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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 00:44 
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The reviewer: The reviewer is a modern defender and has previously used Nittaku Acoustic and Dr N Firewall+ for this style. His recent EJ adventure has introduced him to Hallmark and TSP, brands which he has never used before, and he discovered that EJ is in fact a good thing (not so for the wallet though) as he gets to learn alot about his game by trying out different blades. In this thread, he shares his views on the Hallmark Aurora and the TSP Balsa 5.5, both of which have balsa cores.

Hallmark Aurora

Physical Properties: The Aurora is a popular combination blade with a balsa core (4mm thick), and two differing outer plies on both the OFF and DEF sides, making it a 5-ply wood blade (7mm thick in total). The 4 outer plies (2 on each side) serve the OFF and DEF purposes. The ST handle is comfortable in my relatively small hands. Weight of the blade is 67g. Price is approx AUD$65. High quality production.

Feel: Decently hard and stiff both sides.

Play Characteristics: The setup is Venus on the FH and Neptune OX/Bomb Talent OX on the BH. Water glue only.

DEF side: It's s-l-o-w (compared to the Firewall+). I don't feel the bounciness of the balsa at all. The hardness provides a good surface for the OX pips to do their magic, making it suitable for close-to-table hitter/blocker. While the slowness helps with full motion chops, I found it tedious (and exhausting) having to exert plenty of energy to get the ball back to the table when chopping away from the table (where's the balsa power eh?). Very good touch due to the slowness. I found BT to be a very good LP rubber for blocking/hitting with the blade, with the Neptune better for chopping.

OFF side: firm feel with decent dwell time but not as much as other 5-ply blade such as the Acoustic, and again I couldn't feel the balsa. The outer ply is either limba or koto, and that aids with looping. Power is there when I needed it and I had no trouble putting balls away. Speed is OFF. The Venus works well here.

Concluding Remarks: A very decent blade at value price. In my view, the blade is suitable for close-to-table players but if you're chopping away from the table, there are better blades out there I reckon.

Image

The above photo shows the Venus on top (OFF side) and Neptune at the bottom (DEF side).

EDIT: I forgot to thank Foss and mozzy for their pre-purchase advice about the blade!


Last edited by Beer Belly on 17 May 2009, 19:23, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 00:45 
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TSP Balsa+ 5.5

Physical Properties: My third balsa blade, and a very surprising one. The balsa core is cut in such a way that the growth rings are vertical through the core, and are visible on the side of the blade (as someone has kindly pointed out below). It's a 5-ply blade with a balsa core (5.5mm), and 4 external plies like so: wood-black stuff-balsa- black stuff-wood. Total thickness is 7mm. I have no idea what the black stuff is as I've never seen a wood ply that is black. The numerical description of the blade refers specifically to the thickness of the balsa core i.e. TSP 8.5 = 8.5mm balsa core (rocket!). Blade weights approx 74g. It costs 6,800 yen (about AUD$120). I got the FL handle as the ST version is not available - surprisingly, it felt nice and comfortable and solid. The size of the blade feels smallish to me (X = 148mm, Y = 155mm). High quality production.

Image

Image

Speed: Rated as Allround+. Heh what a joke. Feels like OFF to me.

Feel: Stiff. It's much much harder to describe the hardness of the blade. Think of 2 elements - one soft and one hard - stacked against each other. The overall feeling can be described as soft, yet not soft; hard, and yet not hard. It's incredibly strange yet wonderful at the same time (see next section).

Play Characteristics: Ok let's discuss this feel here. Setup is H3 blue sponge and Neptune OX/Neptune 1mm. 5.5mm balsa core...really, one should expect some degree of the classic balsa bounciness here and that's certainly the case. The balsa contracts and expands as expected, but the range of motion is kept in check by the other plies (the black stuff and wood ply). When looping, I feel the ball sinks into the wood initially as the balsa takes the brunt of the force. As the ball continues to sink into the wood, the hard external plies begin to resist and that's when the hardness kicks in eventually. The softness is felt immediately upon contact but dissipates very quickly - I've never ever felt that way about any blades before and I've done my fair share of EJing. Accordingly, there's a very decent amount of dwell time (+ higher throw) but the overall feel is not mush at all (think of Firewall+ as mushy feeling). It's rather nice for both BH and FH loops actually, and I thought the H3 blue sponge fits the blade really well. Oh yeah - I'd say that the blade has decent touch but not as good as the Aurora.

