A skill toy that consists of two cylindrical halves and an axle. A string is looped around the axle and wound around it. The free end of the string is attached to the finger. By throwing the yo-yo, the action causes the object to spin rapidly, usually from 5,000 to 15,000 RPM. This rapid rotation causes the yo-yo to undergo gyroscopic stability. Because of this, it is possible to "sleep" the yo-yo, which is the foundation for most tricks. Looping tricks actually depend on overcoming this stability on the return, when the yo-yo flips 180 degrees.

With the advent of butterfly-shaped, transaxle, and ball-bearing yo-yo's, the sport of yo-yoing has changed dramatically. Tricks have shifted from showy, looping-style tricks to complex string manipulation. While there was once only two styles of yo-yoing - looping and string tricks, there are now more, including offstring (where the yo-yo is not attached to the string) and freehand (where the string is not attached to the hand).

Yo-yo's were popular due to Donald F. Duncan's efforts after Pedro Flores brought the toy from the Philippines. There is a legend that says yo-yo's were used by Filipino natives as weapons. It seems the story cannot be proven, and was a marketing tactic by Flores. See The History of the Yo-Yo for more detail.

Duncan set up nationwide tournaments to promote yo-yo's, which was wildly successful. Interest waned in the 1970's and 1980's. Yo-yo's once again became a fad in the late 1990's, due to the marketing of Yomega. Several other manufacturers quickly followed suit with technologically advanced yo-yo's. Due to the glut and fad nature of yo-yo's, there is currently a depression in the yo-yo market and many of those manufacturers have pulled out.

The Care of Yo-yo's:

  • Change worn strings
  • Clean ball-bearings
  • Replace Wood Axles
    • Friction over time wears down the axle. If the axle is replacable, do so.

Increasing Yo-yo's Performance:

  • Lube ball-bearings
    • lubing actually slows down the bearing. this is to increase response (to bring the yo-yo back up).
    • for more response, use a thick lube such as vaseline. use a lighter lube for less, such as fishing reel oil.
  • Widen the gap
    • widening the gap decreases response and allows you to place multiple strings in the groove without snagging.
  • Increase response
  • Add Rim Weight
    • according to physics, the yo-yo will have more angular momentum when there is more weight (mass) near the rims.
    • if you are ambitious you can machine heavy weights with metal rings using a lathe. You can also use a thick gauge metal wire and bend it into shape.

Classes of Tricks:

Major Yo-yo Companies:

The exact origins of the yo-yo are unknown. It is assumed to have been invented in China, but the first record of the yo-yo comes from Greece, circa 500 BC. They were made out of wood, metal, or terra cotta (the terra cotta yo-yo's, too fragile to be used as a toy, were most likely used as a gift to various gods as a symbol of the transition from youth to adulthood).

The yo-yo, in some form or another, was used in the Philippines as recently as the 16th century, though it is likely that it was a common to the area long before then. There is some evidence that suggests it was used as a weapon. Filipino hunters would hide in trees with long strings attached to rocks, which they would then hurl down at their prey. The story, however, is most likely apocryphal, as the string on a yo-yo is used to slow the objects fall, making it less than ideal for use as a hunting device. The hunters would have been better served had they simply thrown the rocks, which is in all likelihood what they did. The name "yo-yo" most likely comes from the Filipino language Tagalog, in which it means "come back".

The yo-yo made its way to Europe in the late 18th century, most likely via India. It became very popular among the aristocracy of France, Scotland, and England. In France it was known as "l’emigrette" or "de Coblenz", both references to the forced emigration of the aristocracy during the French Revolution ("l'emigrette" means "leave the country" and "de Coblenz" is the name of the city to which many of the French fled).

The yo-yo found its way to the United States throughCharles Kirchof, an immigrant from Germany who patented and manufactured the "return wheel" in 1867. It failed to capture the attention of the general population, however, and remained in relative obscurity until 1916, when Scientific American published an article on "Filipino Toys", the focus of which was a toy they called the "yo-yo".

In 1920 Pedro Flores, an immigrant from the Philippines, brought a Filipino yo-yo to California. Noticing that the device was basically unknown in the US, in 1928 he started a yo-yo company (named, appropriately enough, the Yo-Yo Company). The yo-yo's were hand carved from a single piece of wood. He differentiated it from the traditional yo-yo by looping the string around the axle, rather than attaching it. This allowed the yo-yo to "sleep", which is the heart of practically every yo-yo trick.

