0 items

Review: Waldner Allplay, Magic Control, Allround Classic, Samsonov Pure Wood

24 August 2021  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

A mega-test of four all-wood all-around blades

     If you are a returning reader of this blog, you know that I tend to review blades in the OFF categories, but this time around we decided to mix things up a bit and focus on 5-ply all-wood all-around blades. 

     Back when the 38 mm ball was used and speed-gluing was prevalent, all-around blades were more popular, even among high-level players, as they provided a stabilizing effect to springy, speed-glued rubbers. When I was a junior player in the 1990s, I used one of the blades reviewed herein, i.e., the Donic Waldner Allplay, in combination with speed-glued Donic Vario rubbers. The feeling and shot possibilities were fantastic. However, following the introduction of the 40 and 40+ balls and the speed-glue ban, the trend has been going towards faster blades such as 7-ply all-wood blades with hard outer plies and composite blades. The current mantra is that 5-ply all-wood blades are best suited for kids and beginning/intermediate players, while higher-level players use faster blades. However, are most points at the non-professional levels not won on better consistency and fewer errors relative to your opponent rather than superior power? This, in turn, raises the question: would most players not benefit from slower and more controlled blades?

     In this test, I review four all-round blades, i.e., Donic Waldner Allplay, Neottec Magic Control ALL, Stiga Allround Classic, and Tibhar Samsonov Pure Wood. All of them are 5-ply all-wood blades and very affordable with price points between $25 and $50. According to my sources, the Neottec and Stiga blades have limba-ayous-ayous-ayous-limba ply constructions, whereas the Donic blade has a limba-limba-ayous-limba-limba construction. The Tibhar blade is the oddball in this test with a koto-mahogany-samba-mahogany-koto ply construction, which brings the promise of higher speeds.

Testing Procedure

     I tested the brand-new blades as received without any additional varnishing or lacquering. In my primary evaluation, I attached brand-new sheets of DHS Hurricane 3 (2.15 mm, black, provincial version, 40-degrees blue sponge, one thin layer of Haifu Sea Moon booster) in my FH and well-used sheets of Spinlord Waran 2 (2.0 mm, red) short pips in my BH using one (W2) or two (H3) layers of Revolution 3 medium viscosity glue (side-note: I found the medium viscosity version to be thicker, slower-drying and requiring fewer layers to form a strong bond than the normal viscosity version that I typically use; however, the rubbers were also more difficult to remove from the blades). In my shorter, secondary evaluation, I replaced the H3 with the Nittaku Fastarc G-1 rubber as an example of a typical high-end non-tacky Japanese/European rubber. I tested the primary and secondary setups over three and one session, respectively, playing a mix of regular and match-like drills against my regular high-level practice partner (two-winged looper) and matches against a good quality BH long pips chopper. Neottec Neoplast Pro 40+ training balls were used throughout this test.


Donic Waldner Allplay

     Donic describes the Waldner Allplay as having excellent ball control and being perfect for all-around players. The blade comes in what I believe is Donic’s new standard box, i.e., a sturdy high-quality black and white box that effectively protects the blade during shipping and which lists general information about Donic blades on the back. The outer limba ply, with its vertically oriented grain, gives the blade a classic look, which is compounded by the head’s rounder shape and lack of text on either side. The dark-brown handle features a vertical line of multicolored squares (i.e., the “Waldner design”) and an oval lens on the FH side with the name of the blade written in red and white font on black background. There are no other lenses or tags. The handle and playing surface feel slightly rough to the touch, rendering me to think that they might be prone to absorption of sweat and water from glues. Along similar lines, the edges and wings do not appear to have been sanded. This said, neither the wings nor edges feel sharp, and I have no concerns regarding the build quality. 

     The playing surface is quite (height x width: 152 x 149 mm) with a thickness of 5.6 mm. Taking this into account, the blade is pretty heavy at 87 g. The naked blade ball bounce test produced a main resonance frequency of ~1227 Hz, consistent with a blade in the ALL/ALL+ category. The FL handle dimensions are as follows: length 102.7 mm, width 28.7-35.0 mm, height 21.9-25.1 mm. Compared to the other blades in this test, the Allplay’s handle is the least flared (or most straight, if you will) and felt very nice and comfortable in my relatively large hands. The primary and secondary setups weighed 182 g and 187 g, respectively. 

