Introduction to table tennis blade design

We discuss the different ideas behind popular blade compositions ( 5-ply, 7-ply. carbon etc. ) in table tennis  and possible blade and rubber combinations.

1. Wood | An alternative man’s best friend

1.1. Inside the trunk – a microscopic investigation

Before we start with the different wood layers, we want to take a closer look at the structure of wood itself.

Wood is nothing more than a huge bundle of something similar to drinking straws, which point from the ground into the air to transport nutrients.

Below you can see a simple illustration, for better pictures have a look in this document.

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It’s important to appropriately cut the wood into plies. By appropriately we mean:

  • regular parallel grid ( ||| ) of the grain lines (rift sawing – best quality, then quarter sawing), examples here and here
  • again: grain patterns who look like clouds or mermaids are pleasant to the eye as well but are useless for high quality table tennis blades
  • grain direction is parallel or orthogonal to the grip direction, “counterexample: blade(\)grip(|)”
  • an even blade surface without any inclusions in general

A personal counter example with a crooked grain direction (/|) and traces of a bad production type ( quarter sawing ):

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(click to enlarge)

On the contrary, a decent blade example is given below and another image to illustrate how the “straws” or wood pores generate the grain.

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(click to enlarge to see the wood structure of the above blade better)

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After years of research and billions of invested dollars, I found this quite cost effective real world model:

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If you have a soft surface layer wood, you can try to spot these pores as shown below.

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If you can’t see it, you may try another test which consists of using your finger nails. Attention! This damages your blade permanently and it’s hence unlikely that your local table tennis shop likes this test.

By using your finger nails at the bottom of your grip and on its side you can determine in which direction the center ply ( or any other ply ) is arranged. For example, the picture above shows a Hurricane WL. The soft core layer is softer on the side of the grip and hardly deformable at the bottom of it. Hence the center ply is parallel aligned to the grip – just like the top ply.

Let’s move on to another aspect.

There are generally two options to align the surface wood. Parallel to the handle direction as described and seen above ( || )or orthogonal to the handle direction like this ( |- ).

If grain direction is ||, then the force of the incoming ball works along the axis of each straw, which makes this wood layer stiffer and less flexible. On the contrary if a wood is placed orthogonal to the handle direction, then the flexibility is increased but the stiffness is really low.

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Since we speak of surface wood layers, we assume a thin thickness of this ply and hence need parallel grain direction. If we would chose an orthogonal alignment with a thin ply thickness then the surface wood would break like two KitKat bars.

1.2  Wood types and mechanic properties

Several wood types exist which are more or less suited for table tennis. We start with the mechanic properties a wood can possess and use our straw model to explain the different qualities.

The ball impact applies a force onto the wood. Hence we need information how our specific wood type handles this force. At this point we remember our straw model and that a force can be applied from every direction. This leads to the conclusion that the mechanical properties of wood are different in every direction, depending on their relative position to the grain.

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As an example, remember our finger nail experiment. It was easier to compress the wood on its side ( force applied orthogonal to several straws ( white above) ) compared to the same force parallel to the grain on the bottom of the handle. This holds true for the straw model above as well.

Some more illustrations:

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Still remember the finger nail test and how it left permanent damage? Here you can see the straw equivalent of too much force:

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The equivalent for real wood would be splintering along its grain.

Another form of permanent damage was given during our grain investigation under point 1, where we saw the permanent damage done by poor wood cutting methods.

We now explain the usually given parameters to a given wood.

1) Hardness ( Janka test)

The hardness of a wood is its ability to resist a force regarding a deformation. The Janka test now measures how much force is needed to press a ball into our wood.

An exact procedure can be found under the wiki article. Pay attention, the Janka hardness is different depending on the grain direction as previously discussed.

Easy speaking: higher Janka value -> higher hardness and vice versa.

2) Flexibility ( modus of elasticity / Young modulus )

This parameter roughly measures how stiff or flexible a wood is. Stiff and flexible are opposites of each other, a stiff wood is not flexible and vice versa.

It’s important that the actual stiffness of an object is always dependant on its form, in our table tennis case on the thickness of the layer. A thin layer of a certain wood has a different stiffness than a thicker layer of the same wood type.

Just like the parameter above, the stiffness varies depending from which angle you apply your force to the grain.

Easy speaking: given the same ply thickness: higher Young modulus -> more flexible and vice versa

3) Specific gravity

You may know the density of a thing, its mass per volume unit. Wood unfortunately contains water and is able to absorb humidity from the air among other things (tuners,glue) which alters its mass. The big amount of pores which can expand or contract under different temperatures or air pressures also change the density of the wood. Hence the density is divided through the density of water under the same temperature and pressure conditions.

Easy speaking: high specific gravity -> high weight and vice versa

A bit more about wood properties and a extensive data base for different woods can be found here.

Another, more simple database for most table tennis woods can be found here.

The shortest list with table tennis woods and a little picture beside the wood type can be found here.

 2. String theory | I like the way you move …

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – N.Tesla

Don’t worry, this section isn’t really about string theory. However, it’s not too far from it.

String theory assumes everything is composed from strings. If such a string is poked by a certain source, it begins to move or vibrate. After a while this movement become so regular, that you call such events standing waves.

Remember the drinking straw model from above. It might has reminded you of your high school physics course where you may have heard of waves for the first time.

Below is a nice demonstration, it starts a bit later because the announcer first tells what is going to happen.

An only slightly related video for standing waves using a water tank.

So far the aim was to understand that every system which is able to vibrate, forms so called standing waves. And guess what, table tennis blades can vibrate.

Remembering our straw model or the wave machine from the video, you saw that a power source is needed to induce the vibrations. In our case this energy comes from the ball impact.

Because we don’t have a single string but several as seen on our straw model we can think of a vibrating membrane. Below you can see some nice animations of such standing wave of a vibrating membrane from the corresponding wiki article. The animations were made by Oleg Alexandrov.

The animations below show an “up and down” bending. The energy of all animations increases from left to right.

Drum_vibration_mode01 Drum_vibration_mode02 Drum_vibration_mode03

A real life example for the third picture can be seen at the end of the video below:

In case you liked the straw model, here is a highly scientific photo of the above bending:

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The next form of bending rotates the membrane through an axis along its midpoint ( imagine you rotate your bat around the grip axis ).

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Another option where the axis goes vertically through the midpoint of the membrane.

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John Staley made a nice simulation for blades here.

For the next section you need the program Audacity and any type of microphone. Even the standard in-built notebook microphone is sufficient. Additionally you need a table tennis ball and a “naked” blade.

If you can’t do it just now, we’ll do it together here.

I know it’s gets a bit technical but I promise it’s as easy as possible and we will highly benefit from this thought process.

Step 1) Install and open Audacity.

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Step 2) Press ‘R’ and start bouncing the ball on your blade. Let the ball roughly bounce to the height of your eyes and try to hit the middle of your blade. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be perfect.

Press the button with the yellow square after you are done.

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Step 3) Press ‘Analyze’ and ‘Plot spectrum’. Then change the values to the values in the picture below.

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(click to enlarge)

Let’s analyse what we can see:

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(click to enlarge)

The diagram shows how strong the racket reacts (sound emitted in dB) to certain energies ( frequency in Hz ).

In our table tennis case the impact energy is the power of the incoming speed of the ball coupled with the amount of power we invest to hit the ball.

Now the question might appear, what the emitted sound in dB has to do with rebound speed of our racket.

The moment the impact happens, the blade begins to vibrate in form of the previously mentioned standing waves.

This vibration (energy) is transferred to the surrounding air molecules, which pass it to the next molecules and so on. At the moment the last air molecule passes the energy to your ear ( which is some sort of membrane)  and your eardrum measures the energy level and type. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Anyway, back to table tennis. The amount of emitted sound is directly linked to the amount of vibration, in particular the rebound speed.

