I can still remember when I purchased my first custom made table tennis bat. The year was 2004. I was starting to get a little embarrassed by my very cheap £5 bat, which had a plaster on the handle to cover a protruding nail.
I was a poor university student, with multiple bank overdrafts. But Christmas was coming up, so I asked my parents if they would be so kind as to buy me a proper table tennis bat. As I browsed through the catalogue, I was shocked to see how much a proper bat was going to cost.
I wanted to get something decent. The rubber and blade descriptions were very enticing. Extra speed! Extra spin! More control! Power loops! Play like a pro! It seemed too good to be true, and, of course, it was, but I didn’t know that at the time.
I can’t remember exactly what blade I chose, but it was less than £30. But for the rubbers, I chose Butterfly Sriver L on both sides. According to the catalogue, this was “The world’s best known and most popular fast attacking rubber”. Surely this would elevate my game and make me into a world champion? Well it was going to cost me. The rubbers cost £25 each, bringing the total for the entire bat to £80.
My parents were shocked. “£80! On a table tennis bat! Why on earth does a table tennis bat cost that much money?”
“Erm … it’s special technology”, I said. “The rubbers are really spinny. Really fast. All the best players use this. I NEED this bat.”
And I did get it. Thank you parents / Father Christmas. And of course, it didn’t solve any of my technical problems. It was way too fast for me. I could definitely hit a forehand drive much harder. It just rarely landed on the table!
This was nearly 20 years ago. £80 for a custom table tennis bat seemed very extravagant then. But compared to prices today, it is a complete bargain. A top of the range Butterfly custom made bat will cost just over £500. A mid-range custom made-bat from most other brands – JOOLA, STIGA, Tibhar, Victas, Donic – will cost anywhere from £200 to £400+. And if you play regularly, the rubbers need to be replaced every few weeks / months. It’s an expensive business being a table tennis obsessive.
Is it even possible to get a really good custom-made table tennis bat for less than £100? I thought this would be an interesting challenge to set myself.
I headed over to the Bribar website, and first of all, looked at the blade section. To stay below my £100 limit, I need a blade around the £30 mark. There are a few options, which stand out:
From these, my preference is the JOOLA Challenger All blade. It’s all wood – no carbon – but it promises a decent level of control and spin. It’s not a fast blade, but if I can pair it with faster rubbers, it should balance out nicely.
So, on to the rubbers. With a third of my budget spent, I need to find rubbers around the £30 mark. Back to the Bribar website. And actually, there are loads of options, mainly because it is much easier than ever before to buy Chinese rubbers.
These rubbers are very affordable, £10-£20, but the quality is pretty decent. Normally when products are really cheap, it’s because the quality is really poor. But with Chinese rubbers, you can find some real bargains and still get decent quality. These are some options to consider…
There are many other options, but from the above, my preference is the Friendship 729FX Super rubber. I have used this before and you can get decent levels of speed and spin, but it’s not so fast that you can’t control incoming spin. A good allround rubber. And a very good price.
Now I still have half my budget left. So what about non-Chinese rubbers? Can I afford anything from the more popular table tennis brands? Well yes, absolutely. I still have many options in the £25-35 price range, including…
But since I have a bit more budget available, I am tempted to look at rubbers in the £40-£50 price range. Again I have a lot of options available, including…
All of these are very nice options, but to save a little money, my preference is the JOOLA Energy X-TRA, a very popular, and underrated rubber. You can generate lots of spin with this rubber and play fast shots close to the table and away from the table. A really solid, attacking rubber.
So this is what I have chosen for my custom made bat, for less than £100…
Total cost (correct as of Nov 2022) … £90.97
And I could have got something much cheaper too. I spent more on the forehand rubber than I needed to do. If I had chosen only Chinese rubbers, I would have a decent custom-made bat for around £60.
So it is absolutely still possible to buy a good quality custom-made bat for less than £100. You have to shop smart and resist the marketing pull of the latest rubbers from the big brands. But there are more rubber and blade options than you think.
And if I am brutally honest, I don’t think most amateur players, including myself, can really tell that much difference between a good quality £100 bat and a top of the range £500 bat. Save yourself some money and go for the more affordable option.