I purchased my first stringing machine back in 2015, and since then, I have learned to string rackets through pre-packaged tutorials, YouTube, watching other stringers, and trial and error.
Since then, I’ve gone from complete novice to somewhat competent at stringing on various types of stringing machines.
From my first attempt, which took a good few hours and gave me a headache, I now get the job done to a higher standard than the majority of times I had my rackets strung by club shops, sports shops or by club stringers.
But what have I learned in the process? Here are ten things I’ve picked up from stringing my rackets, and they’re all tips you might want to know if you’re thinking of getting into stringing your rackets or have just started learning.
Mistakes Are Par For The Course
Even the best stringers in the world sometimes make mistakes, so if you’re learning to string or are an infrequent stringer, you will make plenty of errors.
I’ve made plenty of them over the years, misweaves, skipping the wrong grommet holes, running out of string before the last cross, clamping the wrong string, you name it, I have probably done it.
The good news is you typically only make significant glaring errors once before learning your lesson.
However, some minor mistakes can develop into bad habits that you do continually, so it’s crucial to master the basics from a reputable source of information. I’d recommend this video from Head/ParnellKnot, then potentially taking a GRSA course to take it up a notch if you want to turn it into a career or side hustle.
And if you’re wondering why I used a picture of Svitolina, if you’re eagle-eyed, you’ll notice her racket has a misweave in it.
It didn’t stop her from winning the match, but it’s pretty surprising to see that at the Grand Slam level, and it shows even the best racket stringers can make errors, so don’t get too disheartened if you botch a string job.
The Quality Of Your Clamps Is Directly Proportional To The Quality Of Your String Job
Even if you have all the stringing skills in the world and a perfectly calibrated machine, your stringing jobs will be dreadful if you don’t have high-quality clamps.
Clamps can slip, move, and damage strings, so you need to ensure they hold the string tightly enough, but at the same time, don’t damage it.
Having quality clamps that do the job well are super important, and it’s the one area you shouldn’t skimp on.
A cheap stringing machine with suitable clamps will consistently outperform an expensive machine with poor-quality clamps.
Most stringers go for fixed clamps over floating clamps. But good floating clamps beat bad fixed clamps. Just like good fixed clamps top bad floating clamps.
I have used both, and while I prefer using fixed clamps, floating clamps are not inherently bad; they are a bit trickier to use and shift tension to other strings, but if you use high-quality ones like the Stringway clamps, you can produce consistent results.
Constant Pull Beats Lockout
My first stringing machine was a Pro’s Pro Pilot, a crank-operated lockout machine.
I thought at the time that the order of machine quality was – Electric, Crank, and Drop weight, primarily due to their pricing.
However, knowing what I know now, I recommend a drop-weight machine over a crank machine to most people (assuming the budget excludes high-end electronic devices).
Lockout machines are ok if you only string for yourself, but in my experience, it is difficult to be sure what the tension of your racket was when you finally clamped the string.
When you pull on a crank machine, the spring compresses until it hits the desired tension, and then the break pops out to hold it, but it is no longer pulling tension on the string.
Therefore, the string loses tension and will be lower than your reference tension. Yes, you can add tension to compensate, but it is hard to gain consistency.
Constant pull, however, means that the string is continually being pulled to the desired tension, which is only achievable via electronic machines, drop weight or the Stringway stringing machines.
Therefore for those on a budget, I’d recommend buying a drop weight machine or the Easy Stringer (pseudo constant pull), as you’ll get more reproducible results.
It will be slightly slower with a drop weight, but you will get more consistent results (all other things being equal).
A Good Starting Clamp Is Your Best Friend
My first stringing machine came with a selection of tools, but it didn’t include a starting clamp, so I had no real idea what one was until I ran into one on YouTube.
Since then, it’s quickly become one of the essential items in my stringing toolbox; you can use it when starting the mains, to help pull knots tight, when beginning the crosses, and to help lengthen a string should you not have enough to reach the tension head.
They are expensive, but I recommend getting two of them as you’ll run into times when you need one, but it’s already in use holding a string somewhere else.
Tournament Stringers Deserve A Ton Of Respect
Stringing rackets is tiring work. Even doing one or two rackets for myself feels like a chore, and I don’t particularly find it therapeutic.
When you consider that tournament stringers are stringing multiple rackets a day (sometimes 30 a day in early rounds of big tournaments), often from 6 am to 11 pm and need every single job to be consistent, you realise how much respect these guys deserve.
It’s physical work; you are always on your feet, aren’t exactly working in a comfortable or natural position and have to get the job done to super strict deadlines.
For myself, taking a racket off the machine mistake-free is more of a relief than anything else, so there’s no way I could string rackets in a stringing room where as soon as one racket is strung, you’re mounting the next one like you’re on a production line.
Immense respect for those guys who do it year in and year out!
To Truly Become A Master Stringer, You Must First Abide By The Basic Principles, But Then You Must Destroy Them
The best stringers in the world learnt the methods from a set of rules but then took their own path, developing methods to produce better and more consistent racket-stringing results.
