How to Make Your Own Yo-Yo
by Tom Kuhn
Note: This article originally appeared in the first issue of YoYo Times;
Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 1988. It is submitted here for your
interest with the permission of the author, Tom Kuhn - inventor
of the No Jive Three-in-One, and co-inventor (with Captain YO) of
the SB-2, Sleep Machine and Roller Woody YoYos. The article is
presented here (complete and unedited) in response to queries on
the subject posted on the Infinite Illusions YoYo Web Board. We
hope you find it helpful.
Making your own yo-yo is possible with simple tools. You might want to
give it a try. This article will describe how I made my first one in 1976.
You will need a jig saw or hand coping saw, an electric drill, and a
sandpaper disk that goes with the drill. I also used an inexpensive rig
that turns the electric drill into a drill press. This is important
because it allows you drill an absolutely perpendicular hole for the axle,
which is essential. It won't work correctly if the angle is off.
- Start with a piece of hard wood about 5/8" thick. Maple is an ideal
wood. Oak or other hard wood will work, too.
- Start by drawing two 2 1/4" circles on the wood with a compass for the
two halves of the yo-yo.
- Cut out the circles with a jig saw or coping saw as close to the lines as possible.
- Then, carefully drill a pilot hole where the compass left its mark in the exact center, using a 1/4" of slightly smaller bit.
- Drill about 3/8" or a little bit more into the wood but not all the way through.
- Then, take a piece of 1/4" dowel about 6" long and press it into the hole.
- Mount the drill on a workbench with a 4" sanding disk covered with a fairly coarse grade of sandpaper.
- Lock the drill switch on.
- Hold the dowel in your hand with a slightly loose grip and bring the edge of the
disk in contact with the sandpaper spinning in the drill. Eventually this
action will true the disk.
- Contour the edge to a tapered bullet shape or whatever shape you wish to use.
- Do the same thing with the second disk.
- Make the two disks as close to the same size and shape as possible.
If they aren't absolutely the same, the yo-yo will still spin true because of the natural gyroscope effect.
You can use fine sandpaper to create a beautiful surface.
Next comes the trickiest part of the process: cutting the dowel to the correct length. It should be the depth of the two holes plus about 9O/1OOOths or about 3/32 of an inch. In other words, when you press the
two halves together, the dowel should keep them about 3/32 of an inch apart. You may need to take the yo-yo apart and repeatedly adjust the length of the dowel by sanding it down until the gap is the proper distance.
You can test this by stringing your yo-yo and doing loop the loop or a sleeper.
You can finish your yo-yo by staining, varnishing, or painting the outer halves, but leave the inner surfaces unfinished.
If you have drilled a nominally smaller center hole than the dowel, you may be able to press the two halves together without using glue. A small drop of wood glue carefully placed into the hole will keep the two halves on tight. Be sure the glue does not run out of the hole.
This is the way I made my first yo-yo. It worked so well it inspired me to get into the yo-yo business!
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Copyright ©Tom Kuhn 1988