The big red circle is somewhat uninteresting because it roughly just means that the points close to the blades edge vibrate strongly for small impact energies.

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Going back into the diagram, any sound below 1000 Hz ( black line ) can’t be heard.

This means the sound you hear on impact is the biggest peak after this value in the red circle.

This peak is produced from the following standing wave which is called membrane mode for obvious reasons.

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Try to recall the usual image of the sweet spot of a blade. It roughly follows the membrane for its positive peak. This follows logically from the supposed meaning of sweet spot, a map of the blade with the rebound power at each position. Here is a sweet spot picture of the new ZJK Super ZLC.

Let’s summarize our results for the membrane mode so far.

If you do the analysis above for several rubber and mark the biggest peak after 1000 Hz you know the following:

  • the height of the peak (dB) measures the amount of rebound at the blades midpoint
  • the position (Hz) measures at which speed ( incoming speed+your speed) this rebound/catapult is going to happen

g3779Let’s move on and focus the left half, which can’t be heard.

In the 500 to 1000 Hz range ( small red circle ) lies another important frequency peak, the so called chips mode.

You can see an image of the chips mode below and also a picture to explain why it’s called this way.

Drum_vibration_mode21 chip

If you do the analysis while holding the blade with your hand, then the peak can hardly be seen as displayed above. The reason for this is that our hand absorbs most of the vibration from the ball impact. However if you use a clamp, then the vibration isn’t damped, can be reflected back into the blades direction and creates a bigger peak in the frequency analysis above.

If you do a mental overlay of the chips mode with your blade you may ask, why it should be a good thing if the blade rebounds like mad on it’s sides where you hardly hit a ball.

You’re right of course, we aren’t interested in the bounce on its side. But what’s the interesting part here is the midpoint of the blade, it doesn’t move.  Hence the ‘catapult’ or rebound from the blade is zero there. Perfect for the short / touch play, isn’t it?

Going back to the plot spectrum we can draw some conclusions.

Let’s suppose the frequency peak for the ‘clamp case’ happens at 800 Hz. This means a ball with this energy triggers our desired chip movement. The height of the peak (dB) determines how much the sides of our blade vibrate due to this impact. The greater the peak, the greater the blade vibration.

This enables us to define feel / vibration of a blade. To understand it a even better, grab a long ruler and let it vibrate/swing as seen below.

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During the big overhang of the ruler you achieve a bigger bending of the ruler with your used force compared to the case with the short overhang. This small amplitude is then transmitted to your finger which holds the ruler. As you can see and hopefully felt, in the first case the vibration/amplitude is much stronger and appears to last longer due to the higher wavelength ( distance between two red peaks ) .

If you want to get the same strong vibration from case 1 at case 2 you need to increase your force with which you bend the ruler. This observation leads to an interesting conclusion for our chips mode:

The higher the frequency at which the chips mode occurs, the less you feel the vibration. The height of the peak is more or less irrelevant because we are not interested in the rebound height here.

As an interesting side note, there was a time when it popular to cut your rubber which a rather large overhang on its sides and the grip. These were called wings or flippers. This artificially made the blade/rubber combination more flexible ( ruler comparison: case 2 becomes case 1 )  and the blade vibrated noticeable more. As a self test, the next time you cut a rubber glue the complete quadratic rubber sheet to the blade and bounce the ball a few times while holding your blade in your hand. It will vibrate heavily.

3) Hollow handles | There’s a hole in your theory blade

3.1 A hole in the blade

Let’s go back to our blade and the ball impact.

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Unfortunately our blade doesn’t form a perfect circular disk for our membrane mode. Hence it might be a good idea to give the “energy wave” something to reflect at the beginning of our handle to overcome this problem.

As you can see, the moment the wave reaches the gap or hole, it gets reflected because there’s no wood into the left direction to transmit the vibration (of course there’s air which can vibrate but it simply reflects the wave back there). This enables us to force the vibration to stay mostly on the blades face which is at least somewhat round compared to our whole blade with the handle.

Let’s discuss the effects of our “hole idea”.

1) The blade gets a better ( more uniform, bigger peak ) membrane mode.

2) We used less mass in form of wood.

This means the moment of inertia ( ability to withstand changes to the current movement of the blade ) is smaller. As an example, a heavy wood can accelerate a ball better than a lighter wood. Luckily this drawback of our “hole idea” isn’t as bad as it sounds.

The amount how much the mass affects the “power” of our racket is determined by the position of the mass in a quadratic dependence to the impact location of the ball. Because the handle is located far away from the blades midpoint we don’t hurt our power as much as we benefit from our better membrane mode.

This also explains why penhold players can glue the rubber with a little gap between the handle and the rubber, it doesn’t matter that much.

The “freed” mass of our hole can also be reinvested into a heavier ply for the blade.

Of course you see that a reduced mass enables us to accelerate the blade faster with the same force and our recovery will be faster aswell. Since we get nothing for free in this world, this results in less hitting power as mentioned above.

3) Because the hole is filled with air which can vibrate way better ( more ) compared a certain wood the player experiences more vibration in his hand and might conclude that he has a better control and feeling for the ball. However, from a technical point of view the vibrations which reach the hand are useless. The amount of vibration you feel in your hand is no sign of quality but rather a matter of personal taste.

4) Finally, because the handle is so light compared to the blades face with rubbers the blade gets “head heavy”. If we now accelerate our arm and hand, the wrist/handle region can be accelerated faster then the blades face with the rubbers and our fingers ( remember: moment of inertia: ability to withstand a acceleration ). This leads to a natural “snap” of the wrist region and to an usually better stroke. The drawbacks are the increased forces on the wrist and a slightly more unstable blade movement.

A common example of this “hole idea” is Stigas so called WRB system.

As interesting side note, most times only the thick center ply receives this hole. The reason for this will be explained later on.

Please also note how the wood ply below the top plies are placed in an 90° angle to the top ply. The reason for this will also be explained later on.

3.2 A hole in the wood grip

After understanding the idea from above, it’s no big mental leap to apply this idea to the grip. Here’s a nice picture of user “fatt” from mytabletennis.net.

We remove a hole from the wood grip and get the same advantages and disadvantages as above.

A common example is the Donic Senso Carbon. As you can see from the linked pdf file, they offer two versions, V1 and V2. Applying our knowledge from above, we can forecast their properties before Donic tells us. The V1 has a higher speed (rebound height at membrane mode) because the “wall” of the air filled void is closer to the blades face. On the contrary, the V2 has only a tiny air gap end the handles end and hence the blade is slower ( Donic phrased it differently 😉 ).

Many manufacturers are so afraid of their buyers ( and their superstition ), that they don’t explicitly state they they use a hollow handle and/or grip.

3) Carbon | Need for Speed

For this section you’ll need an apple and a pillow (no joke).

[Experiment 1] Throw the apple up in the air and let it fall on your open flat hand. From a suitable height this should slightly hurt.

[Experiment 2] Now do the same but move your hand towards the apple ( pretend to push the ball up with your hand ). This should hurt a bit more and your apple will get (more) brown spots.

[Experiment 3] Finally do the same two experiments with the pillow on top of your hand ( you can also use a winter glove instead of a pillow ).

At this point you might eat the apple because it’s of no further use and hasn’t developed brown (yet).

Before we explain the table tennis relevance, let’s discuss what happened on our apple “iBounce” experiment.

The apple applies a force onto our hand. On the contrary you apply a force with your hand onto the apple with resisting this force. Some of the impact energy is gone because you surely moved your hand a bit down while the apple landed on your palm ( try to do the experiment again but lay your hand onto the table incase you haven’t eaten the apple yet ). Additionally the apple got a bit damaged aswell on its inner side.

If you remember the result from the second experiment where your hand moved towards the ball, the apples force was still the same but your hand applied a bigger force onto the ball.

You may have been able to push the apple a bit up, but your hand should have hurt more and the apple should have gotten one more scar aswell.

