Stringmeter: An Ode to Accuracy

The stringmeter is a much maligned and wildly misunderstood instrument that should be essential…ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL…for all stringers who are concerned about accuracy, consistency and quality in the string jobs they are producing.  It is also a useful tool for serious tennis players who want to monitor the tension loss of their strings so that they will know when it is time for replacement.  It can also be used to measure the quality of the stringjob in your racquet.

Ask the vast majority of stringers about a stringmeter and you will generally receive a luke-warm response at best.  You will likely hear it is cheap and inaccurate, but can serve as a general guide as to how much tension loss the strings are experiencing.  You will hear it is best used after stringing to get a measurement of the current stringbed tension. You will hear that this tension will be different from the tension used in the stringing process because of a myriad of factors.  You will hear that you should just ignore the reference tension and go with what the meter gives you because it does not measure real tension.  You will hear that the tension it shows on the strings can vary from string to string because of string length and not to be concerned if each string varies from one another.

We believe most of these statements are off base.  We believe, properly used, the stringmeter is a very precise and accurate instrument.  It can be used to accurately measure the desired tension on the main strings (the ones that run vertical).   The cross strings, however, will show a lower tension than the mains due to the friction involved during the installation process.  Depending upon the tension used, it is not unusual for the cross strings to measure 10 – 20 pounds lower than the mains.  This is to be expected.  All adjacent strings should offer very similar measurements to one another, mains and crosses.  The crosses may tend to vary slightly more than the mains, but neither should be significant.

First I feel the need to let readers know that the spring in the Stringmeter must be free and flexible in order to be accurate.  Sometimes this mechanism does stick and when that is the case, the readings can vary wildly.  If your Stringmeter is not functioning smoothly, add a drop of lithium grease or oil on the spring mechanism in the area under the “V” where the small loop and two large loops meet.  This will make sure your unit is functioning properly.  The spring, in general, does not go bad.  In an extremely rare instance where it may, each Stringmeter comes with a lifetime warranty so all you need to do is replace it free of charge.

We generally only use our Stringmeter to measure the tension in the mains.  When we are finished stringing a racquet we have developed our technique to the point where our main strings are all measuring the exact tension that was installed.  It takes time and considerable effort to reach this level, but the outcome is a much more consistent and superior playing stringbed.  The effort needed to reach this level of proficiency is clearly worth it.

I used to be in the camp who would tell you it was not possible and was not important.  I used to believe the Stringmeter was inaccurate.  I suppose I was in a state of denial.  Always taking pride in my work I was able to generate consistent DT readings and I reasoned that was the most accurate way of measuring consistency and quality.  Two years ago I was challenged to create a stringbed that offered consistent measurements with an average of no more than +/- 2 for each main string.  I started messing around with the Stringmeter and was extremely frustrated because I was unable to achieve that level of accuracy.  I reasoned the Stringmeter must not be designed to measure exact tension and used the text on the Stringmeter web site to support my misguided belief.

Today I believe differently.  I believe the Stringmeter is an incredibly accurate instrument.  I have realized my failure to embrace it was a product of pride.  I simply could not believe that with my level of experience and using the best equipment available that my stringbed could possibly be inaccurate.  It was frankly unfathomable.  I had to really make a commitment to opening myself to a world of new possibilities in order to find the light and make adjustments that now allow me produce a more consistent and accurate stringbed.  The Stringmeter is now my best friend and I can not believe how many years it sat in my tool box, rarely used and unfairly disrespected.  I now embrace it.

I would challenge my stringing colleagues to use the devise to measure the consistency of the main strings in any racquet that has recently been strung.  Is the tension shown the same as was used to install?  If not, how much difference is showing?  When setting the meter, I use a small piece of tape to secure the outer ring so that it will not move/rotate when measuring tension.  For me this is helpful so that I do not have to constantly fiddle with the rotating scale.  If the main strings are not showing consistent readings, it is not because of the tool, rather the readings are indeed reflecting the end result.  Yes, this may be a hard reality to accept, but in order to reach a point of true stringing excellence it is important to get to a point where the tension you used is the tension that is showing on each main string.

I believe that the Stringmeter was originally designed to be much more precise and accurate than the current web site describes.  I would not be at all surprised to find out that the marketing team had to sort of backpedal on the issue of being a true tension measurement device because the results for most stringers were not in line with the tension applied.  This created marketing issues on multiple levels.  Afterall, who would buy a device that showed their work to be lacking in quality?  That would be an incredibly hard sell.  Rather, units would move better if they did not fight about accuracy, but rather focused on the secondary purpose of the devise…it’s ability to measure a change in string tensions.  Yah…that’s the ticket!

