Jamie Pethick, a professional stringer, tells you ‘How to use lead tape on your racket’:
Customising rackets, by the addition of lead tape, is highly prevalent amongst professional players. There are two main reasons why professionals customise their rackets. The first is to make them all feel the same, as there are always small differences in weight, balance and swingweight when rackets come from the factory. The second is to improve the performance of the racket; maybe making it more powerful, more stable or more manoeuvrable.
There is no reason why you can’t also benefit from customising your racket. But before you do, you need to know what influence any changes you make will have. Here are the most common locations to add weight, along with the effects of adding weight there and some useful hints for adding lead tape.
Tip (12 o’ clock). Weight added to the tip increases the weight and swingweight of the racket and makes the balance more head-heavy. The effect of this is that the racket becomes more powerful (i.e. outbound ball speed increases), but harder to swing and less manoeuvrable. Weight added to the tip has the greatest effect on swingweight (an increase of 1g leads to an increase of approximately 3kg/cm²), meaning that large increases in swingweight (and power) can be accomplished with the addition of only a small amount of weight.
Sides (3 and 9 o’ clock). Weight added to the sides not only increases the weight of the racket and makes it more head-heavy, but also increases torsional stability (the racket’s ability to resist twisting on off-centre hits) and expands the sweetspot towards the sides of the frame. Weight added to the sides has the effect of increasing swingweight by approximately 1kg/cm² for every 1g added, meaning that power is increased and manoeuvrability decreased, though not to the same extent as if the same amount of weight were added to the tip.
Throat. Weight added to the throat increases the weight of the racket while maintaining the balance. This leads to minimal increases in swingweight, power and stability, and a minimal decrease in manoeuvrability. This makes adding weight to the throat perfect for players who just want a heavier racket and relatively little other change in performance.
Handle. Weight added to the handle increases the weight of the racket and makes the balance more head-light. There is no effect on swingweight, as the weight being applied is below the axis of rotation where swingweight is measured. This means that adding weight to the handle results in the racket becoming more manoeuvrable and easier to control, as it helps to match the speed with which the handle and racket head are rotated round in order to contact the ball.
Now, a few tips for applying lead. Use ¼ inch thickness strips in the racket head, as they fit nicely between the grommets and the frame edge. Use short strips and make sure they are flush to the frame. Always use small increments to avoid excessive and potentially harmful changes. Counter-balance: add weight to both the head and the handle. Remember that customisation is a reversible process – if you don’t like it, you can simply remove any lead tape added. And finally, whilst it is fun to have a go yourself, if you don’t understand what you are doing, it is always best to leave things to an experienced racket technician.