The pain in your hand and the apples deformation might be summed up as ‘shock’, energy lost due to the apples deformation and the pain in your hand.

Now we have two options. We can cushion our hand and forge an iron fist around it to damp the shock for your hand and ‘show strength’ into the apples direction. Sadly the apple will be damaged even more this way. We have chosen option two, by using a pillow. This reduced the shock almost completely and neither our hand nor the apply where damaged. Additionally we should have been able to throw the apple a bit higher.

This can be compared to landing on the fire fighter jumping blanket instead of the solid ground.

Before you forget that this blog is about table tennis, here comes the table tennis analogy for our physics lab above.

The two options of reducing the impact shock are

  • a hard surface layer (‘iron fist’)
  • woven combination with carbon(‘pillow’)

The carbon+X option is the best of both worlds because it combines the ‘iron fist’ mentality of the carbon with the damping ability (‘pillow’) of the other material (Arylate, Zylon – have a look here for close up pictures of such meshes).

Pay attention to get a blade with such a combination and not a single component like carbon/glassfiber only. It’s additionally important to avoid blades with so called ( marketed ) unilateral or uniaxial carbon, which just means that the carbon fibers are aligned in direction. While this leads to a stiffer blade it does nothing for achieving a uniform membrane mode or named differently a good sweet spot area.

The reason to avoid these early types were given in section one and two. The impact energy wave wants to travel once it hits your blade. This travelling is easy along the grain direction(tip to handle), but hard from wood straw to wood straw(side to side). Hence a mesh with the carbon fibers placed at 0° and 90° gives the most uniform transmission of this wave and gets us the best membrane mode. Especially avoid carbon meshes which place their #-carbon like a ‘drunk hashtag’ in a 45° angle to the handle (keyword: sharknado carbonado). This should explain why FZD likes the 90° (190) version as seen below:

Pure wood blades place the wood ply below the top ply in a certain angle ( usually 90° to the top ply ).

Other methods to reduce the impact shock were tested aswell, as an example Andros ‘Kinetic’ idea:

Side note: I previously promised you to give you the reason for the 90° angle between the top ply and the ply below and the reason why the possible hole is only made in the center ply if its done.

In the above section we already provided an explanation but let’s state it clearly again.

The 90° orientation between the top ply and the ply below guarantees an optimal shock absorption in all directions.

A hole is only made in the thick center ply because we want to absorb the impact shock at the other layers, not build standing waves as in the case with our core ply.

4) 5 or 7 ply | To be or not to be

Let’s build an actual racket. We saw that we need a core ply or in general at least one ply. Because we want to achieve a good shock absorption, we need two additional plies in a 90° angle to each other on top of the center ply in both directions. This leaves us with a minimum of 5 plies.

Of course there are blades with a smaller number of plies (even 1-plies) but for reasons stated above they can’t be seen as state of the art.

Because we want to benefit from the carbon technology we arrive at a total of 7 plies, 5 wood plies and 2 carbon+X meshes. The center ply is as thick as possible, while the shock absorption plies are really thin. Because the carbon+X mesh is rather flexible ( think of a blanket ) you need to fixate it between two wood plies.

The out most ply can’t be your carbon+X mesh for obvious reasons. The ply above the core ply would make no sense to be the carbon+X mesh because you want to absorb the impact shock and hence you want to place the carbon as close as possible to the out most ply. This leaves us with the following blade “formula” : wood – carbon+X – wood – core wood – wood – carbon+X – wood.

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Again, if you recall the arguments above, you might think we can remove the wood ply above the center ply because the carbon would still be located between two wood plies and such 3+2 blades actually exist. However, with such a construction you would pass the “bad” shock vibrations from the carbon+X layer directly onto our vibrating center ply and we would destroy our possibly good membrane mode. To avoid this, the additional wood layer between the carbon and the center ply is needed.

If you now start shopping for a new blade, you’ll notice that there are blades with even more plies, for example 7+2. These blades are usually a bit thicker than 5+2 blades.

Instead of the one thick center ply they have a slightly thinner center ply plus one extra ply around it. This “3 wood core” ply usually makes the blades thicker than 5+2 blades. The rest of the blade follows the same construction principles as above.

The rule of thumb is that 5+2 blades provide more “catapult” while 7+2 blades provide more power through higher mass. Depending on your playing style you might chose accordingly. If you smash,block, hit, play half distance etc. you might want to try the 7+2 blades. If you play close to the table and you mainly use topspin shots you should stick to 5+2 plies.

5) Blade and rubber matching | Speed-Dating

We successfully build our blade and start playing. Unfortunately we aren’t able to give the ball any spin (yet). We lack an invention which is used to be able to impart spin on the ball – a so called rubber.

A rubber is nothing more than a thick damping sponge. You read right, any rubber slows your blade down compared to a blade which has the same mass as our blade+rubber combo. As previously stated, we still need this damping to generate spin which the blade isn’t capable of itself.

At that point I’d like to add, that the common descriptions of a blades throw angle is therefore slightly misleading. A blade itself has no throw angle, only a rebound speed if you let a ball bounce on it. Only in combination with a rubber you get something like an arc.

If you now pair two identical blades with the same rubber but blade A has a higher rebound(speed) than blade B, then blade A produces a lower trajectory than B.

Recently people go crazy about high throw angles, even if our above thought experiment shows that a faster blade has a lower throw angle compared to a slower one by using identical rubbers.

Hence a high throw angle is no sign of a blades quality but vice versa.

Let’s go back to rubbers and focus on one particular. The sponge thickness determines how much spin can be applied with this rubber, a thin sponge can “store” less energy than a thick sponge.

A thin sponge reaches its “energy storing” limit faster. Once this happens the impact energy is shattered over the blades faces and hopefully damped out by our non core plies and our carbon layer.

You might think this is good for blocking or in general an indicator for a good “control”, whatever the word “control” may be here.

Sadly, this is not the case. If you block a topspin ball with – let’s say a 1.8mm sponge – and it reaches it’s storing limit the “non storable” energy is lost. You may block the ball properly and you are happy because your 1.8mm sponge gives you so much control. Now you face a stronger player in the next game with a much stronger loop. At this point, you need the ability to reverse to incoming topspin into out coming topspin in order to still be able to land the ball on the opponents side. Without a suitable thick sponge, you can’t store enough energy to changes the balls spinning direction strong enough to drag the ball down with your block.

Hence you should always get the max sponge thickness of your desired rubber if you don’t want to lose against stronger players every time you encounter them.

I often wrote the phrase that nothing in life is free and this is still the case. A thicker sponger is heavier than a thinner one and you have to keep the total weight in mind when assembling rubbers and blades.

Another sponge characteristic is the sponge hardness. In the previous table tennis chemistry article we used the trampoline example to illustrate the impact of different rubber hardness. Harder rubbers need more energy to be activated ( to be bouncy ) and can store more energy. On the contrary, softer rubbers are bouncy from the start but lack power on higher speeds.

Previously we gave the recommendation to use at least medium to medium hard rubber because most balls in (even amateur) table tennis are too fast to be properly controlled with soft rubbers and this recommendation still stands.

Combining this advice with our knowledge from the membrane mode ( at which speed the blade is able to produce the biggest bounce ) we can provide some matching suggestions:

Rubber types: soft,medium,hard

Blade types: early bounce, medium late bounce, late bounce ( again: this means the “big peak” happens close to 1000 Hz or rather late like 1600 Hz for the “late” case )

We get 9 different cases.

At first we exclude symmetric ones like soft+early,medium+medium and hard+late because they only peak at one speed and have hardly any speed and spin on all different levels. You might know this under the term “gears” for a blade and rubber combo.

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As an example, a soft rubber with an “early bouncing” blade, is nearly uncontrollable at lower ball speeds and lacks the ability to add spin and speed at any other speed level. On the contrary, a hard+late bounce combo plays like “dead” on most balls but loop “kills”.