There are several implications toward the use of LP on this blade: (1) there's some amount of spin due to the initial dwell (with OX I mean), (2) the limited bounciness adds to spin reversal (a major selling point of balsa) albeit with a reduced effect, (3) the eventual hardness makes it easy to place balls. I've used both Neptune OX and 1mm sponge here. With the former, it was a sheer delight to chop at the table and my consistency in this regard is highest amongst all setups I've tried so far. With the Firewall+, the bounciness can be on the wild side, which means that balls can go long despite it being slower than the TSP. With Neptune 1mm sponge, the initial dwell time aids with adding some spin, and some balsa bounciness helps with bringing the ball back to the table with less effort (I could focus on varying spin and worry less about making sure the ball gets back on the table).

Concluding Remarks: This blade is faster than rated. The characteristics of the blade (soft + hard elements) make it a nice blade for looping and smashing, and it can certainly work for a double-wing looper. The blade is certainly not for a blocker though - I'd suggest a 3.5 or even a 2.5 for that (dingwol2 has the 4.5 so ask him for advice). This blade is a surprisingly good discovery, and is certainly worth a try especially for those who love balsa but prefer a harder feel.


Last edited by Beer Belly on 17 May 2009, 19:25, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 07:52 
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Very nice review Beer Belly!

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 08:50 
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BB...I agree with your assessment...I am a close to the table player and I find that because of the slowness of the DEF side on which I have BT, I am able to do fully formed strokes and also able to just stick my bat out and block shots onto the table without thinking too much about blade angles etc...and if need be I can really crack one or do very fast topspin action returns to just about any spin ball...

I find the FH with my slow rubber perfect for me, and once again, if I just stick my bat out without thinking about it too much the ball lands on the other side of the net, but should I want speed its there in abundance...I like the feel of the blade, and it has a VERY large sweet spot for an all wood blade...

The blades that I have to compare it with are several Butterfly sub standard blades that have small sweet spots and not much feel at all, and a great TSP Balsaplus 8.5 and an Andro Blax that is not quite in the same class as the TSP Blade...both of these blades have thick balsa cores..with the Blax having reinforcing strips of lamination that go from one side of the blade to the other in both directions...ie it forms squares which are filled with quality Balsa...The lamination strips are right through the core and finish at the outer ply of each side every 20 mm in a square pattern...

The TSP has a cross cut core of balsa which if you looked at the face of the blade without its fiberglass and wood covering, you would see the growth rings which are like mini compression springs and there is a fiberglass layer on each side...both blades are too fast for me when I use my current rubbers (see Signature)and because I want slow BH and faster FH... I really can't choose a one speed blade because if slow for my BH it would be too slow for my FH...and if I chose a fast blade for my FH it would be too fast for my BH using OX BT

Hmmm...lol ...I just started to type a bit about agreeing with your assessment of the Aurora, and ended up with an essay...oooops :oops: But I guess its all about getting different folks opinions on the topic...so no Hijack intended.

fosss

Beer Belly wrote:
The reviewer: The reviewer is a modern defender and has previously used Nittaku Acoustic and Dr N Firewall+ for this style. His recent EJ adventure has introduced him to Hallmark and TSP, brands which he has never used before, and he discovered that EJ is in fact a good thing (not so for the wallet though) as he gets to learn alot about his game by trying out different blades. In this thread, he shares his views on the Hallmark Aurora and the TSP Balsa 5.5, both of which have balsa cores.

Hallmark Aurora

Physical Properties: The Aurora is a popular combination blade with a balsa core (4mm thick), and two differing outer plies on both the OFF and DEF sides, making it a 5-ply wood blade (7mm thick in total). The 4 outer plies (2 on each side) serve the OFF and DEF purposes. The ST handle is comfortable in my relatively small hands. Weight of the blade is 67g. Price is approx AUD$65. High quality production.

Feel: Decently hard and stiff both sides.

Play Characteristics: The setup is Venus on the FH and Neptune OX/Bomb Talent OX on the BH. Water glue only.

DEF side: It's s-l-o-w (compared to the Firewall+). I don't feel the bounciness of the balsa at all. The hardness provides a good surface for the OX pips to do their magic, making it suitable for close-to-table hitter/blocker. While the slowness helps with full motion chops, I found it tedious (and exhausting) having to exert plenty of energy to get the ball back to the table when chopping away from the table (where's the balsa power eh?). Very good touch due to the slowness. I found BT to be a very good LP rubber for blocking/hitting with the blade, with the Neptune better for chopping.

OFF side: firm feel with decent dwell time but not as much as other 5-ply blade such as the Acoustic, and again I couldn't feel the balsa. The outer ply is either limba or koto, and that aids with looping. Power is there when I needed it and I had no trouble putting balls away. Speed is OFF. The Venus works well here.

Concluding Remarks: A very decent blade at value price. In my view, the blade is suitable for close-to-table players but if you're chopping away from the table, there are better blades out there I reckon.


p.s. photos will be uploaded in the next day or two.

