When choosing the right table tennis gear for you, there is nothing more important than the racket. There are various parts to the racket that are the blade, sponge, rubber, and handle. If you don’t know how to examine these, you will shortly.
In this article, I will teach you everything you need to know about table tennis rackets, their features, and parts, how specific ones affect your game, and which ones you should choose depending on your playstyle. You came here for answers, so I’ll stop blabbering; let’s get into business! Let us start by determining your skill and dedication.
Check out my reviews: 10 Best Table Tennis Rackets (Full Reviews)
Are you a beginner or intermediate player
The first thing you need to figure out before even looking at rackets is to think, are you a beginner or an experienced table tennis player? Below you can see what kind of rackets you should look at depending on your skills and desire to play table tennis.
- Beginner & uncertain of your love towards table tennis – Inexpensive beginner level rackets & pre-made.
- Beginner & certain of your desire to play table tennis – You can invest in a better racket & perhaps even pre-made.
- An intermediate player with years of experience – Definitely invest in a good racket tailored to your playstyle.
I recommend you looking rackets from your situation because you wouldn’t want to overspend on a racket if you aren’t certain that you will continue with it for a long time. However, even if you aren’t skilled yet, you can look at better rackets.
Still, I recommend only making a custom-made one (meaning all parts are bought separately) if you already know your playstyle, such as defensive or aggressive.
For experienced players, you probably already know what to do, at least at some level, so you can purchase a quality pre-made racket or assemble your own from the right parts for your needs. Now, let’s dive more into pre-made and customized rackets.
Does a pre-made or customized fit your needs
As briefly discussed above, there are entry-level pre-made rackets and top-quality ones, so generalizing pre-made rackets isn’t wise. In most cases, you can find a pre-made racket in all playstyles, but there can be cases that you want a specific rubber with a specific sponge thickness installed to your favorite blade, and that may bring difficulties.
If you are a total beginner, I would advise that you look only at pre-made paddles because it is easy to take them into use, and you still need to figure out your playstyle, skills, how many spins you like to use, and much more.
For others than total beginners, customized rackets are a great choice if you so wish it, and this way, you can build really the racket that you need. But, of course, this means that you buy the blade and rubber separately.
Next, let’s talk about money.
How much are you willing to spend
Cost is involved in everything in life, and table tennis is no exception. You can get a racket for $15 or less; however, if you are a beginner yet interested in table tennis, I would invest a little more in a racket like STIGA Evolution for my first paddle. Ultimately the choice is yours, and as a total beginner, it really doesn’t matter that much.
For the intermediate players, you probably know that rackets can cost anywhere between $10 – $350, and the range can fluctuate even more. The important part is understanding what you would need in terms of features and then looking at the paddle suited for those needs.
Of course, you can spend a lot of money on a racket, and there is nothing wrong with that, but the most important part is to understand the features and then look at the price suited for you. For intermediate players, a racket like the DHS Hurricane-II would be a great place to start if you desire pre-made rackets. However, there are far more expensive ones, such as the Butterfly Viscaria Pro-Line, and it is your job to determine whether the cost is worth the paddle.
Now, you can spend even more money than in most pre-made paddles if you get top-quality parts individually. For example, some blades cost $200 alone, and when you add a €50 rubber on both sides, it can get expensive. However, when you look at parts separately, you have experience in table tennis, and the cost is probably worth the product.
Now to the good stuff. Let’s begin to see the actual parts and different features and their effect on the game. Naturally, we need to start from the blade.
Learn more: Are Expensive Ping Pong Paddles Worth It?
Material, layers, weight
The blade is the racket’s foundation and the bat itself. It must be made at least 85% from wood with multiple layers. The remaining 15% can be wood, or it can also be carbon fiber or glass fiber, among other materials.
A blade is usually constructed of 5-9 layers of material, so it isn’t just honed from one large wooden block. If some of the blade’s layers are carbon fiber, it has been made harder, focusing the blade more towards power and speed.
If the blade is made from only wood, then it is a softer blade that has been made for more controlling playstyle.
Of course, there are 100% wooden rackets made for aggressive playstyles and ones with carbon fiber layers made for defensive. This depends on how much of the racket is carbon fiber and its placed layer.
Then, there are weight differences between the blades as well, and one usually weighs between 70g-100g, which should be considered towards your playstyle. The heavier the blade, the more aggressive playstyle it is fitting because it can generate more power and speed.
- 70g blade is focused for defensive playstyle.
- 85g blade is focused for all-round playstyle
- 100g blade is focused on aggressive.
