1. INTRODUCTION

Stiga has produced many legendary table tennis blades for long time. However, at the beginning of 21th century the situation of Stiga was not that good. Although Stiga had many legendary blades such as Clipper in its blade range, there wasn’t any blade that can be an image leader. On the contrary, the competitors such as Butterfly and Donic were launching many new blades with more refined and advanced look every year. Something new was required for Stiga to recover its image as the leader of table tennis blade.

Under that situation, finally Stiga introduced game changers in 2009. Before it, Stiga once tried modern and refined look with some new blades. But, the result wasn’t that good. Maybe for that reason, Stiga decided to ‘return’ or ‘go further’ to traditional image. And, instead of trying modern and refined look, Stiga tried to utilize the high class appearance of special wood materials. The result was the introduction of brand-new ‘hardwood’ series.

stiga-hardwood-fig01
Fig.01 Ebenholz, Rosewood and Maplewood

To understand the characteristics of six hardwood blades, the performance indices will be utilized. Concerning the detail of four performance indices, please refer to following articles in ‘Background’ section :

– Performance indices : the way to evaluate blade by measurement
– The example of comparison by performance indices

Note : In fact, Maplewood NCT V and Maplewood NCT VII have already been discontinued, and are currently not on Stiga catalog. However, for total understanding on Hardwood series, those two models will be included in comparison.


2. COMPARISON BY PERFORMANCE INDICES

The 6 modesl of Stiga Hardwood series are as follows:

  • Ebenholz NCT V : 5-ply wood blade with ebony top layer.
  • Ebenholz NCT VII : 7-ply wood blade with ebony top layer.
  • Rosewood NCT V : 5-ply wood blade with rosewood top layer.
  • Rosewood NCT VII : 7-ply wood blade with rosewood top layer.
  • Maplewood NCT V : 5-ply wood blade with maple top layer. Discontinued.
  • Maplewood NCT VII : 7-ply wood blade with maple top layer. Discontinued.

All six models are of course pure wood blades without any artificial materials except for Nano Crystal powder that is mixed in glue between wood layers. Three kinds of special woods are used for top layer, and each special wood has two versions – 5-ply wood and 7-ply wood.

stiga-hardwood-fig02
Fig.02 Reference blades (excl. Allround Classic)

For better understanding, 5 blades will be compared with 6 models of Hardwood series.

  • Stiga Allround Classic : Basic reference blade whose all indices are 1.00.
  • Stiga Offensive Classic : Traditional Stiga offensive blade which had used by Chinese National Team.
  • Butterfly Korbel : Very popular 5-ply wood offensive blade that has been used by many top players.
  • Stiga Clipper CR : The representative of fast 7-ply wood blade.
  • Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit : Same as Timo Boll ALC except for Graphic Design. The most famous ‘ALC’ blade.

First, let’s see the Elasticity Indices to examine the performance of Hardwood series. Fig.03 shows the comparison graph by Elasticity Indices.

stiga-hardwood-fig03
Fig.03 Comparison by Elasticity Indices

Ep is directly concerned with the rebound speed of blade. One usual prejudice is that 7-ply wood blade is faster than 5-ply wood blade. But, that prejdice is not always truth. There are so many cases that the Ep of a 5-ply blade is higher than that of a 7-ply wood blade. However, at least for Stiga Hardwood series, we can depend on that prejudice because 7-ply version of Hardwood is always faster than 5-ply version.

