I recently assembled a new paddle for a player who has been away for quite a while. She said she used to use short pips on her backhand, and Yasaka, Mark V on her forehand. We had a good blade, so all we needed was the rubber. On the morning of her next lesson, I suggested she come early enough that we could put this new combo together. Prior to her arrival, I laid out all of the instruments required for this tricky procedure. I have assembled countless paddles, and have gotten it down to a pretty predictable system. Still, she spent over fifty dollars on two sheets of rubber, so I needed to proceed with caution. Thankfully, the operation was successful. The smooth rubber fit perfectly, and while the pips had a tiny bit of overhang, it was barely noticeable, and certainly wouldn’t affect the paddle’s performance. The entire process took less than fifteen minutes. Not only did we create a nice looking racket, it really fit her playing style extremely well. She blocks, and chops with Butterfly Challenger Attack 1.5 on the backhand, and has a very quick attacking forehand with the Mark V. There were a few interesting observations that I was able to make from this experience, as is usually the case whenever I open up my Pandora’s box of paddle assembly accessories.
- Challenger Attack is a pretty versatile rubber. I don’t play against many short pips players, but this stuff works really well. In addition to creating some slightly wobbly pushes and dead blocks, backhand attacks off of underspin were extremely effective.
- It’s possible to hit pretty hard, even with a slow blade. The blade we used was about as slow as you can find, which works well for defense. I was really surprised how fast her forehand attacks were. The Mark V was 1.5 thickness as well, so it was not super fast. The speed came from taking the ball early, accelerating directly into the ball, and a complete commitment to attacking whenever possible on the forehand side.
- Finding a good match of equipment for someone is very rewarding. It’s especially fun if they have a unique style that will require some creative shopping.
- It does take a certain amount of experience to get good at assembling paddles. I’ve flubbed a few, not only in the assembly process, but in the selection. It doesn’t happen too often anymore. One key is to listen to the player, and observe them closely before recommending anything. Don’t get in a rush when you are putting a paddle together, especially when cutting the rubber.
- It’s important to use the right tools. At the top of the list is a sharp, high quality pair of scissors. Not all glues are the same. I use Butterfly Free Chack Pro. It is a little thicker than the standard Free Chack, but definitely worth the few extra dollars. I don’t think it really improves the playing qualities of the rubber, but it’s easy to use, and it dries pretty fast.
- I noticed I’ve acquired a pretty good assortment of racket accessories. A close look in my equipment box reveals some interesting items. Some of them always get used, and some of them not so much. I don’t always use edge tape. If you do use it, it’s important to get the right width. If you are prone to knocking your paddle against the table, you should always use it. I own some tuner and booster, but almost never use them. Besides being time consuming, they are really not worth the trouble for my style and level of play. Your results may vary. I’ve also got a file for taking the sharp edges off of blades. There are some rubber protection sheets, which I think are essential, particularly if you use tacky rubber. No need to cover pips out rubber.
I find assembling paddles to be a lot of fun, and kind of relaxing. I enjoy doing this with my own rackets, but it’s just as much fun to work with other player’s equipment. Finding the right match of equipment for your style is important. It’s not a bad thing to tinker with table tennis equipment. If you do, you’ve probably got your own box of supplies. It’s really not anything like Pandora’s box, unless you open it too often.