New all-wood blade recommendations wanted

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Thanks for the gigantic list of options :) as my backup/workplace blade seems to have an internal break, I'm jumping on a new blade today. Even with all the research in the world, I think the most important decision was whether I want a fast 5-ply blade or a "slower" 7-ply. Or, do I take one step, or a bigger leap?

I've opted for the bigger leap and ordered a Clipper Wood. If I'd gone with an OFF 5-ply, I would have kept wondering if I could play with a 7-ply, whereas if I can't handle the Clipper, I know I need to step towards a 5-ply.

(and I will be more confident to splurge on an Acoustic or Violin in that case... )

As for why Clipper, and not a different 7-ply?
The alternatives I was considering were both Tibhar (Force Pro Black Edition, B. Szöcs) and all three of these are pretty similar. Tibhar's offerings were actually cheaper, too. But I figured if I wanted to get feedback from clubmates and trainers, going with the option that's extremely well known makes perfect sense. Everyone with a little bit of gear knowledge knows what the Clipper Wood is, what it does and doesn't do.

In the 5-ply department, I mostly considered the Butterfly Korbel (EU and JAP), Nittaku Acoustic and a little bit the Yasaka Ma Lin Extra Offensive.
The brands that I know less or not at all, I didn't look into (yet) simply because I already had a lot of options. Victas, Andro, Vodak, all very interesting but I didn't need to branch out.

Last, I mentioned Hinoki. I decided not to go for that because I want to develop with "Euro-standard" gear for now. Once I reach the point where I feel development is stalling, or becoming tedious/boring, maybe that will be a good moment to start experimenting with different kinds of gear. For now, the step I am taking from a very flexible and slow blade to playing with a more conventional, average performing wooden ALL+/OFF- setup is good. No need to make multiple steps here and verging into unfamiliar materials, too.

I'd also like to share my main takeaways from this research with you:

Reviews, even the most subjective ones like ttgearlab, are always dependent on circumstances and individual iterations of products. With wood being the main part of any TT blade, there will simply always be minute differences between blades even when they are cut from the same sheet of glued veneers.
As such, any review really only applies to the exact specimen being reviewed. The specifications of the reviewed product can give a hint as to what characteristics may be enhanced or muted, but even with something like a 20 gram weight difference, it doesn't tell you what the cause of that difference is.
It could be a thicker sheet, more density in the plies or the handle, maybe even slight differences in the head size or shape from using different machines and router bits.

What this tells me, is that when a reviewer mentions "slightly different", "a little more elastic", "just a bit harder", it's probably going to average out to being the same when you use a bigger sample size. That's just wood being wood.
Next time, I won't be looking for specific brand recommendations anymore. Just the general wood composition should be enough. And yes, maybe you get a specimen that behaves quite a bit different than another, but unless the composition has been changed completely, it's going to be something you can adapt to.
I don't think I'll ever be a delicate enough person to be able to feel the difference between a Clipper Wood and a Tibhar Force Pro Black Edition (given the same handle shape) in a blind test. And I find it hard to believe anyone would be able to tell that blindly when both blades use the same handle, and are glued with the same rubbers.

Wrong conclusion. Right conclusion isn't that reviews are subjective but rather production process is rubbish and products overpriced :)
 
says How much wood would a Clipper Wood clip if a Clipper...
says How much wood would a Clipper Wood clip if a Clipper...
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Alrighty then, time for first impressions!

First, unboxing. The Clipper came in a nice toned-down black box with some Stiga markings on it. I got the blade pre-sealed so didn't get the enjoyment of completely freshly opening the box but other than that everything looked well in order.
Quality, I knew about rough finishes before making the sale but I was still uhm, impressed. There were rough (tiny) splinters all over the edge and wings, as well as the butt end of the handle. The handle itself felt extremely dry, it reminded me of IKEA (probably because of the Swedish make) and was outright rough. Like, not even a bit, just rough.
I gave the edges and butt a little sanding to remove the burrs, and applied a little bit more to the wings in an attempt to slightly round them.
Next, I wanted to transfer the rubbers, since they're pretty much fresh. I was surprised to find the head longer by over half a centimeter. So no transfer. Instead, I went to a TT shop while I was in the neighbourhood and got two fresh sheets of Rakza 7 2.0mm. I like the rubber so far and wanted to change one element at a time, so this was an easy decision in order to make a good comparison.
Last, I rubbed a tiny amount of oil into the handle and left it overnight.


