Table Tennis blades are the “soul” of your racket.
It is the only part of your equipment that you directly feel, acting as the contact between your hand and the ball. High-level players always emphasize the importance of choosing the correct blade. This is especially true when you’re buying a custom racket instead of a premade racket.
You can (and should) use your blade forever if it’s the right one for you and it doesn’t get broken. Over time, you’ll find that you’ll get to know it really well.
How does understanding your blade translate into playing? You’ll know exactly what went wrong if you missed a shot and you’ll know how much pressure you need to hold the racket with to get the shot you want.
You’ll start playing as if the blade was your hand. Pretty cool, right?
If this article is useful for you, you’ll also love our total guide to choosing the right table tennis rubber for you.
Table Tennis blade properties
If you get the correct blade, then you can stick any rubbers you want into it and you’ll still be consistent because you know the blade.
Put normal rubbers on a blade you know how to use and you’ll have a great racket.
Stick the best rubbers on a blade that you don’t know how to use, and you’ll lose out on a crucial advantage that most of your opponents will have.
Some players change their blade all the time, a common table tennis mistake, so their development stalls. You want to choose a good blade and stick with it.
There are 4 main properties to every Table Tennis blade:
- Speed: The velocity at which the ball pings off the racket. More speed means your opponent will have less reaction time but it’ll be also harder for you to control your shots.
- Control: How easy it is to use the racket. Placement, variations in speed, ability to soak up energy from incoming shots. All of these are better with controllable blades. Control is, in most cases, inversely proportional to speed.
- Stiffness: Determines how much the blade bends when hitting the ball. More flexibility is better for spin because the blade “gives” more (like a trampoline) and more stiffness is better for hitting and blocking because it is more stable (like a wall). Also, flexible blades tend to vibrate more than stiffer blades.
- Hardness: Determines how easy it is to get spin out of the blade. Soft blades generally give better spin, touch. and dwell time on the ball. Hard blades have crisper contacts for power shots. They’re more direct and accurate.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to take into account when choosing a blade.
Other important variables, not included in the 4 main properties are blade thickness, build quality, weight, handle shape, head size, sweet spot and hand feeling.
Some variables like hand feeling and handle shape are personal preference. If you don’t know what handle to choose, we recommend going for flared (FL) handles.
Fortunately, most of the factors that determine playing properties have already been optimized over the years.
Table Tennis blade composition
There are selected wood types that work best when combined together.
All-wood blades are the standard blade construction. They have great feeling for the ball and are softer and flexier than their composite counterparts.
For example, the typical limba-limba-ayous-limba-limba is a tried and true veneer combination that has great spin, touch, flexibility, and sufficient stability.
There are probably more than 50 models using this composition, the most popular being the Butterfly Korbel and the Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, both excellent, balanced offensive blades.
The blade above is classified as a 5-layer, all-wood blade. This is because it has no composite layers, its 5 layers are all wooden.
Other blades have composite layers in their construction. If a blade is classified as 5+2, this means that the blade has 5 layers of wood and 2 composite layers.
According to rule number 2.4.2, the composite shall not be thicker than 7.5% of the total thickness or 0.35mm.
Composites are any material other than wood. Most commonly, they’re carbon layers, often mixed with other fibers, such as arylate, and they’re used to achieve a specific effect.
Most of these composites make the blade stiffer, more direct, and increase its sweet spot. They add stability to the racket but change its feel completely. Most carbon blades reduce vibrations or even make them disappear altogether.
The most common composites are carbon fiber and arylate-carbon, but new composites are being developed all the time, such as the Cellulose Nano Fiber present on the Butterfly Revoldia CNF, or the Hyper Axylium present on the Xiom Hugo Calderano HAL.
The only objective advantage composite blades have is that they have a bigger sweet spot.
The sweet spot of a blade determines how much the shot quality is affected when you start hitting further away from the center of mass, that is, the center of your racket.
Composite blades have very big sweet spots because the fibers make the blade a lot harder and stiffer throughout the whole surface. They act as a backbone to the wood layers, you can think of it as the foundation of a house.
