The table tennis racket is an equipment required for striking the ball in a table tennis match. The rackets are composed of at least 85% natural wood along with other materials such as carbon fibre, fibreglass and compressed paper. The blade serves as the backbone for the rackets and affects its quality of striking and swinging the ball. The blades have an average length of 17cm (6.7 inches) and a width of 15 cm (5.9 inches). The rackets weigh in the range of 70 to 100 grams (2.47 to 3.53 oz). The surface of the racket is covered with rubber followed by various other layers. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) regulates all the official rules regarding the sport as well as the racket. The racket is also regarded as a bat (in Britain) and paddle (in the U.S.).
Manufacturing of the Table Tennis Rackets
The rackets surface is covered with dimpled rubber on one side or both the sides depending on the player’s grip. The rubber surface has a maximum thickness of 2mm. Sometimes, foam rubber layer is also incorporated between the rubber surfaces. Both the foam and rubber surface together can have a maximum thickness of 4 mm. There are two types of rubber surface with which a blade is covered - either pimpled or inverted rubber. The pimpled surface has plenty of uniform cylindrical pips projection. The cylindrical pips aids in maintaining a higher strike rate when the ball is hit. The inverted rubber, also regarded as the smooth rubber is the same pimpled rubber placed upside down with a smooth backside. The inverted surface has a sandwich rubber layer placed beneath it.
The wooden part of the racket is regarded as a blade. It contributes highly to the speed of the rackets. Apart from wood, the blades can also be composed of carbon and arylate in the middle layers. The blades are made from balsa, limba and cypress (hinoki) woods. There are three types of blades categorized according to their strike rate -
Defensive blades - The defensive blades are slow blades with a fair amount of control. It is suitable for beginners.
All-round blades - The blades are suitable for both offensive and defensive matches and hence preferred by the all-around players.
Offensive blades - The offensive blades are the fastest and are preferred widely by the professional table tennis players.
Evolution of Table Tennis Rackets
The rackets used in traditional times (last decades of the 19th century) used to have a 50 cm long handle with the hitting surface made from parchment paper. In 1902, E.C. Goode used rubber surface for hitting the balls for the first time. Later in 1950, the sponge rackets were introduced to overcome the failures of earlier rackets. In 1951, Austrian Waldemar Fristsch used the sponge racket for the first time in the World Championships. Since then, the sponge rackets were widely used in official tournaments and events. During 1960, the rackets were covered with 1 mm pimpled rubber sponge on the surface.
The new rackets were not compatible with the spinning balls. Later the bats were modified by using 2 mm pimpled rubber. But still, the rackets were unable to spin the balls properly. So, the racket surface was again modified by reversing the 1 mm rubber sponge. Later in 1985, the racket surface was made with opposite coloured sides. In 1980, the technique of speed glueing became popular among the players. The players used to use special glue, the speed glue and apply to the racket’s rubber every time it is being used. Speed glueing is banned after the 2012 Summer Olympics. In recent times, the rackets are manufactured by combining various types of wood layers.
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