Last Updated on June 20, 2022 by Sorin Petroj
Knowing about table tennis wood types and species can answer many questions about why blades behave the way they do. It is one of the most important materials used in blade construction, and yet it is one of the most controversial topics in the TT community.
Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to share what each kind of wood should ideally have, why you see so many different kinds in a table tennis blade, and which types of blades use each type of wood.
What are the table tennis wood types?
Table tennis blades made of different woods have different properties. That’s why you have to pick them depending on your game style so that shots come out with extra snap and power or with a soft touch.
But the choice isn’t always easy since there are more than 40 types of wood used for table tennis blades. Some people even ask me which wood is the most popular among professional players or if a specific type of wood is better than another.
You’ll find my answer to the question “Which wood is best for blade: Balsa, Koto, Ayous, Limba, or a custom composite wood?” below.
But first, here’s a brief overview of the 18 best wood types most preferred by table tennis manufacturers and professionals and the unique characteristics of each of the woods.
Overview: Ayous is an African wood found in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria.
It is a durable light to medium-weight wood that sees additional use in racket making because of its durability and flexibility. This African softwood comes with high-compression properties that make an excellent outer ply.
Features: Ayous wood is used in the table tennis blade composition in various ways, including the core, exterior plies, and outer veneer on many blades. It is composite plywood made from layers of veneer, each compressed separately under heat and pressure with the grain specifically oriented to create performance characteristics similar to those of hardwoods.
Each layer of veneer is compressed in different directions so that the overall plies will not split when bent and increase stiffness in various directions for greater control.
- 1. Ayous combines the firmness of maple with the flexibility of limba to produce a flexible yet extremely durable blade.
- 2. The surface ply of Ayous is 0.2mm thick, so it is easy to do precise control balance between stiffness and flex.
- 3. The wood is strong and light which helps with quick movement control.
- 4. When properly maintained, Ayous can decrease blade construction costs by up to 50%.
Suitable playing style and configuration: For competition play and close-to-the-net counter-attacks, Ayous is a perfect choice and is often found in control or spin-oriented rackets.
Examples of blades constructed with Ayous: Most of the Stiga blades (5 ply and 7 plywood blades) are constructed with Ayous.
The Butterfly’s bestseller, the Andrzej Gruba Carbon blade, and the Butterfly Hinoki Shake 5 are also constructed with the Ayous wood as the outer veneer.
Overview: Ash pairs well in all wood blades as medial ply with matching specs. It has a smoky look, much like rosewood, and this needs to be oiled to protect it.
This wood’s weight (medium) makes it ideal for all-wooden blades. The stiffness can make it excel in powerful offensive playing styles and with blades that are on the heavier side.
Features: Ash is a heavy 11-13.5 mm, lacquer finished wood. It is hard and heavy with tight growth rings and can be used in all-wood blades with matching specs.
It can give you razor-like speed when paired with softer woods without sacrificing control.
- 1. This wood type can help bring out the playing characteristics of a blade.
- 2. The composition allows for fast wood blade construction.
Suitable playing style and configuration: The reaction is very fast with this wood of choice. A good blade made from ash in conjunction with Limba or Koto will have adequate control and is best suitable for spinier loopers.
Examples of blades constructed with Ashwood: Some respected custom makers like Rei Li use this wood exclusively in their high-end all-wood blades.
3. Kiso Hinoki / Cedar Port Orford
Overview: Kiso Hinoki is a light, solid, high-quality wood for top-level table tennis blades. This particular cypress is used for blade manufacturing only when having 300 years or more of age.
‘Kiso’ is the top Hinoki wood, available only from a single location in Japan.
Features: Kiso hinoki produces maximum spin with chopping technique but is really fast during smashes and pushes. This characteristic allows you to enjoy hitting power with great control.
It produces excellent backhand loops, drives, and counters with infinite spin.
- 1. Kiso Hinoki is famous for its durability, elasticity, and resilience.
- 2. It carries an excellent weight to performance ratio, meaning maximum experience, and minimum weight!
Suitable playing style and configuration: No doubt this is an excellent choice for highly technical play with extreme topspins combinations or a killer short game with super-fast chops and counter loops.
Examples of blades constructed with Kiso Hinoki: This traditional Japanese wood is used for the blade core of Ajisai, Mizutani, and many other Japanese blades of high quality, as well as some Chinese blades.
Overview: Anigre is a durable, smooth, and lightweight wood – perfect for all types of blades. It is light-tan (yellow) in color, native to Africa, and is mainly used as the surface veneer of table tennis blades.
Features: Anigre wood delivers quality, class, and feel. This wood type is used to create some of the world’s highest quality custom table tennis blades. The top layer of Anigre wood is sanded down to half an inch in thickness, providing you with a frictionless surface that ensures better control and touch.
- 1. Anigre wood gives a cleaner-looking appearance, which makes the racket look like that of a pro’s.
