All About Strings & Stringing

June 8th, 2010 by Ben

“Strings are the Soul of a Racquet”

Strings may be the soul of racquet, but to many players they are just an afterthought. Players will spend 6 months demoing racquets and 6 minutes choosing a string. Fortunately, synthetic string technology has improved dramatically over the last 20 years and there are very few “bad” strings. However, not all strings (and string tensions) are right for all players. Every player has different needs and preferences. Here are a few guidelines to make your string and tension selection easier.

Playability

It’s very difficult to obtain consensus on what makes a string playable. Some players like a crisp, firm playing string while others equate playability with softness and comfort. Generally, a playable string is resilient, which means it snaps back quickly upon ball impact. The material, construction, and thickness of a string will all affect its playability.

Durability

As budget-minded consumers, most of us want a string that offers everything. Unfortunately, increased durability in strings is usually at the expense of playability. Thicker gauges and abrasion resistant materials will be more durable, but they are less elastic and resilient than their thinner, nylon-based counterparts. (See gauge table below.) If a player is breaking a 17-gauge multifilament string, we might suggest they switch to a 16-gauge multifilament version of that same string, if available, for more durability. Otherwise, the next step would be a monofilament string which will offer increased durability but have less playability characteristics.

String Gauge

Generally speaking, thinner strings offer improved playability while thicker strings offer enhanced durability. Racquetball string gauges range from 16 (thickest) to 18 (thinnest). Thinner strings also provide more spin potential by allowing the strings to embed into the ball more.

String Gauges and Diameters in millimeters

15

=

1.41-1.49 mm

17

=

1.20-1.24 mm

15L

=

1.34-1.40 mm

17L

=

1.16-1.20 mm

16

=

1.26-1.33 mm

18

=

1.10-1.16 mm

16L

=

1.22-1.26 mm

19

=

1.00-1.10 mm

Materials

Nylon – synthetic gut or nylon? Truth be told, synthetic gut is nylon. In fact, most of today’s “performance synthetics” are constructed of nylon, albeit a higher grade than basic nylon string. Today’s manufacturing processes produce nylon strings (or synthetic gut, if you insist) that provide a good combination of playability and durability.

Kevlar – The most durable string available. Kevlar is very stiff and strings up very tight. Therefore, it is usually combined with nylon to reduce the string bed stiffness (Kevlar main strings, nylon cross strings). Still, Kevlar hybrids are the least powerful and least comfortable strings currently available. Players trying kevlar hybrids for the first time (from nylon strings) are recommended to reduce tension by 10% to compensate for the added stiffness. Not recommended for beginners or players with arm injuries.

String Construction

Here’s a list of string constructions, general descriptions of their associated performance benefits and examples of each:

Solid Core with One Outer Wrap

scoowMost popular nylon string construction – majority of “synthetic gut” strings are solid core/single wrap. Main benefits are tension maintenance and crisp feel. Quality of nylon center core, as well as size and orientation of outer wraps can influence feel and comfort.

Solid Core with Multi Wraps

scmwProvides additional durability and cushioning.



Multifilament (no wraps)

multiBundles of micro synthetic fibers are twisted together, similar to natural gut. Nylon multifilaments are typically more comfortable than solid core strings due to the cushioning effect of hundreds or even thousands of micro fibers. Resultant effect is a soft and comfortable string, recommended for players suffering from arm problems who don’t want to pay the high price for natural gut. Normal use causes multifilament strings to fray, like gut, which can be alarming to players switching from solid core strings. With the exception of Kevlar and Zyex, multifilament strings are generally classified as “soft” strings.

Multicore with Wraps

multwSmaller multifilament core with one or more outer multifilament wraps. Offers similar comfort benefits to multifilament strings with added durability.


Composites

compA combination of different materials blended together in an attempt to bring out the best features of each material. For simplicity, strings combining different grades of nylon, which are theoretically also composite strings, aren’t included in our list.

String Tension

String tension is the final piece in the racquet-string-tension triad. It’s also the least understood by most recreational players. Let’s start with the basics – lower tensions provide more power, tighter tensions provide more control. This is a very general rule of thumb and assumes a certain level of player ability (especially the control part). A beginning player may need more control but tighter string tensions aren’t the solution. This player needs a soft, forgiving stringbed that lower tensions provide due to the frequency of off-center hits. Advanced players who swing fast and hit hard usually need more control and will, therefore, benefit from tighter tensions. There are, of course, always exceptions but these generalizations apply to the majority of players.

Each racquet has a recommended tension range determined by the manufacturer as a result of extensive playtesting by real players. If a player doesn’t have a specific need (more power, arm problems, etc.), he should start at mid-range and make any adjustments from there.

Here are some specific guidelines for selecting a string tension.

Power – As we stated above, if a player is seeking more power from his racquet, he should try dropping tension a few pounds. The stringbed will deflect more (and the ball less), returning greater energy to the ball. There is a point of diminishing returns where the stringbed turns into a butterfly net, but it’s well below any racquet’s recommended tension range.

Control – a tighter stringbed deflects less and deforms the ball more, providing less energy than looser strings. This means the ball won’t fly as far when you hit it. Beginners who are shanking the ball in every direction won’t gain any advantage by increasing tension, but intermediate and advanced players who can generate their own power will benefit from more controlled power and ball placement.

Arm Injuries – lower tensions result in a softer stringbed and a larger sweetspot, reducing the amount of shock and vibration transmitted to the hand and elbow. Higher tensions result in increased vibration and shock, usually increasing arm fatigue.

Switching Racquets – too many players are stuck on a tension (“I always string my racquet at 30 pounds”) and don’t make allowances when changing racquets. Whether changing racquet head sizes, brands, or weight, a player will need to make the corresponding tension change. If 30 pounds was mid-range on his old racquet and the new racquet’s tension range is 28-38 pounds he should start at 33 pounds with the new racquet.

Switching Strings – if a player changes from a standard nylon or synthetic gut string to a kevlar composite or hybrid, we suggest he reduce tension to compensate for the added material stiffness. If you are switching to a thinner gauge string, you should increase your tension by a few pounds to account for the increased elasticity to acquire your desired string-bed stiffness.

This is a lot of information but we hope it helps you make the best string decision for your particular game and playing style. String is very important but often overlooked and we don’t want to hear any excuses on the court! Now you know everything you need so go here to find the perfect string.

- RW Staff, 800 824 1101

info@racquetballwarehouse.com

Posted in Product Reviews | 246 Comments »