Avid tennis players often consider purchasing a racquet stringing machine. Sometimes this is in an effort to reduce costs incurred by frequent re-stringings, other times players prefer to have control over their equipment’s setup without having to be dependent on a 3rd party. In this article, we’ll explore the various types of racquet stringing machines available on the market today and some of the things to look out for if you’re considering purchasing one.
Lockout or Constant Pull?
One of the first things you need to understand about stringing machines, is the two different types that are available. Many people would think of these two types as mechanical and electronic, however this is not totally accurate. The two different styles of stringing machines are called “constant pull” or “lockout”. Constant pull, as the name would suggest, will pull the string to the desired tension, but then continue pulling at that tension. Lockout on the other hand, will pull to the desired tension and then lock the string at that point. Typically lockout stringing machines will produce a string tension that may feel about 5% looser than the same tension on a constant pull machine. Most modern, electronic machines will be of the constant pull variety and most mechanical machines will feature a lockout system, however this is not always the case. My advice to aspiring racquet stringers considering a new machine would be to invest in a constant pull machine if they can justify the cost. These machines typically produce more consistent results, which is important if you plan to string a variety of different racquets for other players. If you only plan to string your own racquets, then it really doesn’t make much difference.
Entry Level Stringing Machines (less than $1000 CDN)
Stringing machines can be found in the back of Tennis magazine or on the Internet for as little as a few hundred dollars. As with most things though, you typically will get what you pay for as the quality, consistency and durability of these types of machines is often quite poor. There’s no reason a good quality stringing machine shouldn’t last the user 5 to 10 years or more, so I will always recommend purchasing a machine that his manufactured by a reputable company who will be around to provide service and parts in the years to come. Gamma (http://www.gammasports.com/) and Alpha (http://www.alphatennis.com/) are two companies that have some good quality options in entry level stringing machines. The Alpha Pioneer FL, Alpha Revo 4000, Gamma Progression 602 FC and Gamma Progression ST II are all excellent entry level stringing machines. One of the benefits of machines like these is that they are often quite small and lightweight, making them portable enough to take to a tournament with you if necessary.
Midrange Stringing Machines ($1000 to $2500 CDN)
Machines of this caliber offer quality and performance that small pro shops or professional stringers on a budget may consider using them. If you can justify the investment, the home stringer could get a lifetime out of the equipment found in category. Most midrange machines will offer more features, sturdier parts and come with some sort of upright stand instead of needing to be placed on a table. The Prince Neos 1000 is bar far the most popular machine in this category. The Neos 1000, which is also sold under the Ektelon brand, is probably he best selling stringing machine of all time. It is easy to use, easy to maintain and offers probably the most consistent performance of any manual lockout machine. Other noteworthy machines in this range are the Gamma Progression ES II, Gamma 5003 and the Alpha BLU-DC Plus.
High Performance Machines ($5000 CND and up)
All the machines in this category are constant pull and electronic. Consumers would rarely consider this type of equipment simply due to its cost. These are the tools of the trade for specialty racquet shops and professional racquet stringers. Machines such as the Babolat Sensor, Babolat Sensor Expert, Prince Neos 3000, Tecnifibre TF 5500, Tecnifibre TF 8000 and others, offer the ultimate in features to enhance the ease of use by the technician and performance of the stringing. Some of these machines can weigh as much as 200 pounds, so not only are they expensive, but can be extremely difficult to move around. Machines like these are used to provide competitive and professional players with highly tuned and consistent equipment.
Join the United States Racquet Stringers Association!
The USRSA (www.racquettech.com) is an organization that offers an enormous amount of resources for anyone interested in racquet stringing. An annual membership gets you access to many online articles, references and tools, as well as a subscription to RacquetTECH magazine which includes stringing pattern updates on new racquets as they are released. If you’re planning on stringing racquets for other players, or starting a stringing business, this is an invaluable resource.
Some other resources…
a used machine is often a consideration for many players that are
interested in learning to string racquets. Tennis Machines Inc (http://www.tennismachines.com/)
has been servicing and rebuilding stringing machines for over 30 years
and is a reliable source for a used machine. The USRSA has a discussion
board where members can buy and sell equipment, and used machines can
often be found for a steal on eBay, however the usual risks of buying
used equipment sight-unseen will apply. Stringforum.net (http://www.stringforum.net/) is another avenue for many string and stringing machine related information and resources.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a racquet stringing machine or starting stringing business, make sure to take some time and do some research before you purchase your equipment. Understand the features and technology that are available to you and find the right machine that will suit your needs.
Look at Courtside Sports selection of Stringing Machines