VODAK Hinoki Carbon OFF

VODAK Hinoki Carbon OFF

Available at: www.vodak-dreva.cz (The website is in Czech but if you open it using Google Chrome it will automatically translate the site for you.)

Composition: American Hinoki - Am. Hinoki - Carbon - Ayous - Carbon - Am. Hinoki - Am. Hinoki

Dimensions: 157mm x 152mm
6.1mm thick
105mm handle (by request)

Construction: I know I’m beginning to sound like a stuck record as I’ve said the same thing about the other Vodak blades I’ve reviewed, but these blades really do surpass the quality of mainstream commercial offerings. As I’ve said before: Excellence is obvious when you see it and this is it.

Tested with: Stiga DNA Pro H (max.) FH, Stiga DNA Pro M (max.) BH

First impressions: The Vodak Hinoki Carbon OFF feels immediately, and significantly, different to the two Vodak blades I’ve previously reviewed. First, the balance is ever so slightly towards the head, whereas the other two had a lower balance point. Second, it has a softer contact. This is because the two outermost plies are American Hinoki whereas the other two I’ve tested had Koto and Limba outer plies respectively. Although this blade provides a fairly soft contact it is nevertheless stiff and very solid. It feels like playing with a velvet-coated hammer!

Comparison: It’s difficult to compare this blade to anything else I’ve tested as I’ve not used any other blade with double Hinoki outer plies. I’ve tested the Gewo Aruna Hinoki Carbon OFF which has a Hinoki outer but only one, followed by Koto and it isn’t even remotely similar. The Gewo Aruna hinoki has some flex and a light, crisp contact; the Vodak Hinoki Carbon OFF is solid, stiff and powerful yet with a soft contact.

Speed: This is a powerful blade. Faster than the Gewo Aruna Hinoki Off and a touch faster than the Xiom Stradivarius (the old one) but with a more ‘solid’ feel. You certainly can play it at moderate speeds the double Hinoki outer is actually very nice for low-to-moderate impact shots but when you engage the carbon it hits like a hammer.

Arc / trajectory: Medium-low on moderate power shots, and low and direct on hard ones. For the first little while I found I was either hitting too softly (which is not my natural style) or overshooting the end of the table. I struggled to find that ‘comfort zone’ where the shots just flowed easily. After a little while, though, I realised I just needed to take one step further back from the table (so, to about 80-90cm behind the table) and swing naturally from that position and then the fun started! The long, low trajectory makes it great fun to loop hard into the corners and those shots are just never coming back!

General play: I won’t offer a shot-by-shot breakdown of the blade’s playing character, I’d rather just say that it took a bit of adjustment but once I was used to it I had no trouble at all playing any shots I wanted to with good control. Overall I’d say the blade is best suited to OFF players who like to play from about 80-90cm behind the table. It would also work well for those who like a soft contact but still want the solidity and power that’s available when you really hammer the shot.

Highlight: Having said I won’t comment on every shot, I do want to highlight two favourite shots with this blade: backhand power-loops and forehand punch-blocks. The combination of ‘bite’ that the soft contact provides with the hard carbon near the core just feels amazing when you rip those Kreanga-style backhands across the table! I absolutely loved drilling that shot with this setup, and I found it easy to vary the placement from down-the-line to cross-court and likewise easy to vary between a moderate power version of the shot and outright blasting of it. Great fun! Re blocking: the soft American Hinoki with the hard carbon support results in fantastic blocking control. On passive blocks it seems to absorb the impact well, but aggressive punch-blocks are where it shines.

Overall: Yet another top-class blade from Vodak. If you’re looking for a stiff and very solid blade that has a soft contact then this might be the one. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything else that offers that combo.