Since the composite fibers reinforce the whole surface of the racket, it doesn’t matter as much with which part of the racket you hit the ball. You can hit the ball nearer to the edge and the racket will still produce a high-quality shot.
In contrast, if you hit the ball near the edge with an all-wood blade, you’ll feel it immediately. The racket will vibrate in a bad way, and the shot will most likely drop to the net because you hit the ball away from the center of mass.
There are also 2 ways to include composites on a blade. Traditional composite blades have the carbon fiber just underneath the top ply. This construction is called outer carbon.
Outer carbon blades are composed of an outer wooden layer and the composite layer lies just below. Below the composite layer, there is an inner layer of wood, followed by the core, also wooden.
Because the carbon layer lies just below the wooden layer that contacts the ball, these blades are often very direct and have nearly no vibrations.
They also feel much harder than traditional all-wood blades. The Butterfly Timo Boll ALC and the Viscaria are both outer carbon blades.
The second way to include carbon on a blade is by sticking it next to the core. This method has been adopted recently and it’s becoming more and more popular.
Inner carbon blades have composite layers attached to the core layer. This means that there are 2 outer wooden layers instead of just one, giving these blades a lot more feeling and a softer touch. They’re the middle ground between outer carbon and all wood blades.
Inner carbon blades, such as the Butterfly Innerforce ALC or the DHS Hurricane 301 have the stability and the sweet spot of the outer carbon blades but they’re less direct and softer, since the two outer layers are wooden.
These are great for venturing into your first carbon blade since they have some all-wood and some outer carbon characteristics.
You should also take into account the combination between blade and rubbers.
If you’re a beginner, we recommend getting a controllable blade but if you glue very fast rubbers to it, it’s going to end up as a fast, difficult-to-control racket regardless.
Blade handle types
The handle is equally as important as the head of the racket. It largely impacts the hand feeling, the racket’s weight balance and how comfortable the racket feels. It’s crucial to select the right handle.
There are 3 shakehand blade handle types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. We recommend you try them out and choose the one that feels the most comfortable for your personal racket.
The flared handle is, by far, the most popular table tennis handle. As its name implies, the handle flares when reaching the bottom, so it sits comfortably in the palm.
Almost all amateurs and most professional players use this handle. It’s comfortable, secure and intuitive, given that the vast majority of us learned how to play with pre assembled rackets and those are almost always flared.
The straight handle is the second most popular handle. Its strength is that, because it doesn’t flare, it allows for greater wrist action. Also, the vast majority of defenders use this handle.
This handle is great for those who want complete freedom of the wrist and don’t mind how the handle feels. Twiddling the racket (turning it around) and performing flicky backhand shots feel much better with this handle.
I strongly recommend that you try one extensively before buying a straight handle blade. Chances are you’ll prefer a flared handle because that’s the one you’ve always used.
The anatomic handle is the least popular blade handle, but I personally quite like it!
It tries to contour better to the hand than the other handles. It’s wide on top, then it’s thinner in the middle so that you can rest your palm, and then flares on the bottom.
Few players use this handle and lots of blades aren’t offered in this format. We also recommend you try this one extensively before buying an anatomic handle blade.
The main categories of table tennis blades.
It is also worth mentioning that the top brands when it comes to build quality are Nittaku and Butterfly.
Tibhar, DHS, Yasaka, Donic, Victas, and Stiga are a step below but they’re still very good.
Blades are divided into 3 main speed categories: OFF (Offensive), ALL (Allround), and DEF (Defensive).
Remember that the higher the speed, the lower the control. So, if you’re a beginner make sure not to go for something too fast!
Each of these groups contains 3 subgroups, defined by the addition of a plus or minus sign at the end of the denomination, or simply by omitting any signs.
Taking the OFF category as an example, you can find OFF+ blades, OFF and OFF- blades.
- OFF+ blades are the fastest blades in the market. They’re generally very hard to control on touch shots.
- OFF blades are true offensive blades (a bit slower than OFF+ but faster than OFF-)
- OFF- are the most controllable offensive blades. They’re still fast enough for attacking, but retain great control.
The same applies for both the ALL and DEF categories, with the only caveat that DEF- doesn’t exist. The slowest blade category is DEF. The stats of every category are like so (out of 100):
This is, of course, a simplification. There are very fast rackets that retain good control and there are also some slower bad quality blades that are inconsistent even if they’re slower.
