1.  Introduction

In table tennis, the power of ball has been reduced by continuous change of regulation such as the increase of the diameter of ball from 38mm to 40mm, the ban of speed glue, and finally the change of the material of ball from celluloid to plastic. Many table tennis players have tried to compensate the loss of speed by replacing their blades by faster ones. This situation hasn’t been friendly to 5-ply wood blades because 5-ply wood blades are slower than 7-ply wood blades or fiber blades in general. At present, fiber blades are very popular not only among amateur players but also among top professional players.

However, there is wide variation of strategies and playing styles in table tennis. Speed isn’t always the most important factor in table tennis. Spin is more important than speed in table tennis, because of the existence of the net. Precise placement is also an important factor for better table tennis. Therefore, for the players who don’t especially pursuits speed, 5-ply wood blades are still worthy. Also, in case the level of the skill of a player is low, faster blades may give much worse result than slower blades in table tennis matches, because speed without control causes many mistakes.

Although 5-ply wood blades are not the mainstream of these days, probably there will be many table tennis players who ‘love’ 5-ply wood blades. And, there are some ‘classic’ 5-ply wood blades those have been famous and popular among table tennis players for long time. It will be interesting to examine the mechanical characteristics of those blades by Performance Indices.


2. Blades to be compared

Eleven 5-ply wood blades are selected for comparison.

  • Stiga Allround Classic – Reference for Performance Indices
  • Stiga Offensive Classic
  • Stiga Rosewood NCT V
  • Butterfly Primorac
  • Butterfly Korbel
  • Butterfly Mazunov (discontinued)
  • Nittaku Violin
  • Nittaku Acoustic
  • Nittaku Tenor
  • Tibhar Chila OFF
  • Tibhar IV-S

‘Allround Classic’ is the representative of traditional all-round blades. And, it is the reference blade of Performance Indices in TTGear Lab.

‘Offensive Classic’ and ‘Rosewood NCT V’ are popular in China. ‘Offensive Classic’ is a traditional offensive 5-ply wood blade for close-to-table topspin. And, it had been used by many Chinese top players such as Wang Liqin. ‘Rosewood NCT V’ is a recent blade, and it is much faster than ‘Offensive Classic’. Maybe it can be considered as the modern version of ‘Offensive Classic’. It has been used or is being used by Chinese top players.

Three Butterfly blades are popular in Europe. ‘Primorac’ is similar to ‘Allround Classic’ but it is thicker and faster than ‘Allround Classic’. ‘Korbel’ is the most popular 5-ply blade from Butterfly, and has been used by or is still being used by some top players. It is faster than ‘Primorac’. Currently discontinued ‘Mazunov’ is an extremely fast 5-ply blade. It is even faster than most of fiber blades or 7-ply wood blades. ‘Mazunov’ had been used by many East European top players.

‘Violin’, ‘Acoustic’ and ‘Tenor’ are 5-ply blades from Nittaku. Nittaku calls this family as ‘musical instrument’ series. Among those three, ‘Violin’ is the slowest one, and ‘Tenor’ is the fastest one. This series has been loved by many top players and amateur players.

Two Tibhar blades are very unique blades. ‘Chila OFF’ is a very thick blade. But, thanks to its Balsa center layer, it is a very lightweight blade. With its sufficient speed and excellent stability, it is good for aggressive attack at close-to-table area. ‘IV-S’ is one of representative blades from Tibhar. It is a thick blade which is constructed by five Ayous layers. It is a very powerful blade. But, its unique ‘5-ply Ayous’ construction makes it very easy to use.

Eleven blades will be compared by performance indices. Concerning the detail of four performance indices, please refer to following articles in ‘Background’ section :

 


3. Comparison by Performance Indices

G01
Fig.01 Comparison by Elasticity Indices

Fig.01 shows the comparison graph of Elasticity Indices

Ep is directly concerned with the rebound speed of blade. In general, Ep of 5-ply wood blades is in the range of 1.0 and 2.0 with the exception of ‘Mazunov’. About 1.5 can be considered as the standard value of Ep of 5-ply wood offensive blade. The examples are ‘Rosewood NCT V’, ‘Korbel’ (Ep = 1.55) and ‘Chila OFF’ (Ep = 1.44). Ec is concerned with additional ‘kick’ when player hits ball very hard. In general, Ec of 5-ply wood blade is lower than Ep of that blade. This makes the feeling of most of 5-ply wood blade even softer than its actual softness.