Playing Impressions Using the H3/W2 Setup

     The Donic Waldner Allplay feels solid with a balance point that is centered. Accordingly, the blade feels very nimble. I hit an above-average of shots with the edge of the blade, presumably due to a combination of its smaller playing surface and my lack of precision. The blade generally feels quite stiff, almost like a 7-ply blade, except when hitting close to the handle, in which case the feeling is soft. In other words, the sweet spot is narrow.   

     FH drives executed with the hard Hurricane 3 rubber are solid and controlled but also quite slow (ALL+). A fair amount of deep vibrations are produced on impact. Interestingly, the feeling on BH drives with the softer Waran 2 short pips is a little different, as the shots are livelier and the blade feels crisp and stiff, similar to my usual Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition albeit slower. The Allplay is surprisingly fast with short pips.

     FH loops with the Allplay/H3 are reasonably crisp and have sufficient clearance over the net, which allowed me to play alternating diagonal and down-the-line loops with outstanding consistency. However, the FH loops are slow, and judging by my hitting partner’s blocks it is quite clear that the shots lack power. I tried to use a more upward motion and/or more wrist action to generate more spin, but to little avail, as my practice partner seemed to have a very easy time returning the shots. The lack of power was also obvious in third-ball attack drills. I either had to place FH loops beyond my partner’s reach and/or use great physical effort to maintain the upper hand in the rally. If my opponent managed to be well-positioned to the ball – something that was relatively easy to accomplish given that he had more time – he could calmly redirect my FH loops in hard-to-reach places. I attribute the low power levels to the blade’s lower inherent speed and relatively stiff nature, which reduced dwell time and spin.

     While I was able to use the Allplay in FH-to-FH loop rallies with good consistency, my opponent noted that the shots lacked power. I had to use a more upward motion to ensure that the shots cleared the net, due to the shorter trajectory. I also resorted to using an almost tennis-like movement, twisting my forearm and wrist, in an attempt to generate more spin. So, while it is possible to use the Allplay from afar, its inherent characteristics, at least when combined with a slow rubber like H3, encourage gameplay close to the table.  

    The Allplay worked well for me on short pip BH openers against backspin, since it is a well-mannered blade with a rather stiff feel, at least when using a comparatively soft rubber like the Waran 2. The trajectory was high enough to clear the net, and the blade was slow enough for the ball to dip before the end-line.    

     I struggled a little bit with my FH flicks when using the H3 since I wasn’t able to feel the ball as much as I would have like to. This, in turn, decreased my confidence with respect to when to hit the ball. BH flicks, on the other hand, worked significantly better, presumably because the Waran 2 is softer, thus allowing me to better feel the contact point. The Allplay’s moderate speed meant that I was able to land many BH flicks.     

     FH blocks with the Allplay felt rock-solid, and the blade’s moderate speed ensured that the shots landed on the table. For the same reason, though, my FH blocking kill shots were less effective than usual. Regular BH blocks with the short pips were also consistent, enabled by the blade’s stiff feel. The level of spin reversal on BH chop blocks is relatively high due to Allplay’s stiff nature, but less so than with my usual Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition blade. 

     I enjoyed high levels of control on long FH pushes although the level of backspin perhaps was slightly lower than average, due to the slightly lower dwell time. The ability to precisely place the ball with high consistency, on balance, created more difficulties for my opponents and won me more points than usual. The Allplay also worked well on long BH pushes which I was able to play deep and with respectable spin. I struggled a little more on short FH pushes as the ball tended to sit up a little bit. 

     I struggled to develop a good feeling on BH short pip chops from afar. On one hand, the blade is slow, which should facilitate these shots, but it is also relatively stiff with a short dwell time, which impacted my ability to slice the ball.