You want to get a good quality blade that has great control and hand feeling relative to its speed level.
For most offensive players, that blade is between OFF- and OFF, sometimes even ALL+.
There are some blades that seem to escape the speed/control rule, such as the Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, the Timo Boll ALC, or the Nittaku Acoustic. These are all very controllable for their speed levels.
These blades receive the most praise from reviewers and are the most popular models because of their great playing characteristics (they have the best designs).
We’re going to recommend blades based on your skill. So before we start, we’re going to define the 3 main playing levels.
How to determine your playing level
If you’re unsure about whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced player, here’s a quick guide:
Beginner: Top beginners can beat your average Joe almost every time. They can drive and block on both sides but open-ups and loops are still inconsistent (they go in 7/10 times or less).
If you’re an early beginner, it’s better to play with a good quality pre-made racket such as the Killerspin JET400 before venturing into the world of Table Tennis blades.
Defensive beginner players are starting to find consistency on their pushes, blocks, and chops, but they still find it hard to deal with faster shots and often make unforced mistakes.
Intermediates: They often have 1-3+ years of club training. Offensive intermediates can attack consistently at a medium speed. They often have a stronger side in which they attack with more quality.
However, they often lack tactical knowledge and make a few unforced errors per game.
There are lots of consistent allround players and blockers in this skill level.
Intermediate defensive players feel comfortable pushing, blocking, and chopping medium-speed shots. However, they find it difficult to deal with variations in spin and speed, and often make errors on the receive.
Advanced players: They have at least 4 years of consistent training under their belt and you can’t push long to them or else they’ll attack consistently. Advanced offensive players can attack with more speed and spin than intermediates and don’t make many unforced mistakes.
Advanced allround players can play with immense spin and they almost never make unforced errors.
Advanced defensive players are good at reading spins and they know how to deal with them. Their chops are consistent and loaded with spin, and they can return shots that few other players can.
Side note: You’ll notice that the difference between beginners, intermediate, and advanced players, regardless of the playing style, is consistency.
Consistency is king, and for that, you need a reliable blade!
German player Timo Boll played with almost the same blade for 25 years (Viscaria, Boll Spirit, then Boll ALC) until his recent change to Primorac Carbon.
In this article, we’re going to help you choose the right blade for your level and style of play. Let’s begin with the most popular type of blade: Offensive blades.
Offensive blades, as their name suggests, were designed to put your opponent under pressure. However, there are many ways to attack the opponent and, consequently, many different types of blades for each of these styles.
The 3 main offensive player archetypes are:
- Loopers (offensive spinners)
- Complete Offensive Players
We’ll identify the types of offensive blades each player type needs.
Loopers (offensive spinners)
These players like to spin the ball and attack before their opponent. They love doing 3rd ball attacks and hitting powerful shots. If they’re on the back foot, then they try to counter topspin and re-gain the initiative.
Loopers should look to get flexible blades. Speed depends on the skill level.
For example, a beginner looper should get an OFF- or even ALL+ flexible blade such as the Nittaku Violin, Yasaka Sweden Extra, Butterfly Primorac, or the Stiga Offensive Classic.
They should pair their blades with spinny, controllable rubbers.
An intermediate looper can keep the “beginner looper” blades and upgrade their rubbers.
You can even use them all the way to becoming an advanced player. Just swap the rubbers out for faster ones and you’re good to go.
If they want to change, they should go with an OFF- or OFF blade such as the Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, Nittaku Acoustic (Ma Long’s blade of choice until 2007!), Stiga Infinity VPS V, or the Butterfly Korbel.
If they prefer carbon blades, they can go for the Butterfly Innerforce ALC, the DHS Hurricane 301, or the Donic Waldner OFF World Champion 89.
Carbon blades are more direct, have bigger sweet spots, and tend to mute vibrations.
The blades in the last category should be used until advanced level (so essentially forever).
If very advanced players feel they need more speed, they can go for blades such as Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition, Butterfly Viscaria, Butterfly Timo Boll ALC, Donic Original Carbospeed, or the DHS Hurricane Long 5.
