Pistol-Grip Ping Pong Paddle

Ping pong is a big part of our lives here at tool. And we can get pretty competitive sometimes, so it’s not uncommon for us to seek out any edge we can gain over our enemies (some people might call them “coworkers”).

I tend to play with a style that is heavily reliant on applying generous amounts of English to my return shots. It wasn’t until recently that I considered changing up my grip style. But my attempt at using the “penholder” style grip didn’t last long, and I quickly switched back to the standard “shakehands” grip. However, trying out the penholder grip gave me some insight into a new style of play, and I was able to see some pros and cons in both styles. I thought about what my ideal way of playing might be and realized that it might be the design of the paddle grip itself, rather than my style of play, that could be improved. Thus, the idea for the pistol grip paddle was born.

It didn’t take me long to dive right into it, quickly modeling up what the paddle would look like in 3D CAD. To come up with the shape that was just right, I referenced images of other objects that use similarly angled handles – saws, drills, pistols, etc.

I then purchased the proper materials to build the full paddle:
2′ x 4′ sheet of 0.200″ thick, three-ply birchwood for the blade and tang
2″ x 4″ plank of pinewood to compose the pistol grip
2 high performance ping pong rubber sheets

First, I used our laser cutter to ensure that I got the exact shape I wanted for the paddle.

Then I used wood glue to mount the rubber sheets to the paddle surface. I utilized the tried-and-true method of a dropping a heavy textbook on top of the paddle and leaving it overnight to ensure supreme stickage. I then took a precision blade knife to the rubber sheets and traced the paddle outline so that the silhouette of the rubber-wood-rubber sandwich was consistent. To protect the edge of the paddle blade, I used a strip of hockey tape – snow camo print for extra style points.

Then it was on to the grip shaping. I took a 2D view of the two grip halves from the 3D CAD I had made and printed paper templates. I then traced the templates onto the pine 2″ x 4″ and cut out rough shapes using the band saw. Next, I took those rough blanks to the disc sander to get them close to the desired thickness, repeatedly sanding the blanks bit by bit, then holding the two pieces in my hand to see if the combined thickness felt right. Once I got the thicknesses to something slightly larger than my final goal, I got to whittling, one of my favorite hobbies. This is where I carved into the wood to get the ergonomic shape of the grip that I was aiming for.

Then to get the final shaping of the grips, I busted out the coarse-grain sandpaper, then moved on to progressively finer grits to get the final surface finish that I was looking for (see also: butter).

I then stained the two grip pieces using Minwax Red Mahogany, before applying Watco Danish Oil to finish.

The final assembly step was to glue the two grip pieces to the paddle. Once that was all set, I was ready to start sniping some corners in the arena.