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Review: The Stiga Clipper

16 October 2020  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

Stiga Clipper – The classic 7-ply blade

     Readers of this blog will know that I have tested many 7-ply all-wood blades over the past couple of years, including four Stiga blades: Rosewood NCT VII, Ebenholz NCT VII, Nostalgic VII, and the Clipper CR WRB. This time around, I was given the opportunity to take a step back in time and review the prototypical 7-ply blade, i.e., the Stiga Clipper, which was first released in 1981. You might be thinking that such an old blade cannot be useful for modern table tennis considering the developments that have occurred in the nearly 40 years since its introduction, i.e., the speed glue ban and the switch from 38 mm celluloid balls all the way to the 40+ plastic balls. But not so quick – this used to be a blade of champions from yesteryears, which means that its characteristics just might prove suitable for regular players of the present, since the game has slowed down, allowing us mortals to control it.     

     The Clipper comes in a simple but sturdy black box, which lists general marketing information about Stiga blades on its back. The look is classic, with straw-colored outer veneers, a dark brown handle with two vertical red stripes, and an oval lens on the FH side which is kept in red, white, and silver color tones. The build quality of the blade appears to be excellent. The blade has a classic 7-ply limba-ayous-ayous-ayous-ayous-ayous-limba construction as follows: the medium-thick core is surrounded by red-dyed plies that are only marginally thinner, which is followed by thin penultimate plies, and very thin outer plies. The blade has the following dimensions (height x width: 158 mm x 151 mm) with a thickness of 6.6 mm and a weight of 86 g. The comfortable RST handle has the following measurements: length: 101 mm; width: 29 mm; thickness: 23 mm. A simple bounce test produced a pitch (~1313 Hz) that is lower than with the Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition or Nittaku Ludeack blades (~1380 Hz and ~1345 Hz, respectively), but higher than the Stiga Rosewood NCT VII or Stiga Ebenholz NCT VII (both ~1248 Hz).

     Testing Procedure

     At first, I tested the Stiga Clipper with the Nittaku Hurricane Pro 3 Turbo Blue (black, 2.0 mm) on my FH and Spinlord Waran 2 (red, 2.0 mm) short pips (red, 2.0 mm) in my BH, but this set-up quickly proved too heavy for me. I, therefore, went ahead and tested the blade with the lighter Hurricane 3 (40-degrees, orange sponge, provincial, black, 2.2 mm) in my FH, instead. As always, the rubbers were attached to the blade using a layer of Revolution 3 normal viscosity glue (side-note: my most recent batch of this glue seems thinner than usual). I tested the set-up over several sessions, playing drills and matches against my usual practice partners using Nittaku J-Top training balls.

     Playing Impressions

     The Stiga Clipper generates an interesting feeling upon ball impact. It is quite fast (low end of OFF spectrum) and very stiff, especially in the upper part of the blade. Yet the contact point feels relatively soft for a blade of its speed and stiffness. Accordingly, FH drives played with the relative hard-sponged Hurricane 3 feel solid and are relatively flat, while BH drives with the comparatively soft-sponged Waran 2 are fast, producing a loud and very satisfying cracking sound. In fact, many of my practice partners were convinced we were playing with cracked balls, such is the sound! The feeling on FH loops is medium-soft but at the same time, the blade’s underlying stiffness is clearly felt. Accordingly, I would characterize the dwell time as medium and a little shorter than with, e.g., the Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition (my regular blade). As a result, FH loops against backspin produce an arc that’s middle of the road, generally providing sufficient safety to clear the net, while resulting in reasonably long trajectories. Good spin production is observed. However, FH loops that are too forced (i.e., not sufficiently relaxed) have a tendency of clipping the net and/or going too long as the blade’s stiffness becomes more dominant. More than with other similar blades, I found it necessary to use “soft hands” on spin-oriented shots, while a tighter grip activates the stiffer character of the blade. Loop drives are, accordingly, long, flat, and very powerful. The blade offers plenty of speed to allow engagement in FH loop-to-loop rallies from afar, but a more upward motion is necessary to compensate for the medium-low trajectory. The combination with Waran 2 did not work particularly well for BH loop-to-loop rallies since the throw angle is too low with this combination. As expected, FH blocking is solid, allowing for good redirection of incoming power, but again some care must be taken not to overtighten the grip as the ball otherwise can careen out of control. Similarly, BH blocking is good, although the blade’s stiffness, occasionally causes the shots to go long. BH blocks hit toward the top end of the blade are noticeably faster and crisper than blocks hit closer to the handle. In other words, the sweet-spot is shifted toward the top of the blade, which is great if you can time the shot well. Flat hits and smashes are controlled but are not lightning fast – still easily plenty fast to win points though. The Stiga Clipper works well in the short game, especially when using soft hands as pushes can be played low and short. A tightening of the grip allows for quick and deep pushes to be played with excellent control, especially from the FH side. Aggressive serve returns are a pleasure to play as the blade’s stiff character allows for pin-pointed and penetrating shots to be played. Backhand flicks played with my short pips required good timing though in order not to go long. Serves played with a pronounced wrist snap, result in high levels of spin. However, I had to execute care on backspin serves, as the fast/stiff character of the blade made me serve into the net at an above-average frequency. Conversely, topspin-sidespin serves can be played with deadly speed and spin. 

     In conclusion, the Stiga Clipper is a fast and stiff blade that likely is best suited for the close-to-the-table attacker, who likes to play off the bounce. Players across a wide range of skill levels can use this blade with proper rubber pairing, ranging from intermediate to professional players. The blade’s inherent stiffness is mellowed by a relatively medium-soft contact point, which allows for decent spin generation. While the Clipper does not win any particular category (i.e., loop, smash, serve, short game, etc), it offers a balanced mix of playing characteristics, rendering it a logical choice for many players. To me, the Stiga Clipper feels like a stiffer version of my regular blade, i.e., the Tibhar Samsonov Force Pro Black Edition, while my other blade of choice, i.e., the Stiga Rosewood NCT VII, is a little slower offering a slightly harder feeling on ball impact. The regular Clipper is stiffer, faster, and lower-throwing than the Clipper CR WRB version that I tested on an earlier occasion and, therefore, a little harder to control.