You see them everywhere, little signs cable-tied to tennis court fences or pinned to bulletin boards offering dirt cheap stringing. You see them on Craig’s List, Kijiji and a thousand other websites.
But can you trust them? Can somebody stringing racquets in their basement really do as good a job as a professional stringer? And do you get your money’s worth?
The answer is: possibly. If the stringer is properly trained, credibly certified and has a suitable stringing machine, he may be able to do a professional job. However, the truth is that people who string out of their basements are rarely trained or certified and rarely have suitable stringing machines.
In fact, most people stringing out of their basements are discount stringers willing to cut every corner in order to maximize their income while charging customers the lowest possible price. As a result, quality is not their highest priority.
LOW BUDGET STRINGING MACHINES
While it is possible to buy a tool marketed as a “stringing machine” for a little as $300, it is not possible to get a professional stringing machine for much less than a thousand dollars. In actual fact, the starting price for a professional stringing machine with all of the attachments and accessories required to do a range of racquets and strings is about $3000. Anything less and you will be buying a tool that can do some racquets, but not all racquets, some strings, but not all strings.
This is where most discount stringers cut their first corner. They buy a cheap machine or an old machine that is not capable of safely or effectively stringing modern racquets and then use it anyway. It doesn’t matter to them that stringing new racquets on outdated machines is often like trying to fit square pegs into round holes. It doesn’t matter to them that they may damage their customer’s frame. Maintaining a low price is their only concern and an outdated machine helps them do exactly that.
CHEATING TO SAVE TIME
As anyone who has ever used a cheap stringing machine can tell you, they are often painful to use. Compared to the computerized precision and speed of professional stringing machines, table-top and drop-weight tension machines are extremely slow and embarrassingly imprecise. In fact, they are so hard to use that it will often take an hour or two just to do a bad string job. So in order to save time, stringers who use them will often cut corners by tensioning only one side of the racquet. This turns a bad string job into a terrible string job.
Professional machines, by contrast, are extremely precise and efficient. They allow tensioning down to one-tenth of a pound and they have rotating turntables which make it easy for the stringer to properly tension every string without damaging it. This allows professional stringers to focus on quality rather than corner-cutting.
NO PARTS IN STOCK
Another area where discount stringers cut corners is in the parts department. In general, they have none. Most carry only string and tend to offer very little in the way of selection. While a professional stringer will replace a split grommet or advise you to replace a damaged bumper guard, discount stringers will tell you (falsely) that these part don’t matter. The truth is, these parts do matter. They are installed in racquets for a reason. When they are damaged, they should be replaced. And if they can’t be replaced, the racquet should be replaced.
So keep all of this in mind the next time you see one of these discount stringer signs cable-tied to the gate of your local tennis court. Racquet stringing is like everything else in life; you get what you pay for. If somebody offers to sell you a diamond ring for ten cents, chances are you will get a ring that isn’t worth a dime.