Category Archives: Customization!
Customization. What it can do for you!
It is easy for me to post pictures of racquets being made ready for shipment to tournament players. However, there is a lot more work before these can be tagged, bagged and packed!
Paperwork is what I am talking about! I have included some of the paperwork in this image, so you get some idea of what is involved. Not many people like paperwork but for this work it is essential!
Every racquet we do has the same “paperwork”, but local customers normally don’t need racquets customized and shipped overnight! Out of town customers, your racquets are typically prepared as close to the “use by” date as possible. So these racquets were strung and tweaked this morning and shipped (via overnight) this afternoon. Most of the customization can be accomplished before stringing but final adjustments, if required, are the last thing on the list.
The “paper work” on the right is data from the ERECA Balance System, and this information is taken at each step in the customization, and at a “play ready” status. While I still rely on swing weight as the primary dynamic property I use the ERECA system for very precise static balance, total weight, and a quickly calculated swing weight.
The other “paper” is my standard Racquet Record software data that contains over forty (40) pieces of data that are a permanent record in the customer file.
It sounds like a lot of paperwork, but it is necessary to assure consistency and organization. Every racquet gets the same treatment.
So, the next time you see pictures remember there is a lot more to it than stringing, bagging, and shipping.
We have talked about this before and by now we all understand “tolerance”, especially if you drive in this area!
We recently received fifteen (15) racquets from the manufacturer (A). The initial characterization was surprising in that the “tolerance” was very tight. In fact, there was only slightly greater than 3 grams separating all of them!
Later in the day I received three (3) racquets from the manufacturer (Z) and there was fifteen (15) grams difference between them (very “loose” tolerance). These were for a single player and needed to be matched for tournament play. It is obvious, then, that more time is required to match the three (3) than to match all fifteen (15) if the others.
This is not a criticism of the manufacturers only a glimpse of why some “customization” may be required to satisfy players needs. When a client calls with specifications for a racquet they are considering I always ask where the data is from. The “header card”, “on-line communications”, “other players”, etc.
If you rely on these data it may not be close to what the racquet will actually be when it is received.
Building a “custom” racquet is exciting not only because of the work involved but from the “joy” of the finished product!
When I receive racquets similar to the state shown the first thing that happens is numbering and characterization so it can be tracked throughout the process.
The first piece of equipment I use is the Ereca Balance System. Here is why. The two (2) scale system is fast and extremely accurate. This first “pass” tells me how much work is required to get the racquets to the customers specification.
These racquets had an average deviation of 1.69 grams! Other specs were also very close. Knowing this when I start the process means I can pick almost any of the racquets with confidence that I can achieve the desired “finished” specifications.
As you know I insist on swing weight as a major racquet property but this system gets me off to a great start and saves considerable time.
Each client has a specific specification they want in terms of length, swing weight, overall weight, grip size, grip material and where any modifying material, if required, will be added.
Adding string is a big factor because of the different weights of various string. Stringing is, typically, the final step in customization if any material is under the bumper guard
Custom racquets are not only fun to build they are fun to play with!
I am very happy to have Eric Ferrazzi of Ereca Tennis visiting Racquet Quest!
Eric designs diagnostic equipment for technical tennis shops. Racquet Quest has been using some of the Ereca designs for several months with great success and acquiring better data.
It is important for us to recognize what we can do with proper equipment, and, take advantage of the technical designs of the Ereca Team.
Ereca has many other designs that are in the “evaluation process” and Racquet Quest is happy to be involved!
Now if Eric could just teach me how to cook French food…
Racquet Quest is in the racquet technology business! What does that even mean?
It means we devote a great deal of our time to understanding racquets and what makes them ”tick”. Of course, it is fun and meaningful but sometimes not well understood.
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have a request for “Pro Stock” racquets of some sort. But what does that mean?
To help sort out this question I reached out to one of the people in this industry that knows the answer! Jerry, I will call him, works for a major racquet manufacturer and is responsible for racquets for professional players. I asked him to comment on the following narrative. The responses are in red.
Pro Stock Racquets. What does that even mean?
“Rackets which have been customized to players need.”
“Many people believe that pro players are using different construction, which is actually not true; a reason to think so is that these people have no idea about racket production.”
For years, it has been the position of manufacturers that the “retail” version of racquets did not work for the top world ranked player(s). So what to do?
“Players need different weight/balance/swing weight than regular players due to their fitness and technique.”
