String Your Own Racquet?
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
There's a mystique about people who string their own racquets. They seem so dedicated to racquetball, so technically astute, so... into it.
But for every player you know who does his own stringing, how many own stringing machines that are gathering dust in the attic? Stringing machines are like home exercise machines: they're full of good intentions, and they offer true potential benefits, but they rarely fulfill their promises.
Should you do your own stringing? Let's look at the pros and cons.
The most obvious benefit of home stringing is economy. Most strings cost $5 to $10 per set, while professional stringing jobs usually cost $20-25. For anyone who needs to restring frequently-and that includes chronic string breakers and other power players, large racquetball families, and competitive tournament players-the savings can add up pretty quickly.
Convenience is another benefit. The do-it-yourself stringer can get a string job whenever he or she wants it, without having to drive anywhere or wait for anyone.
By stringing your own, you take control over your equipment. You purchase the string you want, and select the tension that suits you best. You can experiment with different strings and tensions whenever you feel like it. With practice, every string job will be consistent, which will help improve your game.
For the tournament player, stringing your own means no more anxious waits at the tournament stringer's booth, and not having to rely upon a rushed stringer who doesn't know you or your preferences, and who might not even have your brand of string on hand.
There's also the satisfaction of doing it yourself, of becoming expert in another aspect of your sport, or understanding how things work. And there is the potential to bring in a few extra dollars by stringing for friends and club members.
That said, there are also a lot of reasons not to become an amateur racquet stringer. Start with the cost of the equipment. Most professional-quality floor-model machines cost $1,000 or more. On the other hand, some consumer-quality tabletop machines that use drop-weights to tension the string cost as little as $100-$200.
I asked Don Hightower, Associate Director of the United States Racquet Stringers Association (USRSA) about these inexpensive machines, and he urged consumers to proceed with caution. "Especially for beginning stringers, it can take a surprising amount of time to string a racquet on a drop-weight machine," he said. "These machines are not very user-friendly, and may offer less convenience than taking the racquet to a pro."
Even assuming that the machine is a good one, some players simply don't have the time to spare, so home stringing becomes a burden, not a convenience. For many, it's easier to leave the racquet at the club's pro shop, and pick it up next time they play.
Few amateur stringers attain the skill and expertise that pros can provide. Most home stringers work in an information vacuum, and do not know how to fine-tune their equipment to obtain the best results. When confronted with a new racquet, home stringers may be at a loss to find the recommended string pattern and tension.
Through trial and error, most home stringers can achieve respectable, consistent results on their own racquets. But it is unfair for an amateur to charge his or her friends and club co-members for work that is of questionable quality.
Although chronic string breakers are often good candidates to become do-it-yourselfers, Don Hightower told me that seeking advice from a professional stringer may be a better route. "A pro may be able to solve a breakage or playability problem through string selection or racquet tuning," he said. "Going the home-stringing route is not always the best way to obtain better quality and economy."
Don recommends that players who need expert stringing service or advice should seek out a USRSA Certified Stringer or Certified Racquet Technician (CRT). If you need help finding one in your area, call the USRSA at: (619) 481-3545.
This article previously appeared in Racquetball Magazine.