Category Archives: Natural Gut String
I spend hours each day dealing with tennis racquets, strings, machines and questions of all sorts!
By doing this I am learning what is important to tennis players but it should not require a one-on-one discussion to learn this, in my opinion.
So, what is important to you? Here is what I am discovering.
Comfort. It goes without saying that you don’t want to play tennis if you are hurting! Players are requesting racquets that are more arm friendly. But wait, the racquet really holds the string which has a huge impact on comfort. So should we begin with string? I think so!
String. Every string I have has undergone a comprehensive testing procedure to determine elongation which in turn is converted to Power Potential. The higher the elongation the higher the power potential and the less stiff the string bed will feel when the ball is hit hard, all other settings being equal. If you have a stiff racquet it is important to select a string and tension that will mitigate the racquet stiffness to some extent. Every racquet we do has the “effective stiffness” calculated which is the combined stiffness of the racquet and string bed. Once we have the preferred effective stiffness for a customer we can achieve that even if a new racquet is added to the mix.
Durability. We try to associate the cost of racquet stringing to “cost per hour” of play time. What is your threshold? $1.00 per hour or $10.00 per hour? When considering durability do not confuse “performance” with “durability”! There are several strings that may not fail for several months however the performance is gone in a few hours. This is typical of polyester based strings. So, even if the string is still intact the performance is way gone!
Cost. The cost of tennis racquets is increasing, sometimes justified, sometimes not but are rising none the less. If cost is your “driver” some navigation around the market is important, however, we do not suggest you buy the “cheapest” thing you can find without a thorough understanding of what you are getting. We can assist you in evaluating racquets from any source.
No one likes a failure but it does happen, especially, with tennis string.
This is the perfect fail if you are using natural gut string. You can see the natural fibers of the string have been unraveling and finally reached the point where the stranding could no longer handle the impact of a ball hitting that area.
Natural gut and some multi-filament synthetic strings will exhibit this failure mode. The great thing about natural gut is that it plays better longer than other string materials.
The problem is that it is quite difficult to quantify “better” but it is easy to quantify “broken”. I recommend, if you are using natural gut, play with it until it breaks or the “fraying” is so bad you know it won’t last another match.
The use of Sting Savers can extend the life of natural gut string and will not affect the “feel” of the racquet.
Welcome everyone (in the northern hemisphere) to the first day of summer! You guys in the southern part of the globe will have to wait a while.
For some of you this will be the beginning of your tennis season so take a few minutes to get your equipment ready for the action. Here are a few suggestions that will make it easier and more fun for you.
Get your racquet strung! A fresh string will provide the right start to your season and will perform better than those old things. Fresh strings can cost between $25 and $68 and are certainly worth it!
Replace your grip, both of them! The synthetic grip that normally comes with a racquet needs to be replaced at least twice a year but more often in the heat. I know all of you use “over grips” and this should be replaced after every match, period. That is what they are made for…do it!
Do not leave your racquet in a very hot spot, like the trunk of your car, a hot table at the courts, or in direct sunlight. The elevated temperatures allow the string molecules to relax and therefore string tension is lost. This loss, unfortunately, can not be recovered. I have tried! Elevated temperatures will take a quick and dramatic toll on grips as well.
If you play on soft courts try to brush the grit off of the string before you put the racquet away. Simply use a soft towel for this but don’t rub the string just brush it.
Keep in mind that the “performance” life of string is about 25 hours of playing time for a recreational player, less for tournament players. Strings do not last forever, although some of you have tried. Just because your string is not broken does not mean it is as good as new.
Keeping your racquet in top notch condition is not expensive or inconvenient. If you have any questions about any of this send me a note or call.
Have a great tennis summer!
Normally when we ask this question it is regarding the “playing” shape, i.e. how is the string bed stiffness, how is the notching, how long has it been in the racquet and some others.
However, this time the question is “what is the shape of your string?”
For many years tennis racquet string has been round. The round shape is fairly easy to manufacture, using many materials, including multi-filament constructions. Round strings present a uniform shape that reacts similarly regardless of installation procedure. Round strings typically provide uniform tensions because there is no “sides” to create additional friction during installation.
The last ten (10) years have seen the increase of polyester, or combinations called co-poly’s, as a tennis racquet string material. Along with this material came a new, for tennis racquet string, manufacturing process which is essentially extruding a molten material in a nice long continuos strand.
This process can produce a lot of string in a very short time! This processing technique can produce very inexpensively to be sure. It also allows for shapes! Almost any shape! All it takes is a “die” of the shape you want as the last thing the string sees before it gets to the cooling tanks or “embossing” wheels.