- 2. Depending on the thickness of the grooves, Anigre from 1.8mm gains 10-15% additional speed.
- 3. Waterproof, durable, and solid, this top-grade hardwood provides excellent control and feel.
Suitable playing style and configuration: It’s a good choice for beginners to learn with because it offers easier control. Also, Anigre wood is suitable for all-around performance and those who want the feel of a high-quality blade with great control and optimal speed.
Overview: Blades constructed with Balsa are some of the most professional and fastest table tennis blades today. It is a popular choice for the core of table tennis blades or handles due to its durability and lightweight.
It is an extremely lightweight, porous, and springy wood. These characteristics make balsa wood excellent core material for all types of blades, ranging from fast attacking to slow defensive blades. Balsa has a structure that can withstand impact and return a fast strike. When a ball strikes Balsa, the blade is cut slightly and bounces off.
Features: Compared to other wood cores, Balsa is extremely lightweight, making blades extremely quick without sacrificing much in the way of control.
Its high ‘springiness’ is great for spin variation and looping but can also affect the player’s control if they do not have time and experience practicing with fiberglass blades to reach a balance.
- 1. Balsa’s lightweight makes for a fast blade with a good feeling of control.
- 2. With a balsa blade in hand, you are sure to experience excellent speed and spin than ordinary wood.
Suitable playing style and configuration: Balsa is most popular in “all-around blades due to its high ability to produce spin. The solid core construction with Balsa makes it suitable for good attack and defense. Hence, it is suitable for attacking players who want excellent speed, control, and spin/faster swings!
Overview: Basswood is a stable, lightweight wood suitable for all kinds of blade types. This wood is widely available throughout China and accounts for a good portion of the budget-friendly player blades that you will see today.
Features: Basswood’s behavior is widely determined by the plies, and it is another very diverse wood. The Features are almost similar to that of limba.
It is heavy and hard yet provides the racket with adequate stability and control on service and receive. Since the wood is stiff, it works well in all metrics (mid-or backhand). It also creates stiff mid and thin topspin.
- 1. Table tennis blades with basswood composition are very economical all-around blades.
- 2. Although economic quality construction provides all the essential benefits of a high-quality blade.
Suitable playing style and configuration: It is good for strong fundamentals and all-around playability. Being very economical, it is an excellent choice for beginners to practice different drills. The characteristics of the wood also make it suitable for close to the table blocking.
7. Hinoki / Cypress
Overview: Hinoki Cypress is just like natural Hinoki wood; it is light and easy to work with and produces a fast and powerful blade. You can use this type of wood for any kind of blade. Hence the popularity of this wood in the manufacturing of a variety of custom-made blades.
Also, it has an atypical property of often holding up even after prolonged use. Well, you can only acquire these properties from a genuine Blade crafted from this material. Hinoki / Cypress woods are expensive, but if you want to acquire a high-quality blade, this is the best choice for you!
Features: Hinoki Cypress is the most suitable wood in terms of flexibility, weight, and proper springiness. This Japanese wood comprises a very smooth texture, making it an excellent material for a blade, and Hinoki doesn’t encumber anything which can make your shot off.
But don’t you think this makes it slower, though, because Hinoki is actually relatively fast!
- 1. Control and power are two essential factors in choosing wood for custom table tennis blade construction. Hinoki provides control and power to help you with your game.
- 2. It provides an excellent feeling to touch.
Suitable playing style and configuration: Hinoki Cypress delivers soft touch and power. It is a high-quality offensive wood best for topspin and, of course, to win points!
Overview: Koto is a Japanese word used in table tennis blades. This wood is also known as Ofete, Kakende, Kefe, Ake, Ikame, Awari, and Kyere. Koto has a tight, stiff grain and sharp tone. Blades constructed with Koto look natural and provide the lightest, truest feeling.
Features: Koto wood has a high density and is generally very hard – 19 points on the Janka hardness scale (in Europe, Beech = 420 and Oak = 600). This wood is of medium weight and therefore helps to provide the blade with good stability. Combining the tight grains with a slightly reddish hue creates a very nice look.
- 1. Balance, precision, flexibility, and excellent control are the key benefits of this type of wood.
- 2. It is a medium-fast to faster wood which gives you an extremely good feel and control of the ping pong ball and makes it possible to play with a high trajectory.
Suitable playing style and configuration: The consistent ply structure, together with the light-weighting that this wood has in the blade, results in a perfect blade for an offensive player!
Examples of blades constructed with Koto: Stiga Offensive Classic and Butterfly Viscaria blades’ composition comprises two plays of Koto wood. Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit also contains 0.5 mm Koto outer ply and 3.2 mm Koto inner layer.
Overview: The most exciting thing about Kiri wood is its lightness. It weighs only 1/2 the strength of a balsa blade, and with the same amount of weight, it has 2 times the stiffness. Some things happen when you press the strings down on a Kiri blade.