In general I’d like to exclude combos with soft rubber + X, because the main function of the rubber is the ability to produce spin and soft rubbers can’t do that from medium speeds on.

Collecting the remaining 4 cases we get

  • early bouncing blades (example: most all-round blades) with medium or hard rubbers
  • medium late bouncing blades (example:Viscaria/ZJK ALC/TBS etc.) with hard rubbers
  • late bouncing blades (example: Garaydia T5000) with  medium hard rubbers.

Let’s discuss these cases a bit more detailed.

The late bouncing blades with medium hard rubbers provide decent spin and speed at medium ball speeds but the rubber fails at generating spin at higher ball speeds where the blades catapult kicks in. Because we can’t fully utilize this combo it’s not recommended aswell.

Medium late bouncing blades with hard rubbers are the typical professional setup. The blades catapult starts at medium high speed and ends at high speeds where you need the extra precision from the maximally deformed hard rubber to counteract incoming topspin but you don’t need additional catapult(speed) at this point. At low speeds the combo plays nearly dead and hence controllable as desired.

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For some amateur players this isn’t optimally, because they might not be able to swing the blade fast enough to compress the hard sponge on most of their shots.

The most common setup for amateurs is the early bouncing blade with medium rubbers. This enables them to use sufficient speed at lower levels from their blade and a good spin with decent speed at medium ball speed levels. An obvious drawback is the dead behaviour at higher ball speeds, you can swing as fast as you want – your power will stay the same as if you had used far less effort.

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One step further we arrive at the early bouncing blades with hard rubbers leading to decent speed at lower levels and a high control on blocks and loops. At higher speeds the missing blade catapult and the hard rubber provide a very good looping and blocking environment. Here we have the drawback of a “dead” zone during medium speed strokes.

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Amateurs will a solid forehand ( which means the are able to generate the necessary swing speed in most cases) should therefore use a “slow/all-round” blade with  a hard rubber on the forehand side and the same blade with medium to medium hard rubbers on the backhand side.

If the player gets better, a “medium fast/off-” blade with hard rubbers on the forehand side is the next possible step. If he keeps his medium hard sponge on the backhand, his backhand might be too bouncy ( “symmetric case” from above ) and he might even need to change his backhand rubber to a hard rubber aswell.

6) Which wood type for which ply? | Survive 300 years: check | Get felled for a tt blade: check :/

We previously spoke about the different wood types or at least about their table tennis relevant characteristics.

After knowing how a blade is constructed, we can find suitable wood types for each layer.

In general, we want to use light wood types. Because a lighter wood usually contains more air gaps which makes the energy wave transmission easier. Thus we get a higher membrane mode bounce.

If we don’t use a carbon+X layer we need an outer layer with a very high Janka hardness like walnut.

In case we use the recommend carbon+X mesh, we can use slightly softer wood types like Ayous, Limba and Koto.

This leaves us with the choice of the core ply. Because it isn’t effected by the impact shock, it can be really soft and should lead to a high membrane mode bounce. The usual suspects are Kiri and Balsa (technical keyword: modus of elasticity).

At this point a short episode of Mythbusters. Balsa wood is not a  special ‘nonlinear’ wood or anything similar as sometimes claimed in forum posts. It behaves like any other wood type with the same properties ( hardness, weight etc. ). The only reason why it’s rarely used as center ply is its inconsistency. It’s quite hard to get a uniform piece of balsa compared to a similar Kiri ply.

You can find many compositions of popular blades here and here, although you can never be sure, if the listed wood types are true since manufactures rarely list them in the product description.

Interestingly, as long as the rubber types are similar enough in the layer specific attribute ( Janka hardness or modus of elasticity ) it doesn’t matter which wood type you chose. See here for more details.

7) Summary | Auld Lang Syne

I hope you learned something new and you aren’t more confused about your rubber and blade choice after reading the article than before. By the way you can click the song title above to listen to the song while we recap this article.

The blade consists of several wood layers or plies. The recommend number of plies is 5 wood layers and 2 carbon plus some kind of fiber mesh. The two topmost wood plies on each side together with the carbon+X layer are responsible for reducing the impact shock and the center ply ensures a good bounce at a certain ball speed.

Make sure your top ply has a straight, uniform grain structure with no sawing compression.

The time at which this bounce or catapult effect of the blade happens can be measured by recording the ball bounce on the naked blade with Audacity and spotting the biggest peak after 1000 Hz. The further away from the 1000 Hz the peak happens, the later the catapult effect happens. If you have a good ear, the higher the pitch of the ball, the later the catapult effect happens.

The amount of vibration can be measured in the same way, but you have to look in the range between 700 and 1000 Hz. Sadly you can’t hear this frequency so you rely on your PC there.

The vibration you might feel is a matter of taste and no sign of a blades quality.

Most actual blades have a hollow handle and / or grip to improve the rebound height of the rubber and to provide a better “feel”.

A blade which produces a lower “throw” with the same rubber compared to another blade is usually faster ( higher rebound height ).

A beginner should start with an all-round blade ( early catapult effect ) and at least medium to medium-hard rubbers. The forehand should be harder than the backhand and the max sponge thickness should be used.

If he gets better, an off- blade ( medium late catapult effect ) and even harder rubbers can be used. Pay attention that you don’t stick to your medium rubber on the backhand side if you “upgrade” your blade, because this combination might be hard to control. In this case, upgrade the backhand rubber to medium-hard aswell.

The blade should be regularly changed, because the material deforms differently in different directions and accumulates water over time.

The above recommendations are for two winged loopers. As usual, if you find errors or have further questions, let me know below :).

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61 comments on “Introduction to table tennis blade design

  1. You can hear frequencys from 20Hz to 20kHz, so you can definitely hear those below 1kHz. Otherwise i find your Blog really fantastic.

  2. I just switched from a Butterfly Carbo Balsa x5 blade to a Stiga Clipper CR WRB Blade. I play h3 new max thickness 40 deg hardness national on fh and rakza x max thickness on backhand. I am not the best player, but I play 6 times a week and have a very strong fh loop. With the Clipper, I’m noticing that when I go to fh counterloop a heavy loop (side-top fh loop) I have to brush in the direction against the top spin vector of the incoming ball (so brush on the very right side of the ball). If I do not, the ball goes into the net. With the previous setup with CarboBalsa, same rubbers, I did not have to be so precise and could go with the side-spin vector (back side of the ball) when fh counterlooping the same fh loop and usually get the ball over the net. I should add that this is from far back from the table with nittaku premium plastic balls. The clipper is amazing at fh counterlooping over the table. But I don’t understand how to adjust my stroke so I don’t have to be that precise in a fh-fh counterlooping rally when I’m far back from the table.

    Another question – maybe related or not – this is my first time using a tacky rubber. I’m noticing the ball started slipping a lot after about 1 week of play (cleaned with water only), if not immediately. It makes a squeak sound and looses some grip when I’m brushing thin with the h3. I know I can adjust my stroke to make more perpendicular contact, but with the rakza x, I can pretty much make tangential contact and the ball won’t slip and this is what i’m used to. I only had this problem with one other rubber i’ve had, it was a piece of t64 that I bought used, so I just assumed it was old. What may have caused this and is there any way to improve it? It was suggested by some players at the club to wipe it with my sweaty hand instead of water and that the issue is tacky rubbers drying out. Pretty disappointed because of this with a national sheet that was not cheap, when I could get a tenergy that could last half a year for similar money.

