Updated: Dec 12, 2022
The purpose of this blog post is for people who are new to badminton equipment or badminton in general. It will take roughly 10 to 15 mins to read this article.
During my career as a stringner, I have encountered so many customers that had no idea on things like what tension and what strings they would want. I often had to decide for them which is something I shouldn’t really call for. It’s like something that’s almost 100% personal preference (Same question as what’s your favorite color). I am writing this to give you a general idea on stringing and equipment, so when you come to me, you know what you want.
Q: What is string tension and why is it important?
A: Tension is the amount of force that’s applied to each string of the racket. For example, 24lbs (pounds) meaning 24 pounds of force applied to a single piece of string and holding it by using a clamp. How tension is applied can be simply explained by the picture below:
Tension results in repulsion. Without any tension, imagine you play badminton with a bug catching net.
Q: What is the tension that suits me?
A: Like I said, tension is something you need to know before you come to a stringer. But how to decide what is the best tension for me? String tension often results in the following factors: power(aka. repulsion), control, durability, vibration.
However, the above image isn’t 100% correct, ranging from 18lbs to 33lbs which is a common string tension range for badminton rackets. When the tension is lower than 20lbs, the ‘bug catching net’ effect would show and would have less power as the string is too loose. On the other hand, when tension gets really high, the string net tends to get really hard. In this case, a player would need the right technique in order to hit shuttlecocks far enough (for example, clear from back court to back court) for advanced play. For advanced players, control is more important for better placements hence higher tension is preferred. Durability wise, the higher the tension, the less durable strings are. Vibration isn’t really a big factor to be considered overall because vibration also depends on how the racket shaft was made. Though there are many different types of strings on the market, this section represents general characteristics for all strings.
In general, For feather shuttlecocks:
Beginner: 18lbs to 23 lbs
Intermediate: 24lbs to 26lbs
Advanced: 27lbs to 29lbs
Pro players: 30lbs+
For plastic shuttlecocks: 1lbs lower than above values
These are just a recommendation, and it’s not restricted to what YOU actually want
Q: What are the common strings to choose and understanding their characteristics
A: In Canada, unfortunately, our options in terms of string brands are quite limited. There are three big brands to choose from, Yonex, LiNing, Victor. Almost all the strings from those brands are made in Japan simply because Japan has the core technology in terms of nylon material and weaving patterns. Yonex has ‘unreasonable & confusing’ names for their string lineup and it would confuse a lot of new players with over 10 different strings. LiNing has only 3 types of strings and each one of them has a very clear definition according to your play style. Victor has around 5 products in their lineup with clear naming as well as characteristics. Before we go into deep discussion of each brand, we will talk about the only thing that you need to understand in terms of a string, the string diameter.
Ranging from approximately 0.5mm to 0.7mm, thinner strings would provide better repulsion, sharper sound but less durability. Thicker strings have better durability and can often withstand high tension thus better control. There is no perfect mix of everything.
Yonex being the biggest brand for racket sports, it provides a wide variety of options. The best way to distinguish yonex strings is to see the color of the package and read the pentagon chart.
Yellow stands for durability: Long term use & cheapest category & high tension
BG65 & BG65TI 0.7mm
Blue stands for repulsion: Smasher & not durable & breaks fast
BG66 Ultimax (aka. BG66UM) & BG66 Force 0.66mm
BG80 & BG80 power 0.68mm
Aerosonic (aka. BGAS) 0.61mm (Thinnest string Yonex provides)
Green stands for control: All-round player & most expensive category
AeroBite & AeroBite Boost a mixing of main 0.72mm cross 0.61mm
However this category also has great durability
Red stands for hitting sound: not commonly used category
The pentagon chart:
Each yonex string has a pentagon chart above and it’s self-explanatory
LiNing string lineup:
LiNing has the simplest lineup for strings.