Today, I used the bat at work for some first playing impressions, before going training tonight. I was pleasantly surprised to find the switch a lot easier to handle than I initially thought (or feared). The blade feels pleasantly sturdy, but not extremely hard or bouncy. Feedback was good and sufficient, and I was able to play placement very naturally, as well as finishing points on flat hits.
Actually, those flat hits felt like they reverberated a lot less into my upper arm and shoulder (probably rightfully so) despite the setup feeling (and being) heavier. I'm hoping this will help in resolving the pains I've experienced after overexerting on especially a lot of flat hits.
Top spin drives will be more interesting tonight (playing with more advanced players), but first impression isn't bad. It feels like I'm hitting the ball more than I am pulling it along, and so far that is a positive experience.
All in all it feels like a really solid choice of blade, and definitely something I can master.
The finishing will take a bit of time to adjust and adjust to. I'm definitely going to try and put an smoother finish on the handle. The oil coat already did a little bit of work but it needs more to get to a level of comfortably playing for multiple hours. The handle size feels pretty familiar, maybe a little bit on the thinner end but not to the point of being annoying. Maybe I will end up wrapping it with a grip to solve the roughness as well as the slightly thin size.
 
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So here I am, about 2 months in making my "comeback", training at an actual club, and making a couple of extra hours a week at work. I'm *really* happy with the trainer, he manages to squeeze a good and useful training out each and every time despite the gigantic skill differences in the group, and I feel like I am 90% back on my old skill level.
I want to go back to playing competitively in the second half of the year, maybe do a couple of tournaments before that to get my juices flowing.

But, now that I am a few weeks in with my current setup, I am really understanding the difference the 40+ ball makes.
(Setup on the left, but for posterity: Donic Appelgren Allplay Senso V1 - Rakza 7 2.0mm on FH/BH)

My game is pretty all-round, pushing, slow fast placement, and I love to not choose the usual diagonals when making an attack but rather going straight, or even using my FH from BH position to attack diagonally to the opponen't BH.
I've gotten used to Rakza 7's characteristics pretty quickly and it feels completely natural playing this setup already.

I'm considering making a blade change (I'll be keeping this one for work or backup) for the following reasons:
  • I feel like I have grown accustomed so quickly to this setup that I can handle more.
  • Hitting top spin winners purely on power+spin seems impossible with this ball and setup, unless I include very sharp and risky placement. It feels like I am missing a bit of punch in spin, and one of the guys I'm training with who has a decent skill and technique, does generate that kind of snappy, quick spins that I'm looking for so it's not impossible.
  • I am using a very flexy blade and it shows. (The Senso version is even flexier than the regular) While it's extremely forgiving, it really lacks in the spin+power department. Also, playing away from the table it just lacks the power to make an offensive shot so I can't take over a rally like that. Once I'm forced to back up I'm in a losing position. With the old 40-ball I was able to take over rallies, albeit also with high power requirements.
  • Also, not in the least, I feel like I can grow beyond my old skill levels in my current club environment. But that will not happen if my setup is becoming a bottleneck for playing an allround, very geary playstyle. I'm missing out in the higher gears, so as soon as I take the rally to higher tempo I'm bringing myself into losing position.
  • I have a very fast and snappy FH killshot (at the table) in the form of a direct drive that apparently is impressive to club players and the trainer, too. Let's be fair, impressing people at work is much easier, so when I also managed to impress the club crowd I realized my FH kill is (still) actually strong. Playing R7 allows me to hit that shot very reliably, too, as opposed to the softer rubber that just bottomed out. So I don't need a super-fast setup for that, but a consistent step up might help it grow into a very strong weapon.

So here's my question for help. I have a list of do's and don'ts which is not completely set in stone, but I only want to divert from it on solid argument basis.