Many “pro” players prefer the model they started their career with but those racquets have long been replaced by newer, and mostly, better technology regarding materials. Of course, it is “possible” to use the older mold, (the mold is not the graphite tube), to re-create the preferred geometry and feel. I doubt that the materials I used in our racquets many years ago are still available.
“If players are used to their old/first racket as their extension of the arm/hand in many cases they don´t want to switch unless they feel they have to!”
Probably the most important consideration is the third paragraph. “Players need different weight/balance/swing weight than regular players due to their fitness and technique.” Why would I even think I can play with the “same” racquet as Roger, Novak, Andy, Rafa, and the rest of the top players! It is simply not possible.
Yesterday I finished an “evaluation” racquet for a pro player with a swing weight of 400 kg/cm2 with an “even” balance. Is this a “pro stock” racquet, or just a racquet that has been radically customized?
I can, however, make my racquet the best it can be for ME! So, let’s go back to the top of the page,“Rackets which have been customized to players need.”
It doesn’t matter to me at what level you play but as racquet “technoligsts” we can help you be a better player.
When we think of “tolerance” we think of traffic, noise, and generally putting up with things, but normally we don’t think of tennis racquets!
However, we should! Tolerance means “what are the allowable variations between racquets of the same model”. Not all racquet manufacturers are the same but it would be a good guess the tolerance will be plus or minus 7 grams for example in total weight and maybe plus or minus 2 points for balance. A “point” is ⅛ of an inch so that is potentially a ½ inch difference! You can see in the picture why there can be variations. A lot of parts!
While “swing weight” is a very important characteristic it is difficult for manufacturers to match that so they will generally add a little weight in the rear end of the racquet to make the static balance the same.
In case you don’t recognize it plus or minus 7 grams adds up to about half an ounce!
For example one racquet can weigh 300 grams and another 314 grams with the specification of 307 grams showing up on header cards and advertising! Please know that racquet manufactures try their best to make all “performance” racquets the same. They do not purposefully make out of spec racquets!
But if they miss the mark…
This is where “customization” comes in handy. So don’t worry too much if your “tolerance” is “intolerable”. It can be fixed!
This used to be a decision you made when putting gasoline in your car, but, not so much anymore. It is, however, a decision you make when it comes to racquet performance.
For this discussion “lead” means “weight”. There are, of course, other types of weight.
Racquet performance can be enhanced with the proper placement and amount of lead used. Conversely, racquet performance can be frustrated when lead is used improperly.
I imagine every tennis player has experimented with lead. This is sometimes encouraged by the racquet manufacturers by marking racquets with “place lead here” areas. This may be OK for gross adjustments but you want the racquet to perform for you, and you alone!
You can continue to experiment with lead, and placement, or you can seek out a racquet technician that has been trained in the best location and amount of lead for your game and has the diagnostic equipment to achieve the goal.
When I “customize” and “match” racquets it requires a few iterations based on the consistency of the racquets. For example, out of six (6) racquets there may be six (6) different specifications. This is due to manufacturing tolerances and that is OK, but, at the point of manufacture the easiest method of “matching” is adding weight to the rear end of the racquet. That is why “balance” is still used instead of the more definitive “swing weight”.
Typically all racquets will be matched to the “heaviest” racquet primarily because removing weight from a racquet is not cost effective (meaning it is really difficult).
When six (6) racquets are matched you may see slightly different locations and amounts of lead. This is common and should be expected. With the proper equipment and expertise every racquet should be within one (1) unit of each other. This is the typical tolerance of diagnostic equipment. In real life it is quite satisfactory to have the racquets within 2% of each other. I prefer, however, to have each racquet return the exact number.
So, if you have experimented with lead without success please don’t give up. The proper application of lead can really make a positive impact on how your racquet will perform.
If you have any questions about customization please let me know, and, let me know if you prefer leaded or un-leaded!
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have multiple request for “pro” racquets, or “pro stock” as the cognoscenti refer to them!
It is well known that some top professionals do not use the same racquet you and I can purchase at our local retail store. So what is the difference?
You can see by the image that there are different levels of work required to get the “pro” racquets ready. The orange racquets require a lot of work including reducing the length, install pallets, and complete the dynamic customization to suit the player.
The all black racquets require some weight and swing weight modification and stringing but that is about all. The white racquets require some weight and swing weight work and stringing then they are ready to go.
