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?