Let’s start at the beginning. A classic asymmetrical traditional pocket has always been my pocket of choice. Classic trads are a great place to start your traditional stringing process. However, they can be frustrating since tightening and getting the diamonds evenly spaced takes a while to get right. I still struggle with this pocket more than just about any other pocket. I’ll try to point out a few tips and tools in my process that may help someone to take the next step with their traditional stringing.
I personally like 6 or 7-diamond pockets because, for me, they strike the ideal balance between shiftiness (hold) and consistency. Generally, more diamonds make for a smoother release, easier tightening, and LESS ADJUSTMENTS. So a 5-diamond trad has big diamonds, holds better than anything on the planet, is super shifty, may have more whip, and may require a little more adjusting. A 10-diamond trad has small diamonds, a smooth release, and is easier to string, but it also has significantly less shift and hold.
I wanted to string this first classic pocket using the same techniques I recommend to a lot of new trad stringers. Here are a few tools that I use all the time that are perfect for this project in particular:
A chopstick or two – They are cheap, more flexible than a butter knife, and they do not tear up your sidewalls. When I string around a ball, I always use a chopstick.
TINY needle nose pliers – A lot of people use pliers to pull strings through places. I use them as much, if not more often, to push strings through tight spaces (interlocks and sidewall holes that are already pretty full).
Squishy practice lacrosse ball – Stringing around a ball makes tensioning a much simpler task. And if you are going to use a ball, I recommend one of these. They are slightly smaller than a regulation lacrosse ball, meaning that you’ll string your pocket slightly shallow, leaving room for the leathers to stretch to a perfect depth as they break in. But the best part is, since it is squishy, when you are tightening the pocket area where the ball sits, you can just smush the ball with your free hand to grab the lace and tighten it. If you have ever strung around a regular lacrosse ball, you know it’s kind of tricky to get a grip on the cross lace with the ball in it.
A TRADiTREE – At this point, everyone knows how useful this tool is. Hank, the inventor of the Traditree, took the most difficult part of stringing a trad – keeping everything in place – and cancelled out that problem completely. You can string the whole pocket with the Traditree in place. Most of the time, I use it to loosely string part or all of the head, and then do my final tensioning around a squishy ball. Try every method and see what works for you, but definitely pick up a Traditree or two.
For this beautiful blue Nike Lakota, I used an all-white Throne leather kit for a clean and classic look. The Lakota looks great with any traditional pocket in it, but I like that the scoop holes are evenly spaced, perfect for a classic trad.
I strung my sidewalls simply with one side higher to account for the asymmetry of the pocket. I do not worry about where the sidewalls go in the beginning. When the pocket is fully strung, it is easy to go back and restring the sidewalls, so don’t stress about where to start! I also used a short piece of leftover sidewall in the throat holes so that I could feed my leathers through the back of the head rather than through the bottom holes. This is not necessary, but I like to do it because A) it’s easy and B) it gives me more freedom to customize the spacing between my leathers at the bottom of the head.
I installed the Traditree and leathers next. I strung the pocket with three cross lace strings to make adjustments more easily than with a one-string classic.
Sometimes, especially when I was new, I string everything ridiculously loosely. This allows you to shift the knots as much as you need to in order to space them perfectly. Sometimes when you string your cross lace tight the first time through, it’s difficult to go back and fix mistakes. Stringing loose takes the pressure off of spacing everything perfectly the first time through and lets you focus on getting your interlocks correct. This method is not for everyone, but it helped me a lot in the beginning. At this point, you can go back, shift your knots into place, and tension everything with the Traditree installed. Or, you can carefully remove the Traditree and use a chopstick and ball to tension everything.
It is important to make a note here about leathers: sometimes, if you string at Traditree depth, your leathers will stretch too much and the pocket will become illegal. When I use stretchier leathers, I will pull the Traditree out and pull the leathers in a little bit tighter to account for the extra depth that will come with break in. This is another great reason to have strung your crosslace loosely so that after pulling the leathers in you have room to adjust your knots. This is not usually necessary with stiffer/tougher leathers.
After cinching the leathers in slightly, I carefully tightened everything and added shooters and this was the result! Let us know what you guys think, and please feel free to ask me questions in the comments or on Instagram (@flstringer). Make sure to check out LACROSSE.COM for their selection of heads and stringing supplies to start your own stringing project. Also, stay tuned for more installments of Stringer Stories.