Be aware that these are not necessarily a better choice until you get to very advanced levels though.
Complete offensive players
These players often loop more than hit. The difference between them and loopers is that they aren’t afraid of blocking and performing short counters.
Pure loopers prefer overpowering their opponent and attacking first. Complete offensive players read the situation and mold their game to accommodate.
They might push long so that their opponent attacks first, then active block, counter, or engage in short distance rallies. They’re a bit more allround in nature than loopers, though still clearly offensive.
They feel comfortable at backhand to backhand rallies and are solid, consistent players, though they tend to have a bit less firepower than pure loopers.
These players should use the same blades as loopers, since they’re controllable, have good spin and hand feeling.
These players often smash the ball on their forehand side and punch it or block it on their backhand side. Lots of them use short pips on one side to help with their flat hits. Currently, the best hitter in the world is Mattias Falck.
Their strategy mostly consists of serving topspin or no-spin, then smashing the ball afterwards. Most hitters also have a reliable open-up, which they use to set up opportunities to flat hit the following ball.
Hitters should get stiff, stable blades that don’t bend on impact, such as the Stiga Clipper, the Butterfly Primorac Carbon, or the Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition.
For these players, we’re going to assume they’re intermediate and up. We think beginners should try to spin the ball rather than flat hit it.
Hitters are players who are talented at smashing the ball. They don’t hit it because they don’t know how to topspin, but because they’re very good at it.
Offensive players are a mix of these categories. Most offensive players are a mix of loopers and complete offensive. There aren’t nearly as many hitters as there are loopers.
Try to think about what describes you best, both in playing style and level, and choose your blade accordingly.
Allround blades were designed for players who mix attack with defense. Most of these players use heavy spins and good placement combined with great consistency to beat their opponents.
These blades are medium to medium-slow in speed but have excellent control and hand feeling.
There are 2 main allround playing styles:
- Offensive allround players
- True allround players
Offensive allround players
Offensively oriented allround blades were designed for players who have a varied playstyle, but attack more than they defend.
They’re also good for players who only attack, but they value placement and control over speed.
Lots of beginners also benefit from using these blades before moving to something faster.
These blades are a bit slower than OFF- blades, but they’re still fast enough to attack. With fast rubbers and good technique, these blades can hit winning shots while retaining excellent touch and control.
They’re like offensive blades but slower and more controllable. This gives them an edge over offensive blades on the serve, receive, and blocking shots.
In this category, we can find mostly flexible, ALL+ blades.
The best offensively-oriented allround blades are the Yasaka Sweden Extra, the Stiga Allround Evolution, the Nittaku Violin, and the Nittaku Septear Lead.
Both Nittakus are marked as OFF- but are a bit slower than most blades in their category and have amazing control.
We recommend all of these blades for beginner offensive players and controlled attackers of all levels.
True allround players
Control-oriented allround blades were designed for players who play equal parts attack and defense, or for those who need more control to produce very high spin shots.
These are a lot slower than offensive blades. While it’s definitely possible to attack with these blades, it’s unlikely that you’ll surprise anyone with speed.
You can surprise your opponents with spin, though.
A strategy of opening up with tons of spin, then smashing the high return is definitely viable with these blades.
These blades excel at serves, touch play, spin shots, and blocking. They’re incredibly versatile.
They’re also great for anti and long pips rubbers since these blades absorb lots of energy from incoming shots.
The best control-oriented allround blades are the Stiga Allround Classic (the most popular blade ever, with over a million sold!), the Yasaka Sweden Classic, and the Donic Appelgren Allplay.
The slowest category of Table Tennis blades is defensive blades.
Defensive blades are for players who defend more than they attack.
These players will try to force mistakes out of their opponents with heavy chops, usually using long pips on their backhand side.
There are 3 types of defenders:
- Modern Defenders
- Classic Defenders
- Long Pips Pushblockers
For these styles, there are special blades.
Modern defenders defend more than they attack but they have a versatile style.
The best modern defender of all time is Olympic Silver Medalist Joo Se Hyuk.
The problem with classical defenders (the original defensive style) was that offensive players could get comfortable attacking them and moving them around.
