This is my newest creation: a lightweight, wood-composite ping-pong paddle consisting of a balsa core, birch plywood frame and face, and a canary wood anatomic handle featuring cherry dowels. I love making ping-pong paddles, and if you want, I’ll make one for you. Just comment and we’ll discuss the details, because of course, they’re 100% custom jobs. Seriously, I’d love to make you one, so don’t hesitate to ask.
The construction of this paddle, I think, is somewhat unique… I’ve been thinking for about a year now of a way to utilize a heavier wood around the perimeter of the paddle, with a lightweight wood in the middle to make it more like a tennis racket (relatively heavy, stiff exterior with flexible center strings), and based on the current ITTF rules (PDF), such a paddle would be completely legal.
Here’s how I made it. Click along the way for bigger pictures at my Flickr:
I started with 1/8″ 3-ply birch plywood and sketched my paddle shape across the grain. Using wood glue, I created a composite piece of 1/8″ balsa strips to fill the top-center portion of the paddle. The plywood would extend up most of the way along the sides of the paddle to give it rigidity and perimeter weighting for stability. I then cut away the center portion and glued the balsa piece into the center.
I then sanded the resulting composite blade core to about 1/8″ proud (larger than) the final shape. Then, I cut 1/32″ 3-ply birch plywood faces (with the grain this time) and glued them on both sides of the core. Once dry and stiff, I sanded down the whole thing to the final shape. As you can see, the topmost portion of the paddle core is 100% balsa, giving the paddle a very head-light balance. It was also very brittle before the faces were applied.
Here’s a closeup of the tip of the blade. Once the faces were applied it was very stiff, and very light. The blade without handle was under 75 grams! And it looks pretty cool in cross-section: most times it’s a 9-ply handle, but in the “sweet spot” and tip, it’s 7-ply. Should be a little more playable than my Oak paddle, below. Now for the handle…
My dad has an assortment of exotic woods, and we chose Canary wood because it was much lighter than the other options (bobinga, tulipwood, etc.) and this particular piece had a great figure, with strong yellows and red streaks. I cut the general shape…
And then added 1/4″ cherry dowels that were tight without glue, and should help reinforce the handle. They also look really cool. I then took it to the sander for the final handle shape:
Just in case you forgot.
My earlier paddlemaking efforts are below.
This one’s got an oak blade (5-ply) and a maple handle. I put some cheap Stag rubber on it from Paddle Palace and it actually plays pretty well. VERY heavy… it crushes the ball if you really go for it. Pretty good touch, too. But definitely hard to get used to the weight.
And this is the Santos mahogany blade, with an oak face (3-ply). I used reclaimed rosewood for the handle. It’s gorgeous but even heavier than the oak paddle. Now I just gotta find a woodshop around here so I can make some more.