How to Find the Right Machine
Our tips and exclusive guide will help you maximize your stringing-machine investment.
If you’re in the business of stringing racquets, your tools should be very important to you. As with any craft, to turn out your best work you must have confidence in your equipment, and for a racquet technician, no tool is more important than his or her stringing machine. No matter how skillful a technician is, an inadequate or unreliable machine will result in a less than perfect job.
As you’ll see in RSI’s exclusive 2007 Guide to Stringing Machines, stringing machines are more varied than ever. They range in price from $129 for hobby stringers to several thousands of dollars for the top end professional models. Even the professional models offer a lot of variety, with different tensioning mechanisms, mounting vises, and other features.
So how do you choose the right tool for your business? Well, this issue is filled with tons of information about stringing machines, and it’s an excellent place to begin your search. But first, you need to evaluate your business and your particular needs before beginning your quest for the perfect machine.
Assess Your Business
As a stringer yourself, or as a shop that offers stringing services to your customers, your stringing machine is at the heart of your business. The purchase of a machine should be considered an investment in your business, so to make a wise investment, you first need to evaluate your operation, taking into consideration any growth or changes you plan to implement.
Depending on your stringing volume, a quality machine should provide good service for five to 10 years or longer. To make the most of your investment, consider everything carefully — from the type of machine to the warranty and the service the manufacturer provides. To maximize the return on your investment, you should buy the best machine you can afford.
So is the highest price machine the best? Not necessarily. Compare your buying decision to helping your customer decide on the right racquet to purchase. Price certainly has to be considered, but it should not be the deciding factor. Just as it is important to help your customer find the right racquet to suit his or her game, the same is true when buying a stringing machine for your business. It is not about getting the cheapest or the most expensive machine.
You want the one that will provide all the features you need to sustain and grow your business by providing quality racquet service to your customers. That’s the one that will prove to be a solid investment and provide a good return for years to come.
In making your assessment, start with your current stringing volume — the number of racquets you string each month. If you are stringing a high volume or plan to grow your business into a higher volume, you will need a machine that can stand up to the workload. High-volume shops should consider machine features such as quick mounting vises that will help speed up the stringing process without sacrificing quality.
Maximizing Your Potential
Consider other features that you need to maximize your potential and provide the very best service to your customers. Height adjustment is important if you have more than one technician using the machine. A comfortable operating height is a key component for long hours behind the machine. Clamping systems are also an important consideration. Swivel clamps are especially helpful for fan patterns. If you mainly string conventional tennis racquets, this may not be as important as a shop that strings a lot of racquetball frames. Weight and mobility of the machine are important attributes to consider if you travel to tournaments or move your machine often.
Once you have a list of features that are important to your operation, use the information in this issue to compare machines from various manufacturers. When you’ve narrowed your list, try to string on those machines as a final evaluation. Nothing beats a good test drive.
If the manufacturer cannot provide a test period for a machine, you may be able to find another shop that uses the machine you are considering. Make arrangements with the owner to string a few sticks on the machine during a time when it is not in use by the business. Be sure to bring your own tools and a few different racquets and string so that you can get a good feel for the machine’s operation. You can also glean information from the owner about any problems with that particular model or any issues with service or warranty from the manufacturer.
Warranty and Service
One very important consideration is the manufacturer’s warranty and service after the sale. The return on your investment is dependent upon the machine working for you day in and day out. Gather enough research on the machines you are considering to find out the length of the limited warranty and exactly what is covered.
Just as important is how the warranty claims and service work or repairs are handled. If the manufacturer makes the needed repairs but takes four weeks to return your machine, how will you serve your customers during the down time? If you are a one-machine business, a month without it could put you out of business. If the company ships parts or a new machine to you overnight, who pays the shipping? Again, it is hard to stay in business if your primary tool is out of commission. Service after the sale is extremely important.
By considering your machine purchase as an investment in your business, make sure your investment will provide a good return and help you grow your business.
Protecting Your Investment
After buying a professional quality stringing machine, make sure it continues to perform at peak efficiency by performing routine cleaning and maintenance. You should consult your owner’s manual for exact details of the maintenance routine for your machine, but here are some basic guidelines:
- Keep it clean. Clean glide rails/turntables and clamps every 20 to 30 racquets or weekly, whichever is more frequent. This is also a good time to clean other tools such as pliers, cutters and starting clamps.
- Check calibration. Use a quality calibration scale to check the tension pull after each cleaning. This will ensure consistency in your work.
- Keep it dust free. A can of compressed air will do wonders to keep the dust and grime out of tight places and moving parts. Also, keeping your machine covered when not in use will also help.
- Lubricate only according to manufacturer’s direction. Lube in the wrong place can be disastrous, but if a part needs regular lubrication, it is important to perform this on a routine basis and with the proper type of oil.
- Keep maintenance records. Record routine maintenance and cleaning as well as repairs and service.
See all articles by Bob Patterson
About the Author
Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005. He is Special Projects Manager for Tennis Industry magazine.