  3. This is a very detailed article about table tennis wood properties and characteristics. Now equipped with a better understanding of how wood grains on the top ply should look like.. And I definitely agree that softer rubbers are bouncier especially in short plays.. Prior to reading this article, I have recently realized this rubber reaction, that softer rubbers are bouncier in soft and short plays. I was led to believe that soft rubbers have better control due to its lower speed. It is partly true, but only in harder and powerful strokes. In short plays, considering a tensor rubber is in use, soft shots are a lot bouncier… Purchased a new sheet of Rakza 7 soft and was inteded for backhand use, a total dissapointment…. it was too bouncy and lacked speed in powerfull hits…. I switched my dhs skyline 3-60 med-hard rubber to my backhand and I’m very glad I did. Perfect for everything…. Now this was an unexpected surprise… Though the R7s is not too fast and was a total dissapointment on my backhand,, it now performs very well on my forehand… I never really liked soft to med soft rubbers on my forehand, but this rubber seems to work just fine….. Now my question is why do you think the R7s works ok on my forehand but on my backhand?…. Should I use skyline 3-60 on both sides?…. It’s working really great on my backhand…Btw I’m playing with a YEO…. thanks….

    • Hi Jerico,

      if you want to know if you should use Skyline 3-60 on your forehand, simply switch sides and try it ;).

      You usually get away with a soft forehand rubber at lower playing levels because your main shots are opening loops and a few counterloops from half distance. Things where softer rubbers are good.

      But as you move up in the rankings, you need a lot more counterlooping close to the table, where softer rubbers won’t generate enough spin to land it consistently enough on the table.

      As a long term perspective I would consider getting a carbon blade and a slightly harder forehand rubber. However, since you said you are currently happy with the Skyline on the backhand and your soft forehand just keep using it until you think you need more power for your forehand.

      So far for my long distance diagnose ;).

  4. Hello ! The article contains excellent technical stuff,
    I am playing with Stiga offensive classic wrb with Raksa 7 2.1mm bothsides and have developed my games over last 3 years.I want to use a faster blade with good control. Please suggest which is better of Andro Trebier Z and Joola Rossi Emotion.If I am ready to shell a little more from my pocket what about Stiga Ebenholz NCTV.
    Please also advise the rubbers.
    Thanks
    Inderjit

    • Hi Inderjit,

      if you are willing to spend that kind of money on blades like your mentioned examples, I’d buy a Viscaria. Other but cheaper blades with similiar properties are the Sanwei H9 Yellow Rose and the Palio Legend 1.
      Regarding the rubber choice, I think you’re fine with Rakza 7. It will be hard to find an upgrade with similiar properties and durability. The imho next step in terms of rubber quality would be a Tenergy 05 with the usual problem of the high cost.

    • I MA PRESENTLY USING BUTTERFLY JOHNYER H – AN BLADE . NOW I WANT TO SHIFT ON TIM O BALL ALC . IS THE GRIP OF TIM-ALC-AN SAME IS MY JOHNYER-H-AN. OR THERE IS A DIFFERENCE ? PLS HELP….

    • Hi Ethan,

      since there are many Tenergy rubbers I can’t give you a proper answer. The sponge hardness values are given by Butterfly (and many other companies), but pay attention to the fact that the true values variate around the given number. Please also pay attention to the fact, that different firms use different hardness scales (look for: shore hardness,durometer). Last but not least, the different topsheets ontop of the sponge greatly variate the ‘total’ hardness of your rubber, just think of the different pip strucutres of T05 and T25.

    • Hi frybla,

      sorry for the late answer due to me being abroad.

      Thanks for the kind words and let me know once you finished your studies so we can improve my dangerous sciolisms with your knowledge ;).

  5. I’ve been thinking of adding some lead tape to the blade tip, like that used by tennis players, to increase the racket speed and therefore spin, on my loops. Do you think this would be a good idea and what affect might this have on the blades performance?

    • Hi Derek,

      sorry for the late answer due to me being abroad.

      Iirc, I already answered the same question of another user but I can’t find it, so I’ll do it again.

      Adding lead tape increases the power due to the bigger mass. Sadly, due to physical laws the added mass is too far away from the balls impact location and too small in comparison to the weight of the blade and rubber to get enough out of it.

      This means you would need large amounts of lead tape and hence mass to achieve rather small improvements in terms of the blades power. Additionally, this extra weight still has to be accelerated and thus demands more energy to do so.

      If you want to increase the power of your setup it’s better to simply change to a heavier blade and/or using heavier rubbers. This will ensure you get the extra weight where you need it most, at the balls impact point.

  6. Hi Yoda,

    Excellent article ! Appreciate your hard work behind this gem.

    What type of blade you’d recommend for modern defenders ? Long pimples on bh side and inverted rubber on fh to play loop/push game ?

    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi nehaldattani,

      thanks for the kind words, I indeed spend more time writing the articles than I’d like to admit :).

      The process of choosing a modern defender setup is almost the same as for attackers.

      You choose your distance from the table – as a defender usually half distance and further away. Thus you need a medium-late bounce blade. Additionally you need a high vibration amplitude so 5 plies are recommended.

      Beside that, most defense blades also have a bigger head size. This provides you with an even bigger possible amplitude. Last but not least, the bigger weight helps you achieving a sufficient power.

      I can recommended the Butterfly Joo Se Hyuk blade. Basically a Viscaria for defenders ;). As usual, there are good and bad ones in the shops, find good ones by using the methods listed in the article.

      Pay attention to the fact that the JSH blade is quite heavy. If you’re chopping with a wrong technique, your elbow will refuse to work in a short amount of time.

      Most importantly, ignore the ‘educated opinion’ of the guy running the shop. Profit greed was never a good advisor and/or knowledge provider.

      As a slight adaption to Feynman’s ‘The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.’:

      Don’t get fooled – and you’re the easiest person to fool ;).

      • Hi Yoda,
        Thank you for your reply. I agree with you about JSH’s weight. I have tried it already and i am not keen on adapting that blade. I think Victas Koji Matsushita is also having almost same weight.

        Would you recommend andro Temper Tech ALL+ as a considerably light alternative ?
        Or any other lighter blade?

        Once again, thank you for you for your guidance.

        • Hi again nehaldattani,

          you can of course choose blades which are way lighter but please remember that the return might be not as stable and low.
          At the moment I can only think of the Chen Weixing blade of Joola. Oversized, roughly 87g, Kiri core and 5+2 although with some some sort of glassfiber as ‘X’ layer.

  7. Hello,
    Its amazing to read and find out so much in-depth information about blade design. I was educated while reading out. Hats off to collect and present such information in an easy way.

    Just one more thing, what is your view on single or one ply hinoki blade like Darker Speed 90 or so? Would you like to share some out of your experience. Thanks.

    • Hi Anonymous,

      thanks for the kind words.

      Hinoki is just another soft wood type like balsa. The wood type suffers from the same problems as balsa:

      • highly inconsistent in quality
      • eager to accumulate moisture.

      On top of that Hinoki is also pretty expensive. The best alternative is Kiri.

      IMHO 1-ply blades are structural failures regardless of the used wood type and shouldn’t be used.

  8. very good but I am french and I don’t understand very well ” dead zone” the bat dont react?or no linear.you tell a soft rubber with an eary bouncing lacks the ability to add spin and speed, ok, but why uncontrollable at lower ball speeds, I think not controlable at speedy balls.

    I dont’ see soft rubbers in your examples why?, a lot of rubbers are soft 30° less than 40° what do you do with?

    Edit: I merged your two posts into this question.-Yoda

    • Hi Bernard,

      for whatever reason my answer didn’t show up, maybe I refreshed the page at the wrong time. Hope you can see this one, sorry for the inconvenience.

      @dead zone

      The primary use of the blade is to provide speed. This speed increase is roughly linear dependant of the blades mass. However, by paying attention to the vibration(frequency) you’ll get a nonlinear rebound speed at certain impact energies(frequencies). We the divided the blades into early, mid and late bouncing blades, based on where this nonlinear/extra speed occurs.

      The primary aim of a rubber is to provide spin. Softer rubbers deform greatly even for slow balls and are hence able to provide a good amount of spin on slower balls. Hard rubbers deform less on slower balls and provide less spin there. However at faster ball they provide more spin than soft rubbers. Hence we dividided the rubbers into soft medium and hard rubber.

