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REVIEW: American Hinoki AC Single Ply Blade

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Glueless View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Glueless Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: REVIEW: American Hinoki AC Single Ply Blade
    Posted: 10/08/2008 at 2:25am
In this review I am comparing two blades from American Hinoki: The western red cedar blade at 9 mm thickness and the Alaskan Cedar Blade at 7.5 mm thickness. Each will have identical rubber (Butterfly Tackifire C 2.1 mm) so that the comparison can be as accurate as possible. The former Blade weighed in at 90 g and the latter at 93, so their weight was very close. If you wish more information, you can find their website at: http://www.americanhinoki.com/

Kevin is also a member of this forum with a user ID of 'ahinoki', so you can shoot him a PM too. If you do contact him, tell him Glueless sent 'ya! :)

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The Alaskan cedar blade is significantly thinner than its western red cedar counterpart because Alaskan cedar is a much denser wood. However, while their weights are just about identical they're playing characteristics were quite a bit different. I'm not sure if it's because of the differences in their wood or the differences in the thickness of each of the blades, but those differences were fairly obvious right from the get go.

In general, the thinner Alaskan cedar blade was a bit slower and had quite a bit more vibration (although nowhere near as much as my Butterfly Michael Maze blade which is a fairly low vibration blade as far as multi-ply blades are concerned). Control was a little bit trickier. In general, in over the table play, control seemed to be higher with the slower Alaskan cedar blade. But once you backed off the table and started hitting a bit harder, control actually seemed to swing in favor of the western red cedar blade.

At times however the Alaskan cedar blade seemed to be a bit more forgiving than the western red cedar blade, but I'm not sure if that was just the additional vibration that I was feeling and misinterpreting as more "give" in the blade itself.

Counter Driving

When just lightly counter driving topspin returns, the Alaskan cedar blade had more vibration and feel than the western red cedar. It just seemed to feel a lot less solid. Again, perhaps this was simply because of its significantly thinner profile -- but given that they weighed approximately equally I was a bit surprised. Perhaps this is just part of the art of making these blades. Depending on the wood that is used and how thickly it is cut the properties can change dramatically from one blade to the next.

It also seemed to me that the thinner Alaskan cedar blade was a bit stiffer than thicker blade. Again, quite surprising but it could simply have been the extra vibration I was feeling in the thinner blade that made it feel more harsh and stiff.

On the backhand side I found pretty much the same thing as the forehand but here I found quite a bit less control with the Alaskan cedar blade than with the western red cedar. Even though the Alaskan cedar blade is significantly thinner than the western red cedar, I had a much more difficult time keeping the ball from catapulting off the blade. This is the opposite of what I expected, but found it nonetheless. I was getting much more impact with the ball using the same exact stroke and form with the thinner blade than the thicker blade. Go figure.

Light Loop Drive

As with the counter driving, I experienced more vibration and less solid feeling as well as less speed compared to the western red cedar. It was at this point that I obviously started swinging a little bit more than I had been with the counter driving and noticed what felt like a little bit more flex in the Alaskan cedar blade than that which I experienced with the red cedar blade. This actually makes some sense given how much thinner the Alaskan cedar blade is than the western red cedar.

Blocking

As above, the Alaskan cedar blade was slower with more vibration. But the differences here became much less noticeable. Perhaps the density of the Alaskan cedar blade helps equalize the characteristics between these two blades when you are not swinging. Here the control for the Alaskan cedar blade was a tiny bit higher due to the slightly slower speed.

Wrist Lift

This is a shot that I often find myself doing whenever an opponent places a drop shot at a steep angle off the side of the table on my forehand side. I often respond by simply doing a soft brush loop using only wrist to put the ball back up on the table. I thought it would be something good to analyze for the purpose of this review since it is a very low impact stroke that involves mostly spin. I thought it might be valuable because one of the strengths that I often hear about single ply blades is that when you hit very gently with them they behave like all-around blades but when you hit harder they behave like very fast blades. I am finding this to be pretty accurate.

