Modding: Adjusting Lead On-Court

Discussion in 'Racquets' started by TimothyO, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

    Oct 5, 2010
    In another thread I mentioned a process by which I adjust lead to my frames. Another member asked for more details and suggested a new thread. So, here it is.


    1. Based on past experience I know I enjoy strung frames roughly 340g or 12 oz and roughly 8-9 pts HL. Baseline SW will shade this +/- a few grams or a point or two in balance.

    2. I measure weight/balance of strung frame with Wilson Shock Shield grip, Babolat OG, and rubber band dampener.

    3. I calculate how much lead I need to get to 340g/12 oz and how much of that needs to go under my palm/grip vs centered at the head to achieve a balance around 8-9 pts HL. (After many experiments I've come to enjoy the feel of any grip lead from the butt to under my idea why, it just feels good to me.)

    4. For the hoop lead I'll decide on a test configuration of a conventional distribution: all at 12, 2/10, 3/9, etc. and apply the lead to the given area. Some dry-swinging at this point might lead to adjustments under the grip and/or at the hoop...this is caused by the baseline swingweight and the unique feel of a given frame...I'm looking for a whippy yet confidently heavy stroke. Words fail me but it's more than numbers and just needs to feel right.

    5. I then make light cuts in the hoop lead at short intervals of about one or two grommets depending on the distance between grommets. These cuts come into play court-side.


    1. I'll hit a basket of serves and rallies consisting of forehands, backhands, and volleys with a friend or my wife.

    2. On serve I'm looking for a feeling that I'm not struggling to get serves in with good pace and spin with accuracy. Signs I need to adjust: "whispy" serves make me feel like I need to over hit = too little lead in the hoop or too low on the hoop. Lack of ball dwell time = too little lead in the hoop. Fatigue or trouble getting head speed for good speed = too much lead or too high in the hoop. etc., etc.

    3. On groundies and volleys I'm looking for a feeling of solid confidence and a 1:1 power ratio...if I hit hard I get deep ball dwell time and high RPMs...if I hit soft I get delicate and accurate touch. For stability and accuracy I want to feel like the ball isn't launching on me...too much lead or too high in the hoop. If I feel like the stick is getting pushed around...too little lead or too low in the hoop.

    4. In all cases I begin to make adjustments based on feel as follows:

    - I want deep ball pocketing for that "catch and release" feeling

    - I use the pre-cuts to remove lead or to move it to new locations.

    - I deliberately apply all lead "lightly" so it's easy to reposition on-court.

    - I might even add lead from a little zip lock bag but I've found it easier to remove it so usually over-weight the frame slightly for initial testing.

    - these adjustments are big if, based on past experience, the feel is all wrong (eg from 12 to a 3/9 setup).

    - these adjustments are small if the feel is close but not perfect (example incrementally leap frogging from a position lower in the hoop to a position higher by exploiting the pre-cuts.)

    - I've even experimented with double-laying lead in specific locations to see the results.

    - And I've tried some stuff that I never would have considered just using a computer and specs to develop a mod...for example, adding small slugs of lead between the grommets at 12 instead of along the arc of the hoop in long strips seems to accentuate the effect of the lead. I don't know why but repeated experiments demonstrate this effect.


    This is an iterative process with test/mod sequences of varying lengths. Sometimes I can immediately feel a mod doesn't work (eg serve fatigue). Other times it feel great (eg amazing spin generation and deep ball pocketing). Sometimes a mod will require a test match to understand it. Other times a brief casual session is all that's needed. Patience is often a virtue!

    During testing with a test match or casual hitting another key feeling I'm looking for is that I'm getting deep court penetration on groundies without feeling like I'm either breaking my swing to avoid hitting long or having to apply excessive head speed which endangers control. The beauty of lead placement is that it directly influences power and the amount of lead and its location can tweak that range.


    After several sessions and further adjustments I "freeze the build" when "I feel one with my frame" and re-apply fresh lead firmly and neatly.


    For example, when my wife and I worked on her frame we got it to the point at which it works like artillery. She provides a smooth, consistent stroke and, based on her unique mechanics, she can drop that puppy between the base and service lines with uncanny consistency.

    Her ALTA mixed doubles captain pairs her with some of the heavy yet less consistent male hitters...they go for the big winners while she's the foundation for grinding out victory. Her ALTA coach loves the way her calm stroke produces a heavy ball that clears the net so well but then lands in so consistently. A huge margin of error derived from her frame's plow through and inherent spin potential of the VS/RPM hybrid.


    I stumbled upon this approach and it continues to evolve as I learn new tricks. Based on this experience I think you need two approaches to frame mods: you need the quantitative approach so future mods have a point of reference and you get a consistent baseline for testing. And you need the iterative, feel based approach to achieve that "one with the frame" feeling (I think that feeling's rare in rec tennis since I see so many players fighting their frames and strings...either they're trying to rein in the power, struggling to produce to power, or having a devil of a time just hitting straight since the stringbed has such as huge and random deflection angle or the frame is getting pushed around by even moderately paced shots.)

    I know there's a camp that believes specs mean nothing by I see them as a useful reference tool for points of departure and comparison/research purposes. Others say that tiny changes in mass or its distribution don't matter but blind tests with friends and family demonstrate to me that very small changes in mass can result in huge changes in feel. One friend who was completely skeptical freaked when we added just a couple of grams to her frame at 12. She immediately said it felt too sluggish. This stuff truly matters.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2012
  2. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

    Jun 29, 2009
    1313 Mockingbird Lane.
    thats some dedication man
  3. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

    Oct 5, 2010
    ooooh...but the result is sooo worth it. :)

    It really lets you focus on your stroke as the frame isn't something distinct from your body. You feel a closer connection with the ball and its movement.

    It truly is a custom fit racquet, just like a custom made suit.
  4. Power Player

    Power Player Talk Tennis Guru

    Sep 2, 2008
    On my iPhone
    Wow..i could never think that much on the court, but you did promote the cofocus cross, so props to you. Saved me a lot of
  5. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

    Oct 5, 2010
    I know it sounds like a lot but it really isn't. Just trying to provide detail.

    Also, the whole point is not to think, it's to feel.

    In some ways the alternatives are far less efficient or less effective.

    Alternative 1: Rely On Specs
    In this alternative the modder use the TW tools to calculate a theoretically perfect setup and heads to the courts. Pass or fail, instead of using real time mods, he goes back to the computer to calculate a new variation.

    Alternative 2: No Mod!
    This covers 99% of rec players. They buy their frame off the rack like an ill fitting suit and then fight the suit...err...racquet...since it doesn't fit their unique physique or playing style. They break their swing to avoid hitting long with a too powerful frame. They lose accuracy because they swing too hard due to an under powered frame. They spray balls because they can't control the racquet. Worse yet, they suffer terrible injuries due to frames that are too heavy, too light, or too stiff. They can also suffer injuries due to bad technique as they fight their frames.

    Most retail shops don't help. One major sports retailer staffer told me he was removed from the tennis dept. because he knew too much! He spent too much time helping customers find an appropriate frame.

    When you thi k about the potential for injuriy and the joy of a perfectly customized frame it's a shame that so many rec players suffer the way they do. Unfortunately I believe that most rec players, even serious ones, wouldn't pay for serious advice on racquet selection, stringing, and customization, no matter how beneficial.
  6. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Jan 27, 2008
    I know what you mean. I also customize my rackets but with a slower process. I think, rationalize and put on weight at home, then come to courts. Play a whole session and occasionally note how else I want my rackets to be. Then, make adjustments at home. Since we ain't going anywhere soon, we have plenty of time to do this, I suppose.

Share This Page