The yo-yo almost immediately caught the eye of toy manufacturer Donald F. Duncan Sr. Duncan purchased the entire yo-yo company for $25,000 and began a massive advertising campaign. He had teams of "Duncan Yo-Yo Professionals" travel throughout the United States, teaching and demonstrating yo-yo tricks to drum up business. The yo-yo was a wild success. By 1962, Duncan had sold 45 million yo-yos (at at time when there were only 40 million children in all of the United States!).

The wild success of the yo-yo is, ironically, in no small way responsible for the financial ruin of the Duncan company. Demand far outpaced supply, forcing Duncan to pay overtime wages that thet could not afford. In 1962, Duncan's trademark on the word "yo-yo" was declared invalid, as the term had become so widespread it had become part of the English language. Today the Duncan yo-yo is actually manufactured by the Flambeau Plastics Company. In honor of Ducan's influence, June 6 (his birthday) has been declared National Yo-Yo Day.

The yo-yo has even worked its way into politics. In 1968, Abbie Hoffman, under investigation by the House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities, was cited for contempt of court for "walking the dog" when he attempted to entertain the committee members. In 1974, Richard Nixon gained national attention for yo-yoing at the opening of the Grand Ole Oprey in Nashville.

Advances in technology have not ignored the yo-yo. Along with the obvious switch from wood to plastic, there have been changes in the fundamental design of the yo-yo. In 1978, Tom Kuhn patented the "No Jive 3-in-1" yo-yo, the first yo-yo that could be taken apart (so you could, for example, replace the string) and the first having a replaceable axle. In 1980, Michael Caffrey patented "The yo-yo with a Brain." "The Brain" has a "centrifugal spring loaded clutch mechanism" that forces the yo-yo to return automatically when the rotational spin slows to below a certain rate.

The yo-yo remains one of the most popular toys of all time. The American YoYo Association (http://ayya.pd.net/) has thousands of members, and sponsors events around the nation throughout the year. It is also a great jumping off point for anyone interested in getting involved with yo-yoing.

The yo-yo is primitive toy with no verifiably traceable origin. Stories of it being used as a weapon in the Philippines are entirely unfounded, scientifically refuted by the physics of yo-yoing. It would be pointless to use a yo-yo for a weapon, since it loses most of its energy halfway between being launched and the end of the string, and if it hits something, it is nearly impossible to "yo" it back due to the instability of collision and the fact that the yo-yo has already lost a good portion of its momentum. Besides that, a yo-yo requires much practice to be effectively directed anywhere besides straight down. Bolo weapons and other "rock on a string" concepts may well have been used for weapons at some point or another, but they are completely non-analagous to the "return top" aka "yo-yo."

The term "yo-yo" was used often in the Philippines, where it was a popular toy before hitting the United States with force. The "Flores Yo-Yo" was the first major model sold in the US, and the company was soon gobbled up by Duncan(tm). Yo-yoing has gone through various spurts of popularity, but it will never die, as there always always seem to be a "hard core" of enthusiasts looking for the latest and greatest yo-yos.

To the outside onlooker, there is very little difference between one yo-yo and the next. However, the history of the modern yo-yo is long and complicated, with the first major innovation being the invention of the "starburst pattern," the pointy raised plastic that exists on the center of nearly all plastic yo-yos. Wooden yo-yos are somewhat rough and grainy, especially on the axle, so there is little problem in retrieving the yo-yo after throwing it down as a result of friction. Plastic yo-yos, however, require a starburst pattern or some other sort of braking technology in order to slow down the string when the yo-yo is pulled up, due to the fact that they generally have a plastic or metal axle (far more slippery) instead of wood. One notable exception is the ProYo(tm), a world-record setting plastic yo-yo with an internal wooden axle. It has no startburst pattern because it actually has wood inside. If you can't visualize it, that's because I want you to buy a yo-yo right now!

