Introducing the Kendo and Ultralight. They're both prototype blades, specially manufacturered for Geoff (Combined Sports Traders
https://www.aussietabletennis.com) under the Stiga badge.
This is possibly the most "fancy" and best constructed blade that I've ever seen. Measuring 6.39mm thick, it's a 5+2 ply construction with a colour veneer (Fineline wood I believe) surface. Inside, there is a second ply of Ayous, sitting on top of a Carbon layer, with a Balsa-Koto core. Unfortunately, the blade has a band of colour veneer around the edge so I can't tell you the thicknesses. If I had to guess though, the core would be around 3.5mm. The blade does not have your usual carbon laminate "ping", so I'd guess towards a carbon fleece type layer (Unless it was a stiga carbon-glue layer).
The Handle itself is very unique. The flare at the top of the handle is clad in what looks to be a cypress. This is rounded for comfort and extends down in towards the handle, which itself appears to be made of a block of the same wood, handle pieces on top and bottom and the actual blade construction extending down into the handle. This is reminiscent of the Joola RAG handles and Butterfly Kreanga Carbon, where the blade's "tang" is encased down in the handle assembly, like a sword. Handle size on this sample was 24mm thick, 100mm long, more or less identical to butterfly flared handles. Unfortunately I don't have a stiga master flare to compare at the moment.
Blade face size measures 162x151mm. Overall blade mass was 79.8g, with the balance being just 33mm above the handle, much lower than regular Stiga blades. With rubbers on the blade, the Kendo does not have a similar balance to other Stiga blades - it's more neutral, though not as much as Butterfly.
This blade should be sealed, immediately. Don't wait. The surface ply is similar to some Black Fineline Andro blades.
The Ultralight looks much more like a classical blade. It's a 6.70mm thick 5-ply blade with a 4.78mm balsa core. It's shod in thin Ayous (I think) with a 2nd ply that looks a bit like a hard cork. I'm really not sure about the second ply.
The anatomic handle on this blade measured 102x24mm and feels quite solid. Blade face measures a smaller 158x150. It's the lightest blade I've handled for a long time, if not the lightest, weighing in at 62.8g.
Playing Characteristics (Clad in Sriver FX max, glued with Andro Future)
Lets get it out into the open right now. The Kendo is not a blistering fast blade. It's considerably slower than the Primorac Carbon, slower than the TBS and slower than the KLHS. On the other hand, it's faster than the Waldner Senso Carbon and the clipper. It's about on par with the Tube Carbo, though maybe slightly slower.
Overall feel is harder than all-wood blades and a few of the arylate/carbon blades. The ping is slightly higher than the Tube Carbo. The sweet spot is not as large as stiffer carbon blades and you can clearly feel when you achieve the perfect shot. Vibrations are well controlled, though perhaps a tad sharp if you mis-hit. It's not as dead as the arylate/carbon blades but not as much as the tube carbo. It's actually a bit like the TBS, albeit slower. This puts the vibrational feedback in a good zone (for me at least!) and allows great touch over the table.
Despite being a light blade, loops produced a solid positive feedback. Shots fired from long distance had good speed and spin, with perhaps more spin but marginally less speed than the KLHS. The differences is really negligible, as you could just hit harder, or put a faster rubber on. Loop control was more so than the KLHS, I'd guess that it's due to the stiffer structure. Similarly over the table, pushes were low and easily controlled. Flicking was not quite as strong as the KLHS or Ishlion, but the slower blade allowed me to perform flicks that weren't quite possible with the faster blades.
The Ultralight is a slower blade again. I'd measure it around off to the bottom end of off+. Being a balsa blade, you get that typical soft and high ping balsa feel. The blade was too light for my tastes, so should be clad in something heavier than Sriver FX. Looping was a dream, though it tended to stall over long distances, reinforcing that it should have something heavier on it. On the plus side, the lack of weight allows fast whippy arm movements, putting huge spin onto the ball. I suspect that it would play very well with something like Hurricane or 999 on it.
Over the table, the Ultralight was average. I felt that the lack of mass didn't allow for heavy "dig" pushes as much as the Kendo and the "throw" angle of the blade itself was a touch high at times. Excellent for flicking and off the bounce blocking. I suspect it would play well with pips too.
Now for the shocker. The Kendo is not a cheap blade. I've got a clue on the estimated price, but I'll let Geoff announce that.
Actually that wasn't so much of a shock, considering the construction quality.
The Ultralight should be cheaper. Again, see Geoff.
I'm putting the Kendo up there in the "holy grail" blade class. Brilliant blade. Does everything right, nothing wrong.
Of course, you might not want that.
The Ultralight is a bit more of a specialty blade. The fraction of people after a 62-odd gram blade is probably less than I'd imagine.
There are other blades with these qualities out there. Some might be cheaper.
The closest analogue to the Ultralight, would be the LKT Pro XF, albeit not as solid nor as light.
As for the Kendo, I can't really find a similar blade to the Kendo yet, so I'll have to get back to you on that. I suspect that a few Andro blades would have a passing resemblance though.
Do these blades fit my "holy grail"? The Ultralight, no. Not my cup of tea. The Kendo on the other hand, close. Closer than any blade so far, but I'm sure I'll wind up finding something closer a year down the track.
Highly recommended blades.
Review blades kindly provided by Geoff
You can buy these blades from Geoff.
Edited by silvalis