      If you match a soft rubber with an early bouncing blade, your return will carry much spin and speed. However, this might ruin your short game. Even worse, on faster balls the combination gets even more uncontrollable since the speed increases (lineary) but the spin does not – just as you said :).

      Thats why I don’t recommend using soft rubbers with ‘allround'(early bounce) blades. The setup is too fast on slower balls and has no control at higher ball speeds.

      Hope that answered your question, if not let me know. Sorry again for the delayed response ;).

  9. Hi,
    First off thank you for writing such an in depth article it’s really opened my eyes to how a blade composition effects a players ability to return a ball but also how this is affected by the style and ability of the opponent.

    I am using a Joola Wing Carbon Blade – https://bribartt.co.uk/product/joola-wing-carbon-extreme/

    I noticed now this is one of the 3+2 ply’s which seems to be more unusual.

    I am using Tenergy 64 on both sides 2.1mm.

    I play an attacking game instigating heavy loop on anything long and then opening up into flat driving balls to win the point.

    This combination also seems to give me a decent level of touch on the ball so as to keep the ball short until i’m ready to attack.

    I was just wondering though, if my aim is to get a good heavy loop in and then follow it up with all out attack typically from close/mid range to table should i be looking at trying out a 5+2 ply carbon blade with a later catapult effect with these rubbers.

    I play in the premier league of our club so i’d consider myself of an adept standard and my game is still improving but less to do with the strokes and more shot selection and tactical play. I’m just thinking i could maybe unleash a stronger / faster game by using a higher ply extreme attack blade. This blade gives a fairly high sound compared to others but certainly not the highest pitch i have heard but with Tenergy it does seem to provide a very high level of kick but perhaps i am sacrificing a lot of speed at the same time.

    Interested to hear your thoughts…

    Thanks in advance

    Oli

    • Hi Oli,

      construction wise I’m not a big fan of the Joola Wing Carbon. I distrust the wing idea and still consider 5+2 ply combinations as state of the art in blade technology. In that category the TB ALC, the Viscaria and the HL5 clearly stand out in my opinion, although a good, heavy Viscaria is hard to find.

      However, be careful with choosing a too fast blade, at some point even a hitter/driver wants his ball to land on the other side. Additionally, if your opponent is able to keep his return low enough, your screwed before the game starts. But the above two choices shouldn’t be too fast.

      The rubber issue is a bit hard, because you want opposite things for your first and second stroke. On the first one you want to impart much spin and possible lift, on the second you want to hit flatly through the ball neglecting the spin and getting the maximum speed out of the blade.

      I’d probably go for the even softer T64fx. This way you get more lift and spin for your first opening loop and the moment you switch to hitting the rubber doesn’t apply much resistance due to its softness. You can shift the balance between spin and speed even further, if you get thinner than 2.1 mm rubbers. However, how much you go down this road is your choice and burden, at some point your bat will be reduced to a one trick pony which is fast but has no spin – contradicting your opening loop scenario.

      To sum it up, for your description I’d go for TBALC/Viscaria/HL5 with T64fx. For a even faster but less spinny option, get the rubber in thinner thicknesses.

      However, don’t hate me if it doesn’t work out, Tenergies and the recommended blades are quite costly. If possible, try to test the Butterfly stuff in a local shop.

      Hope that helps. -Yoda

  10. hi. thanks for ur previous and the present article. all of them have been very informative. i now understand why i cannot play a few shots that were so easy for me earlier. my new blade is the Donic waldner black devil carbon balsa+ yasaka rakza x max rubbers on both sides. can u suggest a good combination

    • Hi Gaurav,

      it would be false to give a certain advice without knowing your level, playstyle and future training possibilities (hence ability to progress). Your rubber and blade combo should be able to enable you to do all strokes, in fact almost all rubbers and blades are ;).

      As you’ve said, certain balls will be easier with this paddle, while other balls will be harder to play. I’ll write another article explaining which rubbers are good for which shots/strokes, this might help you deciding aswell.

      The most important thing is to know yourself and your limits.

      It useless if you think you’ve got a forehand loop like Wang Liqin and buy a ridiculously hard rubber just to experience that you can’t make use of the harder sponge because you can’t compress it enough on your most of your shots.

      Hope this (non) answer helped a bit. -Yoda

  11. Thank you yodao. You have a great experiment mind and a very clever analysis.
    I’ve learned alot from your article.
    About the rubber hardness, you use the ESN scale? 50 ESN hardness is considered hard? (50 ESN Hardness is about 38 degree DHS Scale).
    I really like the blade+rubber combination explanation.
    I think that you prefer an OFF- blade and a hard rubber. However, an OFF- blade with less flex is difficult to used with a hard rubber at low force.
    What is your favorite weight range of blade? > 90g?
    What is your favorite dimension? 150 x 158?
    Best regards

    • Hi hackerdarkrose,

      thanks for the kind words. Although calling an aspiring mathematician to be a good experimenter is close to an isult ;).

      I used the fuzzy terms “medium,soft and hard” to avoid the need to explain the different hardness scales. Especially since hardness only refers to the sponge and the topsheet is left out. I’m not even speaking of the softening through boosters.

      Personally I try to get 41°(chinese scale) pretuned rubbers for my forehand side and slighter softer rubbers for my backhand, although im not so sensitive about my backhand hardness.

      I prefer off- blades but I have no preference regarding their head size since my previous blades didn’t vary that much and hence I have nothing to compare them against it.

      The “low force” problem is known, but I “endure/trade” it for my good short game(serve,receive), solid blocking and the ability to overpower almost any incoming spin with my forehand loops/counterloops.

      My blades are around 90g but I’m piling up cash to get a heavier one(93+, Viscaria).

      Hope that answered your questions, -Yoda

    • Hi lineup32,

      as written on the soulspin site, they use molten Basalt to make strings of it. Then they create a mesh of it just like the carbon fibers. They are a bit softer than Carbon, so it’s another variation between wood and carbon, with shares parts of the advantages and disadvantages of both. -Yoda

  12. Hi. Very good article. Thanks a lot. I would want to know if the blade “XIOM VEGA EUROPE” is medium late.
    What do you think about this blade associated with DONIC BlueFire M2 and JP2 ?

    Karl

    • Hi Karl,

      sadly I can’t buy all blades on the market by myself so if you really want to know the blade characteristics you have to do the frequency analysis yourself. Only the FA can show without a doubt how to categorize each blade. For the rubber part, I’d like to point to the blade and rubber matching subsection. The remaining problem is to categorize the rubbers, which is quite hard (I explained that in the thread with Alain, see below).
      My wild guess without any data backup is that the europe is early bounce and the rubbers are medium hard/medium respectively and you can find the coresponding case in the blade/rubber matching section. -Yoda

  13. Hi and thank you for your blog. I finally find the explanations that miss to me.
    I am a physic/chemical teacher and an “amateur with a solid forehand”. But I’m french and I’m not sure to understand every thing.
    But I have one comment and one question :
    1- I think that a human can heard lowest frequency than 1000 Hz. For example on a piano, A3 is about 440 Hz.
    2- Do you consider that a wood like “Stiga allround classic carbon” is OFF- or ALLROUND ? Therefore which hardness are correct (40°, 45°) for the rubbers. I should want to prevent “symmetric case” ?
    Alain.

    • Hi Alain,

      thanks for your kind words.

      1) The lower bound on sounds a human can hear depends on the frequency(Hz) and the sound pressure(dB). If someones speaks of the lower bound, he is usually referring to the lower bound for 0 dB and then you get the 1 kHz position, see here. It also mentions the piano problem and hints at the loudness levels. You can change the loudness levels(sound pressure) on your piano by using the different pedals. This then enables you to hear your low frequencies, you play “soft” but with a high sound pressure. A nice technical description how a piano pedal works is given here by user onlyocelot.