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 09:38 
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You're right Fosss - if i was a close-to-table hitter/blocker the Aurora would have been my blade of choice. I like every aspects of the blade except for the speed on the DEF side. The interesting thing is, in learning about what I don't like about the blade, I discovered that I'm a chopper and not a blocker. :lol:

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 09:44 
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Great stuff there BeerBelly,

I would say as well the Aurora is the best balsa blade I have tried so far. The BH has great control with Ox Pimples, and Fh has enough power when needed.
I agree as The blade does not feel like a bouncy Balsa blade even though it is, and as foss says, it has a huge sweetspot for a defensive and there are no vibrations. Handle is comfortable... the only downside to it maybe it's very fragile, due to balsa.

I would assume the TSP would be a tad faster?
(Where did you get one? I know Foss was looking for one earlier on the year)


Thanks BB

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 13:42 
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Nice review BB. I think the Aurora is a very acquired taste as I had a brief hit with Monkey's and to me it felt wierd, yet Monkey played with it in a way I couldn't have imagined it playing. He did have SP and LP on it though, so perhaps with an inverted on one side giving a bit more weight it would be different. I put it down too quickly to really even notice the difference between speeds side to side. Obviously it is a decent blade though with so many singing its praises.

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 18:28 
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MM, re the fragility of the Aurora blade...I have put 3 coats of Superglue around the edge and that makes the edge very strong however ...do it before the rubbers go on and do it in the open in a well ventilated area...If you are careful before you do the edge you can apply a smear around the flat edge of the blade with your finger...but only do it on wet superglue and don't leave the finger stationary at all...it will get stuck quite quickly...then either wash the finger in Acetone, or even water and detergent works after a while...when you have applied a smear around the face edge, remove any lumps of SG from the true edge of the blade and then apply the SG...after you are happy its well covered, sand it off with some 400 grit wet and dry paper..Whilst I am quite careful, I have had accidents with my Aurora ranging from dropping it, up to but not including hitting the face of the blade on the corner...that could be a disaster.

The other thing that I have done is change the handle and made a Gun handle...its very easy to do and its just brilliant, and anyone who has used my Aurora just loves it...and whilst it seems as if it will be no good to twiddle, its actually very easy to twiddle and I certainly know which side I am using...The handle is also longer and I can get a very strong action on the ball due to the extra leverage...(I have a chop shot where I leverage the chop for action using the longer handle, and I call that a fizzer, and that generally results in a return into the net...but I don't do it very often) and the blade remains straight in line with my arm...ie not cocked up at all, and I don't have to drop my wrist which is something I could not get the hang of...Oh! its quite legal to mod or even make your own blade...

To start with I had tried the mod. on an old butterfly blade I have, and it was very successful...but of course the butterfly blade is basically a piece of overpriced crap that I just could not justify using even a week after I bought it...it was wrecking my TT game...lousy sweet spot and no touch or feel...hmmm.

fosss
=============
metal monkey wrote:
Great stuff there BeerBelly,

I would say as well the Aurora is the best balsa blade I have tried so far. The BH has great control with Ox Pimples, and Fh has enough power when needed.
I agree as The blade does not feel like a bouncy Balsa blade even though it is, and as foss says, it has a huge sweetspot for a defensive and there are no vibrations. Handle is comfortable... the only downside to it maybe it's very fragile, due to balsa.

I would assume the TSP would be a tad faster?
(Where did you get one? I know Foss was looking for one earlier on the year)


Thanks BB

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BH = Bomb Talent OX


Last edited by fosssil on 19 May 2009, 09:21, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 18:35 
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fosssil wrote:
MM, re the fragility of the Aurora blade...I have put 3 coats of Superglue around the edge and that makes the edge very strong however ...do it before the rubbers go on and do it in the open in a well ventilated area...If you are careful before you do the edge you can apply a smear around the flat edge of the blade with your finger...but only do it on wet superglue and don't leave the finger stationary at all...it will get stuck quite quickly...then either wash the finger in Acetone, or even water and detergent works after a while...when you have applied a smear around the face edge, remove any lumps of SG from the true edge of the blade and then apply the SG...after you are happy its well covered, sand it off with some 400 grit wet and dry paper..Whilst I am quite careful, I have had accidents with my Aurora ranging from dropping it, up to but not including hitting the face of the blade on the corner...that could be a disaster.

The other thing that I have done is change the handle and made a Gun handle...its very easy to do and its just brilliant, and anyone who has used my Aurora just loves it...and whilst it seems as if it will be no good to twiddle, its actually very easy to twiddle and I certainly know which side I am using...The handle is also longer and I can get a very strong action on the ball due to the extra leverage...I have a chop shot where I leverage the chop for action using the longer handle, and I call that a fizzer, and that generally results in a return into the net...but I don't do it very oftenand the blade remains straight in line with my arm...ie not cocked up at all, and I don't have to drop my wrist which is something I could not get the hang of...Oh! its quite legal to mod or even make your own blade...

