Darker Speed 90 Blade Review

by Varghese on November 22, 2009

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It is hard to make someone understand why Kiso Hinoki blades are special. Someone has to use one to experience it. Well, the price is high for such blades. Still, it is like heaven’s experience when using a Hinoki blade. The single ply Kiso Hinoki blades are being used by Japanese Penhold players. Kim Taok Soo, Ryu Seung Min of Korea use them. The shakehand players rarely used it.

The reasons why I was attracted to buy a Darker Speed 90 are (1) my prior experience with thick balsa blades (2) the soft feeling (3) high energy stock in Hinoki that can keep me going to play more matches.

As my readers know, I play defense on my backhand with long pips (TSP Curl P-H). It’s not just simple block, but hard cut. I was very much concerned about how this is going to help me to play such strokes especially when a blade is called “speed 90″. But I was not disappointed.

The name “speed” is not an appropriate name for Kiso Hinoki blades. Darker makes excellent Hinoki blades. They have excellent craftsmanship. However, when it comes to technology, the “speed” may not be an appropriate word for Kiso Hinoki blades. The single ply Kiso Hinoki blades play different than conventional 5-ply or 7-ply blades we get from brands like Butterfly, XIOM or Stiga. The Kiso Hinoki blades have high storage of energy in its wood. The rebound of the ball on a Kiso Hinoki wood is very dynamic unlike other blades. The conventional blades’ behavior is easy to measure (1) in a high speed rally how far the ball will bounce (2) in a slow rally how far the ball will bounce. The Kiso Hinoki blades behave very dynamically. In both the above situations, the ball can bounce with various speed and spin. For example, in a slow rally, the ball can bounce very far with more spin. This is because of the high energy stored in the wood. The player has to ignite the energy with less effort. It’s called “touch shorts”. This is the secret many players hesitate to tell the outside world about Kiso Hinoki. The penhold players exploited this secret to win world championships.

The other Darker Kiso Hinoki blade that I have tried is Darker 7P-2A.DF defensive blade. This is a 7 ply defensive blade with wider blade face. The Darker Speed 90 Kiso Hinoki blade is wider compared to other offensive blades. The size is 158 x 150 mm. The thickness of Darker Speed 90 is 9 mm. There is absolutely no vibration I could feel in my hand when I have tested it. The Darker 7P-2A.DF has little vibration. Both the blades are very light in the range of 78 - 80 gm.

The Darker Speed 90 is a single ply Kiso Hinoki shakehand blade. It is a single piece cut from the Kiso Hinoki wood. The handle is made of Kiso Hinoki also. It is more hand crafter. The Kiso Hinoki blades are called King Of woods because of its dynamic behavior. I have seen people going nuts sometimes in selecting Kiso Hinoki blades. There are so many dimensions of its behavior attract the players. The weight is one such criterion. The grains in the woood are one. The smell is another one. Similar criteria are being used in selection of woods for home construction in Asian countries.

The players who buy the Darker Speed 90 are selective people who have used Kiso Hinoki blades. The handle of the Darker Speed 90 does not fit every player. It is left for the players to customize it. I had to customize it. The handle is made of Hinki Wood. With very less effort with a piece of sand paper, it can be customized. The handle is little slippery to some players. A piece of sand paper can make the surface grippy. The players may not like the thickness of Darker Speed 90. The thicker blades are harder to maneuver in a high speed rally. I struggle with maneuvering the blade in the backhand and forehand. This problem can be fixed only through experience.

I have tried various rubbers on Darker Speed 90. I have tried Butterfly Tenergy 05, 25, 64, XIOM Zeta Asian, XIOM Omega III, TSP Real and TSP Summit. All these rubbers are in the same range with harder sponge. All these rubbers work very well with Darker Speed 90. The Butterfly Tenergy 64, XIOM Omega III and XIOM Zeta Asian rubbers are very fast on Darker Speed 90. The Tenergy 05 needs very precise looping strokes to get the ball on the other side. The bouncy behavior of Darker Speed 90 and Tenergy 05 makes it hard to play a “over the table” game. The XIOM Zeta on Darker Speed 90 keeps the ball low. The TSP Real and TSP Summit are for players who need more control with less speed. The Tenergy 25 suits players who would like to power spin. The top spin generated with all these rubbers is extremely high.

On the other side of the blade I have tried TSP Curl P1R, TSP Curl P-H, TSP Curl P3AlpahR, TSP Curl P3 in various sponge sizes from No sponge to 1.3mm. I have also tried the OX version of TTMaster Punto, Fireproof II, Fireproof and Selection. I had excellent defensive game with TSP Curl P-H, TTMaster Fireproof II being little further from the table. Being close to the table TSP Curl P-H suffered a little. The TSP Curl p1r and Curl P3AlphaR worked well for a close to the table game. The soft bending pips with the dynamic behavior of Kiso Hinkoi created very devastating shorts. They worked well against opponents who would like to push. The TSP Curl P-H could not generate much spin variation close to the table. The TTMaster Fireproof II really helps a close to the table frictionless style game with Darker Speed 90. However, it suffered a little in a high speed rallies especially against hitters.

The Darker Speed 90 shines very well in the area of looping, pushing and hitting. I don’t want to get into each area areas. The Darker Speed 90 is a dream machine for players who loop as well as hit.

The recent surge of Hinoki blade is because of the speed glue ban. The Butterfly has made Hinoki blades in 1980s when the speed glue technology was only getting popular. Then the Kiso blades faded and replaced by high speed glue rubbers. With the Kiso Hinoki blades, the players who struggle with the speed glue ban can regain the speed they are looking for.

The readers will agree with me that the Darker Speed 90 is an expensive blade. The price tag is $175 - $200. This blade is available in the Japanese market. Butterfly makes single ply Hinoki shakehand blades. JUIC makes singly ply blades. They are more economical. The blade technologists recently explored using Kiso Hinoki blades layers with other wood veneers to make powerful blades for players. As I have said before, the thick 9mm single ply blades are hard to maneuver in a high speed rally.

Donic Persson Dotec, Donic Walder Hinoki, most of all XIOM blades, TSP Hino-Power, TSP Hino-Speed are some of the blades made of Kiso Hinoki veneers. They are not singly ply. These blades’ thickness vary in the range of 6.5mm to 7.2mm. I call them junior single ply Hinoki blades. They are affordable, easy to maneuver and fit for shakehand game play.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

nanda November 28, 2009 at 11:20 am

C’mon you ‘r talking about darker hinoki and yet no pics, :)

silver fox February 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm

i have a darker speed 90 and 2 senkoh 90 blades the senkoh blades are slightly faster ,less feeling , i also have boll spirit m. maze ar carbon , innerforce al. the hinoki 1 ply are the fastest best feel and giant sweet spot. the darker speed 90 is the best blade of all. my game is all out attack ,very spinny, 05fx and 64fx.if the darker is a bit expensive get a senkoh 90 before they are all gone. very hard to find shake hand.

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