Players who hit the ball hard, or apply a lot of spin, are likely to break a lot of strings. If you come into this category, you might well be starting to think that tennis is a very expensive game. A stringer may typically charge $15, plus the cost of the string, to render your racket as good as new. If you break several strings every month, the labor costs alone could easily reach $500-$1,000 per year.
The obvious way to avoid this outlay is to buy a stringing machine and do the job yourself. Even if you are not a frequent string breaker, you might relish the convenience of being able to string your own racket, and you may even be considering earning money by stringing rackets for other players. A wide variety of machines are available, and the best choice will depend upon your budget and the amount of stringing you plan to do.
Choosing the right tennis stringing machine depends on how frequently you break strings, your budget, and how precise you need to be with the tension. Drop-weight machines are cheap but can be less precise – a good choice for frequent recreational players. Electronic machines are expensive but very precise. Lockout machines offer a good compromise.
In this article we will look at the different types of stringing machine you can buy, along with roughly how much each is likely to cost. We will discuss when it is worth buying your own machine, and will briefly look at some of the best machines for beginners, along with one of the best value options. By the end, you will hopefully have a better idea of how to go about finding the best equipment.
Types Of Tennis Stringing Machine
There are three main categories of stringing machine: drop-weight, lockout, and electronic. All use some form of clamp to fix the racket to a turntable, and to keep the string taut before you finally tie it off, but they differ in terms of the mechanism they use to stretch, or ‘tension’ the string.
The cheapest option is a drop-weight machine. These are likely to be the smallest stringing machines, as they are not particularly complicated, and can be reasonably portable. The standard design uses a weight fixed to a lever. The string to be tensioned is attached to this simple mechanism, and the weight is allowed to fall, stretching the string. The string is then clamped, allowing the next one to be worked on. The position of the weight on the lever can be adjusted to produce different tensions. This method works perfectly well, but it is slower and less accurate than the approaches used in the other two types of machine.
Many mid-range machines use a spring-loaded mechanism to stretch the string. A hand-crank is turned until the correct tension is reached, at which point the mechanism ‘locks-out’, applying a brake to maintain tautness. A clamp is applied to the string, and the next length is tensioned. The tension is normally set by turning a wheel with a graduated scale reflecting how tightly the internal spring is being compressed, which will match the tension applied to the string at lockout. These machines are easy and quick to use, and tend to be more accurate than drop-weight machines. Their weakness is the lockout concept which, while very convenient, gives the string the opportunity to stretch prior to clamping. This can result in an unknown amount of tension loss, compromising accuracy.
Most of the more expensive machines use a computer-controlled electric motor to apply tension to the string. They normally use a constant-pull approach, whereby the tension is maintained once it is set, even if the string stretches prior to clamping. This makes electronic machines more accurate than the other two options. The electronic control system allows for more advanced features such as pre-tensioning of the string. Some machines even remember the user’s preferences for height, etc, and can be restored to the most ergonomically efficient position at the touch of a button. Professional stringers will almost exclusively use electronic constant-pull machines.
How Much Do Tennis Stringing Machines Cost?
A simple drop-weight tennis stringing machine can be obtained for $200-$300. You can expect to pay $750-$1,500 for a lockout machine with a spring-loaded mechanism. An electronic constant-pull machine will typically set you back around $1,000-$7,000, so a top-of-the-range model can be a very significant purchase.
Is It Worth Buying A Tennis Stringing Machine?
If you are only looking to string your own rackets, a drop-weight machine or a cheap lockout model will soon pay for itself if you are a regular string breaker – which will make it a worthy investment.
It may, however, be a plan to actually try stringing a racket on a borrowed machine before you buy your own, as not everyone enjoys the rather repetitive process. If it will make you miserable, you will not find buying a machine worthwhile in any way. If you do enjoy stringing, and want to make a profession out of it, a good quality electronic machine will be a good buy.
Best Tennis Stringing Machines For Beginners
As a beginner, you will probably want to buy a relatively cheap drop-weight tennis stringing machine to assess whether you wish to continue stringing without an enormous outlay.
Machines like the Klippermate and Gamma Progression 200 offer good value at under $300 and would be ideal for someone starting out in stringing. If you have a slightly higher budget, the Gamma 5003 W is a lockout machine retailing at around $1,200-$1,500, and might be easier to use than a drop-weight machine.
Best Stringing Machines For The Money
The drop-weight and lockout machines mentioned in the previous paragraph offer excellent value, but if you would like an electronic machine offering good quality at a relatively affordable price, the Gamma X-ELS, retailing at just over $1,500 at time of writing, would be a good choice.
Stringing your own rackets will save you money in the long-term, and can even turn into a money-making job. Ideally, you will want to try out different types of machine before investing in one, perhaps by attending a stringing course. In combination with the information in this guide, this experience should help you to find the ideal machine for your needs.