If you find it’s not always convenient to take your rackets to the shop for restringing, one solution is to tackle this yourself -- by stringing your own rackets. Beware; you’ll need to dip into your Nestie cookie jar to buy a few tools and supplies, and it does take some time to master the tricks of the trade. But with a stick-to-it attitude, patience and practice, you’ll be stringing like a pro.
Obtain the Necessary Equipment
You’ll need a stringing machine, commonly referred to as a stringer. Stringers come in three types -- drop weight, spring tension and electric. The drop weight is the least expensive, while the electric models are the most expensive, with computerized functions and a ton of bells and whistles. Most stringers come with mounting and string clamps. At a minimum, you also need a pair of needle-nose pliers, an awl, pair of clippers and a utility knife.
Get the String Pattern
Rackets are made with a specific string pattern that must be followed, or you risk damaging the frame. Before you cut the strings out, look at the pattern and note the holes, referred to as grommet holes, where the long strings, called mains, get threaded -- some may be skipped. Also note the holes where the first and last cross string get threaded and any holes that are skipped. Finally note where the knots are tied off. Close-up digital photos of each area can prove valuable. If your racket is without strings, you'll need to do a little research to get the pattern -- call the manufacturer or ask a racket technician from a local pro shop.
Remove the String
If your racket has strings in it, you'll have to remove them with a pair of clippers. Start in the very center of the string bed, where a center main crosses a center cross string, and cut both strings at once. Move up diagonally from this cut to where the next main crosses a cross and cut both strings. Move down diagonally from your first cut to where the next main crosses a cross and cut both strings. Continue cutting strings, moving diagonally up and then down from the center. After all the strings have been cut, remove them.
Mount the Racket
Depending on the type of stringer, there may be two, four, five or six mounting clamps to securely hold the frame in place during the stinging process. Center the frame within the frame clamps and tighten the clamps. Avoid over-tightening because you can damage the frame. You want the frame secure enough so if you were to grab the handle and try to move it back and forth, there would be no movement.
Set the Tension
Set your machine to the correct string tension. This will vary depending on your racket. Most rackets have the recommended tension printed on the throat. If you have a drop-weight machine, slide the weight to the correct spot on the rod. For a spring tension machine, turn the knob to the correct position. With an electric, computerized machine, enter the tension digitally.
Measure the String
Tennis string comes on reels or in sets. The length of a reel can be 330 feet or more, and string sets usually measure 40 feet. Measure and cut two separate lengths -- one for the mains and one for the crosses. Generally, 18 to 20 feet is enough for the mains and 17 to 20 feet for the crosses.
Start the Mains
Start threading the mains either from the two center top or center bottom grommets. This depends on the number of grommet holes at the throat of the racket. If there are two, six or 10 holes, start threading the mains at the throat. If there are four, eight or 12, start threading the mains at the top of the head. Thread the ends of the string through the correct center holes and then through the opposite center holes. Hold the ends together and evenly pull all of the string through the holes.
Tension and Clamp the Mains
With half the string through one center hole and the other half through the other, clamp one of the mains close to the frame at the starting hole. Pull or tension the unclamped string. Clamp this string near the frame opposite the starting hole and then release the tension. Thread this string through the next open hole off center and through the corresponding hole at the opposite end of the frame. Tension this string, clamp it near the frame and release the tension. Follow the string pattern and continue to tension and clamp strings, alternating two strings on one half of the frame and then two on the other half. Tie secure knots at the tie-off holes according to the pattern and trim off the excess string.
Install the Crosses
Thread one end of the cross string through the correct tie-off hole, according to the pattern, and tie a secure knot. Check your pattern and thread the other end through the correct hole for the first cross. Weave the string over and under the main strings and pull it through the opposite, corresponding hole. Tension and clamp the string. Weave the next cross opposite to the previous cross. Tension and clamp the string. Follow the pattern and weave the remaining crosses. Tie the ending knot and trim off the excess string.
- Stringer's Digest 2009; United States Racquet Stringers Association
- Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images