In the 1900s it was effective to play as a classical defender because there wasn’t as much technology in blades and rubbers. Carbon blades didn’t exist, nor did tensor rubbers.
As time progressed and this equipment was invented, it was clear that at the higher levels of play, classical defenders were sitting ducks for offensive players.
Thus, the modern defensive style was invented. If defenders didn’t attack, the attacker would always have the initiative. Modern defenders came to change that.
Modern defenders will, on most points, let their opponent attack first, then set traps (variations in spin, placement, twiddling the racket) to force mistakes and come in for the kill with forehand and backhand attacks.
If they’re having success chopping, then they’ll stick to that. If not, then they will start attacking first.
Versatility is the strength of modern defenders.
The best blades for modern defenders are the Butterfly Joo Se Hyuk, the Donic Defplay Senso, the Victas Yuto Muramatsu, and the Victas Koji Matsushita.
Classical defenders almost don’t attack. They are incredibly good at pushing, chopping, and reaching for hard balls, so that’s what they do. One of the best classical defenders of all time is Koji Matsushita.
They win matches by simply returning the ball more times than their opponent.
They force mistakes from attackers by variating spins on their chops and pushes, often twiddling their racket to get the maximum backspin possible.
They are very good at keeping pushes and chops loaded with backspin and low over the net and they’re incredibly consistent, so it’s very difficult to beat them!
Even if this style isn’t viable for the top 0.1%, it is for the rest of us, and, in my personal opinion, this is the most entertaining style to watch!
It’s also very fun to play like this, and crowds love it when there’s a match between an attacker and a classical defender.
The following blades are perfect for classical defenders: Tibhar CO-S-3 Defence, Butterfly Hadraw Shield, Donic Defplay Classic, Dr. Neubauer Barricade, and Victas Koji Matsushita Defensive
They can also use the blades meant for modern defenders, however, they’ll lose just a little bit of control.
Long Pips Pushblockers
These players are great at blocking and pushing with long pips on their backhand side. Most of them play with their backhand covering as much of the table as possible.
They will use placement and reversal from their long pips to put opponents in difficult situations and force mistakes out of them.
These players are most commonly found in the intermediate levels.
Pushblockers can use the blades we recommended for classical defenders since the behaviour they’re looking for is the same as classical defenders: the slowest speed possible to absorb incoming attacks.
And with that, we conclude the informative part of this article!
Up next, I’m going to tell you my personal recommendations for every style and level of play.
Summary: Our blade recommendations
I’m going to give 3 recommendations for every type of player. These 3 blades were selected among hundreds of models by players and reviewers as the best blades in the market.
For beginner attackers, we recommend ALL+ / OFF- blades such as Yasaka Sweden Extra, Nittaku Violin, and Butterfly Primorac.
For intermediate attackers, we recommend OFF- / OFF blades such as Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, Nittaku Acoustic, and Butterfly Innerforce ALC.
For advanced attackers, we recommend OFF / OFF+ blades such as Butterfly Viscaria, Butterfly Timo Boll ALC, and Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition.
For hitters, we recommend OFF / OFF+ blades such as Stiga Clipper, Butterfly Primorac Carbon, and Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition.
If you’re intermediate, go for the Clipper. If you’re advanced, you can go for any of the 3.
For offensive allround players, we recommend ALL+ blades such as Yasaka Sweden Extra, Nittaku Septear Lead, and Nittaku Violin.
For true allround players, we recommend ALL blades such as Yasaka Sweden Classic, Donic Appelgren Allplay and Stiga Allround Classic.
For modern defenders, we recommend DEF+ / ALL- blades such as Butterfly Joo Se Hyuk, Donic Defplay Senso, and Victas Koji Matsushita.
For classical defenders and pushblockers, we recommend DEF blades such as Butterfly Hadraw Shield, Tibhar CO-S-3 Defence, and Donic Defplay Senso.
I have made sure to include at least 1 blade below $50 for every type of player. All of these are excellent blades.
That concludes our Table Tennis blades buying guide! We sincerely hope we could help with your decision.
What is your current racket? Was your blade on this list? Let us know in the comments below!