Nearly every yo-yo trick relies on the ability of the yo-yo and yo-yoer to sustain a long "sleeper," the period where the yo-yo simply rotates at the end of the string before being retrieved. Sleeping is possible due to the nature of the yo-yo string -- any true yo-yo has a twist-braided string that loops somewhat loosely around the axle, allowing it to spin within the string loop. Cheaper party favor type yo-yos are sometimes an exception, with a cheap string directly tied onto the axle, which makes it impossible to make the yo-yo sleep. Yo-yo tricks are often divided into "old school" and "new school," where old school tricks are generally pretty simple and thus don't require a long sleep time. New school tricks can be nearly impossible with an old fashioned yo-yo, which is where the transaxle comes in.

Classic yo-yos have a fixed axle, which means that the entire yo-yo, axle and all, spins within the loop of string. There is an inherent limitation in this method, as it takes more force to get the yo-yo to sleep longer, but the yo-yo tends to snap back up when thrown down too hard and with imperfect finesse. Modern yo-yos often incorporate a transaxle instead, in which the string is looped on an independent axle that rotates around an internal fixed axle. This reduces the friction inside the yo-yo, allowing it to be thrown down much harder and to sleep much longer. Basic transaxle yo-yos like the Yomega Fireball(tm) consist of a plastic sleeve that rides on a metal axle. This sleeve must be lubricated with oil from time to time, as the oil adds a necessary element of friction and reduces the squealing sound created by the plastic sleeve. The most modern transaxle innovation is the roller bearing. Just about any yo-yo worth $10 or more contains a ball bearing transaxle, which takes friction reduction a little further by incorporating an actual roller bearing instead of a mere sleeve. The added benefit of transaxle yo-yos is that they can be taken apart, making it easy to rescue a knotted string on the axle. The ProYo II (tm) from ProYo is the one exception to the fixed axle rule -- in essense it appears like a transaxle in that it can be taken apart and it has a wooden sleeve over a metal axle; however the wooden sleeve is held firmly in place by the halves of the yo-yo, which keeps it from spinning and gives it the function of fixed axle and the convenience of a transaxle.

The design of the actual yo-yo halves is extremely important in its functionality. The oldest design, the "imperial," focuses most of the weight around the axle of the yo-yo, keeping the yo-yo stable during certain looping tricks like "loop the loop." The second oldest design, the "butterfly," focuses most of the weight around the rims and is effective for string tricks where the yo-yo must precisely land on a certain area of the string. Butterfly yo-yos are also superior for certain looping tricks like "hop the fence," "shoot the moon," and "punching bag." The newest design, known as "modified," is a combination of the two; it has most of the weight around the rims, but is narrow like the imperial. The extra weight on the rims has the added benefit of giving the yo-yo more momentum in spin, allowing it to sleep longer.

Currently, the world record sleep time is in excess of 12 solid minutes. The world record for a fixed axle is just about one solid minute, held by the wood-axle, modified design, plastic ProYo. ProYo (a company name and their original yo-yo's name) actually invented the modified design, which is incorporated in many new yo-yos on the market. This design is a best-of-both-worlds combination that allows for looping as well as "new school" style string tricks. Butterfly designs are still the best for learning string tricks, as there is more margin for error that leads to encouragement and motivation to improve.

ProYo has essentially ignored the classic "starburst pattern" found in most plastic yo-yos, due to their newest patent, "BPT," short for "brakepad technology." Brakepads are essentially little cork disks with an adhesive backing and a starburst-like shape. The cork is far more effective than raised plastic, and it has the added retailer benefit of being consumable, forcing customers to buy new brakepads as their yo-yos diminish in performance over time. Tom Kuhn, another yo-yo expert with his own line of yo-yos, uses "turbo disks," which are essentially the same thing, using a plastic/rubber material instead of cork, which can be custom-added to any take-apart yo-yo on the market. The "Axl(tm)" line of yo-yos also uses a similar method that involves adhesive rubber rings.

Another recent innovation is the adjustable string gap. The gap between the yo-yo halves is extremely important in determining a yo-yo's ability. Yo-yos with a wide gap tend to work best for string tricks because they sleep longer, whereas a narrow gap is better for looping and beginner play. The adjustable string gap yo-yo uses rubber o-rings to allow the yo-yo to be tightened to varying degrees, allowing for a wide range of capability.

