Badminton shuttle introduction
The badminton shuttlecock (also called shuttle or birdie) is the projectile that is used in badminton. The shuttle makes badminton special and different from the rest of racket sports, where usually a ball is used as a projectile.
The shuttlecock is formed by feathers (or a synthetic alternative) that are attached to a rounded cork base. These feathers form an open conical shape which is aerodynamically stable. No matter the initial orientation, the shuttle will always fly with the cork base first.
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Badminton shuttle specifications
The shuttlecock needs to comply with very concrete specifications in order to be accepted by the World Badminton Federation as a compliant shuttle. The specifications are highlighted in the image below, both in the metric and the imperial system.
What are the dimensions of a shuttle?
According to the WBF (World Badminton Federation), the dimensions of a shuttlecock must be as follows:
- The body shall have a uniform length between 62 mm (2.5 inches) to 70 mm (2.75 inches) when measured from the tip to the top of the base.
- The tip of the body shall lie on a circle with a diameter from 58 mm (2.3 inches) to 68 mm (2.7 inches).
- The body shall be fastened firmly with thread or other suitable material.
- The base shall be 25 mm (1 inch) to 28 mm (1.1 inches) in diameter and rounded on the bottom.
What is the weight of a badminton shuttle?
As it happens with the dimensions, the weight is also specified by the World Badminton Federation. The shuttle has to weigh between 4.74 and 5.50 grams or between 0.17 and 0.19 ounces.
If you want to know more about badminton measurements, be sure to check our badminton measurements article.
What are the two types of shuttlecock?
The two types of shuttlecock are the feathered shuttle and the non-feathered shuttle. As far as materials are concerned, the feathered shuttle is usually made of feathers from the left-wing of gooses, whereas the non-feathered shuttle is usually made of synthetic materials (plastic). From whatever material the shuttle is made, the flight characteristics generally shall be similar to those produced by a natural feathered shuttle.
The feathered shuttle shall have 16 feathers fixed in the base. The feathers usually come from the left-wing of the goose (don’t ask me why it must be the left one, I haven’t been able to find it myself!). Although some resources online also state that the right-wing feathers can be used, what is clear is that, for the same shuttle, only feathers from the same wing must be used. Otherwise, it would compromise the aerodynamics of the shuttle. The feathers need to be fastened firmly with thread or other suitable material.
The skirt, or simulation of feathers in synthetic materials, can replace natural feathers. The base, on the other hand, needs to be as described in the previous section. Measurements and weight need to be also as described in the previous section. However, because of the difference in the specific gravity and other properties of synthetic materials in comparison with feathers, a variation of up to 10 percent is acceptable.
Subject to there being no variation in the general design, speed, and flight of the shuttle, modifications in the specifications can be made with the approval of the Member Association concerned, in places where atmospheric conditions due to either altitude or climate make the standard shuttle unsuitable.
What different types of speeds can a shuttle have?
Due to being such a light and aerodynamic projectile, the performance of the shuttlecock is very dependent on the location where the game of badminton is being played. For this reason, there are shuttles with different speeds, which make them suitable for different climates and altitudes. In general, the warmer the climate, the slower the shuttle has to be. Also, the higher you are above sea level, the slower the shuttle has to be.
The table below will clarify which types of shuttle there are and when they are best suited. Check the speed that you need for your area.
|Shuttle speed||Meaning||In which climate should I use this shuttle?||Example of this type of climate|
|1||48||75||Very slow||High above sea level or very warm climate||Thailand, Indonesia|
|2||49||76||Slow||Warm climate||China in summer, Singapore, Hong Kong.|
|3||50||77||Medium||Mild climate, sea level||Spain, southern part of USA|
|4||51||78||Fast||Cold climate||United Kingdom, upper part of USA|
|5||52||79||Very Fast||Very cold climate or cold climate below sea level||The Netherlands, Canada, Denmark|
How do you test the speed of a shuttle in a tournament?
Shuttle speed is a very interesting part of the rules. If you are new to the game and you have gone to one or two tournaments, you might have been surprised by seeing people testing the shuttles before the match. What is that about? The reason is that, according to the badminton games rules, the shuttle needs to have a specific speed. Therefore, the shuttle is tested to make sure this speed is correct.
To test a shuttle, a player shall use a full underhand stroke which makes contact with the shuttle over the back boundary line. The shuttle shall be hit at an upward angle and in a direction parallel to the sidelines.
A shuttle of correct speed will land not less than 530 mm and not more than 990 mm short of the other back boundary line.
If the shuttle goes further than that, the players are allowed to tweak the feathers in order to slow down the speed.
For more information about badminton game rules, be sure to have a look at our complete guide of badminton game rules, where all the badminton rules are explained in a clear and simple way.
