Pat Markey

Racket Stringing Tips



Thank you for checking out the Racket Stringing Tips.  I will be posting specific things that you can do to support your racket stringing business and helping you become a better stringer. 


LETS GET STARTED:

Consistency...Consistency...Consistency is the key when it comes to professional level racket stringing.  Ultimately It really doesn’t matter how good you strung a racket “once” it all matters if you can repeat this over and over again because that is what competitive players are going to expect.  This idea becomes critical when you are presented with two or more frames at the same time from a player and they ask for stringing.  The ability to string a racket on ‘any given day’ and have the results be the same is what it is all about.  The following racket stringing tips are designed to help you be able to provide the best service and quality racket stringing to your clients. 

Let my  25 + years experience stringing tennis rackets work for you, I am sharing my knowledge, lessons learned, successes and failures with you here.  Remember keep practicing, learning and practicing more!  I continue to learn  everytime I get behind the machine and mount a tennis frame.

It is one thing to be able to install the strings in a racket correctly but yet another thing altogether to have the ability to string several rackets at the same tension within a short period of time for a professional tennis player who is going on the court of a final of a grand slam tournament, this requires exact duplication and a systematic method.  I have been there and continue to provide professional level stringing to all my clients and I want to help support your business as well and my hope is to reduce the learning curve for you. 

My hope is that you find the following stringing tips useful and easy to understand.  You can always email me at racketstringingtips@gmail.com for any help, clarification or support as well as sharing your tips with me.


RACKET PREPARATION
  1. Inspect the racket in the presence of the customer.  Look for any cracks, stress fractures, excessive wear, grommet wear and also inspect the grip for wear.  Ask the customer how the grip is working for them, discuss replacement grips, overgrips, size of grip, etc.  sometimes you will find that a customer is looking for something more tacky or absorbing or feels that their grip is too small or large.  This step allows you to immediately discuss with your client the wear of the racket and any additional services you might need to perform to assure the racket is working to its optimal performance ability.  One major benefit from this tip is that the customer cannot blame or hint the fact that you might have had something to do with the crack or stress fracture.  It is possible to break a racket during stringing and I have seen it done, even to a WTA tour player!  So always use the best practice approach to stringing.  If the grommets are worn or cracked offer replacement opportunities, if the racket is worn beyond repair than offer to find a suitable replacement (opportunity to sell one in the current line of retail rackets).    If the grip is worn this is a great time to talk about grip and overgrip options.  This step of the process is where value added service and products are sold.  This is also a good time to ask how the racket is performing and if there are any issues that the customer has with his current equipment.  Sometimes a sound in the frame, a lose rattle, buttcap lose,etc.  
Once you get in the habit of asking these questions it only takes a minute or so to do this.  You might also find it helps to have a racket service form handy that has all the items listed.  It helps you to remember what you wanted to ask, helps gather important information about clients racket and helps you establish repoire with your client.  You will find having this information on file is valuable and may keep your client coming back.
  1. Clean the racket prior to mounting.  I don’t know of many stringers who actually do this prior to stringing each time but the stringers that do are projecting a professional image.  Although customers do not always notice or thank you for cleaning their racket, I have found that clients have noticed a difference and you would be amazed to see what a little cleaning can do to that old racket!  Generally if you live in an area that has clay courts or someone used the racket as a shovel in the dirt this step can really make a difference quickly.  I have seen rackets with years of dirt and grim that can easily be wiped off with some rubbing alcohol and a cloth.  I generally will get a spray bottle and fill with rubbing alcohol.  There are several other tennis uses for this that I will discuss later.  Advertise that you do this in your promotional material.  This is a great marketing tool.  Generally I will wipe the racket down, get the dust off, clean around the grommets until all the marks are off.