Now is a great time to be a yo-yo enthusiast. There are hundreds of yo-yos on the market, many of which are simply amazing in performance. In my collection, I have the Yomega RPM, which actually includes internal sensors that will tell you the top RPM speed it reached during a throw. I have achieved over 9600 RPM, and nearly 280 miles per hour rim speed. Is it accurate? All I know is that more performance oriented aluminum yo-yos have been clocked at over 15,000 RPMs. The highest priced yo-yos are made of anodized forged or billet aluminum. The cheapest aluminum yo-yos on the market are around $15, the most expensive can reach $200. What are the over-all best yo-yos to look for, you ask? There are many.

The best bang-for-your buck yo-yos include the ProYo Turbo Bumblebee(tm) (generally around $12-20) and the SuperYo! Renegade(tm) (also in the same price range). The "bee" features brakepad technology and an awesome ball bearing. It's a great all-around yo-yo, a favorite in many collections. The SuperYo! Renegade also has a ball bearing axle, but uses a traditional starburst pattern. Some say that certain models of Renegade are made with a cheaper plastic that can erode over time, leaving the starburst pattern effectively flat. To combat this, krazy glue or clear nail polish can be used to coat the pattern. The coolest thing about the Renegade is its design -- it can be employed in an imperial or butterfly shape by simply flipping the sides and bolting it back together. The brakepad technology in the Bumblebee makes it a great looper, but the string gap cannot be adjusted, forcing the user to "break in" the brakepads to a certain degree before attempting tricks safely.

If you want true value, get a plain old ProYo or ProYo II. This is the plastic yo-yo with the wooden axle mentioned earlier. It sleeps very long for a fixed axle yo-yo, and loops incredibly well. They can be found dirt cheap just about anywhere.

My favorite "training yo-yo" for learning new string tricks is the Henry's Viper. Thoughtful "German engineering" results in a highly effective modular ball-bearing axle, and a non-anodized central yo-yo hub with large, detachable rubbery rims that make it a lot less painful when it smacks you in the head/hand/chest/etc. The Viper is butterfly shaped and slightly oversized, making it very easy to learn complicated and precise string tricks.

I currently only own one solid anodized aluminum yo-yo, which is the ProYo Ace(tm). It's miniature sized, but big enough to pull off just about any trick. It uses brakepad technology as well as a precision ball-bearing.

I also own a variety of Yomega yo-yos, mostly because they were being liquidated for pennies on the dollar at the time. For the most part they're usable but not preferred when compared to better yo-yos like the Bumblebee and Renegade. Popular Yomegas include the Fireball(tm), Saber Wing Fireball(tm) (a butterfly design), and the Brain (tm). The brain utilizes a new device known as a "centripetal clutch," which allows the yo-yo to return automatically without any effort. It's only fun for a little while, and best suits beginners. It makes string tricks nearly impossible due to the added friction of the clutch.

If you're looking to blow a wad of money on an expensive model, look for the ProYo Cold Fusion(tm), which normally sells for $100-150 but can be found online for $50. All yo-yos made by "Custom Yo-Yo"(tm) such as the Axl(tm), Chain Reactor(tm), and Axl Elite(tm) are good buys as well. The YoYoJam Spinfaktor(tm) is also a great buy, featuring a slender butterfly design with an aluminum "core" and plastic rims. One of the most expensive yo-yos on the market is the SuperYo! Samurai(tm), which recently shattered the 10 minute sleep time record of the ProYo Cold Fusion by nearly two full minutes. It uses a ceramic ball bearing, a recent innovation that produces incredibly loud squealing noises combined with incredibly long sleep times.

Warning -- serious chronic yo-yoing can be addictive. I remember my first yo-yo many years ago, but never developed any interest in them until I started working at my current job. As a phone support technician in a somewhat relaxed call center, I was introduced to yo-yoing and have spent hours on end (while on the phone of course) practicing. I have all of the hallmarks of addiction -- I yo-yo in the morning, I yo-yo so much that I've developed callouses that have cracked into evil nasty-looking fault lines that sting miserably after a solid bout of heavy yo-yoing...but I persist every day, further damaging the beaten, hardened, cracked surface right below my middle finger. It is almost impossible to become adept without hurting yourself acutely at least once, e.g. sending it right into the head. Perhaps it's an urban legend, but I've heard of one fellow who managed to kill himself by smacking himself very badly on the forehead.

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