Think of the spaghetti stringing method (banned), Parnell Knot, Yusuki method etc. None of these things would have arrived if every stringer worked like a robot working purely from a textbook.
While certain principles have to be followed, there is scope for trying different things that might increase the speed at which you string (without impacting quality) or uncover a new method of achieving consistency to reach the goal of perfect tension.
As always, the breakthroughs usually come from people outside the industry, so don’t be surprised to see someone with an engineering background get into racket stringing and then come up with a solution that changes the game.
I’m still an amateur who strings as many rackets in a year as tournament stringers do in a day, so my contribution to the craft is yet to be realised, but I’m working on it. 😁
Forums And Comments Are Filled With Misinformation
The various tennis forums and YouTube comments are filled with information from well-meaning individuals, but much of it is flat-out wrong.
So never take things you read in forums or YouTube comments as golden. In fact, please don’t take what I have written in this post as golden either; find someone to corroborate it, or even better, test things out for yourself, e.g. check the dynamic tension of your work on different types of machines to see if there is a difference.
Also, within the tennis community, certain cliques and gimmicks seem to pop up; a few years ago, there was a stringing technique known as the JET method, which was defended to the hilt by those who subscribed to it and anyone who questioned it was set upon by the mob.
Yet a few years later, you rarely see anyone talking about it or using it. I tried it, and while it was certainly interesting, plus it made the valid point that polyesters perform well at low tensions, I don’t think it made any difference to how my racket played.
So was it an improvement on stringing that translated into better performance on the court as claimed? Or was it a more time-consuming process that didn’t yield any improvements compared to other methods?
Of course, you cannot rule out epistemic viciousness within the stringing world, but my money is on the former, and it wasn’t any better.
Tie-Off Knots Are Important
I’ve covered tie-off knots in a dedicated post but learning to tie a finishing knot consistently is an important skill.
Not only do they look better from an aesthetic point of view, but the better your knot, the lower the chance it impacts the racket’s playability (slipping through a grommet, loosening etc.).
I’d recommend prioritising learning one knot and sticking with that most of the time; my pick is the Parnell Knot, as I like its size and how it comes together.
Having another knot in your arsenal is worthwhile, though, and the Pro Knot is worth learning for tight situations. I use those two exclusively and haven’t needed any others in a long time.
Measuring The Results Of Your Stringing Helps Build Consistency
As well as ensuring your stringing machine is calibrated, it’s also essential to check and log your finished work.
Logging string jobs if you string for others is essential, but even if you only string your rackets, keeping track of tension, tension loss, stringbed stiffness etc., is helpful information.
There are various tools to do this, from expensive gadgets like the ERT300 to smartphone apps like Racquet Tune (iOS) and TennisTension (Android), as well as manual tension measuring devices from Gamma and the Mini STT from MSV.
I have all of the above and use them regularly, but my two favourites are the ERT300 and Racquet Tune on iOS.
I only started using the latter recently as I needed an iPhone to use my Briffidi SW1 swing weight machine, so I decided to test Racquet Tune, and it’s a much more comprehensive app than the Android equivalent. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a helpful tool for checking.
I track mine in a Google Sheet with the racket, string, gauge, reference tension, and dynamic tension when it comes off the machine. I typically log ERT300, both smartphone apps, and the Mini STT across columns.
I then measure the racket again when I’ve used it for an hour of play etc.
While it’s not an exact science, as I’ll sometimes play 6 hours after stringing a racket, while other rackets might sit for 24 hours before they hit a ball, you get an idea of which strings hold tension better.
Also, remember that while numbers on measuring devices can be exciting and reassuring, they are not the be-all and end-all. All that matters is that you like how the racket plays.
A Good Stringer Is Always Learning
When it comes to strings, you will learn something new virtually every time you string a new racket or look up something online.
For example, take the video below, which is how to do the Around the World technique with a slight variation by stringing the two bottom crosses first to avoid having string runoff near the throat, which looks cluttered and blocks grommets.
I have done the ATW method, but the thought of doing it this way never crossed my mind.
Too Many Recreational Players Overly Focus on Equipment
While this post might give the impression that I’m a complete gearhead and ridiculously meticulous about strings, that is not the case.
If I wasn’t writing for Perfect Tennis, there’s very little chance I’d be splashing €300 on an ERT 300 and buying every product under the sun to measure string tension.
I don’t string for others, so if I mess up a job and it isn’t that detrimental to the racket, I’ll roll with it and have no issues about playing with a racket with a stringing mistake or a string that lost tension.
Of course, if you are looking for a career in stringing, you must become an aficionado. But if you are not charging others to string rackets, do not get too wrapped in equipment and stringing.
Why do I say that? In my experience, there is a reason the guy with the rag-tag drop weight machine that misweaves several crosses and strings twice a year typically beats the guy who has strung his four matched rackets perfectly when they play their weekly singles match.
It’s because he spends more time playing tennis, hits more balls and isn’t thinking that he botched a forehand at thirty-all because his dynamic tension wasn’t quite right that day!
What have you learned about stringing tennis rackets? Got any questions about stringing? Let me know in the comments.