Ep of Ebenholz NCT VII is 2.19, and it is higher than the Ep of Ebenholz NCT V which is only 1.43. So Ebenholz NCT V is much faster than Ebenholz NCT V. Ec of Ebenholz NCT VII is also higher than that of NCT V. 1.87 vs. 1.41. Here, we can examine the relationship between Ec and Ep. Ebenholz NCT V shows similar values of Ep and Ec. Ec/Ep is close to 1.0. I.e. the rebound characteristics of Ebenholz NCT V is linear. It will not give additional kick to ball or hold ball deep when we hit the ball very strongly. This characteristic is similar to that of Stiga Allround Classic or that of Stiga Offensive Classic. So, we can regard Ebenholz NCT V as the speed-up blade from Offensive Classic while keeping the linear characteristic of it. Offensive Classic. But, Ebenholz NCT V is apparently different from Butterfly Korbel or Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit whose values of Ec/Ep are noticeably lower than 1.0. On the contrary Ebenholz NCT VII shows very similar tendency of with Korbel or Timo Boll Spirit. Ebenholz NCT VII will hold ball deep if we hit the ball hard. For that reason it will not be difficult for the players who have used Timo Boll Spirit to replace their blade with Ebenholz NCT VII. It will be all right if they are just careful of the difference of thickness or shape.

Rosewood NCT V looks similar to Ebenholz NCT V except for the material of top layer. But, the actual characteristics of Rosewood NCT V is different from that of Ebenholz NCT V. The rebound characteristics of Rosewood NCT V is not linear. I.e. Ec/Ep is not close to 1.0. Ec is much lower than Ep, and it means that Rosewood NCT V holds ball deep when we it the ball very hard. What is interesting is that the rebound characteristic of Rosewood NCT V is similar to that of Butterfly Korbel. Ep (1.55 & 1.32) and Ec of Rosewood NCT V are similar to those (1.54 & 1.27) of Butterfly Korbel. Rosewood NCT VII shows higher values of Ep and Ec. Rosewood NCT V also holds ball when we hit the ball hard, but that characteristic is not apparent as that of Rosewood NCT V or That of Ebenholz NCT VII. Among the reference blades, Stiga Clipper CR shows similar tendency with Rosewood NCT VII, but is much faster because its Ep (2.42) is much higher than that of Rosewood NCT VII. In fact this result can be predicted from the appearance of two blades. The blade construction of Rosewood NCT VII is similar to that of Clipper. But, Rosewood NCT VII is thinner than Clipper, and its top layer is different from that of Clipper. If we like the characteristics of Clipper but don’t like the high speed of Clipper, Rosewood NCT VII may be the solution. (However, in fact there is a better solution – Stiga Clipper CC which is thinner than Clipper or Clipper CR.)

Ebenholz and Rosewood were developed to be used by top players – especially Chinese players. Probably the cooperation with Chinese top players caused the similarity between Rosewood NCT V and Korbel, and that between Ebenholz NCT VII and Timo Boll Spirit. In fact, although the appearance of Ebenholz and Rosewood is magnificent, the performance characteristics of those blades are not unique. There will not be much difficulty when top players replace their Butterfly blades with Stiga Ebenholz and Rosewood  (especially Ebenholz NCT VII and Rosewood NCT V). However, differently from Ebenholz and Rosewood, the third version of Hardwood – Maplewood – is very unique.

The most remarkable uniqueness of Maplewood NCT V and Maplewood NCT VII is the low value of Ec. Ep of Maplewood is similar to that of Rosewood. However the Ec of Maplewood is much lower than that of Rosewood. As a result, both of Maplewood NCT V and Maplewood NCT VII show very low value of Ec/Ep. It is the same tendency as that of Korbel or Timo Boll Spirit, but it is more extreme. It means that Maplewood holds ball extremely deep when we hit ball very hard. We can hardly find the blades with this level of holding ball from the blade range of other table tennis makers. Both of Maplewood NCT V and Maplewood NCT VII are very unique blades. The difference between Maplewood NCT V and Maplewood NCT VII is that NCT VII is faster than NCT V.

