Stringing a Racquet: DIY or Find a Pro?
If you’re a weekend, recreational player you probably play tennis without thinking much about your strings. But, you should. The experts say, to maintain proper performance, you should restring your racquet as many times per year as you play per week (5 times a week means 5 restringing per year). I’ll talk in the next article about different types of strings and what they do, but today I want to draw your attention to the fact that the strings in your racquet need changing every so often and that you have a choice in how you get it done. When I was a kid I’d play and play, and eventually I’d break a string. My mother would then take my racquet to the shop, and 25 minutes later I’d have it back with new strings (those were the days!). All I knew was that there was a teenager and a funny looking machine in the pro shop, and that was how the job got done. These days I know that getting a racquet back from a stringer in 25 minutes is almost inconceivable. In fact, even finding someone to do it the same day is difficult. I want you to know that you are not confined to waiting a week for your racquet to get restrung. You have options. You can even, if you wish, do it yourself!
Stringing it Yourself:
Yes, you can string a racquet yourself! If you’re willing to spend a few hours learning how to do it and a couple hundred bucks on a machine, it’s rather easily accomplished. By “easy” I mean that it is initially a huge pain in the butt, and you’ll rip your hair out in frustration when you accidentally miss a hole, tangle up the roll, or pinch a string and have to ditch the whole job. However, stick with it through the learning curve and you’ll be well rewarded. “Why?” Because your machine will last forever and, over the long run, you’ll save lots of money. As a bonus you will also gain a deeper appreciation for your equipment and tennis in general. It’s like making your own cake instead of buying it from the store. Somehow the cake just tastes better when you make it yourself.
How to Get Started:
Buy yourself a machine! The cheapest ones I know of are the Klippermate ones. They’re super basic, but they do the job well. Klippermate machines come with excellent instruction manuals, tools, and a selection of popular strings to get you started. For $150 you can give it a try and see if you can do better than I did the first time. From these basic $150 machines, prices can go as high as – way too much. I recommend starting cheap because the cheapo machines are just as accurate albeit more labor intensive. You can always move up to a Gamma or Prince machine with more features when you get good at it.
Or Find a Good Stringer in your Town:
Be prepared to shop around a bit if you intend to find a professional stringer. If someone tells you it will take more than two, maybe three, days to complete your racquet stringing, you should probably find someone else. Reason: because that guy either has too many racquets on his plate and, therefore, might not care about doing yours exactly as you wish, or he’s just lazy and doesn’t care anyway. Pro Shops at private clubs will almost always string your racquet in a timely, quality fashion. And, at every club I’ve been to, you don’t need to be a member for them to do it (They’ll charge you, though, of course). Here in Boulder, Colorado we have several great clubs and one specialty racquet shop that can do the job. However, there are also stringers, who you can find online, who will do a professional job from out of their home. A simple Google search will find them if they exist where you live (When I need a rush job, I have a guy here in Boulder who can do it the same day). These people don’t have the overhead associated with a shop or club and, thus, usually charge less. Racquet stringing is a lot like a haircut; if you get a bad one, go to another barber the next time. When you find just the right one for you you’ll never want to go anywhere else.
Getting a professional to string your racquet is a good idea if you are not a frequent player. If you play more often, though, you may want to investigate a machine for your home because it will save you quite a bit of money in the long run. Either way, you have options. I hope you are no longer thinking of stringing as a job that is exclusive to apprentice and master racquet technicians who work in pro shops. It is good to know something about stringing if only to learn more about your equipment. Don’t be like I was as a kid, thinking or your racquet stringer as a ridiculously specialized tennis elf of sorts. You can do it with minimal hassle from home. It’s your choice.
The retail cost of 40 feet of string (the amount needed to string most racquets) is anywhere from $3.50 to $45.00 depending on the string. Always insist on knowing exactly what kind of string your stringer is putting in your racquet. Look up the retail cost of the string and you will know how much labor you were charged. If you find that your stringer used $3 string and charged you $35 dollars – yeah, you can do the math. Actual labor, regardless of the brand of strings, doesn’t change too much (unless you have an odd racquet) so you can easily compare what kind of deal you are getting between stringers in your area.