How is a badminton shuttle made?
The manufacturing process for the feathered shuttle is a very labor-intensive task. These are the steps that are followed:
Sorting the feathers
- A worker aligns all the feathers with the feather side up and stores them in cups.
- All the feathers are fed one by one in a specialized sorting machine. This device has 26 different sensors that measure the parameters of each feather. The feathers must be a specific size and have a precise end. The machine sorts the feathers of different sizes and angles into different boxes.
- The feathers that the machine cannot measure go onto a separate box and are then measured individually by a person with a specially calibrated chart.
Joining the feathers with the tips
- The tips, made with cork (and sometimes synthetic foam), covered by a layer of white leather, are drilled by punching machine. 16 holes (one for each feather that must be attached) that equally distributed.
- A worker then adds all the feathers into a machine that slides them into the holes. The worker has to keep pace with the machine, which does on average 1 shuttle per minute.
- A worker uses flat nose pliers to adjust the angle of each feather.
- Then the shuttles are placed in a miniature wind tunnel to ensure they are correctly balanced.
Securing the feathers
- Once they are adjusted, glue is applied to the inner perimeter of the shuttlecock tip by a specialized machine. This helps fix the stems of the feathers in place.
- To further secure the feathers, workers place the shuttles in a specialized sewing machine that fastens the feathers together with two rows of thread.
- A worker ties off the thread to secure it and cuts off the excess of thread.
Checking the shuttle
- A worker does a final check, adjusting the feathers where needed to ensure the proper balance.
- A machine applies glue to the threads, locking them in place and giving them the required rigidity. The threads are designed to quickly absorb the glue.
Classification and final control
- A worker places a strip around the top of the tip, with the color depending on the speed of the shuttle. For example, green would indicate a slow shuttlecock. Medium speed shuttlecocks are marked with a blue strip, whereas fast shuttlecocks are marked with a red strip.
- After the strip is applied, the shuttles undergo some quality control testing. A machine equipped with a racket fires the shuttlecock to a waiting worker, which will check that they flew correctly and landed in the right position depending on the speed of the shuttle.
- Once the shuttlecocks have passed the quality control, a worker will place them into cardboard tubes.
How do you store badminton shuttles?
Non-feathered shuttles are very durable and therefore they do not have very specific requirements for storing apart from having them in a cool and dry environment.
Feathered shuttles, on the other hand, are more fragile and, as a result, need a bit more attention. The first item to keep in mind is that they should never be stored for long periods of time. Anything more than 1 year and the shuttles will not work properly. It is always better to use them as soon as possible (preferably within the six first months since you bought them).
In addition to that, it is advisable to store shuttles in a slightly damp place and the temperature should not exceed 55°F (12°C ). You should never store them in a dry cupboard or a heated room, as the dryness will make the feathers more fragile and the flight of the shuttle will be compromised. Some badminton clubs buy humidity cupboards where they place the shuttles. This makes them last longer.
How long do feathered shuttles last and how to increase their durability?
Feathered shuttles can last as little as one rally or as long as one game, with the average being 4-5 shuttles per game. The following items will have a meaningful impact on the duration of the shuttle:
- Quality of the shots:
- Beginners tend to hit the shuttle worse and this reduces the durability of it.
- Playing style:
- Several shots, such as smashing or slicing, are more demanding on the shuttle. Using these shots will reduce the durability of the shuttle.
- Humidity level:
- Feathered shuttles are very fragile and a small change in the atmospheric conditions will have a big impact on the durability. Using feathered shuttles in dry conditions (without any treatment) will reduce the durability of the shuttle.
- Pickiness on the quality of the shuttle:
- Another item that has a big impact on the durability of the shuttle is how picky you are. Some people want to change the shuttle after one feather is damaged, whereas other people will not change the shuttle until several feathers have detached from the base. The more you wait before you change the shuttle, the more it will last (obviously).
Out of these four items, the one that is easier to influence is the humidity level. This is because, even though the environment might be dry, you can humidify the shuttles and that will make them more durable. There are several methods to dampen the shuttles, which are explained below.
How can I humidify the shuttles to make them last longer?
There are several options for humidifying the shuttles if you leave in a dry or cold environment. I cannot vouch for any of the following as I have always lived and played in humid environments where this wasn’t needed.
Option 01 – Home system – Boil some water in the kettle
The first option, which seems the most used, is to use a normal kettle as the “steam engine”. This procedure needs to be done a few hours before going to play badminton, or also the previous day.