     The Allplay worked well on backspin serves, which were low and short. Judging by my opponent’s reaction to them it seemed, though, that spin levels were only average. The harder nature of the Allplay worked well on topspin-sidespin serves, which were relatively fast albeit with only average spin levels.     

Additional Comments Following Secondary Evaluation Using the G-1/W2 Setup 

     The Donic Allplay works exceptionally well with the Fastarc G-1 as a FH rubber. The setup has the additional pep (low OFF-) that I was missing in the primary combo with H3. The feeling when hitting FH drives is crisp, and almost speed-glue-like and allows you to feel the ball. FH drives are not overly fast with medium-long trajectories, but they are fast enough. The Allplay/G-1 combination shines on everything topspin. I enjoyed outstanding consistency on FH loops, including when playing alternating diagonal and down-the-line shots. The throw angle is high enough - and the blade fast enough - for the ball to comfortably clear the net, whereas the blade is slow enough as not to overshoot the table. The longer dwell time with the G-1 relative to the H3, also meant I was able to impart more spin on FH loops. Unlike with the primary setup, I felt the Allplay/G-1 combo was fast enough to allow me to do well in FH loop-to-loop rallies from afar. Similarly, the softer G-1 rubber combined with the relatively stiff Allplay blade, really allowed me to feel the ball when executing FH flicks, which have me much greater confidence than with the H3. Accordingly, I was able to land my FH flicks with greater consistency. I also enjoyed the Allplay/G-1 combo on FH blocks, although it is clear that the G-1 rubber is capable of absorbing less power than H3, especially on passive blocks, with some shots going long. On the other hand, well-timed aggressive blocks are monster-fast as I was borderline hitting through the sponge, allowing for the stiffer nature of the Allplay to really shine through. Flat hits are probably the weakest area of the Allplay/G-1 combo, simply because you top out speed-wise on such high input power shots. Long FH pushes were comfortable and controlled and were loaded with more backspin than the primary setup. My short FH pushes sat up a little bit, probably due to the somewhat hard nature of the blade. The Allplay/G-1 combo worked well on short backspin serves due to the clearly felt contact point. 


     The Donic Waldner Allplay offers phenomenal value. This blade ought to be a top choice for every beginning and intermediate player, and even highly skilled players will find much to love in this blade. While the Allplay might lack a little bit of speed and restrict a player to close-to-the-table gameplay when combined with hard and relatively slow rubbers like Hurricane 3 rubbers, the blade becomes a veritable looping machine when combined with fast high-end rubbers like the G-1 that allows for a wider range of game styles to be employed. And, to my surprise, it worked well with BH short pips. One minor area of concern is the small playing surface and how it might result in an above-average level of edge shots.


Neottec Magic Control ALL

     Neottec describes the Magic Control as an ideal blade for learning table tennis. The blade arrives shrink-wrapped in Neottec’s generic mint-green box, which is simple and compact, yet offers adequate protection during shipping. Just like the Allplay, the Magic Control has an outer limba ply with vertically oriented wood grain. The blade name is printed on the FH side of the playing surface, while the BH side is devoid of text. The handle is purple with vertical white and grey stripes, which gives the blade a fresh look. A single oval lens on the FH side lists the name of the blade in white and silver font on black background. The playing surface is quite smooth, whereas the handle has a slight roughness to it (but less so than the Allplay). The edges and wings do not appear to have been sanded and do feel a little sharp to the touch. Other than that, the build quality seems to be excellent. 

     The playing surface is a little smaller than usual (height x width: 155 x 151 mm) with a thickness of 5.6 mm. The blade weighs 86 g. A resonance frequency of ~1270 Hz is produced when a ball is bounced on the naked blade, indicating that the Magic Control is the fastest/stiffest of the test blades. The FL handle has the following dimensions: length 102.8 mm, width 27.4-34.0 mm, height 22.6-25.0 mm. The handle has an average flare but feels fuller than the other handles in this test. The primary and secondary setups weighed 180 g and 184 g, respectively.

Playing Impressions Using the H3/W2 Setup

     The Magic Control feels light, with a center of gravity that is only slightly tilted towards the head, giving the paddle a nimble feel. The blade was slightly faster than I expected: high ALL+, perhaps even low OFF-. 

