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Lead Tape For Pickleball Paddles

Published: 2022-09-28
Lead Tape For Pickleball Paddles
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Lead tape added to pickleball paddles is becoming common, especially in the professional pickleball players' community.  The advantage of heavy metal lead tape added to a paddle is that it can add weight, but strategically placed, it can create a larger sweet spot, resulting in fewer mishits and offering a bit more power when striking.


Reasons Why Lead Tape on Your Paddle Is Worth Considering


If lead tape on pickleball paddles is so good should you add it too?  And, is it rules permitted?  Why do the big players do it?  How do they do it?  Where can you get it?  Discussions of those topics follow.


Rules regarding lead tape in pickleball

It is OK to add lead tape to pickleball paddles within these rules:

(1) Lead tape is a permitted alteration to commercially made pickleball paddles, and (2) there is no restriction on pickleball paddle weight.

And more specifically:

USA Pickleball Rule 2.E.5.a. – Alterations – The only alterations or additions that may be made to a commercially made paddle are edge guard tape, lead tape, changes to the grip size or grip wrap, and name decals and/or other identification markings on the paddle face.

USA Pickleball Rule 2.E.4. – Weight – There is no restriction on paddle weight.

And so your paddle can have as much lead tape as you want, handles, edges, and on-face id markings.


Unleashing the Potential of Lead Tape

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on using lead tape to take your pickleball game to the next level. If you've never utilized lead tape on your paddle before, you might be wondering about its benefits. Lead tape can significantly enhance our playing experience by adding power and control and reducing paddle twists in our hands. Moreover, it can expand the sweet spot, transforming a paddle we may not have favored into one we thoroughly enjoy. We strongly advise not to underestimate the advantages that lead





Choosing the Right Lead Tape

Now, let's explore the factors to consider when selecting the ideal lead tape for our paddle. We need to be mindful of a few important aspects. Firstly, it's essential to recognize that lead can be toxic. If safety or avoiding the need to cover the lead with electrical tape is a concern, we have the option of using tungsten tape, which is safe to touch. Although there aren't numerous tungsten tape choices available, Selkirk does offer some on their website. Their pack, priced at $10, includes four pre-cut eight-inch strips, each weighing 0.1oz. While the cost per ounce may not be the most economical, these pre-cut strips are thin, non-toxic, and suitable for most paddles. Opting for the pre-cut strips can simplify the process, sparing us the need to measure and cut the tape. However, it's worth mentioning that the pre-cut strips may not provide the best value compared to other alternatives in the market.


Factors to Consider When Selecting Lead Tape

Choosing the appropriate lead tape requires consideration of a couple of key factors. The thickness of the lead tape depends on the type of paddle we own. If we have an Edgeless paddle, which is 13 millimeters or thinner and lacks an edge guard, a thinner lead tape is preferable. On the other hand, if our paddle features an edge guard, we can opt for the thicker and wider lead tape options.


The Main Options: Half Inch or Quarter Inch

The two primary options for lead tape are the half-inch and quarter-inch varieties. If we use a thinner paddle without an edge guard, the quarter-inch lead tape is recommended. While we can still utilize the half-inch tape, it may bleed onto the face of our paddle, compromising its clean appearance. Additionally, we should consider the weight per inch of the lead tape. The quarter-inch lead tape comes in 0.25g/in and 0.5g/in variants. We highly recommend selecting the heavier option, as it allows us to achieve the desired weight with fewer layers of lead tape. Even with the 0.5g/in tape, it may still require longer strips and more layering to reach the desired effect. Therefore, we suggest avoiding the 0.25g/in lead tape altogether. In the case of thinner lead tape, the half-inch options provide 1g/in and 2g/in weights. While the 2g/in tape is our preferred choice, if we are comfortable using longer strips or layering the lead tape, the one-gram option is also viable. We personally prefer avoiding multiple strips of lead in a single area, hence our preference for the heavier option. For paddles with an edge guard, our recommendation is the half-inch 2g/in lead tape. Another convenient alternative is to purchase pre-cut strips, which eliminate the need for measurements and simplify the addition of lead tape to our paddle. Additionally, pre-cut strips provide the exact weight measurement for each strip, eliminating the need for a ruler and scale every time we work with lead tape.



pickleball lead tape



Maximizing Lead Tape Usage and Placement

To fully harness the benefits of lead tape, we suggest adding as much as we can handle without making the paddle too heavy. Finding the optimal weight may require some experimentation. We recommend starting with a higher weight and gradually reducing it until it feels right for us. As a general guideline, we typically find that we can handle up to approximately 8.7oz of lead tape on most paddles before the weight becomes burdensome. However, it's crucial to remember that the ideal weight will vary for each individual and paddle model. Furthermore, the weight distribution can significantly affect the feel of the paddle, which brings us to the concept of swing weight.