No.1: Competitor of Yonex BG66 series 0.65mm
No.5: Competitor of Yonex BG80 series 0.68mm
No.7: competitor of Yonex BG65 series 0.70mm
Victor string line up:
Victor string all starts with the name VBS (victor badminton string):
VBS-63: competitor of Yonex Aerosonic 0.63mm
VBS-66N: competitor of Yonex BG66 series 0.66mm
VBS-68/P: Competitor of Yonex BG80 series 0.68mm
VBS-69N: Competitor of Yonex NBG series 0.68mm
VBS-70: competitor of Yonex BG65 series 0.70mm
Q: After knowing my options for strings, which one is the best for me?
A: Brands do compete with each other and provide similar products among the same class. At the same time, one string and its competitors do still feel very differently with the same tension and racket. Which one to choose to play with is absolutely a personal preference. For someone who is new to badminton strings, it is recommended to try different types until you find the perfect one for you. The general guideline is:
Beginners: Something that’s cheap and durable as you need to focus on your technique as the priority, equipment doesn’t really matter at this stage. Low tension is also preferred.
Intermediate: This is the stage where you identify your play style, you could follow the string characteristics accordingly. Choose repulsion strings if you like to smash, durable strings if your wallet is flat, control strings if you prefer something all-round.
Advanced: At this stage, you should have a fairly good understanding of the sport and know what you want.
You are encouraged to try different stuff with proper reasons (for example my Bg66 doesn’t even last 2 days, I am going to switch to BG65 for the sake of my wallet); however, I’ve seen countless players who gets obsessed with buying ‘fancy’ equipment, hoping for a better game play with better rackets. This is a VERY wrong mindset as a better racket doesn’t improve your skills at all. Please focus on your technique at all times and don’t fall into the vicious circle of buying new rackets & strings IMHO. I’ve had customers come back to me and say that his drops wouldn’t go over as before and smash wasn’t as hard as before. I went to see his game play and all his forms and techniques were off. To give you a good idea how equipment is not that important, 3% of your game play depends on your racket, 7% depends on the string and 90% is on your technique. In terms of equipment only, 300 dollars rackets versus 60 dollars rackets, shitty stock string versus a good aftermarket string with right tension, the latter is far more important for your game play. As long as you don’t have a 3 dollars aluminum dollarama racket with fishing strings, your rackets are fine. You should always try to get used to your rackets but not the other way around. You will simply never find the perfect racket for you.
Q: How do I know if a stringing job is good or not? What is the stringing pattern? What are the differences? What's the best pattern? How do stringing patterns relate to a stringer’s knowledge/skill level?
A: There are many ways to tell if a stringing job is good or not. The first basic thing to look at is if the main & cross is woven correctly. It is very easy to tell if something is wrong if you look at your racket sideways. Then visually check if every piece of string is intact with no sign of cut or wear. Sometimes a stringer may accidentally cut/slice the string (the string wouldn’t break in this case but you can tell there is a cut/slice, since one piece of string is made of many thin nylon strings woven together) and lead to less string life. Knots should be the right size and clean, and they should not slide into the racket after playing with the racket (knot is too small or not strong enough).
There are different patterns to string a racket. Normally, you should only see 2 knots or 4 knots at MAX. Anything more than 4 knots, you stringer probably put some left over short piece of strings to string your racket which means you got ripped off.
Here I have some customer’s racket and I was astonished by his previous stringer’s job
His previous stringer used many short pieces of strings to string his racket and cut costs. This is absolutely terrible and very bad for the racket. By looking at the racket, see if there is any significant deformation showing on the racket. Some deformation is acceptable and rackets are designed to handle them. More bad examples:
Simple way to tell if the tension is high enough as what you asked: pinch the middle 2 main strings and if the tension is high, it will be hard to pinch them so that they touch each other
If your racket looks like this after you get it back from a stringer, you need to hire a new guy
Example of normal non-twisted string and twisted string, a bit of twisting is fine but the one shown in the pictures is really bad
If you get a chance to watch your stringer doing the work, do it! it would be fairly easy to tell if he/she is proficient enough.
BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THOSE WHO PRE-WEAVING MAIN AND CROSS THEN PUT ON THE MACHINE TO PULL, THIS IS A VERY OLD TECHNIQUE AND IT WILL RESULT IN STRING TWISTING FOR THE CROSSES (PICTURE ABOVE) AND CAN NOT BE RELEASED. PRE-WEAVING MAIN IN TOTALLY FINE
BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THOSE WHO DO CROSS FROM TOP OF THE RACKET TO THE BOTTOM. IT IS PROVEN IN THE INDUSTRY AND TOP LEVEL STRINGERS THAT IT IS NOT A GOOD PRACTICE FOR STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY OF RACKETS. REASON HERE CAN BE QUITE COMPLICATED AS IT IS PHYSICS AND IN SHORT THE T JUNCTION HAS A PIECE OF T SHAPED METAL IN IT AND IT’S THE STRONGEST POINT OF A RACKET, HENCE WE DO MAINS FROM BOTTOM TO TOP. BADMINTON RACKETS ARE NOT TENNIS RACKETS.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of the article, racket stringing is not rocket science. Two stringers with the same proficiency and knowledge will likely have the same stringing quality. However, the attitude of a stringer does play an important role. Some stringer would not care so much about the job quality because customers’ rackets are not their rackets and all they want is to get the money. What you get from those stringers might include: deformation of rackets, not so clean stringing job, many string overlaps on the side, short string life, not enough tension, string sunk into frame, twisted string, broken grommets, even collapsed frame. During my early badminton career, I’ve personally experienced stringer like that and resulted in many of my rackets’ deaths. Those who treat your rackets with care and inform your rackets’ conditions are the good stringers to go with. Be careful with those who upsell strings and say blabla string is the best string in the world.
There are 72/76/80/68 (depending on the racket) gromets on a racket, hence there are more than one way to put on strings (patterns). Here are a few pictures of stringing patterns to give you a general idea
Yonex 4-knots pattern: The most common
ZZ Yonex 4-knots modified:
Gosen Haribito 2-knots:
SZ Haribito modified 2-knots:
And so on…
As you can see, no matter what pattern your stringer uses, there will be at MAX 4 knots on your racket. Among all those stringing patterns, the most common one in the world is the Yonex 4-knots pattern. It is widely used in North America here as badminton is not a popular sport here. A lot of the stringer learnt this way and they just keep using it forever on every racket. In Asian countries, like Japan, China, where the badminton scene is bigger, some good stringers are so good to the point that they invented stringing patterns like Mrs Haribito himself. Then some international level Chinese Stringer improved the Haribito pattern and named it SZ which is a very hyped and popular option in China. Some other guy modified the Yonex 4-knots pattern and named it ZZ. The Stringing pattern was never meant to be unique. When you see only 2 knots on your racket, don’t freak out! The general conception is 2 knots tend to retain tension better than 4 knots as there are less knots and less ‘movable points’ to lose tension. The drawback is, for either SZ or Haribito 2 knots pattern, it requires a higher skill level for stringers to do. From mounting the racket onto the stringing machine to tension varying while pulling the string, the stringer needs to know what he/she is doing otherwise it is very easy to snap the racket. From my reading on badminton forums and stringing techniques, it seems like the Yonex 4 knots pattern is very forgiving to mistakes. Different patterns have different advantages and disadvantages. Which one is better? My experience tells me, This is purely personal preference.
What comes more important than the stringing pattern? Is your racket deformed or not? Does the string tension feel enough to you? (you asked for 26 pounds but it feels worse than the other same racket I have that has the same string and 22 pounds when strung a while ago, that’s not right)
So all in all:
Job quality (skill, technique, attitude) > Stringing pattern
Let me give you a few more scenes to know if your stringer is good or not:
Assuming you have a racket that can take (rated) 35 pounds
You: Could you do BG66um @ 29 lbs in 2 knots pattern?