     I enjoyed good control on FH and BH drives. The blade produces deeper vibrations than my regular blade, i.e., the Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition, and has a softer and more pronounced ‘holding’ feeling. However, the Magic Control has a much more muted feeling than the Stiga Allround Control. Although shot trajectories are inherently shorter and flatter than with my regular blade, the blade’s lower speed gave me the confidence to hit the ball with more power, resulting in drives of substantially similar length. The blade’s average flexibility and muted feel gave me the ability to precisely titrate input power meant that I had fewer FH/BH drives go long. 

     Considerable physical effort and/or acceleration through the ball is needed to generate powerful FH loops with the H3 rubber. The above-average dwell time allows for good spin generation when the appropriate technique is used, which compensates for the moderate speed levels. What the blade doesn’t offer in terms of raw speed, it gives back in terms of control and ball placement ability, which allowed me to dominate 3rd ball attacks, including short, highly angled loops. The blade’s moderate speed, linear nature, and excellent control also allowed me to control rallies from mid-distance, as I was able to put away attacks with controlled counter-drives or counter-loops. As mentioned, ball trajectories are quite low. This is not because the throw angle is low (it is average), but because the ball dips earlier due to the blade’s moderate speed. This is particularly prominent if the ball is hit towards the middle or lower third of the paddle, indicating that the sweet spot is quite narrow. Consequently, a more open bat angle is needed on softer FH loops, especially when playing down the line. Interestingly, FH-to-FH loop rallies require less physical effort than expected. I was able to play these shots with excellent consistency but found it challenging to put my opponent under pressure. 

    My BH short pip flat hits against backspin were reasonably controlled albeit only moderately fast. The shots required a slightly different timing than usual, something that I again attribute to the slower speed and softer feel of the blade. Thus, I had to take care to hit the ball at its zenith and even use a little wrist action to curl the ball over the net.     

    I count neither FH nor BH flicks among my strongest shots but with the Magic Control, I was able to execute these shots with high levels of confidence, presumably because the moderate speed and linearity of the blade mean that there are no surprises in how the ball reacts. 

     The Magic Control is very consistent when blocking due to its moderate speed and “holding” feeling. I found this characteristic to be particularly useful in match situations when I was caught off-guard in mid-distance, as the blade gave me the confidence that almost any loop, no matter how powerful, was returnable provided I got my paddle on the ball, especially on the FH side. However, don’t expect to be able to generate lightning-fast blocks by simply snapping your wrist or tightening your forearm – more effort is needed to produce fast blocks. Occasionally, BH blocks went too long, leaving me with a feeling that the blade was slightly too thin for my Waran 2 short pips. I also noticed that chop blocks played with the short pips generate less spin reversal, rendering it easier for my practice partner to attack the block. Presumably, the reduced spin reversal vis-à-vis the Force Pro is due to the Magic Carbon’s softer and thinner nature.  

     Flat hits are probably the weakest shot category for the Magic Control. Full commitment is needed to generate high speed, a strategy the leaves you vulnerable for any potential follow-up shots. Accordingly, it is a more prudent strategy to focus on the placement of the ball instead. 

     As you might expect from an all-around blade, the Magic Control works exceptionally well for pushes. Both my FH and BH long pushes were consistent and loaded with high spin levels, which rendered 3rd ball attacks challenging for my practice partner. Short pushes can be played ridiculously short and low. I love the linearity of this blade as it allows for precise length control of pushes. 

     While I by no means am a chopper, I managed to produce decent quality BH chops against loops with the Magic Control. In fact, I could easily see modern defenders using this blade.