With this stroke I found the Alaskan cedar blade slower and softer with more control and better feeling. The slowness as well as the added vibration as compared to the western red cedar blade really contributed to the latter two characteristics.

Push

Same as the wrist lift. I found the Alaskan cedar blade slower with better feeling and a bit more control.

Looping Underspin

Again I found the Alaskan cedar blade with more control, better feeling and slower. I also found it a bit more forgiving in that I could get away with a little bit more "slop" in my stroke than I could with the faster and lower feeling western red cedar. The latter blade really forced me to have good form to execute this stroke properly whereas the Alaskan cedar blade allowed me to get away with more. As with most of the light strokes this blade seemed to offer a little bit more control.

Short Service Return

In keeping with the rest of the over the table shots, service returns were easier to control, better feeling and slower than with the western red cedar blade. I found it easier to drop short returns over the net with this slower blade.

Swinging Away

As my final test, I decided to just really crank away on some topspin shots just see how the two blades compared at the upper end. Not surprisingly, the Alaskan cedar blade was a bit slower -- but surprisingly not by much. For some reason at the top of the performance envelope the Alaskan cedar closed the gap with the western red cedar and really produced a very fast ball as well -- almost equal in speed in fact. After the first few swings I thought that the Alaskan cedar blade was a bit slower -- but then I realized that I was just feeling quite a bit more vibration. This added vibration made me feel like I was doing more work to get the ball up to the same speed, when in fact that probably wasn't the case.

The thicker western red cedar blade just always seemed to have an "autopilot" feeling to it. It makes you feel like you don't have to do much work to be able to produce a great shot - especially ones with power. The Alaskan cedar blade makes you feel like you have to do more work because of the added feedback that it gives you. I think for people who require more feeling in their blades or like the short, over the table game, the Alaskan cedar blade is probably the way to go. I would have to add that the Alaskan cedar blade at this upper end of the performance curve did seem to have a slight edge in control -- but again this simply could have been the vibration giving me more feedback as to what was going on.

This evening I brought these two blades to the small gathering of our local table tennis crew and had everyone try both of these blades. The results were surprisingly unanimous. Everyone liked the western red cedar blade significantly more. One common comment from everyone: More control. For some reason, even though the western red cedar blade is significantly thicker, significantly faster with less vibration/feeling, everyone seemed to like the feel of it much better.

I have a suspicion this has more to do with the thickness of the Alaskan cedar blade than anything else. One thing that Kevin told me when he sent me these blades for review was that each type of wood has a minimum thickness below which it just doesn't play well -- regardless of its density or weight. It may very well be that this Alaskan cedar blade has just gone down below a thickness where it will play well.

Honestly, I was quite surprised by these results. When I first tried the Alaskan cedar blade and I found that it was slower, I assumed that I would actually like the blade better because I expected it to offer me more control. I'm afraid my opinion agrees with that of my club mates: I liked the western red cedar a lot better for my offensive, away-from-the-table game. For those of you who like it up close, or want more feeling, the AC may be worth looking into!

P.S. I would like to make clear that I have no financial ties with Kevin or American Hinoki of any kind and will not make a penny off this review.
American Hinoki 9 mm Bald Cypress single-ply
Venus 2.2
Neptune 0.6
Windshield Wiper Grip (Dont you wish YOU had a 3-sided blade?)
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DimitrisF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DimitrisF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10/08/2008 at 3:44am
Hi! I have a Western Red Cedar blade. 9.5mm thick and 83g weight.
I want to agree very much with glueless saying WRC has an "autopilot" feel.
 
I am currently using WRC with relatively light rubbers. Sriver EL 2.1 and Mendo MP 2.0. Its handle is natural cork. The balance point of the blade with rubbers on its close to the middle of the face of the blade (head heavy blade).
 
This is good when executing topspins (FH and BH) because the head of the blade goes down naturally. When changing from FH to BH and vice versa I noticed a small delay, which I think is due to the fact that the blade is head heavy and the wrist cant move as fast as it moves with a more balanced blade (with center of weight near the handle).
 
I also think that short game is easier with harder rubbers on it.
 
Thank you.
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