I do want:
  • Wood. I can consider other "natural" materials like compressed paper, but I don't want to use synthetics, especially carbon fibre, because it doesn't fit in my ecological standpoints. So my main focus is all-wood.
  • Gears. All-round for me means playing through a lot of gears, from slow, touchy dropshots to killer (loop) drives while standing 2-3 steps back. Variation is a strong point in my game.
  • Versatility in rubbers. My Appelgren Allplay is too flexy to reliably play softer rubbers on - the combination becomes unpredictable and jumpy and makes playing in different gears very hard. I would like to be able to move from R7 to R7 Soft, Rakza Z, or towards a touch harder rubber in the future.
  • Feeling. I think this is inherent to the points above. Playing lots of gears requires getting a decent level of feedback. The Allplay is extremely good in that aspect, and I can use less of it, but it's not something I want to disregard.
  • I'm thinking of a budget in the €100 range. I could go slightly over that for something extremely nice but I'd need to be really convinced.
I don't want:
  • Carbon or other synthetics. Explained above. I've been going through plenty of blade articles, reviews, and other writeups, and even without the ecological considerations I think carbon is not for me.
  • Overly stiff/hard blades
Some suggestions I've read before that are interesting to me:
  • Donic Persson Powerplay - 7 ply (5 wood, 2 paper?)
    • I'm expecting a familiar feel/style by sticking with the same brand, but on the other hand it feels weird to switch to a blade of the same generation. Compressed paper sounds like a pretty useless marketing feature to me. So it's almost like switching from a 5-ply Donic to a 5-ply Donic... I'm not convinced yet that it will actually be a step up.
  • Stiga Clipper (Wood) - 7 ply wood
    • From what I know the results vary wildly. Lighter versions might be more useful to me? I haven't got a single clue how handle size compares to Donic but I guess I'll get used to it.
  • I am also partial to aesthetics. Beautiful products from brands like Nittaku and Darker are really appealing to me. Nice, woody aesthetics really tickle my head in a nice way.
  • That being said, I'm also tempted to try an artisanal blade from one of the great craftspeople around here.
    • Downside is it will be harder to compare with commercial products, I like to do numbers on things.
  • I'm also considering a Hinoki blade, since everything I read about its characteristics sounds like it fits my game. I don't know anything about how it plays in reality though, so getting one would be a gamble. This one might be an option for the future rather than right now.
Before I get all carried away with all the beautiful options, what makes sense is likely to, same with the rubber choice, go with something towards the middle of the road. The two concrete suggestions are pretty similar in numbers and I think they are around that middle of the road I'm looking for while also offering a significant difference to what I'm playing now.
My suggestions:
1. Stiga Intensity NCT
2. Cornilleau Calderano Foco Off
3. Yasaka Sweden Extra
4. Nittaku Septear
5. Nittaku violin
6. Nittaku acoustic
Also, since you are curious about hinoki, these may be useful for you:

https://www.tabletennisdaily.com/forum/topics/hinoki-deeper-study.4749/

http://www.cnpingpang.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=155015
 
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My suggestions:
1. Stiga Intensity NCT
2. Cornilleau Calderano Foco Off
3. Yasaka Sweden Extra
4. Nittaku Septear
5. Nittaku violin
6. Nittaku acoustic
Also, since you are curious about hinoki, these may be useful for you:

https://www.tabletennisdaily.com/forum/topics/hinoki-deeper-study.4749/

http://www.cnpingpang.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=155015
oops didn't realize you already bought a blade lol. hope the articles/threads abt hinoki can still be of use to you though
 
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says How much wood would a Clipper Wood clip if a Clipper...
says How much wood would a Clipper Wood clip if a Clipper...
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Approx. 1 month in, here's my experience so far:

In the past week, I feel like I'm finally starting to feel a natural adjustment to both rubber and blade. Last week's training session included a very nice multiball session which really helped in raising confidence on my attacking drives as well as bringing back proper feeling on my FH which was still missing *something* up to that point.

Also, I feel like I'm starting to understand what the plastic ball era really means. Some aspects such as killer topspin drives, seem to be way more focused on speed than on spin nowadays. Yet in other areas such as serves, I still seem to be able to win good points just by serving with a large amount of spin. Really committing to the serve wrist movement did help a lot in that regard.

I've mostly been playing the Clipper at the club, and the Appelgren at work. Both with 2.0 R7's, besides that the biggest difference is the flooring: at work it's concrete with a few mm of PVC laminate, at the club it's an old, heavily used, plastic cast gym-class floor (probably polyurethane). Work bounces a lot, club has dead spots and just generally bounces bad.

