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In the early days of table tennis, people only used a single piece of wood to make a blade. Later, it was discovered that instead of using a single thick wood piece, we could put multiple thin pieces into layers to create a blade with a better bounce.
Throughout the development of table tennis blades, it was found that when the wood layers were joined in the same direction as the wood grain, it could create a better bounce than when they were in the reverse direction. Since then, a wood layer of longitudinal grain has been put at the center, then layers of horizontal grain were pressed on both sides, and finally, 2 layers of the vertical grain were packed on both the outer layer’s sides. Therefore, the wood layers are always arranged in odd numbers, which is 3,5,7,9.
The number of wood layers, the thickness of each, the rigidity, and the material proportions combined to form its different characteristics.
A complete table tennis blade composition
According to table tennis rules, a blade has to be made of 85% of natural wood. It’s also allowed to contain additional materials such as carbon, arylate, etc., but they must account for either less than 7.5% of the total thickness or below the range of 0.014″, depending on the lower value.
Carbon is used to make the blade harder and faster, as well as to help it have a larger “sweet spot.”
However, if you are a beginner, then you do not need to care about choosing a blade yet. You just need to use a paddle set with a blade and rubber installed. I also have the article about the best ping pong paddles for beginners, so you could read it and choose a product that I recommend.
If you are an experienced table tennis player and have already developed your own style, you will need to get a blade together with rubber. So let’s read on to learn more about the blade!
Common wood types used to make the blade
- Ayous wood: It’s lightweight, stiff, and excellent for close-to-table counter drive play.
- Koto wood: It’s often used in the thin outer plies to increase stiffness and bounce.
- Bass Wood: It’s most popular because of its low price and the high degree of control it provides.
- Limba wood: It offers a soft feeling, a high degree of ball grip, and control. Limba is a traditional racquet wood for European players who prefer looping far from the table.
- Cypress wood (also known as Hinoki): It’s a classic wood for blade manufacturing, favored by Asian athletes who love attack techniques of great speed, a soft feeling, and fairly high speed.
- Planchonello wood: It’s often used added to the outer layer for great speed, supporting the powerful offensive style.
- Yellow Aningre wood: It offers a fascinating degree of control, a soft feel, suitable for all-round styles of players.
Some blades use additional carbon, arylate, or titanium layers to create a larger sweet spot (Sweet Spot is the area on the paddle surface where the player gets the best feeling when making shots. It is round and shares the same center with the blade. We can easily determine the sweet spot area based on the ball’s bounce and feel when we drop a ping-pong ball from a fixed height to different parts of the paddle).
- Carbon-based blades: A carbon fiber layer adds more speed to the paddle, expands the sweet-spot, and provides more stability. Carbon also acts as a reinforcing layer to strengthen the paddle. Hence, most carbon-based blades have a ‘hard’ feel, which is ideal for players with offensive styles.
- Arylate-based blades: The arylate fiber will reduce the vibration when the paddle makes contact with the ball. Like carbon fiber, the arylate fiber also expands the sweet-spot area to make the paddle more stable. This feature will create a paddle with a “medium” or “soft” feel, suitable for the player favoring topspins.
- Some high-end blades are made from Arylate Carbon fibers. The speed and large sweet-spot from the Carbon, together with the vibration reduction and “soft” feel from the Arylate makes up the paddles of the highest quality in the current market.
How the blade material affects the paddle
- Rebound: The greater the rebound, the faster the ball will go, but control is compromised to some extent, suitable for a fast attack, very suitable for techniques involving top sheet and anti-spin
- Tackiness: The greater the tackiness, the easier it will be to create spin, suitable for varied brush technique, but not very suitable for techniques involving top sheet and anti-spin.
- Touch feel (from hard to soft): The soft feeling well supports the varied spin loop technique, but the stiff feeling is suitable for powerful and speedy spinny loop techniques. It should be noted that stiff feel is not necessarily associated with a high bounce. For example, the 9-layer Dynapower core is tough but quite compact, making it suitable for traditional anti-spin chop defense.
