Why, What, and How: My First Stringing

Discussion in 'Stringing Techniques / Stringing Machines' started by tovli, Apr 20, 2012.

  1. tovli

    tovli New User

    Sep 29, 2009
    Boynton Beach, Florida
    My First Stringing Story

    I strung my first racquet yesterday, and it turned out great. I'm going to explain why *I* decided to buy a stringing machine, what I decided to buy and why, and how my first stringing experience went.

    I am an engineer. I like to investigate and study, and especially like to solve problems (real and sometimes imagined). After purchasing the RacquetTune app for my iPhone, I had one of my racquets restrung at my local pro shop with their recommended solid core string and tension.

    I picked up the racquet right after being strung, and quickly recorded a first "tension data point". The app reported one pound higher than the reference tension requested. Being only the first data point, and using a generic string factor, I didn't put much confidence in the actual number, but it was exciting.

    After two weeks, the reported "tension" on my racquet had leveled out around 14% below the first reading, and numerically was matching the reading of my wife's racquet which had not been restrung in two years. (We have identical racquets.) While this "fact" clearly meant to my wife there was no need to have her racquet restrung, I saw an opportunity for an experiment.

    The best experiment would have been to have her racquet restrung with the same string and tension as mine, but I was eager to try playing with a multifilament. I specified the string, but kept the reference tension the same as my racquet. The racquet came home reporting a RacquetTune tension about 5 pounds under the reference tension. With only one data point for this string, it was too early to draw any conclusions about the string or stringer. Because the tension on the multi strung racquet was low, I didn't play much with it, causing it to take a month to level out.

    After another month, I decided to get the wife's multi restrung with the same string and tension as my racquet. I may have made a major error by disclosing to the stringer that her prior stringing job had come home five pounds low, because this time the racquet came home reporting about four pounds above the requested reference tension.

    Since my racquet was in the leveled out phase eight to nine pounds under reference and hers was now four pounds over, the two racquets felt worlds apart at that particular point.

    My first reaction was to question the consistency of the stringer, knowing that I would have to let her string my racquets a few more times to get a handle on what to expect. I couldn't be sure if she used the same reference tension and the racquet came out high, or she upped the reference tension in an attempt to make me happy with the result.

    My very next thought was that I could learn to do my own racquets, which would be enjoyable to learn, and would exchange the unknown pro shop consistency for an unknown DIY consistency. Further it would give me an opportunity to buy another tennis toy, and give me something tennis to do while off the court, (besides reading the endless "should I buy a stringer" questions on the tennis forums.)

    In my defense to those that might be thinking "he should stop thinking so much and just go play tennis", my 59 year old body imposes a recovery period where thinking about tennis is safer than playing, but the first part would be good advice ("stop thinking so much") if only I could. I am sure I would be a better tennis player if I could stop thinking so much, but at least I am a happier person when I have something to learn and do away from the court.

    Using the "Stringing Techniques / Stringing Machines" section of Tennis Talk at Tennis Warehouse, the great machine guide with reviews, technique guide, "Stringing Machines" and "Racquet Stringing" forums at stringforum.net, all the YouTube stringing videos, the instruction manuals for the Silent Partner E04, Klippermate, Gamma X-2, and Gamma Progression 200, and the pages at stringerspad.com, my machine choice came down to the Gamma 200 versus the Gamma X-2. While I like the color scheme of the new Gamma 200, I like the drawer, narrower metal base, and larger tool tray of the X-2 version, so I went went with the Gamma X-2. I decided to get a starting clamp at the same time. I would have preferred to find a racheting drop weight fixed clamp machine for under $250, but considering my expected one to two racquets per month need and my desire to buy something and get started using all this studying I had invested, the X-2 fit fine.

    I discovered I could save $10 on the starting clamp and free shipping by buying with the X-2 from one of the online tennis equipment sites. As it turned out, the X-2 was drop shipped and arrived in five days direct via UPS. My open-the-box excitement turned to fear when I discovered the starting clamp and bonus strings were not in the box. They were transferred from UPS to the US Postal Service that day, meaning that I either had to wait another day to get started, or use an alternate starting method.

    Additionally, having the machine in hand without the free strings, finished the ongoing internal debate whether to practice first with a free string set on my ten year old Head TIRadical Oversize, or go straight for restringing my good racquet with the exact same string and (requested) reference tension of the last pro shop stringing. I wanted to string something right away, so good racquet with correct string it was to be.