Make no mistake, however, these strings can be very technical in design and material formulations. So,if you pay $40.00 for a stringing using one of these strings don’t be surprised.
Back to shapes…
It is common to see three, four, five, six, seven, and even eight sided strings all over the place. Some of these strings present challenges in terms of installation and, therefore, performance because not only are they shaped they are “twisted”. Twisting a string creates huge variations in tension unless installed in a controlled way.
A couple of weeks ago a client presented me with a reel of Solinco string that is intended to be similar to the very popular Luxilon ALU Power Rough. The Solinco is silver, (the image below shows it sort of blue) low elongation, textured string, mostly typical of polyesters. The unusual property is that the shape of this string is oval! It should be noted here that Gosen, a major string manufacturer, has made oval shaped strings for years.
In addition to being oval the string is very aggressively “textured”, actually embossed, which, I believe contributes to the oval shape. Heres why. When the string is finishing the processing it is passed through an embossing wheel that creates small indentations in the string. When this happens the string will flatten out, or become oval. This process can also contribute to elongation.
If the manufacturer wanted the string to be perfectly round it would subject the string to a pulling process but this is not what I see in the Solinco string, which does not yet have a name.
Initial play tests show significant durability when paired with natural gut. Control seems to be better than average. When finished the strings seem to be laying flat against the corresponding cross string which could contribute to string movement.
So…what shape is your string in?
For many years natural gut has been the target of many attempts to make it less expensive. Most of these attempts have not been truly exceptional.
According to the manufacturer, Octave Strings, this natural gut string will sell for $12.00 per set. Compare this to Babolat, for example, that sells for over $45.00 per set. Octave Strings natural gut is available in natural color at the moment but a black version will be availalbe according to the manufacturer.
Readers, this is not Babolat, Wilson, Pacific, or Bow Brand quality for sure but it can not be discounted without adequate evlauation.
Octave Strings is the latest, as far as I know, to enter into the tennis string market with a natural gut product. I suspect the string samples I recieved were of the sheep serosa. The string is available in a package of two (2) pieces of 6.5M lengths which leads me to that conclusion, and, was just confirmed by the manufacturer.
The foil and sealed bag packaging is the best I have seen from low cost offerings which gave me hope that this would be a “value” alternative. Not withstanding what follows this may be an alternative for use in a hybrid format.
The first lab test I do is to determine elongation and this string has very high elongation. It tested at ≈ 10.7%. Compare this to Babolat VS Touch at ≈11%. This is not the same as “dynamic stiffness”.
When I do this testing I have the opportunity to inspect and measure the string diameter. Here is where this string goes way off. The diameter, or gauge, varies a great deal over the length of each piece. The diameter ranged from .050 to .056 and in fact some areas it was difficult to get the string through the grommet. You can, of course, cut off the very stiff end but then you are subjected to fraying ends that will never work!
I have strung a Babolat Pure Drive with one set of this string and will be reporting more information periodically. One area that is very interesting is that the string is very stable, meaning it is holding tension pretty well so far. The racauet has not been hit with. It has been seven (7) days since the racquet was strung and the string bed stiffness has decreased by ≈8%. This is very stable behaviour but we will see how it reacts to hitting.
I am going to do some work with the 16 gauge to see how it compares to the 17 gauge keeping in mind that there was a large variation in gauge in the 17 gauge package.
Racquets & Wine!
Every once in a while I enjoy a sip, or two, of wine with the food I am eating. I must admit, however, that I don’t adhere to “pairings” so much!
I have eaten shrimp with a Cabernet! And I have had a good Pinot Noir with hearty pasta! Good grief! In some circles this would be unheard of! Do you let the suggested “Pairings” influence you or do you go with your taste instead?
But what does this have to do with tennis racquets? What if there were “pairings” for tennis racquets and string? Would you take these “suggestions” into account when it is time to have your racquet strung?
Unlike a bottle of wine, that is good for a couple of hour’s maybe, you expect your string to last much longer. So, would you consider upgrading from a $20.00 bottle of wine to a $35.00 based on the “pairings” recommendation? Is that worth $7.50 per hour?
Likewise would you consider upgrading to a $45.00 string from your standard $25.00 string if it would be better for your game, and last much longer than a bottle of wine?
The point of this post is that there is a “pairing” concept for tennis racquets and players! In some cases these “pairings” are completely ignored by many players due to any number of influences. Influences such as advertising, player endorsements, partner pressure, stringer pressure, and to a lesser degree, cost.