- Boil some water in the kettle
- Once the water has reached boiling temperature, open the lid of the kettle to let the steam go out
- Open both caps of the badminton shuttle tube and place it with the cork side up on top of the kettle so the steam goes through the tube for 30-60 seconds
- Put the cap back on. If you want to maximize the benefits, add a plastic foil to the tube before closing the tab. This will seal the cap better and let less humidity go out from the tube
Option 02 – Lazy system – Buy a special cap that keeps your shuttles humid
If you are too lazy or do not have enough time to use the kettle, you can consider buying a product that is specifically designed for this. The name is Humidome and it basically keeps the shuttles humid with the help of the beads that are integrated into a cap.
To make it work, just add the product into clean and distilled water for a minimum of 4 hours so the beads absorb the water. Then replace the cap that comes with the tube for this cap. The beads will keep the optimal humidity level for a few months. You can find the product, price and the full description in Amazon following this link.
The reviews are mixed but I think that bearing in mind the price of the product and the potential of saving in new shuttles, it is definitely worth a try if you are lazy or do not have time to use the first system. Another advantage is that you do not need to do anything in advance since the shuttles will always have the right humidity level.
Option 03 – Shower system – Take them out from the tube and place them in the shower room when having a shower
Another system involves using the shower room of the sports hall as a humidifier. Whenever the team goes to have a shower, someone needs to take out the shuttles from the tube and place them on a shelf or countertop within the shower area. In order for this to work, all the windows and doors need to be closed so that the steam stays in the room.
Once the shower time is finished, you can place the shuttles back into the tubes, with the option of placing the plastic foil as in Option 01 in order to make this process more durable.
Option 04 – Professional system – Use a humid cupboard
The last option that is used in more professional settings is to use what is called a humid cupboard. This cupboard is designed so that the humidity level is kept at a high level. With it, the shuttles do not dry and become brittle. This is the most expensive option and only recommended for professional badminton clubs.
Badminton shuttle – Product recommendations
Which shuttle is best for outdoors?
As we said in the past, we do not recommend playing badminton outdoors because of the impact the weather has on the flight of the shuttle. However, if this is your choice, we would recommend that you use the Yonex Mavis 300. They are durable plastic shuttles. They are not comparable to the feather shuttles in terms of flight, but, since you are playing outdoors, you should be worrying more about stability and durability and here the Yonex Mavis 300 does a good job. You can buy them on Amazon following this link.
Which shuttle is best for indoors?
Unless you are a beginner, the best shuttle for indoors is the feathered shuttle. They are much less durable than the non-feathered shuttles, which makes them more expensive in the long term, but the difference in flight is so big that, unless you are a beginner, you want to be using feathered shuttles.
From personal experience, we have always used the Yonex Aerosensa line. I have mostly used the Yonex Aerosensa AS 20, as it is a good compromise between quality and price for me, but this will depend on each person and location. You can click here to buy the Yonex Aerosensa AS 20 on Amazon. My advice would be to try the AS 10, 20 & 30 and then decide which one suits best your needs.
Keep an eye on the speed of the shuttle and your location as we have explained before. If in doubt, you can let me know in the comments below and I will tell you which shuttle should work best for your location. Again, you will find your sweet spot through trial and error.
Which feathered shuttle is better?
As we said before, our choice is the Yonex Aerosense line. Within this line, the number you choose will depend on the specific situation. The higher the number, the higher the quality of the shuttle. The AS-50 is used in international competitions such as the Olympics, whereas the AS-10 is a good choice for training if you are at an intermediate level.
That being said, there are also other brands that have good shuttles. Depending on the availability you have in your area, it might be a good idea to try one of these instead of going for Yonex. These brands are RSL, Victor and LiNing.
Which shuttle is good for beginners?
For beginners, we would recommend sticking to plastic shuttles in most cases. This is because feather shuttles are much more expensive and will be much more damaged from a beginner than from a professional. Unless you are in a club with wealthy people where money is not a problem, consider using a plastic shuttle for beginners. From within the possibilities, the Yonex Mavis 600 is a good choice. They are a step up from the Mavis 300 or the Mavis 2000 in terms of technology and, as a result, have a more predictable flight and a better sweet spot. You can buy them on Amazon following this link.
Which shuttle is used in international matches?
Yonex Aerosensa is the go-to option for most international matches. For the World Championship and Olympics, usually, the Yonex Aerosensa AS 50 is used. This is the highest quality and most expensive product within the line and we do not recommend it for practice unless you are a professional. You can buy the product on Amazon following this link.
What is the best shuttlecock brand?
In our opinion, Yonex is still the most reliable brand as far as shuttles are concerned. It is also for a reason that they are used widely in international competitions and they are the preferred supplier from the Badminton World Federation.
And with this, we have arrived at the end of the post. Would you like to know something else about the badminton shuttles? Is there any shuttle that you think should be on the list? Then let us know in the comments below!