Additional Comments Following Secondary Evaluation Using the G-1/W2 Setup

    As with the other blades in this test, replacing the H3 with the Fastarc G-1 resulted in a setup with more pep. The playing characteristics of the Magic Control – G-1 combination largely resemble those of the corresponding Allplay combo. The feeling when hitting the ball is a little softer and more dampened, and the blade is a little slower. Compared to the primary setup, FH drives had longer trajectories. The feeling on FH loops is relatively crisp and this combined with the longer dwell time allowed me to safely bring the ball over the net, though the shots seemed a little less powerful than with the Fastarc. The Magic Control – G-1 combo was slower than expected on FH loop-to-loop rallies far from the table, but still fast and controlled enough to play these shots with good consistency. The ability to better feel the contact point between the ball and blade meant that I enjoyed good consistency on my FH flicks. The slower pace of the Magic Control relative to the Allplay was most clearly felt on blocks, as the trajectories were shorter. Similarly, flat hits with the Magic Flat are not overly fast and the overall soft feeling makes the shots feel soft and mushy. Long FH pushes were spinny, low, and controlled. Short FH pushes were ridiculously easy to execute, presumably since the Magic Control is only moderately fast, yet it is easier to feel the ball. I almost found the Magic Control /G-1 combo to slow on backspin serves and had to force myself to use a more forward/wrist motion to ensure that the service had the necessary length.


     I am tempted to try the Neottec Magic Control ALL in a tournament using Hurricane 3 in the FH. Judging by my performance against my high-level practice partner, I won significantly more points due to my ability to produce shots with higher consistency and bring more shots back. My main concern would be if I have the physical stamina to use this slower blade for extended periods. The Magic control also worked great with the Fastarc G-1 as a FH rubber, but I would probably pair the G-1 with the Allplay instead due to its stiffer feel and better compatibility with short pips. The Magic Control offers ridiculous value for the money for a very wide range of players across different skill types and systems. Flat hitters and players set on composite blades or very flexible blades will not enjoy this blade, but many others will.  


Stiga Allround Classic

     Stiga describes the Allround Classic as being the textbook definition of a high-quality allround blade and asserts that a proper balance between speed, control, and consistency has been struck with this blade. Stiga recommends it to players of any level who want a blade that will support any stroke they want to make. The blade arrives well-protected in Stiga’s large flat black box, which also is used for some of the premium blades. Like the preceding blades, the Allround Classic has an outer limba ply with vertically oriented grain. Neither of the playing surfaces has any printed text, except the blade name being printed near the wings on the FH side. The handle is red-brown with black vertical outer stripes, which give the blade a rustic look. An oval lens on the FH side lists the handle type with black and white text on a black and silver background. A yellow, blue and white sticker is attached to the bottom of the handle. The playing surface is smooth, whereas the handle has a slight roughness to it just like the Magic Control. The edges and wings have not been sanded and feel sharp to the touch. The build quality looks good nonetheless.

     The playing surface is standard-sized (height x width: 157 x 151 mm) but incredibly thin at 4.9 mm. The blade weighs 84 g. The ball bounce test produced a very low resonance frequency of ~1076 Hz, which indicates a slow/soft blade. The Master (Stiga’s name for FL) handle has the following dimensions: length 102 mm, width 25.9-35.1 mm, height 21.4-25.2 mm. The handle is the most flared and the wings are the narrowest among the test blades. The primary and secondary setups weighed 181 g and 184 g, respectively.

Playing Impressions with the H3/W2 Setup

     The Allround Classic feels nimble and light, but the handle felt too thin for me during play and did not provide me as much support as I would have liked. 

     The first couple of FH drives quickly revealed that the Allround Classic is the slowest of the blades in this test, with a speed in the ALL, if not ALL- category. The trajectory is relatively short and the vibrations upon striking the ball are very pronounced and deep. BH drives with the Waran 2 are livelier, presumably due to the softer sponge, resulting in longer and controlled trajectories.

     FH looping with the Allround Classic is comfortable, albeit slow. I enjoyed excellent consistency and felt that I could loop all day long. Unfortunately, it also seemed that my hitting partner was able to block all day long, meaning that my shots were not very powerful. While the blade’s longer dwell time and flexibility allows for spinny FH loops with relatively long trajectories, the shots are simply not very fast. The longer dwell time felt afforded me a feeling of being able to hold the ball on the blade for a longer time, allowing me to guide the ball, e.g., for around-the-net shots. To my surprise, the Allround Classic worked surprisingly well in FH-to-FH rallies from afar. No, it is not fast, but the high throw angle and the blade’s flexibility allowed me to consistently land the shots. BH short pip flat hits through backspin also worked surprisingly well. I was able to land the shots with good consistency but as with FH loops, the shots were only moderately fast.

