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Tools of the Trade Box Pinch Jig

In this edition of Tools of the Trade we look at a jig that helps pinch lacrosse heads.

Box lacrosse is growing in popularity as much or maybe more than field which is great to see. The biggest majority of box is played in Canada. Because of this, most large equipment manufacturers retail box equipment and heads primarily in Canada and players in the states have a hard time getting heads and equipment that is specialized for indoor/box lacrosse.

One of the first things that people think about box is a pinched head because one thing that most know about box is there are different rules as far as pocket depth and width of your stick. The most popular thing for most is to pinch/bake a head to make it more narrow to help control the ball. There are many methods to do this, from baking in the oven, place the head in boiling water and so on. The method to hold the head while being heated can be just as interesting but most use string or just mold with their hands. That's where this jig comes in. This version is a design of the great Paul Gait. It's made out of all aluminum to help with heat transfer and no warping after repeated use. The brackets are all welded on in strategic places to make it a universal jig. To use, load the head in by placing throat into the holder, then pinch the sidewalls and push down in. Then preheat and oven to 350 degrees and once to temperature place in oven for 5 minutes. Remove and place in a freezer for 15 minutes to allow the plastic to set and gain it's strength. When pulled from the freezer the head usually falls out of the jig making for the perfect box pinch every time.

While you do not need a jig to box pinch a head, they certainly take the guess work out of it and make for a very straight professional looking final product. This is just an example of someone coming up with a very simple tool to make a process easier. In the end that's what tools do, help us make tasks easier, faster and sometimes fun!

Needle Nose Pliers

Welcome to this weeks Tools of the trade where this week we'll be looking at needle nose pliers. Needle nose pliers come in many different sizes for different task. Some have smooth jaws and some have teeth which are great when needing extra grip. Pliers are an essential part of any stringers tool kit from helping to install leathers to helping with fitting string into places where your fingers don't quite fit. Most pliers can be picked up at Walmart, craft stores and the major box home improvement stores for relatively cheap.

The picture above shows a great place where smooth jaw pliers work great, from transitioning at top and bottom on traditionals to pushing one extra string through a small sidewall hole. The smooth jaw is used most of the time because they don't damage the string. I also find myself using them sometimes to grab crosslace in areas where my finger don't fit such as the throat area when stringing traditional pockets. Smooth jaw also works great as a pry tool to open holes up where multiple strings make it difficult to get the last string through, most tools in stringing serve multiple purposes and needle nose pliers are no exception.

Pliers are not an absolute must have to string a stick but definitely can make it much easier and less time consuming. In my kit there's always at least two pairs one smooth and one with teeth that usually can take care of any task that's needed.

Needle Nose Pliers Canton
Refillable Butane Lighters

Hello stringers and welcome to "Tools of the trade Tuesdays". My name is Kevin Youngs and I've been stringing for close to 25 years now and have been fortunate enough to work with very large lacrosse companies and superstars of the game. During that time I've seen, developed and used numerous tools that have been very handy saving your hands and time when stringing. In this series we'll introduce a new tool every week along with tips, tricks and how to's. YouTube videos and reviews will be added as well as giveaways. We invite everyone to share and discuss each item every week.

The first up is Butane Lighters and torches. Lighters and torches are very dangerous and should be treated with care, make sure you read all manufacturers operating instructions and for younger stringers please get parental approval.

The picture above is a simple butane refillable lighter that I received as a Christmas gift and is made by Xikar. They come in many sizes colors and some can even be personalized. After many years of using Bic soft flame lighters and going through so many I figured it was time to find something that could simply be refilled. These lighters work great because you have wind-proof adjustable flame. They do burn at much higher temps and therefore take some time to master. They work great if you have repairs or stringing to do outside. Another good use for them is they're able to cut right through string like butter so if you're on the road it's one less tool (scissors) you need to carry. Butane lighters and refill canisters can be found at home improvement, camping and even Walmart for pretty cheap.

In the same family so to speak is the butane torches. These are basically the same but have larger reservoirs and are a little easier to hold and usually come with different tips for different tasks. This one pictured is a BurnzOmatic and was purchased at Lowes. These are great because they feature an adjustable flame, continuous trigger lock and also have a soft flame. The reservoir is large so that means less refills. It also comes with other hand attachments that hook on the end that are great for cutting string.

All in all these are the way to go in my opinion because of the versatility but if you don't have the funds or in a pinch good ol soft flame lighters can get the job done.

Refillable Butane Lighters Canton
Tools of the Trade - X-ACTO

X-ACTO knives are a great tool for any stringer to have in their arsenal. X-ACTO knives can be picked up at craft stores, online and major home improvement stores. They come in many different varieties as well as multiple blade configurations that can be purchased separately or in a kit.

The main uses for X-ACTO is cutting leathers when stringing traditional pockets and make quick work of cutting string. They also work great for cleaning out plastic slag left in holes on some older heads. Another main use is for dying heads when using stencils, that will be discussed in a latter Tools of the trade. Most newer stringing methods are going away from cutting slits at the bottom of leathers for one piece or tying off crosslace. If cutting a slit is still what you'd like to do when stringing your traditional here's a tip for not cutting your fingers and making it a little easier to control. The image below illustrates the technique where you pull a little slack in the leather then grab a set of needle nose pliers that we talked about in a previous tools of the trade. Fold the leather over and grab it with the pliers. Then you can simply use your X-ACTO and make a nice clean cut. The pliers helps to stop the blade to prevent to large of a cut. This technique also works for cutting slits at the top of leathers if there's no slits to start.