Stringer 1: Sorry I can’t do 29 pounds. It will break your racket in 2 knots (I can’t do that high of tension on this racket).
BS! If done correctly any pattern works on high tension, he/she is not confident enough to do high tension cause he/she is afraid to break anything. If the racket is in a healthy condition, there is nothing to be afraid of other than his/her own skill level.
Stringer 2: BG66um can not go over 26 pounds it will snap while stringing.
BS! A thin string can take that much, it just breaks hell a lot faster afterwards which is not recommended for amature players like us. Pro, on the other hand, does this all the time because they have sponsorships
Stringer 3: 2 knots pattern is all bad no good it will deform your racket! it will blablabla
Doesn’t that sound very biased to you? If you have some critical thinking skills, you should know that for almost everything, especially a method/a pattern to do a stringing job, there are good and bad at the same time.
Those scenes are just what I remember in my old days when I encountered stringers around me, after me being a stringer/engineer for a few years and as someone who is consistently looking for improvements on techniques on doing things and critical thinking skills. I do my research and I believe in solving problems scientifically. I would say some stringers are truly full of shit and don’t know what they are talking about.
From a customer perspective: There is nothing wrong asking for a different stringing pattern, it is your right to have a preference.
From a stringer perspective: If you only know one stringing pattern, there is nothing wrong with it. In the end, many stringers like me are not professional and do not do this for a living. Be honest to your customers and get really proficient with one pattern.
To summarize this big section, there is no ‘the best’ or ‘the worst’ there is only your personal preference as a customer and skill, attitude, experience from a stringer.
Q: My string broke the first time after I got it back from a stringer, does that make him a bad stringer ?
A: The answer to this question is Yes and No. Personally speaking, this has happened to me many times. I did one or two times, cut/slice the string accidentally while stringing the racket. Later on I give my customers discounts to remedy the mistake. Other times, customers wanted some really thin strings and I knew for a fact those strings would break really fast. It just happened to break for the first time. That is something I can’t really control and it’s not the stringer’s fault. Sometimes, the player mis-hit and the shuttlecock hit a single string area that would instantly snap the string. This is the reason why I recommend those who want higher tension to choose a thicker string instead. With many rackets, I am able to add another piece of string on the very top. This procedure decreases the single string area. It is widely used among pro stringers and decreases the chance of instant snap when mishit happens. Be extra aware if you wish to play with BG80 from Yonex, BG80 is the string that breaks in the shortest time overall. BG80 is also the kind of string that people tend to love or hate. For those who want to go high tension on BG80, be extra aware that the string may break very FAST. You may also ask, why does the BG80 break fast? It's 0.68mm and it’s not considered very thin in terms of strings. BG80 is one of the hardest strings on the market, when a material is hard, it tends to break or snap like glasses. If you love BG80, that’s not a problem, there are other great substitutes from other brands that provide similar feelings but greater durability.
Q: What tools do I use to string rackets and why are they necessary?
A: Stringing machines do make differences. Every job is easy if the right tool is used
A two point stringing machine is the basic stringing machine whereby the racket is held in place at the top most and the ‘T’ section of the racket.
This kind of machine also requires fly clamps which doesn’t hold string tension as good as base clamps
A six point stringing machine has additional metal pieces to support the racket at 2 o'clock & 10 o'clock, 4 o'clock & 8 o'clock face position of the racket.
Assume a stringer does work on two different machines, one is a two point mounting system, the other one is a six point mounting system. Your racket will likely be more deformed after the job on the two points machine. Why? There is simply not enough support from the machine. Try to stay away from the 2 points machine if you can.
Q: Crank, drop weight, electric tension heads
A: 3 types of tension heads to put tension on strings: