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1: Is a bat made of [such-and-such timber] better than one made of [some other timber]?
2: Most blades I've tried felt very much the same. Does changing the timber species inside the blade really make that much difference? Isn't it better to just stick to one blade and timber type and practice a lot more?
3: What is "The Balsa Effect"?
Balsa has a non-linear response curve.
Much like Tenergy rubbers, balsa has a 'catapult' effect all of its own, which only emerges when a ball strikes the playing surface at speed.
With slow speed impacts (such as when pushing or returning serve) balsa provides excellent touch and control - but with faster impacts such as driving, looping, blocking, chopping or smashing, balsa's catapult kicks in, the rebound speed increases dramatically, and it adds extra speed to your shots over and above what you create with your playing stroke.
This is an excellent feature for close-to-the-table blocking or counter-hitting, as this extra speed gives you an edge. This actively works against you however when looping the ball, as dwell-time is reduced during each stroke... the ball is often not in contact with the playing surface long enough for you to easily impart a lot of spin. The Balsa effect can also tend to make your pushes close to the net "pop up" higher than normal if you're not careful, leaving you open to counter-attack from a flick or smash.
How much the Balsa effect impacts on your particular game depends on the way you play, the thickness of your blade and rubber sponge, the thickness of the balsa, the type and thickness of your surface plies, and the Balsa's location within your bat's plywood (amongst other factors).
For more information on the Balsa effect, we recommend you read this excellent article from TT retailer One of A Kind Trading.
4: What does "ITF Score" mean?
ITF stands for Impact Tone Frequency.
It refers to the average frequency (or pitch) of the noise a bare blade makes, when its playing surface is struck by a competition-standard table tennis ball falling from a set height. This frequency is then used as a comparative measure of a blade's speed
Generally speaking, the harder and stiffer a blade is, the faster it tends to be during play. This correlation between a blade's stiffness/hardness and its speed tends to hold true regardless of a blade's manufacturer, raw material or construction method.
Because stiffer/harder blades also tend to produce higher pitched sounds during play, the sound a blade makes (ie: its impact tone frequency) is a useful rough measure of its overall speed, compared to other blades. The higher the pitch (or frequency) of the noises a blade makes, the faster that blade tends to be during play.
There is no standardised name, procedure or method for calculating this particular measure of speed in the industry. Furthermore, it is only a very rough measure of speed - the rule does not hold true in every case, and should be regarded more as a rule of thumb
Impact Tone Frequency is just the term we use internally during our own speed/frequency testing. Other blade smiths may call it something different.
5: Do you use composites materials like carbon fibre, kevlar etc?
We can add synthetic composites to your blade if desired, but we try hard to avoid them.
Modern composites like carbon fibre, Kevlar, ALC, Arylate, Zylon, Vectran, Fibreglass etc are commonly used by other manufacturers, but we don't believe arguments for their continued use stack up.
None of these materials are biodegradable, and none of them are manufactured sustainably to the best of our knowledge. Plus in most cases, the majority - if not all - of the benefits they bring can be achieved via alternate means.
Improving your game shouldn't happen at the cost of the environment. And in most cases, impregnating your blade with non-degradable, resin-soaked fibers that were literally designed to be bulletproof, is just marketing overkill... nobody's smash is that fast!
The more responsible bladesmiths out there (including ourselves) are moving away from artificial fibres towards biodegradable alternatives and alternate techniques - these include fibres made of flax, jute, cotton, silk, and other natural light-weight resin formulations.
Please email us for more information about environmentally friendly alternatives to synthetic composites.
6: Do you seal your playing surfaces and edges?
Yes - all our blades have two thin coats of waterproof PU varnish on the playing surfaces and along the full length of the edge.
With balsa blades, we recommend adding hard epoxy resin to your blade's leading edges. If the varnish becomes damaged, the waterproof seal is broken - moisture from surrounding air can then penetrate the blade and shorten its life. Epoxy edges and sealed handles are available on our blades either as an optional extra during manufacture or as an aftermarket modification.
We don't varnish our handles however as sweat then makes the handle slippery during play. Some players prefer to seal the handle themselves with PU varnish, beeswax, linseed oil, PVA glue or the like.
7: What's involved in cloning (recreating) a classic or discontinued blade?
Cloning a blade is typically pretty straight forward, though please understand - we can create a blade that is highly similar to your original one, but it is virtually impossible to make one exactly the same.
Manufacturers often do not disclose the timber they use in their blades, and its extremely difficult to reverse-engineer the glue type and gluing techniques used in the original.
We will ask you questions about the original blade's playing characteristics, and make some educated guesses when recreating the blade in order to get as close as we possibly can to your particular 'old faithful'.
You can expect from this process to receive a bat with similar weight, size, and speed to your original, which feels strongly reminiscent of your original blade, but is still not an exact replica.