What is the Swing Weight

Swing weight refers to how weight is distributed throughout the paddle, impacting its maneuverability and the effort required to swing it. It plays a crucial role in the overall feel of the paddle. Unfortunately, most paddle manufacturers do not provide swing weight as a metric on their websites. However, you can find swing weight data for various paddles in this paddle stats spreadsheet. By filtering the options based on swing weight, we can find paddles that align with our preferences. Generally, a difference of ten points in swing weight is noticeable to most people. For example, a swing weight of 120 will feel distinct from a swing weight of 110. Higher swing weights make the paddle feel heavier, while lower swing weights give a lighter sensation. It's important to note that neither higher nor lower swing weights are inherently superior or inferior; the choice depends on our desired paddle characteristics. As a reference point, swing weights below 100 are considered remarkably low and result in a paddle that feels exceptionally fast in our hands. The range of 100 to 110 is typical for most standard-shaped paddles and still provides a fast-paced feel. For elongated paddles, swing weights between 110 and 120 are average, while anything above 120 tends to feel significantly heavier. For instance, the Ben Johns Hyperion 16-millimeter paddle has a swing weight of 127, and we all agree it feels head heavy. It's crucial to emphasize swing weight because people often fixate solely on the static weight of their paddles. We may encounter individuals stating that they need a 7.8oz paddle and find 8.1oz too heavy. However, in most cases, their perception is influenced by how the weight is distributed within the paddle. We could provide the same person with a paddle weighing more than 8.1oz, yet they might find it easier to swing due to the different weight distribution. This analogy holds true when considering the weight distribution in hammers. Holding a hammer conventionally makes it head heavy, whereas flipping it around makes it head light. The same principle applies to paddles and their weight distribution.


Strategic Placement of Lead Tape

In addition to choosing the right lead tape and weight, the placement of the tape is also significant. Different locations will enhance specific characteristics of the paddle. Generally, there are three primary zones where we can apply lead tape: the head, the sides, and the throat. While it's technically possible to place lead tape in the handle, it often doesn't produce the desired effects. Adding lead tape to the head of the paddle increases power but makes it more challenging to swing. Applying lead tape on the sides provides a balance between power benefits and stability. This option is particularly useful if our paddle tends to twist on off-center shots. Moreover, it can expand the sweet spot, depending on the weight added. Placing lead tape at the throat of the paddle also adds stability and imparts a solid feel without significantly increasing the swing weight. The benefits achieved by adding lead tape at the throat are similar to those on the sides, albeit slightly less pronounced. Therefore, the paddle will feel more stable, and solid, and the sweet spot will be enhanced, albeit to a lesser extent than when the lead tape is applied to the sides.



Reconsidering Lead in the Handle

Contrary to popular belief, adding lead to the handle to balance a head-heavy paddle does not necessarily make it easier to swing. While it may shift the balance lower, we still have to swing the original head-heavy paddle, now with additional weight. To illustrate this further, let's consider an extreme example. Suppose we have a paddle weighing 8.71oz. By adding weight to the handle to make it easier to swing, let's say we add two ounces of lead. Although the paddle becomes very head light, it actually becomes more challenging to swing due to the significant increase in weight. Our research within the tennis world yielded no examples of stock head-heavy rackets becoming easier to swing by moving weight to the handle. Therefore, it's important to understand that weight distribution within the paddle plays a vital role in its overall swing weight.

In conclusion, by understanding the advantages of lead tape and making informed choices regarding the type and placement of lead on our pickleball paddle, we can truly unlock its potential. Whether our goal is to add power, improve control, or enhance stability, lead tape can be a valuable tool in customizing our paddle to suit our preferences. Remember, the right amount and placement of lead tape can make a significant difference in our paddle's swing weight and overall feel. So, let us not overlook the transformative capabilities of lead tape on our journey to paddle perfection.


Covering Your Lead Tape

If you prefer to cover your lead tape to avoid frequent contact, there are several options available. You can use electrical tape, gaffer's tape, or a personal favorite of ours, pro light edge tape. While pearlite edge tape tends to be more expensive and designed for thicker paddles, we find it to be the most durable and prefer using it on our paddles. Electrical tape is a cost-effective choice that works well for most people, and it comes in various colors. For paddles that are 16 millimeters or thicker, we recommend using three-fourths-inch electrical tape. Thinner paddles require half-inch electrical tape.



To cover the lead tape, we suggest starting at the throat of the paddle and slowly unwrapping the electrical tape while pressing it down as we go around the paddle. If we make a mistake in placement, the tape can be easily lifted and repositioned without significant loss of adhesion. Once we reach the end, we cut the tape with scissors and firmly press it down. To ensure proper adhesion, we recommend using a credit card or a similar object to press down the electrical tape, ensuring it is fully applied to the paddle.

This step is essential to protect both the lead tape and our hands while playing. By covering the lead tape, we create a barrier that prevents direct contact, allowing us to enjoy the benefits of lead tape without any concerns.


In conclusion, by understanding the advantages of lead tape and making informed choices regarding the type and placement of lead on our pickleball paddle, we can truly unlock its potential. Whether our goal is to add power, improve control, or enhance stability, lead tape can be a valuable tool in customizing our paddle to suit our preferences. Remember, the right amount and placement of lead tape can make a significant difference in our paddle's swing weight and overall feel. So, let us not overlook the transformative capabilities of lead tape on our journey to paddle perfection.