      2) I think it’s an allround blade and hence your should avoid using too soft rubbers, but to be sure I’d always recommend doing the frequency analysis. I avoided giving concrete degrees of hardness for several reasons.
      The hardness of a rubber depends on the sponge and the topsheet. Usually, only the hardness of the sponge is given, but not the topsheet. The topsheet hardness depends on the rubber hardness of itself and the pimple structure. This makes it difficult to assign fixed values to the whole rubber. Even if we only speak of the sponge, we usually get differences of 2 to 3 degrees in hardness for a sponge in a certain proclaimed hardness.
      Using tuners makes it more difficult. Finally, there are different hardness scales in use, depending on the used table tennis brand, which makes it even more difficult. Here you can find a nice conversion chart for them.

      Personally, I’d always go for off- blades even for amateurs. This enables you to use softer rubbers and hence you dont need to hit every shot with full force to activate(compress) your rubber. By using allround blades you either limit yourself to poor control(symmetric case) or you are deemed to use harder rubbers, which need a high activation energy as mentioned before.

      Hope that answers your questions. -Yoda

      • Hi Yoda and thanks for your smart answers.
        But I’m lost. Today I play with BANCO Blacklight (OFF wood) and DONIC BlueFire M3 max FH 2.0 BH (40° OFF+). These scorings come from WACKSPORT (http://www.wacksport.fr/catalogue/?todo=aff_revs&col=6&o=d ). I prefered soft/medium rubbers to do slow spinny topspins.My forehand suits me but my backhand is weak and lake control.
        I should enjoy benefits of your thoughts to switch my racket. But it’s difficult to use your advices for several reasons :
        1- I don’t find a blade with all your criteria (5 plies + carbon +mesh + holed handle) and OFF-
        2- Since the blade isn’t ordered, the audacity test isn’t possible to know the wood behaviours.
        3- It’s difficult to assign fixed values to the whole rubber but do you know a site where the rubbers are classified with your categories (soft, medium, medium hard, hard) ?

        Roughly speaking, your advice “Personally, I’d always go for off- blades even for amateurs. This enables you to use softer rubbers” is difficult to apply (is not sufficiently specific).

        Nevertheless, I would like to thank you : your article make me think about my equipment.
        I am still disposing of one month to chose my new racket.

        Alain

        • Hi Alain,

          I usually shy away from giving exact recommendations over the internet for several reasons. Because I don’t know you(your health,your playing style,actual game footage etc.) these recommendations might cause more harm than no recommendation.

          However, since you explicitly asked, I give it a try but please take it with a grain of salt.

          I’d change to a 85-90g heavy blade with the mentioned 5+2 composition. Typical examples I can recommend are the Butterfly woods ZJK ALC,TB ALC, Viscaria etc.. For price and performance reasons I’d recommend Donic Baracuda max on the backhand and Tin Arc max on the forehand side.

          The baracuda is one of the most solid rubbers for the backhand, good topsheet(much spin, good grip, minimally tacky) and not too fast while not being too soft. The price is another important factor, you should change your rubbers frequently(around 2-3 months for most weekend warriors :D) and its comparatively cheap to the new M3 rubber, which in my opinion has a bad topsheet durability and spin. The TinArc might be exotic if you never played a chinese rubber, but I recommended it to many people and so far no one had complaints. It’s hard enough, has a good durability, is mildly tacky and produces nice arcs.

          On point 2, you eighter have to test it locally in a shop or use one of the test packets which big tt stores provide, where you can order several blades/rubbers for testing purposes. Additionally, most shops have a 14 days return policy and hence you can test the blades without damaging them and send them back if you get a bad apple piece :D.

          On point 3, I had a quick look on your given site – it lists the sponge hardness and you can sort through them. Many other shops which offer labels like soft | medium | hard then just choose arbitrary boundaries and then label the rubbers based on their own subsections. I guess, the safest approach is to go by the given hardness degrees, look for the lowest value and the highest, get the median value and you got your own scale from soft to hard.

          -Yoda

          • Hi Yoda,
            Thanks for your risk taking by giving exact recommendations.
            The association you recommend isn’t it in the symetric case “late bounce + hard” ? For me that seems to be a bomb too much difficult to control.
            I’m going to follow the advice you give for the points 2 and 3 : apparently I am in a symetric case : medium for my rubbers an for my blade. So, as far as I understand, I have two choices : decrease my blade’s “hardness” and increase my rubbers’ harness or the opposite. But I want a smooth transition. Your change seems too drastic.
            Alain

            • Hi again Alain,

              in my opinion the given blades are at most medium hard and the rubbers are approximately medium. This is a step up from your soft to medium M3 and your very light blade. Frm my point of view, my recommended combination is between the “early bounce + medium hard” and the “medium late bounce+hard” case. As an example, I’d consider a hard-hard symmetric case as Adidas Fibertec Extreme and a H3 41° in the hardness scale used by DHS.

              You’re of course right, we(you) don’t need to change everything at once. If you think your forehand is fine, its ok if you just change the backhand rubber to something harder than your used M3. My tip would still be the Baracuda, but any other rubber, which is harder than the M3 should give you more control.

              Hope that answers your questions and concerns. -Yoda

        • I would like to point out that in the days of the legal speed glue and the 38mm ball, many top attacking players used allround or allround + blades with soft inner cores and even soft outer cores such as Obeche. This was made possible by the solvent in the speed glue increasing the dynamic modulus of elasticity of the sponge and the lowering of its glass transition temperature. The latter allowed the sponge to store energy at higher impact speeds (also frequency related). This setup allowed for a wide range of gears which many top players preferred. I have been out of the industry as a professional designer of equipment (both rubber and blades), speed glues, tuners etc since 2000 (although I have made custom tuners for a few players in recent years) so maybe the TT world has changed with time and the 40+ ball. I have enjoyed your attempts to understand the dynamics of blade and rubber combinations, even though I may not always agree with you.

          • Hi Waqidi,

            thanks for your reply and sorry for the late answer.

            I’d say your memory of past equipment shows that professionals still like the same characteristics in modern blades and it somewhat fits with my blade recommendations.

            State of the art blades like the viscaria are made of a thick and soft inner ply, coupled with a softer outer ply.

            I can’t say much about ‘fuzzy’ blade categories like ‘allound’ – I’d rather speak of freqquency ranges. Most old all-wood blades perfectly fit into the 1300 to 1500 Hz range, just like most modern blades used by pros.

            If you have time I’d be happy to hear more about your experiences as blade/rubber/tuner alchemist ;).

  14. what is a fast blade and how is blade speed measured

    “Recently people go crazy about high throw angles, even if our above thought experiment shows that a faster blade has a lower throw angle compared to a slower one by using identical rubbers.”

    • Hi Ron,

      blade “speed” is usually measured by dropping the ball from a certain height onto the blade and measuring the rebound height in relation to the initial height. The closer the rebound height to the initial height, the faster the blade is assumed to be.

      One problem – as described in the article – is that the blade acts lineary for the most time, you use a certain stroke speed and the resulting ball speed is lineary dependant of it. However, on some frequencies or swing speeds, a standing wave is triggered and “extra” energy is transferred onto the ball (membrane mode). This behaviour is usually phrased as “catapult”.

      Hope that helps. -Yoda

  15. Firstly, I really love this article. I have an interest in physics and in table tennis, so this was really fascinating. I was wondering about a medium+medium symmetric combo for the blade and rubber. This would create a dead zone at low speeds, allowing for more control (similar to the medium+hard “pro” combo), but also have a dead zone at high speeds, to my understanding. This might be advantageous to a beginning/intermediate player, since they haven’t really developed the speed/technique for the higher speed balls.

    More specifically, I’m looking at a new blade and rubber for myself (developing intermediate player). Before reading this article, I was looking at an OFF- rated blade with 38 degree sponges, but am now wondering if that is a viable option. (Though, I’m not completely certain what is encompassed in the “medium” category, but my estimation is that they’re both in the medium range.) Thanks!