The material percentages, layers and placements, and weight differences should be mostly ignored if you are a beginner, but you should think about these for skilled players.
Fortunately, when you are browsing for table tennis blades, brands have clearly laid out their features, measurements, weights, and everything, so choosing one is really straightforward.
Read also: Should I Varnish My Table Tennis Blade?
Blade’s holding styles
Finally, there are two main blade types that blades are categorized in. The Shakehand and the Penhold.
The Shakehand blade is by far the most common style, and it is held similarly to shaking a person’s hand. Shakehand style paddles are often a little shorten in length than penhold grips, and they are nicely round, which is perfect for the playing style. I highly recommend the shakehand grip instead of penhold.
The Penhold blade is often shaped more like opal, and it is longer than shakehand blades. The penhold blade is held by holding it from the handle like you would hold a pen. In Asian countries, penhold style is more common than in western countries.
When you are choosing a blade, you can often choose the handle type separately as well. The most common handle types are Straight, Flared, and Anatomic.
If you want to be certain which type you prefer, you need to go to a table tennis shop and try all of them. Personally, I prefer the flared or anatomic handles.
Flared is great because I’m a forehand guy, and it fits well for that playstyle. Also, it’s great for looping. However, I favor Anatomic as well, and I always have a hard time choosing between the two, but the anatomic handle fits really well to a hand, and I get the most powerful strokes using one.
Then there are also Conical, and Chinese penhold handles. Conical hands aren’t commonly found, and they are a kind of hybrid between straight and flared handles. Chinese penhold handles are only found in penhold blades, and they are short. However, for the penhold playstyle, they are just what you’ll need.
I highly recommend starting from Straight, Flared, or Anatomic handles, and if you’re a beginner, it really doesn’t matter so much which one you choose. However, if you are more experienced, you should try them individually and decide from there.
The sponge is a vital and drastic factor when determining your racket’s features. The sponge is located between the blade and rubber, and they come in different thicknesses. Usually, from 1.2mm – 2.5mm.
Generally, the thicker the sponge, the more speed and power you can generate in your strikes. Similarly, the thinner the sponge, the more you can slow down your opponent’s strikes and have more control.
Again, this is a matter of preference but here are some great rules of thumb:
- Defensive playstyle – 1.2mm- 1.6mm thick sponge
- All-round or uncertain of your playstyle – 1.6mm-2mm thick sponge
- Offensive playstyle – +2mm thick sponge
Last but not least, the rubber. Rubbers are often black or red in color (Find Out Why); in fact, official ITTF rules state that a racket must have red and black rubbers if you want to compete with the racket . However, there are green, yellow, white, and blue ones, but we will focus on the proper ones.
Rubber drastically affects the way you can strike and receive the ball. There are many kinds of rubbers such as Inverted, Short pips, Long pips, Antispin. Let’s take a look at these
- Inverted – Also known as smooth rubber. It is most commonly used because it has so many variations and features if it is made for that specific purpose. Inverted rubbers are the best for a spin but can also be extremely powerful.
- Short pips – Also known as pimpled. They have a bumpy surface with small ”pimples” on it. Short pips are great for all-around and defensive players. These rubbers also provide speed but little spin.
- Long pips – Similar to short pips but with long pimples. Long pips are best for defensive play, and they are great for receiving spin strikes and confusing opponents with ”spin reversal”.
- Antispin – These rubbers have an extremely soft sponge yet smooth surface to slow the ball drastically. Antispin rubber is usually only used on one side of the racket.
That being said, I would always have an inverted rubber at least on one side of the racket, and when you feel comfortable and well educated with other types, you should add a defensive rubber on the other side of the racket.
As a beginner, you shouldn’t really worry about this but get an inverted rubber because they are best for regular play.
Also, purchasing rubbers isn’t complicated because you can select a category. The rubber’s instruction will be precise on what kind and where it is suited the best.
Read also: Why Are Table Tennis Paddles Red & Black?
Which brands should you trust
There are many that I trust when it comes to table tennis brands, and if you have even remotely examined table tennis gear, you should be able to know most of these. However, for rackets that are the most important piece of equipment in table tennis, I would only purchase from a reputable and respected brand! Below you can find some of my favorites, but these aren’t all great ones.
When you are deciding on a table tennis racket remember to check the following things:
- Material, layers, and weight of the blade
- Handle’s type preferable Straight, Flared, or Anatomic
- The thickness of the sponge
- Rubber’s type and characteristics
- Make sure that it’s from a known brand
With these things in mind, I do not doubt that you can find the perfect racket just for you and remember to think about your playstyle and you will be golden.