MACHINE PREPARATION
       3.  Clean the machine clamps prior to stringing natural gut strings and about every 5 – 10 rackets.  If you string frequently than cleaning the clamps once a day before you start would be sufficient.  The reason behind this tip is consistency and it helps in keeping your string from slipping in the clamps.  Many tennis strings on the market have a protective coating that’s oily, some strings more than others, and keeping this on your clamps can be detrimental to your clamp performance.  I will generally use rubbing alcohol and a cloth or dip a toothbrush in the rubbing alcohol and go across the inside of the clamp area that holds the strings, you can always use a clean cloth after to dry it quickly but generally the rubbing alcohol dries quickly on its own.  It is important to do this as a proactive step and not reactive once your strings slip.  If your strings slip while stringing a racket than you need to start over and use a new set of string, the string has been compromised and the slippage has shortened its life even if you can’t noticeably tell.  This step can save you time and money.

   4.  Check your machine calibration about every 10 frames. This might seem a bit extreme but building a stringing business based on consistency is key and keeping your equipment up to par is critical.  All you really need is a manuel style calibration tool to check the tension at various tension intervals.  Set your machine to 40 lbs, 50 lbs, 60 lbs or in 5 lb increments would be sufficient.  When stringing rackets for clients you don’t want to find out later that your machine was off by 3 or 4 lbs!

   5.  Don’t crush your string during clamping.  Damaged string will tend to break prematurely.  During your first several pulls is generally when damage occurs, be aware of the guage of string you are using and set your clamps accordingly.  Before securing the first string, carefully place a part of the string in the clamp and see how it feels and how the clamp responds when tightening.  Be ready to adjust the clamp as you pull the first string.  When in doubt about your clamps abilities, use a ‘starting clamp’ to help secure that first main string. There are several ways to start a racket either by using a starting clamp inside the frame directly behind the base clamp, using the starting clamp outside the frame or by using specific stringing technique (which is outside the scope of this article here).


MOUNTING
Although from my approach and recommendations a 6 point mounting system is ideal, the important consideration in regard to racket stringing is that the racket must be mounted carefully as to not scratch the frame and yet secure enough so that the frame will not move during the stringing process.  Never remove the racket until all main strings and cross strings have been installed, string knots tied off and all clamps released.  Keep in mind that with some stringing machines the 12 oclock and 6 oclock mounting points can scratch the frame.  Generally this will occur more with the 2 point mounting systems, I have seen this on many frames and it instantly

It is also important to remember to cut out the old strings prior to mounting the frame. 
I have seen stringers cut out strings while the frame was installed and the stress on the frame can quickly snap the frame into the mount points and potentially damage the frame especially if any wiggle room is present.

Always face the buttcap of the racket up when mounting it on your machine.  On the professional tour stringing this is a “MUST” and having it the other way is a major error.  It would’nt appear to most novice stringers that this is a big deal but it all comes down to consistency.  If you want to keep your stringing as consistent across the board then always hav the logo face up and it will keep your knots always facing the same direction as well 

Along the same lines as the last tip on keeping the buttcap facing up, install the short side of the string on one side that you designate to be the short side.  Make a decision to either keep the short side on the left or right but stick to your plan.  Develop a routine that you can –to memory.  Pull four mains on one side than switch and pull four on the other than finish the first side or develop your own system.  It is critical not to put too much stress on one side of the frame and non on the other and that is the reason why you don’t just complete one side at a time.  If you are stringing a two piece racket this rule would still apply because you would instal four on one side and then complete the other side and return to the first.  I generally will save the last two mains on a two-piece restringing for the sake of time and since I add about 5 lbs or more for tie off knots I can just pull both (one at a time, of course)  and that way I can tie the knots one after the other and won’t forget to adjust the tension back.  In the past I have forgot
Installing strings


TIE OFF
This is not the place to discuss correct tie off procedures and knot selection but as long as your knot adequately holds tension and doesn’t loosen or come undone than you should be ok.  The important consideration is deciding where the tie off knots should be.  Generally racket manufacturers have  tie off holes predetermined but in the case of a 4 knot / 2 pieces restringing or when the tie off knot is too close to an intersecting string you should look for alternative holes.  It is generally best to due this prior to installing the first string in case you need to bore out any holes larger.