     The Allround Classic is a blade with contrasting dynamics. It is quite slow, yet also very flexible. Depending on the amount of input power imparted on the ball, the shots can be short and slow, or quite long. These dueling characteristics were particularly obvious when executing flicks. It is important to properly time and/or calibrate the input power on FH/BH shots. A little too hot and the ball flies past the table edge. 

     Blocking is probably the Allround Classic’s weakest suit. While FH and BH blocks in regular drills against loops were stable and crisp, especially with the W2 pips, I struggled during match-like play. I think this is due to the blade’s thin and flexible nature, which becomes particularly prominent on higher impact shots. Be it as it may, many of my FH and BH blocks went long during match play as if the blade was not able to absorb the incoming energy. It proved to be a more fruitful strategy to step back one or two steps and block the topspins with soft hands. While this approach resulted in more stable blocks, they were also much easier to return for my opponent. 

     Long FH pushes are easy to execute with the Allround Classic as the soft feeling and long dwell time allows for extended contact with the ball. As a consequence, it is possible to impart maximal amounts of backspin, which in turn rendered it challenging for my opponent to generate effective blocks. I made very similar observations on long BH pushes. Unsurprisingly, given the blade’s ALL speed, it is very easy to play short and low pushes.  

     The feeling when BH chopping with the Waran 2 / Allround Classic combination is excellent and I could easily envision defenders using this blade. The long dwell time and flexible nature of the blade allowed me to really get underneath the ball and chop my heart out, with reasonably good consistency and spin.

     It is easy to play short backspin serves with the Allround Classic, which is unsurprising given its moderate speed. Similarly, considerably greater-than-usual effort is needed, to ensure sufficient length on topspin/sidespin serves, which do appear to carry good spin levels.  

Additional Comments Following Secondary Evaluation Using the G-1/W2 Setup

     Unsurprisingly, given the faster and bouncier nature of the Fastarc G-1 rubber, the Allround Classic generally feels livelier than with the Hurricane 3 in the FH. FH drives are crisper and accompanied by longer trajectories and a subtle cracking sound. The blade’s underlying deep vibrations are still felt prominently. As noted with the primary setup, FH loops are quite enjoyable and the combination with the Fastarc rubber results in significantly more dangerous loops, as they were both considerably faster and spinnier. My consistency on alternating diagonal and down-the-line FH loops was outstanding. Third ball attacks were much more effective and winning me many outright points. Occasionally, when using bigger strokes, the long dwell time and bouncy nature of the blade caused me to overshoot the table. Along similar lines, I had to hold back a little in FH loop-to-loop rallies. Unlike with the primary setup, FH blocking with the Fastarc / Allround Classic combo was a lot of fun, because I could really feel the ball. The blade’s moderate speed allowed me to aggressively punch through the ball and still land fast FH blocks, which more often than not were out of reach for my opponent. For similar reasons flat hitting with the Fastarc / Allround Classic combo was surprisingly effective (though not fast), in part due to the blade’s catapult. FH flicks worked significantly better for me with the Fastarc / Allround Classic combination than with the H3. I attribute this to being able to feel the ball much more clearly, giving me the confidence to accelerate through the ball. Similar to the primary setup, I found the Allround Classic to work very well on long FH pushes. The extended dwell time, and the softer nature of the rubber, gave me the confidence to slice the ball, generating high amounts of backspin in the process. The Fastarc-Allround Classic combo enabled me to play really short pushes, but I felt they sat up more than with the H3. The slow pace of the blade was perhaps most evident on short FH backspin serves, as I had to use a lot of arm and wrist action to ensure the ball gained sufficient length.   