    • Hi Damon,

      thanks for the kind words. Your observation for a med+med combo (whatever this fuzzy therms means here 😉 ) is accurate for the location of the dead spots.
      Problems arise at the medium speed level where both, the rubber and the blade reach their maximum “catapult”. As written, this makes this combination uncontrolable at this speed level.
      To solve this, I recommended to use early peaking blades(“allround”) with medium rubbers. This results in a controlable short game because the (at this speed level) hard enough sponge keeps the catapult of the underlying blade to a minimum. At medium fast balls the blade is dead again (or formulated more positive:linear) and the rubber reaches its maximum spin potential(maximum deformation before failure). At higher speeds the blade is still dead while the rubber fails and produces not enough spin to overpower strong incoming top spin balls.

      If you as a player progress further, you can change your blade to medium late bounce(off-) and harder rubbers. This leads to a really controlled short game, decent spin on medium fast balls and the ability to overpower even strong topspin balls because the rubber doesnt fail there. I wrote decent spin on the medium speed level, because you have to work harder to penetrate the hard sponge at medium fast incoming ball speeds to get a decent spin out of it.

      Roughly speaking, allround blades peak on 1200 Hz, off- blades at 1400 Hz and off blades at 1600 Hz and above, but don’t nail me down on the exact numbers.

      IMHO, the rubber degree is a bit too soft for an off- blade. Try to get 40+ and your loops should be much more consistent. However, you need to work a bit harder to compress the harder sponge. I already mentioned it a couple of times, there’s no free lunch ;).

      Hope that helped, if not let me know.

  16. You failed to mention one ply shake blades.

    Edit: Rest of the message cut, no unnecessary blade name dropping for advertising purposes. -Yoda

  17. Very interesting! Is there any science behind using or not using edge tape? I noticed most people don’t use it except for ZJK.

    • Hi Sam,

      edge tape adds a few grams to the rubber. Hence it has a bigger moment of inertia and therefor more power. However, the gain might be small because the extra weight is located far away from the ball impact on your blade.

      An edge tape might as well improve the membrane mode by making the boundary (blade edge) more defined so to speak. If this is really the case and – if it is – how strong the effect will be, I can’t answer because I have not tested it yet. You can test it yourself if you want and share your results via a frequency analysis afterwards.

      The – in my opinion – primary reason to use edge tape is to fixate the heavily boosted ( and hence curled ) rubber to the blade and to prevent slicing the rubber off the bat with a push which accidentally hits the table.

      For the rubber to blade sticking, notice that the points where the glue has to withstand the highest forces is on the blades edge because points located there have no adjacent points which help them to hold the rubber down. This is also the reason why rubbers appear to curl stronger on the sides and form a hole, the outmost points can’t resist the working forces as good as the inner points.

      Finally it also protects your blade on edge hits, although this protection might be small.

      Style points for personal edge tapes with witty slogans are possible as well ;).

  18. Pingback: O drvima | Kineske gume

  19. Hi. Very good article. Thanks a lot. I would be grateful if you give me some examples of blade/rubber combination ?. I’m struggling to chose proper rubber/blade for me. Sometimes I cant control it on short game(to bouncy) or like now I cant get enough speed (on FH), when I want power loop (I’m playing with Stiga Clipper wood, BH – Acuda S2 max, FH – Rasant powergrip max).

    • Hi Lukas, thank you for the kind words.

      Your rubbers should be fine and for the wood I’d like to wait for your frequency analysis. Although a clipper isn’t too fast from my memory I’d say you should be able to perform all techniques quite consistently. I mean you can go for even harder sponges and add a tacky topsheet for the backhand control issue but I’m not sure if this will solve your problem, especially since this will reduce your power. At the forehand side you might try softer sponges because it sounds like the previously mentioned “children on adult trampoline problem”.

      However, I don’t want to judge you and your technique from far away but I currently don’t see why this setup shouldn’t be atleast decent. A simple first test might be simply rotating your blade and using your rubbers on the opposite side and see if your problems get better or worse.

      In that regard I also like one of Brian Paces video reviews where he said: “Most players chose a rubber based on how well it attacks and get rid of the same rubber because of its short play.”

      In a nutshell, you can’t have both, an oustanding short play and a lively rubber which almost plays itself on attacking shots.

  20. Could you elaborate more on what you said about the effectiveness/pros/cons of where the composite ply is? If possible, could you comment using an example (either this or a similar one) like Timo Boll ZLF (Koto-Zylon-Limba-Kiri-Limba-Zylon-Koto) vs the Innerforce ZLF (Limba-Limba-Zylon-Ayous-Zylon-Limba-Limba)

    • Hi Anon,

      I never played these blades and a proper frequency analysis of both would be the best thing to be sure but I’ll try to give you an opinion ‘on the fly’ ;).

      Afaik, most of the innerforce blades have a bigger blade face area. Remembering the ruler experiment, this leads to the assumption that these blades have a bigger rebound height, but peak on slower speeds compared to identical blades with a stadard blade size. The total weight (rubber+blade) is bigger aswell because you ned more rubber to cover the blades face.

      Leaving the innerforce thing aside, we get to the carbon position. The ‘lower'(closer to the core) your carbon+x layer is located, the more you ‘feel’ the ball. This is a result of the then two top plies above the carbon+x layer which are better suited to ‘pass’ the impact shock to the handle – they can simply vibrate better. Pure carbon however, might even feel hard after you hid it deep inside the blade because it’s -well … – so hard that it prevents a too strong vibration of the two top plies and even damps the mebrane mode of the core ply.

      As a side note, pure carbon layer blades are usually fast in general but lack the definite rebound(catapult) at the desired speed. The reason lies in the very strong damping of the carbon in both directions, it also also dampens the membrane mode peak which tries to push from inside the blade to the outside onto the ball so to speak. Hence most pros won’t use this type of (pure) carbon blade.

      Between your two blades, I suppose both have a medium hard feel since zylon + wood is usually not as hard as carbon or carbon+X. Because of this I also suppose that these blades aren’t too fast because parts of the impact shock aren’t damped out by these constructions and might interfere with the membrane mode.

      I can’t tell you which of the options (Limba-Limba-Zylon) or (Koto-Zylon-Limba) has a harder feel since the difference might be small. I also shy away from making a guess here because im not sure how much the bigger blade face of the innerforce influences the shock and how it correlates with the problem of the siginificantly different Yanka hardnesses between limba and koto.

      At the end of the day most of my above rants are assumptions and you can only be sure if you make the frequency analysis for both blades with a clamp to see the chips mode aswell.

      Hope that’s partially what you hoped for as an answer.

      • Thanks for the thorough reply. The blades are too expensive for me to try and test but thanks for your theorycrafting. The whole article was a very interesting read overall!

      • Hello. First off, what a great article. Thank you for explaining some hard concepts in an easy and articulate manner. I am a great fan of your blog. No other sites put this much effort in explaining with regards to table tennis. Could you perhaps answer some of the questions above the anonymous has?

        What do you mean by pure carbon? Sorry, I tried googling online, didn’t quite grasp what it meant.
        What effect would woodply-woodply-carbon-core wood-carbon-woodply-woodply have rather than woodply-carbon-woodply-core wood-woodply-carbon-woodply as listed in the article above? Are you saying that the former (woodply-woodply-carbon) “feels” the ball more, ie vibrating, than the latter (woodply-carbon-woodply).

        Thank you again for your wonderful work

        • Hi David,

          thanks for the kind words.

          Are there any open question from an anonymous poster here, I couldn’t find any?

          With ‘pure’ carbon I meant a layer which only consists of carbon and not a woven combination of carbon and something different, like arylate+carbon.

          Regarding the position of the carbon or carbon+X layer:

          You got it right, w-w-c-w-c-w-w vibrates more but (or hence) is slower, while w-c-w-w-w-c-w vibrates less and is faster.

          Hope that helped.

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