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Four of the variables are defined below:

Speed/Power is defined in two different ways:


• Flat hits (i.e. raw speed)
• Loop speeds (i.e. Top speed on a topspin stroke)
• In general, speed/power of a racket is defined by having a high coefficient of restitution (or a
high bounce efficiency); that is, the capability giving a ball a high velocity.
Measured by:
• Drop test with and without rubber.
• Flat robot test - rebound speed measured (with backing & without)
Affected by:
• Stiffness/Flex: More stiffness generally means more power, especially on flat hits, but more flex
gives more power on big loops, as a large amount of spin is required.
• Hardness/Softness: Harder = more power.
• Mass: More mass allows for more momentum, but less weight means the racket can be moved
quicker and easier.

Spin is defined by:


• Throw angle on robot.
• Ability to impart spin on a variety of strokes (i.e. fast loops, slow chops, serves, etc.)
Measured by:
• Robot topspin test.
Affected by:
• Stiffness/Flex - more flex means more dwell time
• Hardness/Softness - softer means more dwell time
• Dwell Time* - more dwell time means more contact with the ball, thus increased spin.
*Dwell time is affected by both stiffness and flex, but directly affects spin in itself.

Reversal is defined by:


• The continuation of spin of a pimples-out rubber (typically anti-spin or LP) on:
Passive shots, chops, blocks, service receive, etc.
Measured by:
• Measuring rotation speed in slow-motion?
• Qualitative data
Affected by:
• The opposite of spin properties:
• Stiffness/Flex - generally, stiffer means more reversal, as it decreases dwell time
• Hardness/Softness: harder blades generally have a shorter dwell time
• Dwell time: the less dwell time, the less spin; thus more reversal

Control is defined by:


• Control is almost purely subjective, and it depends on the player, so it is affected by the balance
of:
• Mass / distribution and balance; size & shape - being too heavy can slow down quick changes of
movement, but being too light can reduce potential power.
• Stiffness/Flex - too much flex can make the blade feel "weak" or "floppy", while too little flex can
make it feel hard and brittle.
• Hardness/Softness - if a blade is too hard, then it may feel like it is difficult to play shorter shots
and impart more spin; if it is too soft it may feel too slow and "mushy".
• Speed/Power - Being too fast makes it difficult to control short shots, being too slow makes it
harder to hit faster shots.
• Spin - Too little spin makes it hard to perform shots like loops and chops, and can make
ordinarily spiny shots easier for the opposition to return. Also, if a blade causes a racket to have a
particularly low throw angle, then the ball often doesn't follow the direction of the stroke as
closely. If, however, a blade causes a high throw angle (meaning it has very high spin), then it can
make chopping or attacking backspin difficult (as the ball drops, making it hard to hit over the
ball), and reacts more to spin when returning serves.
• Reversal - Different amounts of reversal are desired for different antispin/pimple rubbers (SP
generally being the least, LP being the most). It is important to be able to create soon with some
pips, as it (generally) makes it more difficult to tell the type of the rubber, how it behaves, and it
allows for a greater variety of shots to be played with that rubber.
Measured by:
• Qualitative feedback from various players
• Finding a balance between other characteristics

https://thoughtsontabletennis.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/introduction-to-table-tennis-blade-
design/

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.

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 ):
(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.

(click to enlarge to see the wood structure of the above blade better)
After years of research and billions of invested dollars, I found this quite cost effective real
world model:
If you have a soft surface layer wood, you can try to spot these pores as shown below.
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.
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.

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:


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

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.

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:

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

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

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.


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

(click to enlarge)

Let’s analyse what we can see:


(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.
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.

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

Let’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.

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.

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.

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.

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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