So comparison time.
- Clipper is a bit heavier in hand (didn't weigh both setups yet). Feels a small bit head-heavier, but not too much.
- Clipper feels (and is) a lot more solid.
- I'm starting to understand how people say handles might be a bit too small. It's not a prominent issue, but the handle felt small during a couple of fast exchanges last night.
- Slow-play: it takes a bit of fine tuning, but the Clipper is capable of precise slow-play. I'm suffering a bit from playing slow balls (most balls actually) too high, but this is an issue with both blades actually. So it's an issue in getting used to the rubber, the ball, or some other part I haven't figured out yet.
- Hitting the ball with spin. With the Clipper, I feel like it's more effective to hit through the ball rather than trying to drag or brush it. As such, the motion of applying effect has changed a bit. Also, old habits that were already bad back in the day, such as dropping the bat really low for a BH loop, are even worse now. This is good, I needed motivation to kill those habits anyway. All of this feels like fundamental change due to shifting from a flexy 5-ply to a stiffer 7-ply. With the Appelgren, I can get away with weird shots more, because it feels like I'm able to bend the blade to my needs. It does make for a better option to just fool around with.
- Sweet spot and edges. On slow shots, the Clipper is more forgiving on hitting the bat off-center. On the Appelgren, off-center hits would make a plunky sound and drop the ball dead. The solidity of the 7-ply blade allows for such balls to make it over the net sometimes. As such I would say that the playable area of the blade is bigger. The ultimate sweet spot might not be much different, but it's more forgiving.
- Top end speed: 100% better on the Clipper. I can make predictable, yet very hard, smashing hits with it. The best bit being that I can actually smash using 70-80% speed, with the result still being a fast hard ball. I haven't had elbow issues for a few weeks except last night when I did a couple of ridiculous balls. So yeah I can play without blowing up, now I still need to actually *do* that. (Also, I know what sets off my elbow now, so I can avoid that)

Other small bits: chops are OK. Not as easy of course yet still manageable. I'm considering converting the Appelgren to pips at some point.
Sound and vibration, I understand now why people feel the Appelgren is such a high vibration blade. What a difference! At first the difference felt like I missed feedback, but I learned to tune into the Clipper's feedback now and it's honestly great for such a solid piece of wood. The loud feedback/sound of the Appelgren seems useless now, like a tailpipe without a muffler.

All in all the Clipper is a good blade. I can see why it has worked well for ages, and how it works with a big comination of rubbers and playstyles. I am curious if I can leverage the characteristics of this blade to teach myself more fitting habits for the current game, using fast, compact strokes with quick recovery. The base has been laid, and it's up to me now to train the rest.
 

_ak

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Bernadette Szocs Signature 1 or Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black edition - two classic 7 ply blades.
I love Tibhar BS1. Mine is 86g, 1400Hz, 6.2mm thick. There were an extensive lab test comparing it with other popular 7ply including Clipper. Ditched Xiom Off S due head heaviness.
 
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I love Tibhar BS1. Mine is 86g, 1400Hz, 6.2mm thick. There were an extensive lab test comparing it with other 7 popular ply including Clipper. Ditched Xiom Off S due head heaviness.
I saw a guy using it and I liked the way he played with it with so I bought one and I really liked it too - played some matches with Rakza Z EH on both sides. I could definitely play with it, I have probably gotten a bit too used to the extra rebound from Carbon for some things with my forehand since I play sticky/hybrid on both sides, but if I had to go back to all wood, I would start with this, instead of the Mazunov that I used to play with before.
 
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mat

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mat

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I play similar game, also 10 days ago I cbamged Victas 5.5 (very good with feel blade, but a bit to fast because of sythentic fibre), with Andro Ligna ALL and I like it more. Slower with nice feel.
Also now I am try to pick up new rubbers - so far I had andro R42 and andro hexer grip sfx on bh, but I figured out that both rubbers bounces to much, specialy on push game.
I am testing tibhar mxp and fxp on bh which all on all is better with better touch, not to speedy. One rubber that I tjinkis also great for your/my game is nitakku c1 and hope I will try it. If anyone has experience with tibhar mxp and c1 pls let me know - mostly which is more gripy that ball stays on rubber longer, topspin on back push, control, speed, arc?
 
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I play similar game, also 10 days ago I cbamged Victas 5.5 (very good with feel blade, but a bit to fast because of sythentic fibre), with Andro Ligna ALL and I like it more. Slower with nice feel.
Also now I am try to pick up new rubbers - so far I had andro R42 and andro hexer grip sfx on bh, but I figured out that both rubbers bounces to much, specialy on push game.
I am testing tibhar mxp and fxp on bh which all on all is better with better touch, not to speedy. One rubber that I tjinkis also great for your/my game is nitakku c1 and hope I will try it. If anyone has experience with tibhar mxp and c1 pls let me know - mostly which is more gripy that ball stays on rubber longer, topspin on back push, control, speed, arc?
MXP is very fast and very bouncy - more so than C1 in my experience. It is an offensive and speed driven rubber with good spin (like T05 in style)
 
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mat

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mat

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MXP is very fast and very bouncy - more so than C1 in my experience. It is an offensive and speed driven rubber with good spin (like T05 in style)
With mxp like i feel ball-stays on rubber and I found not to fast. Is C1 similar with grip and ball stands on rubber for a short time? Arc?
 
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