Stringing Machines - What's Best?
I upgraded my stringing machine about 6 months ago to a brand new custom Gefen Sports GS2000 with Wise electronic tensioner. It took me a while to convince myself to make the switch from a fairly standard mid range drop weight machine, mainly due to the cost involved. I also had to ask myself "what is the main benefit of making the switch"?
Drop Weight and Crank machines are fine and perform a decent job, but if you have a number of rackets to string in a short space of time it can be pretty labour intensive as the process is far more manual than with an electronic tensioner. When using my drop weight machine, I would always take a little bit more time on the tensions.
Electronic machines will generally offer the option to do a constant pull of the string or a lockout pull. The constant pull ensures minimum slack as the string is essentially stretched to the set tension, until you clamp the string. A lockout pull will stop pulling once the initial tension is reached, so no stretching, meaning that the strings will lose a fair bit of tension (10%+ within an hour or so of stringing). If it takes you a game or two to 'break a new set of strings in', chances are that they've not been strung on a constant pull.
I am now able to string accurately AND quickly - there is no trade off. The most noticeable difference I've found is when stringing tennis rackets. As the recommended tensions are roughly twice as high as with squash rackets, and the strings are generally more wiry, having a electronic motor to help pull the strings through (especially using constant pull) is an absolute life saver. I string on average anywhere between 10 - 20 rackets per week, so stringing 4 rackets in an evening is no longer quite as tiring.
So, what's the best type of machine? The truth is, it's whatever you're budget and patience stretches to, excuse the pun. If using a Drop Weight or Crank machine, that's cool. Just take your time when tensioning, use the best clamps you can afford and learn some good patterns and techniques.
My machine totals around £1,200 - £1,500 depending on options, clamps, stands etc. No doubt I'll be looking at upgrading to a machine to one that costs as much a new car at some point in the near future, but for now, my machine suits me perfectly.