The primary difference between your racquet and these is that these “pro stock” racquets are typically a little lighter than the retail versions so weight can be added to adjust swing weight and overall weight.
If you get your hands on a “pro stock” racquet it has, probably, already been modified and will normally feel heavier than a retail version. So a “pro stock” racquet can be a confusing quest.
My advice is to not worry about getting a “pro stock” racquet but instead make your racquet suit your needs! Make you own “pro stock” racquet.
Do you have something bothering you and your tennis game? Well, join the crowd! A lot of people have tennis issues!
Getting to the root of the issue is sometimes an issue in itself but we must do it if we want to continue playing tennis at our level, or above.
The most obvious issue is pain. Wrist pain, elbow pain, and shoulder pain are the ones I hear about most often and try to eliminate or reduce. This can be done by several approaches which over the years have proven affective. Most issues can be mitigated by slight customization of the racquet. Adding weight is the first modification because it can be accomplished without restringing. The next step is to reduce string bed stiffness, or effective stiffness, by reducing the tension setting on the stringing machine.
Of course using a racquet that is less stiff will help. But what if none of this solves the problem?
Go to the grip! Not only is grip size critical but the grip shape is also a consideration. It is known that most players are using a grip size that is too small! This is tough on your wrist.
This is anecdotal for sure but I have a client that simply must have a grip shape that is more rectangular as opposed to the more rounded style of Wilson, Babolat, Prince, Yonex, and others. A few years ago, and before I knew him, this client bought a very popular racquet but found that quickly the arm/shoulder began to hurt. He of course had several medical meetings but ultimately returned to his previous racquet. With the previous racquet he did not have any pain!
The current/previous racquet is the antithesis of what I would recommend. Why? Because is is very light, very stiff, very dense string pattern, and rectangular grip shape! But, it worked for him. To understand why he took a racquet to try that was heavier, softer, more open pattern and a rounder grip shape. Guess what! Arm pain!
The take away, then, is this player needs a rectangular grip shape! Who would have thought a grip shape would be a major factor when selecting a racquet.
Take a look at your grip and be sure you are using the correct size and shape for your playing style. Most racquets are fitted with a synthetic grip material that will mitigate shock a little. A good leather grip will contribute to definition and feel.
You probably haven’t had the opportunity, or desire, to hack off a portion of your racquet to see what is really in there. Well, I have. On many occasions, actually, when customizing a clients racquet to get the exact specifications they want.
You may be surprised. I thought I would give you a peek at some of the things you may find. First you need to understand why there is anything at all in your racquet! The reason is weight, or the more technical term, mass. But why?
When a racquet is “molded” the graphite composite “tube” has a certain weight and distribution of that weight. If no weight is added to the “rear end” of the racquet you end up with what Wilson termed a “hammer” (head heavy) system. Not everyone wants to play with a “hammer” system so the manufacturers need to add weight.
Where and how much depends on what style the racquet will be. We normally think in terms of “player”, “tweener”, and “game improvement” with “game improvement” having no weight in the rear end.
Let’s take a look at some “weight”.
This is a quick overview of the variations. Can you tell which “style” each piece represents?
Here you can see both steel plates on the inside of the tube. Also included is a “foam” that is normally used to prevent any rattling caused by the metal. This pallet is a molded polyurethane over a carbon fiber tube.
Here is a view of steel pins that are molded into the center membrane during manufacturing. In case you don’t know, a tennis racquet is a long tube made of a composite held together by a resin system that is forced into a mold that has the shape of the finished racquet. So, where the two tubes come together in the grip area is a perfect place to put steel pins or steel plates. When the racquet is molded under heat and internal pressure the weight is permanently installed.
This is a good example of steel and silicone. The steel adds a gross weight and the silicone is added to fine tune the weight if necessary. This is an example of a single tube grip pallet. That is the grip size and shape are formed by the carbon fiber tube during molding. Obviously this grip size can not be reduced.
This is an example of silicone only weight. This racquet was a “game improvement” racquet so very little weight was required. You can see how thin the material is at this position of the racquet.
This is the view of a racquet that has not been cut off. You can see the bulges that are caused by the “molded in” steel pins. This is a one piece molded grip pallet.
This is an example of using more fiber and resign to create the desired weight. This is a two (2) piece bonded on grip pallet. You can see how thin the molded pallet is at the corners. This is another example of a grip that can not (should not) be reduced.