Then let’s compare Vibration indices those are directly concerned with feeling. Fig.04 shows the comparison graph by Vibration Indices.

stiga-hardwood-fig04
Fig.04 Comparison by Vibration Indices

Vp – Primary Vibration Index – of Ebenholz NCT V is 1.20, and is higher than that of other 5-ply blades – the other NCT V blades, Allround Classic, Offensive Classic and Korbel – in this comparison. I.e. the primary feeling of Ebenholz NCT V is harder or sharper than that of usual 5-ply wood blades. Vl of Ebenholz NCT V is also relatively high. And, Vl is higher than Vp. It means that the feeling at the fingertip of index finger is very sharp. This characteristic is similar not to that of Stiga Allround Classic but to that of Offensive Classic, although both of Vp and Vl of Ebenholz NCT V are much higher than those of Offensive Classic. We can regard Ebenholz NCT V as the harder version of Stiga Offensive Classic.

The Vp and Vl of Rosewood NCT V are similar to those of Korbel. That is the same case as we see from Ep and Ec of Rosewood NCT V. So we can conclude that Rosewood NCT V is totally similar to Korbel. Although there should be the difference of detailed feeling due to the difference of the kind of wood, overall mechanical characteristics of Rosewood NCT V are very close to those of Korbel. On the contrary, Rosewood NCT VII is totally different from Clipper CR when we observe Vibration Indices, while we have already observed that Rosewood NCT VII shows the same tendency of Elasticity Indices as the tendency of Clipper CR. Vp and Vl of Rosewood NCT VII are similar to those of Ebenholz NCT VII. The primary vibration of Rosewood NCT VII are much stronger than that of Rosewood NCT V. But, the lateral vibration of Rosewood NCT VII felt at index finger is almost the same level as that of Rosewood NCT V. For that reason Rosewood NCT VII shows relatively uniform characteristics of vibration.

Both of Maplewood NCT V and Maplewood NCT VII show very low values of Vp. On the contrary both of those two show relatively high values of Vl. It means that the feeling at index finger is very clear and sharp while the primary feeling felt at our palm is soft or comfort. From the viewpoint of vibration, Maplewood NCT V is close to Offensive Classic, and Maplewood NCT VII is close to Korbel.

The feeling of six Hardwood blades is similar to that of Korbel or Timo Boll Spirit. But, not any model of Hardwood blade shows similar feeling as Stiga Clipper which is an orthodox 7-ply wood blade.


3. CONCLUSION

stiga-hardwood-fig05

The result of comparison can be summarized as follows:

  • Ebenholz NCT V is keeping the basic characteristics of Stiga Offensive Classic, but is faster and harder than Offensive Classic. 
  • Ebenholz NCT VII is very close to Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit. So it can be the alternative of Timo Boll Spirit if the difference of shape or thickness will not be a problem.
  • Rosewood NCT V shows very common characteristics of standard offensive 5-ply wood blade. Especially it is very close to Butterfly Korbel. It can be the alternative of Butterfly Korbel if the difference of shape will not be a problem.
  • Rosewood NCT VII is slower and softer than Stiga Clipper. And, it provides more uniform feeling.
  • Maplewood NCT V is very soft and holds ball very deep. And the feeling at index finger is very sharp and clear. Its characteristics are more extreme than what we can expect from common 5-ply wood offensive blade such as Korbel.
  • Maplewood NCT VII is similar to Maplewood NCT V. But, it is a bit faster and harder than Maplewood NCT V.

Each model of Hardwood series can be recommended as follows :

  • In case player doesn’t have any preference : Rosewood NCT V
  • For modern offensive style by topspin from both hands : Rosewood NCT V, Ebenholz NCT VII, (Maplewood NCT VII)
  • Close-to-table topspin : Rosewood NCT V, Ebenholz NCT V, Ebenholz NCT VII, (Maplewood NCT V)
  • Fast attack with smash and block : Rosewood NCT VII
  • Modern all-round style : Ebenholz NCT V, Rosewood NCT VII
  • In case player lays the most emphasis on speed : Ebenholz NCT VII

Note : Recommendation is based on my experience of the comparison. Please don’t 100% believe this information, and just use it for reference, because the actual result may differ by your own situation.

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