     The Stiga Allround Classic blade is a good blade for beginning/intermediate players who need the blade’s deep vibrations to develop a feeling for the ball. In my opinion, the blade is best paired with fast rubbers like Fastarc G-1 as this allows for controlled looping and effective blocking, as less suited in combination with offensive short pips or hard rubbers like Hurricane 3. Modern defenders could quite possibly make excellent use of this blade. 

Tibhar Samsonov Pure Wood

      Tibhar describes the Samsonov Pure Wood as providing an extraordinary playing sensation with great control and offering the promise of perfect placement in blocks and topspins. They go on, stating that the Pure Wood is capable of producing an unlimited range of spins while having the necessary power to accelerate the ball. The blade arrives in Tibhar’s simple but adequate black compact standard box. Unlike the other blades in this test, the Pure Wood has a koto outer ply with a characteristic fish scale pattern. The FH playing surface has the blade name and Vladimir Samsonov’s signature printed in gold font. The handle is kept in a two-toned light-brown color with two thin vertical purple stripes. I am not a big fan of this mix of rustic and modern notes. An oval – and somewhat sticky – soft plastic lens lists the blade name on the FH side in a golden font on black background. The BH side of the handle features an engraving of Samsonov’s signature.  A simple gold-on-black Tibhar lens is placed on the bottom of the handle. The playing surfaces and handle are super smooth but the wings do not appear to have been sanded. This blade has the best build quality among the test blades.

     The playing surface is slightly larger than usual (height x width: 158 x 150 mm) and sports a thickness of 6.1 mm. The test specimen weighed 85 g. The bounce test resulted in a resonance frequency of ~1227 Hz, indicative of a blade in the ALL/ALL+ category. The FL handle has the following dimensions: length 99.8 mm, width 27.4-34.2 mm, height 22.3-25.5 mm. The handle is the shortest among the blades in this test. The primary and secondary setups weighed 175 g and 180 g, respectively.

Playing Impressions With the H3/W2 Setup

     The balance of the Pure Wood is tilted towards the head, presumably because the playing surface is relatively large, while the handle is short. Speaking about the handle, I found it to be too short on most shots. As a result, the blade feels heavier and less nimble than the weight of the test setups might suggest. The Pure Wood is the fastest of the test blades, although it still isn’t more than slow OFF-. 

     The Pure Wood produces the longest and flattest trajectories among the four blades in this test, although they were still well short of my regular blade, the Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro. Accordingly, my FH drives were reasonably deep and fast, all while allowing me to maintain good consistency. The feeling when striking the ball is rather soft, with some underlying dull vibrations. In fact, the feeling is comparable to the Neottec Magic Control. I prefer a sharper feeling, especially for my short pip BH drives, which were controlled, nonetheless. While being significantly thicker than the other test blades, the Pure Wood feels as if it has a similar thickness as the Magic Control. 

     I enjoyed excellent consistency when FH looping with the Pure Wood against blocks, including when alternating between diagonal and down-the-line shots. My shots had sufficient clearance over the net and the comparatively faster and bouncier nature of this blade resulted in longer trajectories than with the other test blades. My FH loops went too long when I tried to compensate for the blade’s lower inherent speed by imparting more power on the ball, as the blade feels non-linear (i.e., little catapult effect on low impact shots, considerably stronger catapult on higher impact shots). My hitting partner had a higher-than-usual number of blocks going long when I used a more upward motion and/or more wrist action on my FH loops, indicating that high spin levels can be imparted. However, it is necessary to stay focused and engage legs and arms when FH looping, as the shots otherwise tended to go into the net due to the relatively flat trajectory and moderate pace of the blade. Also, the blade felt quite dead if I bit the ball near the blade edge, i.e., the blade has a small sweet spot. The H3/Pure Wood pairing offered sufficient power to allow me to engage in FH-to-FH topspin rallies far from the table with better-than-usual consistency and spin. 

     My consistency on BH short pip flat hits against backspin was low, which I attribute to the aforementioned narrow sweep spot and non-linear nature of the blade. Shots hit on the lower half of the blade were slow and tended to go into the net, whereas shots hit on the top half of the blade engaged a catapult and often led me to overshoot the table. Thus, I struggled to find the proper contact point.  

