Stringing on a Lock Out/Manual Crank Machine
The Machine: Prince/Ektelon Neos 1000
The Mounting System: 2 Point
Setup: Stand (Manual Height Adjustment)
Stringing Method: 2 Piece (Starting Knot for Crosses)
Price Range (For Lockout Machines): $400-$1500
The Lockout Experience
I love my Neos. As I said in the video I can almost guarantee at some point your racket has been strung on one. It’s an extremely popular and common string machine that you see all over the place. Now if you go into a fancy proshop they aren’t putting this machine on display but odds are they have one in the back or the stringer has one at home. It’s like that old rusty pickup truck with no air conditioning, an 8 track, questionable interior upholstery, and smells weird but, at the end of the day, it’s the car you depend on and trust the most. That’s the Neos in a nutshell but by no means is it perfect.
Biggest issue with mine is just that the gripper is way too freaking tight/clamps down on the string too hard. It becomes a real problem when stringing with soft multifilaments or natural gut because in it’s factory preset condition it absolutely crushes the string. The index card trick minimizes the effects but you still have to be super careful.
The Neos is all about speed and practicality. Some lockout machines will have a 6 point mounting system but in this example we are working with 2 (Head and Throat) and the other big difference is the Neos 1000 uses draw bars to lock the clamps compared to swivel clamps on the drop weight machine we used in the last example. With draw bars you don’t need to lock in place like you do with the swivels but the draw bars do limit you in terms of placement. Namely that they can’t intersect. That means you can’t clamp off a main and a cross at the same time and the shear size of the drawbars makes using a starting clamp on your crosses more of a pain than with your more common swivel clamp system. Off the top of my head I can’t think of another machine on the market today that uses the draw bars.
Fast. When you get good with this machine you can absolutely fly through rackets. The two point mounting system and draw bars actually aid this because your hands can be so free doing crosses. As you saw in the drop weight video I struggled with some crosses because I’m so used to the Neos and having all that room for my hands that I don’t think about reversing the order. Everything about this machine is designed for efficiency and ease of use. The other positive is that if you are doing certain squash rackets with crazy patterns it’s usually pretty easy to mount the racket (assuming you use the correct throat adapter) and visually it’s easy to see what you’re doing with the mains in the throat. This isn’t always true but for the most part it is.
Stand and Deliver. I hate tabletop machines. A would never buy another machine that doesn’t have a stand. Not all cranks/lockouts have a stand but trust me pay the extra couple hundred dollars and do your back a favor.
2 Point or 6 Point. I actually like the 2 point over the 6 point. The racket will distort and come back to its original shape during the stringing process but it’s a natural movement the frame is designed to endure. With a clients racket you don’t want to go too far ahead on the mains… one less than I do in this example but if it’s your own racket you’ll be fine. I’ve never had an issue. Rackets are designed with some flexibility in mind so don’t always assume 6 is better. However, some people would say this is a con. Again depends on the machine and the stringer.
Looser or Tighter Stringbed? Another subjective issue. The Lockout/Crank tensioning method does not hold tension the way an electric constant pull does. Basically all you need to know is your left with an overall “looser” dynamic tension coming off the lockout vs the constant pull even if on both machines your readout is 55 lbs. Is this a bad thing? Not really it’s just different. I kind of like to think coming off the lockout/crank machine the stringbed is pre broken in for you. At the end of the day it’s a preference and just getting used to what tension you need to ask for on either machine.
Mistakes Can Be Deadly. With this machine, given the 2 point mounting system if you make a mistake there’s a higher probably you could damage the racket. 6 Point mount systems really lock in the racket and really reduce the chance of distorting or warping the frame if you need to cut the strings out mid string job. Luckily I’ve never made a mistake where I’ve needed to cut out strings midway through a racket but it’s definitely more likely to warp the frame on a 2 point versus a 6.
The String Gripper/The Jaws of Death. Even though the Neos has a screw designed to lessen the clamping down on the string mine is still too tight for most multifilaments and natural gut even screwed all the way in. What you get is a ghosting or crushing effect which obviously isn’t good. The index card trick will work to some degree but it is risky. I think some of these machines don’t have this issue and I believe Prince will let you send yours in to be adjusted but it’s sad that this is a common problem and honestly it’s such a hassle to ship a stringing machine. Some crank machines do have a Diablo in front of the gripping mechanisms that in theory will reduce this issue but for natural gut you wouldn’t want to do that But as you can see on this webpage gamma is proud of this feature and highlights it in one of the two pictures.
Limitations with Patterns and One Piece Stringing Concerns. Again this is dependent on your machine. With the draw bars the starting clamp method is not really practical and the around the world pattern is more or less impossible if you want to use the draw bars. This is not a deal breaker by any stretch and we’ll have an entire video/article dedicated to this but when you have the option for two piece stringing go that route always.
Who should buy and use a Lockout/Manual Crank Machine?
This is the perfect machine for almost everyone except a fancy pro shop or independent stringer that exclusively does racket stringing/repairs. I string about 300 rackets a year and for me the Neos is the go to for most situations. It is perfect for two piece synthetic gut or polyester jobs. Especially for Polyesters that slightly looser tension bed (Dynamic Tension) when you remove the racket from the machine is actually a positive for most players. I think high school/college coaches who have to string as part of their job duties would be best suited with a Neos. It’s rare that you’d be required to use natural gut in both instances. Also if you’re stringing a lot of demo rackets this is the perfect machine where you can crank out a ton of rackets in a short amount of time. For most amateurs/consumers this is the machine to buy. It’s fast it’s efficient and that stand will definitely serve you well long term.