Among three Stiga blades in this comparison, ‘Allround Classic’ is the reference blade of Performance Indices, and all the values of ‘Allround Classic’ are 1.0. Ep and Ec of ‘Offensive Classic’ are a bit higher than those of ‘Allround Classic’. But, the difference isn’t big. The difference between ‘Allround Classic’ and ‘Offensive Classic’ is not in elasticity but in feeling that we will also examine. On the contrary, the Ep and Ec of ‘Rosewood NCT V’ are noticeably higher than those of ‘Allround Classic’ and ‘Offensive Classic’.

Among three Butterfly blades in this comparison, the lease elastic one is ‘Primorac’, and the most elastic one is ‘Mazunov’. Ep’s of ‘Primorac’, ‘Korbel’ and ‘Mazunov’ are respectively 27%, 54% and 134% higher than Ep of reference blade – ‘Allround Classic’. Especially Ep of ‘Mazunov’ (= 2.34) is high than that of ‘Timo Boll ALC’ (= 2.14) and that of Mizutani Jun ZLC (2.24). ‘Mazunov’ is faster than most of fiber blades and 7-ply blades.

Among three Nittaku blades in this comparison, the slowest one is ‘Violin’ (Ep = 1.19), and the fastest one is ‘Tenor’ (Ep = 1.83). ‘Acoustic’ (Ep = 1.38) can be considered as a standard 5-ply offensive blade. ‘Violin’ is a bit faster than ‘Allround Classic’ and ‘Offensive Classic’. ‘Acoustic’ is one step faster than ‘Violin’. ‘Acoustic’ is a bit slower than Korbel’, but the difference is not big. ‘Tenor’ is noticeably faster than ‘Korbel’. Although ‘Tenor’ is not as fast as ‘Mazunov’, its Ep (= 1.83) is a very high value as that of a 5-ply wood blade.

Because ‘Chila OFF’ is a very stable and safe blade, we may expect that its Ep is not that high. But, its Ep (= 1.44) is higher than that of ‘Acoustic’ (= 1.38). Also its Ec (= 1.39) is also higher than that of ‘Korbel’ (= 1.27) or that of ‘Rosewood NCT V’ (= 1.32). ‘IV-S’ is quite fast blade whose Ep is 1.85. The speed of ‘IV-S’ can be compared with that of ‘Tenor’. ‘IV-S’ is a bit faster than ‘Tenor’, but the difference is very small.

 

Examining Ec/Ep is also a easier way to understand the tendency of elasticity of blades. Fig.02 shows the relationship between Ec/Ep and Ep.

G02
Fig.02 Ec/Ep vs. Ep

Ec/Ep expresses the ‘tendency’ of the elasticity of blade. By examining Ec/Ep and Ep at the same time, we can easily understand the behavior of blades.

Except for ‘Allround Classic’ whose value is fixed to 1.0, all blades in this comparison are placed under the line that Ecc/Ep = 1.0. Differently speaking, all those blades can be classified as ‘Hold’ blades. 5 blades among those blades are even classified as ‘Deep Hold’ blades whose Ec/Ep is under 0.9. It coincides with our general thinking that 5-ply wood blades tend to hold ball.

Among 10 blades, ‘Chila OFF’ and ‘Tibhar IV-S’ is placed on ‘Mild Hold’ range. Those two blades can be also considered as ‘Linear’ for strength of impact. And, ‘Violin’ and ‘Tenor’ are placed on the border between ‘Mild Hold’ range and ‘Deep Hold’ range.

The other 5 blades – ‘Primorac’, ‘Acoustic’, ‘Rosewood NCT V’, ‘Korbel’ and ‘Mazunov’ can be classified as ‘Deep Hold’. And, 4 blades except for ‘Mazunov’ are placed at the range that 0.8 < Ec/Ep < 0.9 and 1.2 < Ep < 1.6. I.e. ‘Deep Hold’ and ‘Mild Speed’ range. This range is what we can easily expect when we imagine ‘5-ply wood’ blade. We can call the blades in this range as ‘Typical 5-ply wood’ blades.

 

Then successively, let’s compare Vibration Indices. Fig. 03 shows the comparison graph of Vibration Indices.