Now, the next time you have your racquet strung ask your stringer for a “pairings” recommendation and see what happens. And, if your stringer pro-actively recommends a “pairing” ask why and be sure it suits your “taste”.
Keep in mind that keeping your racquet freshly strung will be just as much fun as a good wine…
And cost less!
At my last count there are over 350 different strings available from which to choose! Add to that number the racquet size, string pattern, and racquet stiffness!
How in the world can you choose from all these variables? Well, here is a clue.
Determine what is most important to you; cost or performance. If performance is your top priority then you select a good natural gut. Expect to pay over $65.00 for the top of the line and about $55.00 for other variations of natural gut. Babolat, for example, offers “VS” as the top end and “Tonic” as the value alternative.
If cost is your priority head for a nylon “synthetic gut” and expect to shell out at least $20.00. The term “synthetic gut” has little or no bearing on the quality of the string. These strings are primarily nylon, the most popular and important material for racquet string. Do not reject a string because it says “nylon” on the package!
Smack in the middle of the offerings is “multi-filament” string. This format consists of several strands of many materials designed to stretch and react to impact with a softer feel. This category offers a great alternative to natural gut and may offer performance advantages over “synthetic gut”, and, expect to pay around $35.00. Tecnifibre is one of many brands that offers several multi-filament strings.
This is a simple snapshot of the range but what if you want maximum “spin” without regards to anything else? The first reaction to this desire is to opt for the popular “polyester” based string and those that refer to themselves as “co-poly” strings. Polyester strings have been around for many years and have found a “home” within the professional ranks for the following reason: the string slips (displaced) easily and since they are slippery they want to return to where they started so this quick movement can contribute to the ball rotation we call “spin”.
But, when the ball is spinning it is not going as far given the same force from you! So, because most polyester strings are very stiff, you must swing harder to get the ball to go as far as you want and a harder swing will in fact contribute to “spin”. Many say “I can hit harder with polyester string”! Not only can they hit harder, they must hit harder!
Before selecting a very stiff polyester based string consider your options very carefully. A relatively new option is PEEK string. Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) string is not new but the new monofilament products are recent. The advantage of this material is that it has very high elongation meaning it is softer on impact which translates to “arm friendly”, it is very slippery meaning it will displace and snap back similar to polyester based string. The premier manufacturer of PEEK string is a US company Ashaway Line & Twine Company in Ashaway, RI!
So, determine how much you want to pay for a given set of performance factors then contact a qualified racquet technician to discuss your options.
If you have any questions you can contact me or leave a comment on the site.
Natural gut is just that, a natural intestinal fiber, usually from cattle, that is processed into probably the best tennis racquet string you can use. The primary reason is the “dynamic stiffness” of this marvelous material.
Dynamic stiffness is the way a string reacts to impact. Natural gut has about the lowest dynamic stiffness which means it continues to “stretch” as the ball makes contact. This “stretch” mitigates the shock associated with impact and creates a very comfortable ball impact.
If you have an arm issue, and can’t take a few months off the game, it is necessary to use natural gut for at least two (2) stringing cycles. If it is that good why not use it all the time, you may ask? One answer is that natural gut is expensive! You should expect to pay $65.00 or more for a quality natural gut string installed in your racquet. And, natural gut is sensitive to nicks and scrapes more so that some synthetic materials.
All things considered, natural gut will play better longer than almost any other string material. But, how do you quantify “better”? It is easy to quantify “time” because the string is either broken or has lost too much tension to be useful!
There are several manufacturers of natural gut strings. The most recognizable is Babolat who has been making natural gut strings for tennis racquets for over 135 years! Others are Pacific, Bow Brand, BDE, and, I am sure some others that I am not familiar with. I mention this because I am in the process of evaluating a natural gut string from a manufacturer in Poland. I do all the lab tests and stringing evaluations before I know the price of the product, so, I am not influenced by cost. I have evaluated many natural gut strings and most of them, other than the brands I a mentioned earlier, are not very good for any number of reasons.
The Polish product has several good characteristics. I have strung it in a Babolat Pure Drive GT racquet and will begin some hitting tests.
In summary, if you have an arm issue or simply want the best string for your racquet you need to try natural gut. Racquet Quest has several models from Babolat in stock at all times. Most players prefer natural color but Babolat does make a black version. Natural gut comes in three (3) gauges: 15L, thicker gauge, 16, “normal” gauge, and 17, the best gauge for maximum “feel”. I invite you to give natural gut a try the next time you need string.
You can discover more about strings at the membership site www.gssalliance.com