How to Pick a Stringing Machine
By Jonathan Wolfe, Master Racquet Technician
The number of features available on stringing machines today is staggering — you could even call it an embarrassment of riches. As you’ll see in our annual Guide to Stringing Machines on the following pages — which lists dozens of models from 13 different manufacturers — any stringer can find a machine to fit their needs.
But just how do you know what you need, or what is best for your particular stringing situation? Here are some basic guidelines that can help you navigate the bewildering variety of choices.
- Price — While a great stringer can create professional string jobs with any of the machines in our chart, we think you cannot go wrong buying as much machine as you can afford. Think of it as having a wider variety of tools with which to match your skills or develop your craft.
- Table Top or Standalone? — For stringers who want the convenience of moving their machine from room to room or transporting it in the car with greater ease, the table-top model — while not exactly lightweight — is a good solution. All you need is a table, desk, or solid surface, and you’re ready to start producing high-quality string jobs. For those who want a more advanced feature set or sturdier machine, the upright model is sure to light up any shop floor.
- Tension — There are three major tension systems: drop weight and electric (both constant-pull), and hand crank (lockout). A hand crank or lockout machine has a lever that pulls the string until it reaches the desired tension, then a spring-loaded device locks the string, allowing it to stretch and loosen slightly. A constant-pull machine pulls the string to the desired tension and then continues to pull as the string stretches to maintain that tension until the string is clamped. Drop weights are less user friendly, but the lower price tag can provide an attractive entry point for bargain hunters or neophytes looking to test the waters.
- Mounting Systems — Machines have 2-, 4-, 5- or 6-point mounting systems, which are the number of points on the machine that contact the frame. The 2-point and 4-point machines contact the frame only at the throat and head, which makes it convenient and quick, with fewer places for the string to get tangled, and fewer blocked holes. If you want a little more stability, 6-point mounting offers a secure fit with slightly less frame distortion, especially on oversized frames.
- Clamps — There are three major clamping systems: flying clamps, fixed clamps that swivel, and fixed clamps that don’t swivel. Flying clamps are not attached to the machine and use one string to hold tension on another. They provide less tension consistency, but typically come at a lower price point. Fixed clamps that do not swivel are commonly attached to glide bars, which must be repositioned to switch from mains to crosses. They have an elegant simplicity and limited range of motion (90 and 0 degrees). Fixed clamps that swivel offer the greatest range of motion, which is especially useful for fan patterns.
There are other considerations when deciding to take the plunge. For instance, your stringing machine may be (or you may want it to be) the focal point of your shop, the shining jewel to which eyes are naturally drawn. Having something that represents your professionalism and dedication can very often separate you from the competition.
It is also worth considering how many racquets you and your staff string. For high-volume shops, the deluxe machines not only offer time-saving conveniences, but they usually come with a wider range of customization.
Don’t forget customer support. Call the manufacturer and distributor and ask what happens if something breaks. Get a sense of the turnaround time and shipping costs. Make sure you consider the length and nature of the warranty, and please, read the manual from start to finish. You don’t want to pull out the soldering kit and start tinkering with the motherboard when there is a simple fix in the book.
A stringing machine is not only a major investment, but it can make a very positive impact on your business. Hopefully, our guide will help you discover which machine will best fit your needs.