    The string in my racquets has been discontinued, but the pro shop has plenty in both reels for their stringing and sets for purchase. Even though the string was sold greatly discounted several years ago, the pro shop asked $10 a set, which I paid in the interest of science. I had decided that I have to try stringing at least twice with the same string and reference tension as the pro shop strung racquets which I have all the racquetTune data points for, in order to be able to compare my stringing consistency with my pro shop restringing history.

    I quickly made a "starting pin" from a machine nut and some of the string I cut out from the racquet, and reviewed the stringerspad.com and Klippermate instructions again for using a starting pin.

    I had researched the pattern for my racquet at the manufacturer's website, and also the databases at stringforum.net, klipperusa.com, and sptennis. Responses from "Irvin" and others had convinced me to use a two piece pattern, string crosses from head to throat (counter to manufacturer's pattern), use pro/parnell knots, use a starting clamp (next time), increase the tension 10% for the two outside mains on each side, and top two / bottom two crosses, and gave me a hint at what main/cross length cut to make for my first string attempt.

    Everything went well until I realized I had forgotten my plan to increase tension on the 2nd to last mains just when I was about to pull the first outside main. I decided to increase tension on only the last mains and the last crosses. To compare my tension loss with the pro shop tension loss, I plan to do my other racquet exactly like I did this first one, to have two data points. Not enough, but I plan to move off this discontinued string so if I have reasonably consistent tension loss over two data points, I plan to conclude the experiments with this string.

    I started the crosses using a flying clamp as a starting clamp (scrap of string in the unused jaw of the flying clamp) and left it on until the bottom cross knot was in. I pulled that last cross, removed the flying/start clamp, and clamped the top two crosses inside the frame. The clamp is much narrower than the last cross spacing, but I was hoping the increased tension would counteract the extra drawback caused from the spacing distortion.

    The next hiccup came attempting to thread the last cross knot. My notes listed the tie offs as "Mains 6T, 6T, Cross 7T, 6H", so how I ended up forcing the string through 6T (Top) instead of 7T which has a nice big hole, I'll never know. A few times I trimmed the string diagonally, and used the pliers to push a very tiny "bite" into the hole, but I just was not getting out on the inside frame side. Next, I tried using the threading awl, freaking out that I might damage that main. The threading awl was able to get through, but got stuck in the hole, unable to be withdrawn. Eventually, I managed to pull the threading awl out, well at least the inner part. It left the outer sheath in the hole. With the awl out, I was able to grab the sheath with string inside and get the string through the hole.

    WIth the last knot in and the timer showing 2 hours 10 minutes, it was time for the big reveal. RacquetTune reported 0.2 pounds over my reference tension! That was quite a surprise. After 24 hours, the tension was down 3.2%, which compares favorably with the 3.4% and 4.8% 24 hour loss from the last two pro shop stringings with this string. (Pro shop used 1 piece ATW though.)

    I am very pleased with my decision to purchase a stringer, the Gamma X-2 stringing machine, and with the result of my first stringing.
  2. mikeler

    mikeler Moderator

    Sep 26, 2008
    Central Florida
    Cliff notes please. :)
  3. oldcity

    oldcity Rookie

    Feb 9, 2012
    North Florida
    Cut back to two cups of coffee a day! Congrats on string job.
  4. tovli

    tovli New User

    Sep 29, 2009
    Boynton Beach, Florida
    Ok, for those in a hurry:

    Why String Myself:
    • to be sure my racquet is strung consistent every time
    • fun to study something complex
    • something tennis to do at home (do vs. talking about doing)

    What Machine: Gamma X-2 and Starting Clamp
    Why that machine:
    • prefer narrow, metal base, larger tray, drawer (vs Progression 200)
    • prefer ratcheting jaw, non vise-grip clamps (vs Klippermate)

    What Strung First:
    • my good racquet (Babolat Aero Storm Tour 16x20)
    • with my usual string (Gamma TNT Fat Core 17 nylon/nylon)
    • at my usual reference tension (60 lbs)
    • two piece pattern
    • Crosses strung head to throat
    • Four Parnell knots
    • Mains started with home made "starting pin"
    • Last main left and right +10%
    • Crosses started with flying clamp and scrap string
    • Last cross head and throat +10%

    • one very happy, almost old guy entertained himself for a few hours
    • owner (me) very happy with string job

    What went wrong:
    • Tied off last cross in wrong hole (non-tie-off)
    • Destroyed threading awl (wouldn't have even needed in correct hole)

    RacquetTune Data Points: my solid core, [multi in brackets]
    • Proshop String Jobs (at 1 hour or less, 60lb reference): 61.0, 63.5, [54.7] lbs
    • My First String (15 minutes, 60 lbs reference): 60.2

    • Proshop String Jobs at 24 hrs: -4.8%, -5.4%, [-4.1%]
    • My First Stringing at 24 hrs: -3.2% (perhaps promises will hold tension well)

    • Proshop String Jobs at level out: -14%, -11%, [-13%]
    • My First Stringing at level out: TBD
  5. Irvin

    Irvin G.O.A.T.

