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Tuning your racquet: swingweight, balance, lead tape adjustments, polarized/ depolarized setups.

After my years of fiddling with lead tape, I would like to share what I know on tuning a racquet by altering the weight and balance.


First off, you should determine the swingweight of the racquet. Swingweight is different from overall weight. It is possible to have a very light racquet which swings heavy. Manufacturers do this by placing all the weight in the head and not much in the handle, so it will still perform. Avoid these racquets because the shock produced by these racquets can hurt your arm.


You can measure the balance of a racquet by balancing it on a rod or hanging it off the side of a table until it leans. Measure the distance from the balance point to the butt cap. Then subtract that number from 13-1/2 inches (the midpoint of the overall length). Let's say you get 12-5/8. That would make it 7/8 inches away from the midpoint. Every 1/8" is 1 pt head light, so you have a 7pt HL racquet.


Baseliners generally like a racquet between 3-6 pts. HL. Serve and volleyers generally like 8-10 pts. HL. But this is a matter of taste.


Let's say you have a 7 pt. HL racquet and you want more power out of it. You can balance it to 4 pt HL by placing lead in several locations.


Putting lead at 12 o'clock will change the balance the most. It will also give you more spin because it pulls the tip around faster on strokes. It is said Federer puts about 3-5 grams of lead on the tip, Nadal 6-8 grams. They put it under the bumperguard. The average club player can just put it inside the rim to good effect. This setup is called a polarized setup. Think "pole" as being "top of the globe", like "North Pole". (However, Federer's balance point is said to be around 8 pts. HL/ 32 mm from the buttcap)


Putting lead at 3 and 9 o'clock will change the balance less, per strip, but substantially also. This setup will give you more solid volleys, because the racquet will be less likely to twist on off centered shots. It will also make flatter groundstrokes more dependable for the same reason. Sampras was known to put gobs of lead along the side inner rim, which suited his flat loop forehand and volleys.


Let's say you wanted an 9 pt. HL racquet instead. You will have to put weight in/on the handle to make this change. You can either remove the grip and place the lead horizontally or vertically down the handle. The problem is that it will make your grip size bigger.


To avoid this problem, you can put the lead tape near the top of the handle and layer it there. Or you can take off the butt cap, by removing the staples, or open the trap door of the buttcap. The handle is hollow, and from there, you can place cotton two inches or less, and put in a known amount of silicone or fishing weight, or poster tack. Measure the material first, so you will know or be able to arrive at the desired balance point later.


I have found that putting lead at the top of the handle works better, because you do not have a reduction in power as you do when putting weight in the bottom of the handle. It is also much easier to put lead at the top. When putting lead at the bottom, I have had too much reduction in power where the racquet feels substantially less responsive.


A mysterious racquet customizer, John Cauthen, advocated putting 50 grams of lead at the top of the handle. I have put 24 grams and feel the difference already. It makes the racquet much more maneuverable, yet produce a noticeable increase in power. Cauthen's claim is that Agassi and Muster had their racquets customized in such a way and thus, rose to number 1 in the world when they did. I do not know if that is true, but I can speak from my own experience only.


Remember, a 4 inches of a 1/4" wide lead is 1 gram. So if you want 3 grams at the tip, multiply that by 4 and so you will need 12 inches of lead. So if you wanted to do a polarized setup, take 6 inches on one side, and 6 inches on the other side of the rim at the top of the frame. It doesn't take a genius to lay it in there, just put it in there nice and neat, then go out and try it.


If the swingweight feels too heavy, either reduce the size of those strips or counterbalance the weight you put at the top, with an amount in/on the handle. Then tune according to your taste. My taste is 8 pts. HL. with 24 grams at the top of the handle. What's yours?


Note: I achieved 24 grams by using 3/4" wide lead tape, using 8 inches length, wrapping the top of the handle twice. I found this tape at the Racquet Doctor for $1.75/ ft.

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     good discussion

ignore this - sorry for this post, but what's needed is a way to delete your post (in case of error), not just 'edit' it after posting !

You can probably ask Mark Mayor or one of the moderators including myself to delete the post and start over. Sorry for the inconvenience.

So, I will share the experience with Volkl.

First setup that I tried was 16 grams in the handle under the grip, Babolat lead tape 3 grams per stripe. SO, 12 gramms plus the difference of 4 gramms I cut 2 Babolat in the middle and added in the handle bellow the grip.

On the head at 9 and 3 o'clock I added a total of 4 gramms, 2 gramms on each side.

I change the original grip with a leather one, Babolat.


In the end I had a 354 gramms raquet. How it was the feeling? Very powerfull, very good feel and control but less spin. I was hitting very fast flat forehands and backhands. It was like a machine gun :) Service was straight powerfull, fast but flat. So, I put out the 4 grams from handle and keep the leather. I put out the lead from head as well. Now I arrive around 344-342 grams and spin is a little bit better, raquet si very manuevrable. I might say that is a perfect all court raquet very good especially for double games because I have a very good control on voleys and quite good forehands and backhands. On the other side because of less spin is very hard to play safe. The error limit is very small so hitting few centimeters out became normal. So, now I have serious problems in being consistent with my forehand but I have a great one hand backhand :) My game is much more spectacular with more points at net but I suffer a lot on the baseline as far as forehand is not so consistent.


Conclusion: I will buy a clear spin oriented raquet, newest AeroPro Drive and add some lead under the grip in order to make it a little bit heavier and manouvreable. I'm too familiar with this type of raquets and is very hard for me to move to a different one. I appreciate that because of this Volkl I'm extremelly confident on my backhand and I hope to keep this but for sure I need more space for error on forehand and baseline game. I will keep you informed. I will not sell the Volkl because is a very good raquet, good sweetspot, incredible feel and control, maybe if I have problems I will use it later. I recomment Volkl for usual Wilson raquet fans that need a little bit more power with familiar feel.

You are correct in saying a heavier racquet will tend to create flatter shots with less spin. Also, there is the dilemma of controlling the length of shot from backhand to forehand. The solution is to keep the middle ground and adjust the swing path and closed face on the forehand, once you find an acceptable weight and balance.


    A follow up to my earlier suggestion to use bare copper wire to weigh a racquet:  Though flexible, 14 gauge wire (used in house wiring) is difficult to tightly wrap around frames, so consider using thinner 16, 18, or 20 gauges. The following weights are for bare solid copper wire:

    14 gauge is 6.034 inches per tenth of an ounce, 2.128 inches per gram ....16 gauge is 9.603 inches per one-tenth of an ounce, 3.387 inches per gram .... 18 gauge is 15.244 inches per tenth of an ounce, 5.377 per gram .... 20 gauge is 24.194 inches per tenth of an ounce, 8.534 inches per gram .... 22 gauge is 38.462 inches per tenth of an ounce, 13.567 inches per gram. When done, put any kind of tape on it to hold the ends down.

   If you can't find anywhere selling these smaller gauges by the foot, and don't want a whole roll, keep in mind that heavier wire (used to wire the main line of a house for example) which may be sold by the foot, is often made up of strands of these smaller gauges. (If you're not sure what gauge you have, try it in in the holes of a wire stripper in a hardware store).

Even for 14 gauge, that is quite a bit of length. 6 inches for 2.8 grams Well, I guess wind tight and make it nice and neat for the experiment. Still a good way to circumvent the cost of lead.


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