Features: Kiri wood is medium-hardness wood, a characteristic of Paulownia and one very important factor for choosing a blade. Hardwoods, like Balsa, are for beginners and Stiga basic blades, who want to play faster and look more attacking. (It is easier to get fast shots with a harder wood).
On the other hand, if you want more control and a more defensive/patient game, you should try a blade with a medium hardness wood core. One of the best medium-hardness wood is Paulownia. It is lightweight and stiff but not so much as a Balsa blade.
You get to hear a very distinct sound when hitting the ball on Kiri and Balsa, making the control aspect of these 2 table tennis blade wood types famous among the Chinese players!
- 1. Kiri wood is extremely light (about 68% lighter than balsa wood and Its lighter weight makes it stronger and more durable.
- 2. Kiri comes with a longer life span than ordinary woods; hence money is saved.
Table Tennis Wood Types – Japanese Butterfly
You might feel like you get more energy from your wrist. And also, there is not much dwell on the table for the ball to fall away from the blade on a Kiri blade. This little bit of spin on your shots comes from the dwell that bounces off a typical Balsa or Ayous (cypress) table tennis blade.
But, because of the -1st Class Graphite Carbon Fiber construction (which leads to less vibration), you can use lighter rubbers and get more spin, better control, and speed than what you are used to. And here is another plus.
Your partner’s strokes won’t feel as sharp on your forearm and hand because of the -1st class carbon fiber construction of Kiri wood blades.
Examples of blades constructed with Kiri: Butterfly blades with a core of Kiri wood (also known as Paulownia, Princess Tree, and Empress Tree) are some of the lightest, most durable blades in the world. Kiri wood has also been used in F2 and Connelly table tennis products for almost 15 years.
Overview: Limba, also known as Korina, is a hard west African wood of light yellow color. Limba is a popular choice for mid-priced and upper mid-priced blades because it has a nice feel and does not cost as much as more exotic woods.
Features: Firstly, Limba is rigid and solid. This wood provides excellent feel and sound qualities for topspin play. It is best used in conjunction with other woods in the blade to add feeling, touch, and liveliness.
Secondly, table tennis blades with limba outer plies have a high throw angle (a high arc/curve in your shots). Because of this, these blades tend to be slower but have more potential for speed when paired with suitable rubber.
- 1. Its vibrations or flex are liked by topspin players.
- 2. All sound vibrations are transmitted through the blade quicker than Hinoki or Koto woods. So you’ll have more control to place the ball where you want over the table.
- 3. Limba adheres with speed glue very well.
Suitable playing style and configuration: Limba is a popular wood used in table tennis blades such as OFF- and ALL+ blocks and 7 ply combination blades with 10 mm carbon fiber ply layers.
Overview: Walnut is a popular outer plywood-veneer used by table tennis blade and racket manufacturers. The wood is said to be more complex than most other woods, and it imparts extra power and control when used as the outer ply, but at the same time, it makes the blade feel crisper.
However, Walnut has also been described as a high-speed outer ply material.
Features and Benefits: Walnut is a hard, dense, tight-grained wood. It is used as a top ply but is sometimes also seen to be used as a medium layer ply. It is one of the rarer outer veneers on the market and has a hard but crisp feeling. Blades constructed with Walnut outer ply.
A Brief Overview On The Additional 7 Wood Types Used For Custom Table Tennis Blade Construction:
Douglas Fir: Since the first prototype of table tennis blades made of Douglas Fir wood and plywood was constructed in 1954 by J. H. Wray, Douglas Fir has been used in the production of table tennis rackets. It is popular due to its hardness and unique ability to be shaped into various curve types.
Poplar: Poplar is light and soft, which provides substantial control in the game of table tennis, and that is why used for blade construction. able tennis blades with poplar handles provide better feeling and higher control
Jatoba: Jatoba woods are very dense and heavy, and professional players prefer this wood to get more speed and control.
Spruce: Spruce wood is one of the strongest and most dense woods. Many consider getting “poplar thickening” or so-called “tiger stripes” for their custom-made spruce blade.
Willow: Willow is a heavy wood that deadens the effect of incoming balls, making hard, fast loops easier to control. It is amazingly defensive and only recommended for choppers.
Zebrano: It has an excellent woody feel – some pips that you rarely find on carbon blades. And it is worth considering for its hardness and durability, despite the large pore issue that can affect your game.
Tung (Vernicia fordii): Tung is lightweight and strong. However, since it makes up most of the outer ply, you can play good spin shots with tung-based blades (though they’ll be limited in speed).
Table Tennis Wood Types – Conclusion
Of course, the wood species is just one factor in choosing a blade. There are many other considerations like the type of carbon, weight, speed, control, and the players’ style.
This blade material guide is intended to assist you in learning about the 18 common wood types of table tennis blades and how they perform.
Finally, for your technical references and to learn the ratings of each wood species based on the ratings of the Janka Hardness Scale, I suggest you visit: Pohepa.gr.