    Mar 15, 2007
    Marietta, Ga
  6. Dags

    Dags Professional

    Aug 29, 2008
    Well, I enjoyed reading. :)

    Two notes:

    - I don't increase the tension on the tie off strings. One of the reasons for that is that I figure it's one more potential variable - it relies on me remembering to do it! I tried hitting with two racquets where one had an increase and the other didn't, and couldn't really feel a difference. There's no right or wrong here, but that was my take on it and why I don't do it. Others will disagree!

    - Don't worry too much about whether the figure you get on racquetTune matches the reference tension you've strung at. Whilst the algorithm is designed to be pretty close, there are too many variables to get it spot on by sound alone. Some strings just sound odd - I've had one that didn't even register on the device. The aim is simply that the same racquet / string / tension should give you the same reading, no matter what that number is.

    Enjoy the stringing!
  7. Valjean

    Valjean Hall of Fame

    Mar 17, 2004
    North Carolina
    Sometimes the printed hole information is just wrong; rather than go by what's said, at times, I go by what my eyes tell me to. Hole placement's not part of an overall design in any way, anyhow.
  8. tovli

    tovli New User

    Sep 29, 2009
    Boynton Beach, Florida

    Really true. You have to remember to do it, and to undo it - eight extra opportunities for error. I had intended to increase tension on last two, but didn't remember until I was actually on the last. I don't think "Siri" will understand "remind me to increase the tension and to set it back afterward...").

    I don't expect to feel a difference at first, but my hope is to offset the large draw back from using flying clamps which might contribute to greater tension loss later. Part of my experimenting plan is to string a second racquet identical to this one and measure the RacquetTune tension reading when they both level out, then string two without the increase and see if they level out with greater tension loss. If no significant difference, then I plan to skip the increase in the future.

    Exactly - same string, same racquet, same pattern, same tension, same starting method, same stringing machine, same stringer, and same indoor temperature will hopefully result in roughly the same reading right after being strung, and hopefully roughly the same at the level out readings (two weeks later for me).

    I was playing today with the newly strung racquet. The RacquetTune reading went down about a pound from start to finish. The racquet definitely felt stiff at the start and much better at the end. Interestingly, my wife's racquet (which started out high) had nearly the same numerical tension reading as the newly strung racquet at the end of play today, and they both felt quite similar at that point.

    If one pound makes so much difference in feeling, and the tension will drop eight pounds (~14%) from first strung to level, it seems like I should invent a "racquet conditioner" to dump those eight pounds without me having to hit with the racquet at a different tension for two weeks:idea:

    Thanks. There is quite a feeling of accomplishment with this. Definitely adds to my enjoyment of tennis.
  9. tovli

    tovli New User

    Sep 29, 2009
    Boynton Beach, Florida
    And your experience allows you to recognize a bigger hole when you see it without thinking consciously.

    I'll certainly be alert to what my eyes tell me next time.
  10. Overheadsmash

    Overheadsmash Professional

    Mar 13, 2010
    When I started stringing, I took close up digital photos of my dtring beds before I cut them out. This helped me on those first few string jobs. Now, I've string my sticks at lease 40 times, and it is easy.
  11. Ramon

    Ramon Hall of Fame

    Sep 4, 2011
    I just bought a new stringing machine myself. The variance you get between different stringers (combination of machine and user) can be as much as 15 pounds, so the variances you are seeing are actually very small compared to what I've seen.

    I use RacquetTune also. As an engineer, you would probably agree that RacquetTune should only be used as a relative measurement unless you did something to calibrate the string factor with your specific string, either by using the dropweight technique described in RacquetTune or by measuring the string's density, as the RacquetTune author mentioned in another post.

    I always add 10% tension to the tie-off strings and I never forget to do that because it's important to me. 10% is not nearly enough to make up for the loss of tension at the tie-off, but at least it mitigates that loss to some degree. I actually like to follow the pattern described in the JET technique thread where you skip the 2nd to last string and then do it last. You would probably need a triple clamp for that, which you still might consider getting anyway because of the gap problem on the last strings.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012

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