leisure boat and automotive (remember the Chevrolet Corvette of 1953-on had fibreglass skin?) industries. Not a far stretch of the imagination that someone would eventually give it a go on a racquet. Especially the Japanese, who were particularly enamored with - and rapidly mastering - modern technology.

Though plastics and fibreglass are both molded under heat, I can't for the life of me work out how one could make a composite - or laminate - of both dissimilar materials. However, in period, some referred to fibreglass (or other composites held together in epoxy resin matrices) as "plastic." In fact, the German word for this (as seen on the bumf printed on the shaft of the Völkl "Zebra" of 1973, regarded to be the first fibreglass racquet in the world) is "Kunststoff." Indeed, a literal translation of the famous Völkl's message,

"Der erste Vollkunststoff-Tennisschläger der Welt in Epoxi-Glasfiber Torsionskastenbauweise mit Hartschaumkern,"

Means,

"The first fully synthetic tennis racquet in the world (made) in epoxy-fibreglass torsion box construction with high-density foam core."

Perhaps this offers a clue: It doesn't say the Völkl was the first fibreglass racquet, or the first composite racquet; with typical German precision, it specifies it was the first to use a fibreglass torsion box form with foam core. - !

Hmmmm.

So this Sportcraft model could quite possibly predate the 1973 Völkl, though we can conclude by its rarity and obscurity that it most probably wasn't the "better mousetrap" that its inventors had in mind. Was its downfall weight? Fragility? Cost? Or a combination of these factors?
 
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Sanglier

Semi-Pro
The void seems more like a paint chip and the surface underneath is light grey glossy surface. Like you I am skeptical but why not say it is a wood plastic fibreglass....then again why would the patent numbers by bogus?
What are those bogus numbers, Rod? I am curious. Also, what do the string holes look like? If they are large enough, you may be able to take a macro photo under bright lighting and enlarge it to show whether there is any sign of wood laminate.

The chip under "D" appears to be symmetrically matched by an indentation under "A". If the same dimples are present on the other side, it would suggest that the underlying surface irregularity is there by design, and may be indicative of the type of molding process we normally associate with synthetic frames.

In any case, the ever creative and prolific Roy Robinson had already proposed making fully synthetic racquet frames using braided fiberglass and vulcanized fiber in his 1949 patent application (which took 10 whole years to prosecute for some reason), so there was a decades-long window in which people could have experimented with this concept before Voelkl claimed the prize. The technology was certainly available, if anyone with deep enough pocket had been willing to invest in it to make something that cost a lot more than wood but didn't necessarily perform much better (almost certainly a money-losing proposition in the beginning). Japan was cheap back then, but technologically mature, so who knows, a Japanese outfit 'could' have come up with something novel in this space, found an American sponsor to fund a limited production run, then quickly abandoned the effort due to high cost and poor market response, and the whole thing could have gone completely unnoticed by most people, because nobody was looking for it at the time. As the Mythbusters (a popular San Francisco-based cable TV show that specializes in blowing things up with plastic explosives for educational purposes) would say - it's plausible.

Making a plastic and fiberglass laminate frame is not as radical a departure from wood frame technology as Voelkl's torsion box design, so even if this "Air Speed" manages to displace the Zebra as the earliest known example of a fully synthetic production frame (too bad Robinson didn't seem to have productized any of his ideas himself), the Zebra can still retain the title of the first 'modern' synthetic frame. Evidence also suggests that Head too, was well-positioned to claim that title, if only it had green-lighted Herb Jenks' creation (later to be marketed by Dura-Fiber) when it was first developed.

A neat little discovery if it turns out to be 100% wood-free; certainly worthy of further study!
 
... Although if I took the grip tape off that would reveal frame I could have a go at!!!!
You'll probably really be able to see the construction if you take the butt cap off. It would be very unlikely that any laminate would cover the butt area of the racket. A wood or metal frame would probably show through. If you decide to do this, please post some pictures.
 

rodracquet

Rookie
This is a more interesting racquet than I expected. The patent is here https://patents.google.com/patent/US2923652 The premise was to reduce costs of making by not using ever decreasing supplies of Ash and spending hours fabricating the timber but punch out an entire racquet shape in one go ( no bending etc) encase it with fibreglass and cure it. Turns out this wood core fibreglass design was then heated / cured in a press at 140 degC and it was ready for decorating. Pretty much as the current graphite ones are done using foam cores. Not bad for 1956 and pretty advanced production well before volkl. More pics on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10158448907832319&set=pcb.10158448926287319
 

joe sch

Legend
This is a more interesting racquet than I expected. The patent is here https://patents.google.com/patent/US2923652 The premise was to reduce costs of making by not using ever decreasing supplies of Ash and spending hours fabricating the timber but punch out an entire racquet shape in one go ( no bending etc) encase it with fibreglass and cure it. Turns out this wood core fibreglass design was then heated / cured in a press at 140 degC and it was ready for decorating. Pretty much as the current graphite ones are done using foam cores. Not bad for 1956 and pretty advanced production well before volkl. More pics on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10158448907832319&set=pcb.10158448926287319
Nice way of providing more power and protection to a woody.
Acts as a protective covering.
Interesting that in golf after clubs transitioned from wood like hickory shafts to metals, they had some metal shaft models with a wood sheaf covering that has fooled some collectors or finders thinking they have older wood shaft clubs.
 

teachingprotx

Hall of Fame
You had me at “ fiberglass” my all time fave material for hitting tennis balls.
Wow how neat thank you OP ! What a super interesting post ! You all just floor me in these boards . I read and learn something every day with all you dorks , geeks and NERDS! Y’all really do need to get a life . And if I play my “ life “ cards right . One day I hope my life will be filled with a 1/3rd of what y’all know about all things rackets!
The amount of intel one can learn on the classic racket section in this TW forum could be a 400 level university course at mit
 

rodracquet

Rookie
The patent numbers on the side of the racquet turned out to be the application number which is included in the patent link already posted. so I presume these AIR SPEEDS hit the US market prior to the patent approval and date from 1958 1959 era.
Weight of my example was 361g. I have seen another for sale with lots of head rash which is how I came know it had a wood core which the patent finally revealed anyway.
 
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