We have been experimenting with this new and clever tool from Stringway for the past several weeks. The basic purpose of the tool is to assist with installing the cross strings.
The tool comes in two sizes, one designed for dense patterned stringbeds and the other for open stringbeds. The build quality of the tools is high quality and properly used they should last a very long time.
Here’s how this tool works. Once mains are installed the tool is affixed to the stringbed. The lever is tightened and alternate strings are raised, much like the weaving looms of days gone by. The cross string is then threaded through a channel on the tool. Once threaded, it is pulled through (100% friction free) and the tool is released. The top tool housing is shifted and the lever is tightened again. This time the alternate strings are raised and you are ready to continue the process. Once you get the hang of it, it is pretty easy to use.
In our opinion there are advantages, disadvantages and questions that still need to be answered. Let’s begin with the advantages.
We love using this tool to save wear and tear on our fingers. It is especially useful when you have a textured poly-based main with any type of poly-based cross string. We also project a swift and fast proliferation in the new twisted poly-based strings. (It’ll hit full force next year.) With the coil memory and friction in pulling crosses, the twist strings can prove to be unpleasant to work with. Using this tool makes the installation of these strings easier on the fingers, which is most appreciated if you are doing a number of these racquets. The same principle applies to installing the dreaded Gamma Ruff, the stuff is not nearly as dreadful using this tool.
Another advantage can be found when stringing natural gut. Having no friction when pulling crosses reduces the unraveling of the natural gut and makes for a fairly pleasant experience.
There are, however, some disadvantages. The tool adds quite a bit of time to the stringing process for those who are experienced and fast. Constantly moving it, readjusting it and properly setting it is clunky and difficult to streamline.
We also do not like the fact that it can not be used for the final crosses (sometimes the last 2 – 4 depending on racquet head size and shape). These are where it would be most useful, but it is too large to get into the smaller area of the head.
The tools fit better and thus work easier on some racquets than others. We understand it is difficult to engineer to fit all racquets perfectly, a feat that would likely require several different sized tools. As a tool designed to fit a large percentage of sticks, the two available are acceptable, if you can accept that there are a small percentage of frames where it will not work.
Marking the string. In some cases the process of pushing the mains downward can cause some marks (not really notches, but more like indentions) to occur. This is most likely to happen toward the end of the stringjob or when the tool is placed close to previous cross string.
CONSISTENCY!!! This is our biggest concern at this point. When using this tool our stringbed stiffness readings are generally 2 – 4 DT points lower than when we string without the use of the tool. This was a bit surprising to us as we surmised the use of the tool would create a stiffer stringbed.
Questions. We are still learning how to best and most consistently use this tool. Here are some of the questions we believe still need to be addressed.
What is the optimal way for the unit to be set when tension is applied to the cross string? Optimal in terms of speed and consistency.
How much stringbed stiffness is lost when using the tool? Seems to depend on string type.
What is the best way to compensate for this loss? Should tension be adjusted upward to compensate or is the tool essentially stretching the strings and thus making the initial stringbed stiffness lower, but also reducing tension loss?
Twist strings installed with the tool vs without look different in the stringbed. Without tool the twist is more pronounced and visible, while with the tool it is not as tightly wound. Will this impact performance? If so, to what degree?
What playability impact, if any, will user experience because the mains are being stretched by the tool and the crosses are not being stretched?
Overall, we believe the tool is most beneficial for helping to prevent finger soreness associated with the installation of textured poly-based string products. However, our greatest concern is consistency. We need to develop a greater level of understanding on how the use of the tool may be impacting the performance of the stringjob. We are looking forward to meeting and discussing these issues with the Stringway representatives at the upcoming Grand Slam Stringers Symposium in October. In the meantime if you have any thoughts or questions, post them in the comments section below this blog entry and we will try to respond or get responses for you at the symposium.