     I enjoyed excellent control on passive FH blocks as the hard H3 rubber absorbed most of the incoming energy. However, I overshoot the table quite a few times when trying more aggressive FH blocks and FH counterloops, in line with my other observations that the Pure Wood is a non-linear blade that can produce long and flat trajectories. My consistency on passive BH blocks with the Waran 2 short pips was also a little lower than usual as several of my passive BH blocks careened past the table, presumably because the blade is thinner and bouncier. I found it more beneficial to use active strokes when executing BH blocks.   

     The Pure Wood is not a fast blade but does allow for respectable and controllable smashes and flat hits. However, it is better to focus on ball placement rather than rely on elusive speed reserves when executing these shots. 

     Flicks are among my weakest shots, but the moderate speed and lack of catapult on these shots of the Pure Wood allowed me to execute both FH/BH flicks with high levels of consistency.  

     As usual with blades having koto outer plies, I struggled a little bit with my long pushes, with many of them going long. The bounciness of the blade when using a snappy wrist, coupled with the soft feeling, rendered it more challenging for me to properly feel the ball and brush it correctly. When executed correctly, my pushes were loaded with spin, giving my hitting partner all sorts of problems. Short pushes sat up a little higher than usual. 

     I also struggled with BH short pip chops against topspins from afar, as I wasn’t able to feel the ball, resulting in inconsistent chops. Some chops were decent, others floated one meter past the table.   

     My backspin serves were low and loaded with spin, although – again – I wasn’t able to feel the ball as clearly as I would have liked. As a result, I sometimes had difficulties getting the length and brush right. Topspin/sidespin serves were decent and spinny, though not as fast as with other blades.  

Additional Comments Following Secondary Evaluation Using the G-1/W2 Setup

     Unsurprisingly, the secondary setup with the Fastarc G-1 rubber in the FH was livelier than the primary setup, but the key characteristics remained. Thus, the feeling on all FH shots is relatively soft, with the Pure Wood producing few vibrations, although the G-1 rubber itself produces a crisper sensation on most hits relative to the Hurricane 3. The trajectories of FH drives and FH loops are long and flat. As a consequence, the Pure Wood resulted in the highest frequency of FH loops getting caught in the top of the net among all of the test blades and thus has the lowest margin for error. The Pure Wood / Fastarc combo has plenty of power in FH loop-to-loop rallies, although I slightly more upward motion is needed and care must be taken not to overshoot the table. FH blocks with this setup are quite fast but once again, the margin for error is lower than with some of the other blades due to the lower trajectory. FH flicks were ok. While I enjoyed the crisper feeling of the Fastarc on these shots, the rubber’s faster nature meant that a higher frequency of my FH flicks overshot the table. I enjoyed better feeling and consistency on long FH pushes with the Pure Wood / Fastarc combo, possibly because I was able to feel the ball a little bit. But once again, care must be taken not to overshoot the table. On short FH pushes, I felt the ball sat up more than with any of the other test blades. 


     The Tibhar Samsonov Pure Wood is a blade for players who enjoy blades with koto outer plies. In my opinion, koto-based blades are less forgiving of poor timing, footwork, and technique than limba-based blades and therefore best suited for intermediate or advanced players. However, if mastered the Pure Wood allows for dangerously flat and fast trajectories.


Final Thoughts

     I think slower blades like the ones reviewed herein, deserve considerably more consideration than they are currently getting, especially if combined with a fast high-end rubber like Fastarc G-1, which allows for efficient energy transfer from the player to the ball. My observation from this month-long test has been that I won more points due to improved consistency than I lost due to reduced power on my shots. And for sure, I am contemplating trying out the Donic Waldner Allplay with a Fastarc-like rubber, or the Neottec Magic Control with a Hurricane 3 like rubber, although I am not sure I have the stamina to last in multiday competitions.     






About the Reviewer

     Patrick 'Pong Professor' Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast with a Ph.D. in chemistry who combines his analytical and experimental skills with his love of table tennis in order to test and review a wide range of table tennis equipment.