To start with I had tried the mod. on an old butterfly blade I have, and it was very successful...but of course the butterfly blade is basically a piece of overpriced crap that I just could not justify using even a week after I bought it...it was wrecking my TT game...lousy sweet spot and no touch or feel...hmmm.

fosss
=============


This is quite funny Foss, cos it was one of Monkey's posts that got me supergluing the edges of my blades. :lol:

What Bty blade was so crap Foss? I'm loving my Gergely, feels very high quality, but I know Bty does produce some crap as well.

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S/U 1: Blade: Bty Gergely . FH Black Andro Rasant 2.1 . BH Red Tibhar Grass Dtecs
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S/U 3: Blade: Bty Gergely . No rubbers...thinking of adding Red Dtecs and Black Rasant
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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 19:00 
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Don't know the name of the blade Reb...but it had 2 carbon layers...but I just hated it...that was a few years ago now.

I also had a Gergely many years ago, must be about 15 years...and I used a Sriver rubber on both sides with a sponge called something like a Kawatsuki (Orange) sponge...the whole setup was lightning fast, but also out of control for me...and way too fast for my game now..

fosss

================================
RebornTTEvnglist wrote:
fosssil wrote:
MM, re the fragility of the Aurora blade...I have put 3 coats of Superglue around the edge and that makes the edge very strong however ...do it before the rubbers go on and do it in the open in a well ventilated area...If you are careful before you do the edge you can apply a smear around the flat edge of the blade with your finger...but only do it on wet superglue and don't leave the finger stationary at all...it will get stuck quite quickly...then either wash the finger in Acetone, or even water and detergent works after a while...when you have applied a smear around the face edge, remove any lumps of SG from the true edge of the blade and then apply the SG...after you are happy its well covered, sand it off with some 400 grit wet and dry paper..Whilst I am quite careful, I have had accidents with my Aurora ranging from dropping it, up to but not including hitting the face of the blade on the corner...that could be a disaster.

The other thing that I have done is change the handle and made a Gun handle...its very easy to do and its just brilliant, and anyone who has used my Aurora just loves it...and whilst it seems as if it will be no good to twiddle, its actually very easy to twiddle and I certainly know which side I am using...The handle is also longer and I can get a very strong action on the ball due to the extra leverage...I have a chop shot where I leverage the chop for action using the longer handle, and I call that a fizzer, and that generally results in a return into the net...but I don't do it very oftenand the blade remains straight in line with my arm...ie not cocked up at all, and I don't have to drop my wrist which is something I could not get the hang of...Oh! its quite legal to mod or even make your own blade...

To start with I had tried the mod. on an old butterfly blade I have, and it was very successful...but of course the butterfly blade is basically a piece of overpriced crap that I just could not justify using even a week after I bought it...it was wrecking my TT game...lousy sweet spot and no touch or feel...hmmm.

fosss
=============


This is quite funny Foss, cos it was one of Monkey's posts that got me supergluing the edges of my blades. :lol:

What Bty blade was so crap Foss? I'm loving my Gergely, feels very high quality, but I know Bty does produce some crap as well.

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 21:50 
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The TSP balsa+ 5.5 review is up (scroll up to 2nd post). :D

metal monkey wrote:
Great stuff there BeerBelly,


I agree as The blade does not feel like a bouncy Balsa blade even though it is, and as foss says, it has a huge sweetspot for a defensive and there are no vibrations.


Good observation about the vibration. In both blades, the vibrations are there but well controlled. In the Aurora's case, I presume it's the ACT. The TSP has slightly more vibrations but nothing out of the ordinary. The sweetspot of the TSP feels slightly smaller than the Aurora, and I wonder whether it's because of the smaller size.

The TSP is heaps faster than Aurora's DEF side, and is as fast if not slightly faster than the OFF side.


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PostPosted: 17 May 2009, 19:26 
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Photos are up!


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PostPosted: 18 May 2009, 13:19 
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Great stuff BB!

Sounds like the 4.5 will be just right for me :lol:

I was a little surpirsed to hear there's that much difference between the 2 sides od the Aurora... I've heard it say there's more difference than on most other combination blades, but i didn't think thre would be that much difference. Just bouncing the ball on a bare blade, i can feel the difference, but it's not a lot... of course with rubbers and hitting it harder that can change by quite a bit...

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PostPosted: 18 May 2009, 15:51 
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I'd used LP OX as well, and that might exacerbate the difference.

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PostPosted: 18 May 2009, 19:02 
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The difference in speed is quite noticeable as comparing a very similar setup. (dr n. Gladiator with meteor) and that of my own.

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