- Control degree (easy to difficult): It’s usually inversely proportional to rebound. However, some new technologies can increase the control degree relatively without sacrificing the rebound, such as TSP’s Relfex PAT System technology.
- Ball trajectory curvature (more or less curved): The more curved ball trajectory allows the slow looping technique below the table, the flatter ball trajectory supports the quick close-table attack styles.
There is no specific regulation for the table tennis paddle’s size for entertainment and competition in national and international tournaments. However, according to statistics, table tennis racquets are usually produced with the following specifications to support the best practice:
- Width: 5.9 inches
- Length: 3.9 inch
- Length with handle: 9.45 ich – 10.25 inches
- Thickness: 1 inch – 1.3 inch
- Weight: 70 – 100 grams.
Symbols on the blade
There will be classes (categories) and specifications on each blade,
- DEF: Suitable for players with defenses from a far distance, help them control the ball closely
- ALL-: Suitable for players with slice push and defense-dominant style
- ALL: Suitable for all-round players with many different playing styles
- ALL +: Suitable for players with good blocking technique, good spin control, and forehand shot advantage.
- OFF-: Suitable for players with medium offensive defense style.
- OFF: Suitable for players with an offensive tendency
- OFF +: Suitable for players with an attack-dominant style.
The blade is harder and more difficult to control than the lines above.
The blade speed increases gradually from DEF to OFF +. And vice versa, the control capacity decreases from DEF to OFF +
Meaning of the abbreviations:
- DEF: Defensive
- ALL: All-round
- OFF: Offensive
- SPEED: scale from 1 to 100 or from 1 to 10. The larger the number, the higher the speed.
- CONTROL: scale from 1 to 100 or 1 to 10. The larger the number, the higher the control.
- PLY: the number of layers of the blade. 5W means the racket has 5 wood plies, 3W / 2A / C means the blade has 3 wood plies, 2 Artyle plies and a Carbon ply …
- WT: the blade’s weight, usually between 70 grams and 100 grams.
- HANDLES: denoted by FL (Flared), AN (Anatomic) or ST (Straight).
Features to consider when purchasing a blade
1. Speed and Control
These two characteristics are closely related. Usually, beginners should use slow paddles because the slower the blade is, the easier it is to control (high degree of control). A high-speed blade makes it easy to create very fast and powerful shots, but since the blade moves very quickly, you will not have enough time to accurately control the racquet’s angle when responding to a spin serve or a hard hit.
Some blades are heavier than others due to a combination of wood types, the number of layers, and material. Some heavier blades (with slower speed) will be suitable for beginners as the racquet’s weight produces most of the responding force, so players only need to focus on the racquet’s control.
The choice of the blade depends on the player’s playing styles. There are two main playing styles, which are defensive and offensive ones. Defensive players should choose a slow-speed blade due to the high degree of control. That doesn’t mean you can’t take strong shots with slow speed, as it just gives you more control. Offensive players prefer a high-speed blade, as it can produce overwhelming fast and powerful shots.
The blade is classified according to its speed. DEF, ALL-, ALL, ALL +, OFF-, OFF, OFF + describe the blade speed grading, ranging from the slowest (DEF) to the fastest (OFF +). An intermediate level player can start with blades in the ALL range. As your skill and control advance, you can switch to faster blades to enhance your offensive speed.
3. Blade size
Another critical factor is the size of the blade. Defensive players prefer large-surface blades because they want to make the most of the large sweet spot. In contrast, offensive players prefer small blades to minimize air resistance.
The handle is an important factor. The handle type depends on the player’s grip. There are 6 different handle types and 2 popular grip types I write in these 2 articles:
Do you take a shakehand grip or penhold grip? You should select the handle grip first and then choose the handle types suitable for your hands.
If you’re looking for the best table tennis blade, then you seem to be an intermediate player! There is no best blade, but only the most suitable one for you. Beginners will find complete paddles that have rubber attached to the blades, while professionals will seek the blades and rubbers that best suit their styles.