G03
Fig.03 Comparison by Vibration Indices

Vibration Indices are concerned with feeling. Vp indicates primary feeling which is transferred to player’s palm. And, Vl is the feeling at the wing of a blade. It is felt by player’s inderx finger or middle finger.

The Vp’s of six blades – ‘Offensive Classic’, ‘Rosewood NCT V’, ‘Primorac’, ‘Korbel’, ‘Violin’ and ‘Acoustic’ – are not different from the Vp of ‘Allround Classic’. Those are in the range of 1.0 ~ 1.1. It means that those six blades (seven blades including ‘Allround Classic’) are soft. It coincides with our common sense that 5-ply wood blade is soft.

But, there are also four blades in this comparison whose Vp is over 1.2. Of course the blades whose Vp is in the range of 1.2~1.3 is not that hard. However, as 5-ply blades, those blades are relatively hard.

The Vl’s of blades in this comparison are quite high, and in most cases higher than Vp’s of those blades. It means that the feeling that transferred to finger is somewhat sharp.

The Vl’s of ‘Offensive Classic’, ‘Rosewood NCT V’, ‘Korbel’, ‘Acoustic’, ‘Tenor’ and ‘IV-S’ are close to 1.2. Those blades have been popular among top players. ‘About 1.2’ may be optimum value of Vl of 5-ply wood blade for top players. And, they may feel that the blade is unique if Vl of that blade is bigger than 1.3 or smaller than 1.1.

The blade whose Vl is the highest in this comparison is ‘Chila OFF’. This is very high value for its moderate values of Elasticity Indices. Players may feel that Chila OFF is very sharp and fast blade.

The Vl’s of ‘Tenor’ and ‘IV-S’ are close to the ‘Vp’s of those blades. That tendency is close to that of ‘Allround Classic’. It is related to the examination of Vl/Vp.

Examining Vl/Vp is easier way for the comparison of the tendency of feeling. Fig.04 shows the relationship between Vl/Vp and Vp for easier comparison.

G04
Fig.04 Vl/Vp vs. Vp

Vl/Vp of ‘Allround Classic’ is 1.0. We can consider that this blade provides uniform feeling. And, ‘Tenor’ provides the same tendency. In case we want to select a faster blade while keeping the tendency of feeling of ‘Allround Classic’, ‘Tenor’ may be very good choice. ‘Mazunov’ and ‘IV-S’ are also close to the line that Vl/Vp = 1.0.

Except those four blades, all the other seven blades in this comparison are placed in the range that Vl/Vp > 1.1, i.e. in the range that the feeling is relatively sharper at finger and relatively softer at palm. Further, five blades among those seven are placed in the range that 1.0 < Vp < 1.1 as we have already examined. Those five are ‘Korbel’, ‘Rosewood NCT V’, ‘Acoustic’, ‘Primorac’ and ‘Violin’. Although each blade among those five has its own characteristics, those five blade share basic feeling. And, the blades in this range can be considered as ‘typical’ 5-ply wood blades.

Three high-speed 5-ply wood blades – ‘Mazunov’, ‘Tenor’ and ‘IV-S’ – are in the range that 1.2 < Vp < 1.35 and 0.9 < Vl/Vp < 1.1. Basically those three are somewhat hard, but uniform. Differently speaking, those three are not sharp at finger. If the feeling at finger of those three blades is also sharp, players may feel that those three blades are uncomfortable. The range that 1.2 < Vp < 1.35 and 0.9 < Vl/Vp < 1.1 may be the optimum range for fast 5-ply wood blades.

 

 


4. Summary

  • Ep’s of typical 5-ply wood offensive blades are generally in the range of 1.3 ~ 1.6. However, there are also 5-ply wood blades with higher elasticity which is close to or even higher than the elasticity of typical 7-ply wood blades or fiber blades.
  • All 5-ply wood in this comparison except for reference blade is placed in the range that Ec/Ep < 1.0. That is, those blades hold ball deeply when we hit ball very hard. This coincides with our common sense that 5-ply wood blade tends to hold ball easily.
  • The typical 5-ply wood blades those are popular among top players are placed in the range that 1.0 < Vp < 1.1 and Vl/Vp > 1.1. Top players may feel the blades out of this range unique.
  • High-speed 5-ply wood blades are in the range that Vp is close to 1.25 and Vl/Vp is close to 1.0. Maybe this is the optimum range for fast 5-ply wood blades.

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