Another way to cut slits in leathers is to use a flat chisel X-ACTO blade. Make sure to set the leather on a flat surface that the blade will not cut through, such as a cutting board and press it through. The blades are usually sharp enough to cut easily and if you need the slit to be larger just make another cut off the first.

X-ACTO knives are definitely a must for any stringers tool kits because of their many uses and blade configurations. I personally keep at least two handles in my stringers kit with two different blades (helps reduce blade changing) that usually take care of most cutting needs I have.

Tools Of The Trade, X Acto Canton
Edge Utility Cutters

These cutters are a great upgrade from a simple pair of scissors because of durability, safety and versatility. These cutters were a necessity in the early days of our stringing business when 90% of pockets were traditional and were stringing around 250-400 heads a week. When cutting that much leather we quickly found that scissors were just wearing out way to fast and needed a good solution. The solution came in the form of these edge cutters. Shown above are my personal cutters which are Craftsman but this style of cutter is made by many different manufactures and found in every big box home improvement retailer as well as Walmart. First up is the construction of these cutters is laminated steel which is bolted not riveted together. This makes for very precise cuts and the ability to pull apart for maintenance. They also feature large handles that give good grip. The best part is definitely the business end which consist of an nylon replaceable anvil on the bottom jaw that helps keep the blade sharper over the course of time. The top jaw is the blade which is also replaceable and is just a standard utility knife blade so when it gets dull it can be replaced very quickly and inexpensively. Uses for these tools are mainly for cutting leather. The construction makes easy work of miter cuts on the bottom of leathers which aids in starting leathers in throat holes and a must if you string any wooden sticks.

The black set in the top picture is actually a standard set in which I modified the blade for cutting perfectly centered and clean slits at the top of leathers. This can sometimes be dangerous and very hard to get a clean cut.

These cutters also make very quick work of trimming strings on heads.

Last but not least is if you don't have a wide hot blade cutter, they show their superiority over scissors when trimming mesh. The blade is wide enough to fit the entire mesh in and one squeeze of the handles will cut cleanly through the entire width of the mesh. Then just melt the end to prevent fraying.

In conclusion if you're looking to make an upgrade in tools for cutting of materials I highly suggest taking a look at these edge cutters. For usually under $25 you can't go wrong with safety, durability and versatility and superiority over scissors

Edge Utility Cutters Canton
Tools of the Trade - Awl

Awl is a very simple but handy tool to have in your stringers arsenal of tools. These are usually just a sharpened to a point piece of steel mounted on a handle. They come in many different lengths and different bends on the ends for different tasks. Can be found in big box home improvement stores, online and even Walmart.

When stringing they're great to use for opening holes when you need to fit multiple strings through the same sidewall hole. Light pressure is all that's needed to push strings to one side so that last string will fit through easy, especially if the tip of your string is frayed or burred from melting. They also work great on some heads that have plastic slag left in the sidewall hole from the molding process. Another great use for these is on heads that have very sharp edges on sidewall holes that cause premature string failure. Just insert the proper size awl and give it a couple circular rotations to take care of burrs and sharp edges. The main thing to remember when using awls on sidewall holes is to use right size and not get carried away. If excessive force is used it can stress the plastic of the head and even break the head. If that happens the warranty is usually voided by most manufacturers.

Awl, Tools Of The Trade Canton
Tools of the Trade TradiTree

This week we take a look at TradiTree.

Stringing jigs have always been a hot topic among traditional stringers for as long as I can remember and traditional stringing jigs are not a new idea. That said what is a new idea is the way a jig is constructed and functions. Hank Furnbach the inventor of TradiTree came up with a great idea and put it into production. One of the great things with TradiTree is it's simplicity and price point. As the sport has exploded traditional stringing has started to become more popular. One issue with traditional has been the length of time to string and getting a functional pocket. That's where Traditree comes in because it is very simple to install, cheap and can help to get great pockets in a relatively short time frame.

TradiTree comes in the original, pita pocket and the new aluminum Pro versions. They're light weight, easy to install and price starts at $14.75. You can pick one up at or at a large number of large lacrosse retailers across the country. Installation is pretty straight foward, just install your leathers and sidewall, then slide TradiTree under the sidewall and tighten leathers and your ready for crosslace. One of the nice things is how fast it installs plus it allows you to string your pocket preference such as high, mid or low. Once the crosslace is installed just simply remove and adjust diamonds and tension and pound in the pocket to set the interlocks.

I was able to talk with Hank the inventor and he's a very nice, intelligent person and invented TradiTree for the right reasons, passion for stringing and lacrosse. While TradiTree will not make you a professional traditional stringer over night, it will help to make traditional stringing fun, functional and helps to get people interested in the art of traditional stringing. For those reasons I'm a big supporter of TradiTree and feel that it's a MUST have stringing tool!