 DURING STRINGING

Check the strings around the outside of the frame and make sure you didn’t cross over any other string.  This is important because it not only looks unprofessional when you have a “cross-over” but the friction can cause the string to wear prematurely.  Always be aware of where the possible crossovers can occur, generally around the place where you start the crosses at the top and where the crosses end at the bottom are areas where a “cross-over” could potentially occur.  Make a mental note and just check the outside of the frame when you are weaving through the crosses in those areas.  Sometimes I find it critical to have a sharp edge on the string as I pull it through to assure I can control weather or not I need it to go over or under the string blocking the hole.  This might seem a bit obscure at this point but just be aware of how the strings lay around the frame so they horizontally line up and aren’t crossing over each other.

Don’t stick an awl in a hole with a string occupying the hole unless necessary.  This is a bit subjective but if you haven’t had much experience doing this than I would caution against it.  I will use an awl for enlarging holes for tie off situations but will do this ahead of my stringing and without any strings occupying the hole.
Tip No. 1: Use clear racket bags to place newly strung customer rackets in. You can purchase these through online packaging companies like www.Uline.com or www.dpackaging.com. Be carefull not to buy bags to small, I made this mistake by buying 30 x 12 size bags, 30 inches is long enough but 12 inches wide will not handle oversize frames. Purchase rubber bands to secure the ends and you are all set to go. Make large stickers with your logo for more visability. Pro's expect this, and your customers will love the extra attention. The cost involved is probably around .25 cents per racket, well worth it with the repeat business. Only downside to this tip is the environmental aspect, using extra plastics,etc.

Tip No. 2: Use professional grade tennis racket stringing equipment. This will let your customers know that you take your business seriously. I will be posting more information in the weeks to follow regarding choosing the best professional grade racket stringing machine for you!.

Tip No. 3: Join the USRSA (United Racket Stringing Association) or the International version if living in Europe. Make it a goal to become a certified racket technician (CRT or MRT).

Tip No. 4: Start a tennis ladder. This allows you to have a group of players coming in to your shop on a more frequent bases. More to follow on this as well.

Tip No. 4: Keep customer records of everytime they come in and get their racket serviced. This will help you to know the tension and make adjustments if they need to change.

Tip No. 5: Follow up every couple of months will email and mail to remind them it might be time to restring. A great way to build a loyal customer base.

Tip No.6:  Always inspect the racket in the presence of the customer.  Look for any cracks, stress fractures, excessive wear, grommet wear and also inspect the grip for wear.  This step allows you to immediately discuss with your client the wear of the racket and any additional services you might need to perform to assure the racket is working to its optimal performance ability.  One major benefit from this tip is that the customer cannot blame or hint the fact that you might have had something to do with the crack or stress fracture.  It is possible to break a racket during stringing and I have seen it done, even to a WTA tour player!  So always use the best practice approach to stringing.  If the grommets are worn or cracked offer replacement opportunities, if the racket is worn beyond repair than offer to find a suitable replacement (opportunity to sell one in the current line of retail rackets).    If the grip is worn this is a great time to talk about grip and overgrip options.  This step of the process is where value added service and products are sold.

Tip No. 7:  Clean the racket prior to mounting.  I don’t know of many stringers who actually do this prior to stringing each time but the stringers that do are projecting a professional image.  Although customers do not always notice or thank you for cleaning their racket, I have found that clients have noticed a difference and you would be amazed to see what a little cleaning can do to that old racket!  Generally if you live in an area that has clay courts or someone used the racket as a shovel in the dirt this step can really make a difference quickly.  I have seen rackets with years of dirt and grim that can easily be wiped off with some rubbing alcohol and a cloth.  I generally will get a spray bottle and fill with rubbing alcohol.  There are several other tennis uses for this that I will discuss later.  Advertise that you do this in your promotional material.  This is a great marketing tool.  Generally I will wipe the racket down, get the dust off, clean around the grommets until all the marks are off.

STRINGS

Some Hybrid String packages havethe two separate strings cut to various lengths.  Generally When I create a hybrid and cut a set, I will cut it directly in the middle so as to later be able to use it for the crosses or mains - this means that each half will be 20ft in length.  Some Hybrid sets will cut one string at say 18 ft and the other half will be 22 ft.  I contribute this to the fact that the Hybrid is generally set up for specific stringing and the idea is that you would use the string cut at the longer length to be used in the Mains.