What do you think?  We’d love to hear your opinions on the topic.  Is the Stringmeter precise and accurate, or are we crazy as a loon?

 

 

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5 Responses to Stringmeter: An Ode to Accuracy

  1. jayceeparis says:

    At last someone has perfectly recognized the real value of this remarkable little measuring device which is the indispensable tool for a conscientious stringer who wants to improve the quality of his work. Without the possibility to control the tensions that have been actually strung into a racquet, it is impossible to achieve a high level of competency as a stringer.

    Most stringers do not have the humility to believe that the readings of a Stringermeter are accurate and consistent. The truth is that this device is almost perfectly correct, it reveals the mistakes that we make when stringing or confirms that we have done a good job.

    I have the same Stringmeter since more than 15 years and I use it every time I string a racquet. I could not work well without it.
    I am very pleased to see that John is encouraging stringers and players to use this device, it is the key to understanding what is really happening in the string-bed, both before and after stringing. When well used this is the perfect “yard-stick” and the only way to improve the quality of the work of a stringer. If you want to obtain accurate and consistent results when stringing, you must use a Stringmeter and be humble enough to trust it, to believe that it is telling you the truth, and that when the “set tension” is the same as the average tension on the mains, then you have achieved WYSIWYG efficiency, which is the ultimate goal for a highly competent pro-stringer.

    Trust the Stringmeter, it really works well.

    John Elliot

  2. Julian says:

    John,

    I understand how the Stringmeter can be a very effective tool. Do you believe the iPhone app “racquettune” can serve its purpose to measure tension loss? Thank you for your valuable input. BTW. I am still working with lowering my tension under 52lbs.

  3. ggtennis says:

    We have been using and studying the app you mention. I have found it to be consistent in measuring tension loss. Many times it is accurate in zoning in on the exact reference tension, but this can vary according to string type and sometimes hybrids and low tensions can give it trouble. We have just started testing the revised version and see there is now a low tension option.

    In terms of measuring tension loss, we do believe it to be an effective tool as long as the settings (string type, gauge, racquet head size etc) are not altered and the method used to strike the stringbed is consistent. The DT measurement using the Racquettune app does not seem to align with my ERT.

  4. Ed-in-Galena says:

    I have never used a Stringmeter and have no comment on it, but I would like to correct your statement in paragraph 3 regarding why the mains show greater tension than the crosses. First, your reason about friction during stringing (i.e., the weave of the crosses thru the mains which are done first) is in effect saying that the tension at the pulling end of the cross string differs from the tension at the fixed end of the cross string, if the friction of the weave thru the mains results in a tension loss. If this were the case, the result would be a tight, stretched string at the pulling end and a looser string at the fixed end, and the finished job would have crosses with alternating looser ends and tighter ends as they are checked from top to bottom (or bottom to top) on the racquet. This is not the case. I have found that typical stringing tensions are plenty high enough to pull the cross thru the main at a consistent tension. Rather, the reason is due to the mains being strung first. The mains are strung straight from hole to hole at the given tension (say 55 lbs.) and each is “locked” in place as it is strung (i.e., its length is set and locked). Then, as each cross is weaved through the mains, the path of each main is made longer than the original straight path of the main due to the “up and down” path of the weave. Each string moves up and down at each string intersection by half of the diameter of the string to make the path longer, like a flattened sine wave. The crosses share in this half-diameter up and down weave, but they are tensioned after the weave path is set, so they are legitimately 55 lbs. But the mains were previously fixed at the ends at 55 lbs, so when the weave increases the string path and length for each main, the string is stretched tighter and this can only increase the tension. 18 or 19 half-diameter up and down movements in the mains are significant enough to measurably increase the tension. The same reasoning applies to the loss of tension as the racquet is used over time. The small notches that develop at the string intersections shorten the string path, and since the tension and length were fixed at the beginning, the shortened path can only result in a loss of tension (both mains and crosses in this case).

  5. John Youngblood says:

    Fair enough. Bottom line is the mains will show a tighter tension than the crosses. The mains will measure, on average, 30 – 35% higher. Perhaps the reason is not friction, but the fact that the installation of the crosses is increasing the tension on the mains. Please note that this blog site is no longer active. For future replies please visit us at http://www.ggtennis.com/blog

    Thanks!

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