I remember when Yo-yos were a big hit back in the 80s at school. This was Australia and things take a while to get to us from the US. Anyway, everyone had one - all seemed to be branded by Coca Cola and there were always a few kids who seemed to just be good at it while the rest eventually gave up. I was not one of the select few. Fast forward 30 years and my kids come home one day with Yo-yos and ask for help to learn how to use it. I take a deep breath and commence my basic instructions with the distinct feeling that they are bound to be frustrated within about... too late. There is something fun about the Yo-yo, the design is elegant and despite it's difficulty it just doesn't go away.
Then one day at the office (2011) something strange happened. A foam stress ball that had been accumulating rubber bands that I brought to work each day with my lunch box suddenly sprung to life. I don't mean in a Pixar kind of way, but it entered my mind as something in search of an identity. The rubber bands not only covered the whole surface of the stress ball, but had also grown a tail - a string of rubber bands that my colleague Nigel had slowly added over a period of days. It was just a random plaything, but it kept looking at me as if to ask "Aren't you going to give me a name?"
Now I don't usually talk to inanimate objects, but one day I took it home and adopted it. This started a period of prototyping to fix the major design and safety flaws and then to add some aesthetics to what would otherwise be drab looking red, blue and brown rubber band colours. The result was something I was very proud. It maintained the original Yo-yo's elegantly simple design ethos yet it was significantly different, much simpler to use, more versatile, didn't come with anyone's branding and best of all I made it myself.
Soon it was time for testing so I made a batch for the kids to take to school and give to their friends. After an initial spike of interest the Yoball craze was over before it started. I didn't attempt to mass market the things - it was just a spurt of energy that a dad has from time to time. While they collected dust on the shelf they kept calling out to me. Maybe it was a Pixar thing - you know that feeling that toys don't enjoy being shelved. I had always thought of myself as a creative person, but didn't have much to show for it - except for the Yoball... what if... nah... but I could... wouldn't work... It wouldn't hurt if... you've got to be joking... my inner dialogue kept this up for months until one day I made a decision. I was going to make the Yoball my first invention and I did not care if it failed I was going to give it a fighting chance. There! I said it.
Step 1: Select an Appropriate Ball
Choose a ball that fits comfortably in your hand (or the person for whom you are making it). The ball should be hollow and not hard (i.e. rubber is ideal). I wouldn't recommend anything smaller than these as you need to be able to insert the fishing swivel inside it. Also smaller balls have a higher risk of injuring eyes if you were to get struck. The Spalding High Bounce balls are really common and cheap to buy in Australia. They also come in a range of colours and designs.
Step 2: Obtain a Swivel for a Super Smooth Spin
The hardest step is to insert the fishing swivel into the ball. This allows it to spin smoothly and reduces tangles. I recommend using a size 1 ball bearing swivel with a coastlock snap. It's just over an inch in length. The snap is placed inside the ball and requires the use of a sharp cutting tool so please be careful and get adult supervision. These swivels are cheap to get from a fishing store or eBay. Insist on the ones with the ball bearings to ensure a smooth spin.
Step 3: Scalpel Please - WARNING: Adult Supervision Required!
Carefully make a small incision into the ball that is wide enough to squeeze the snap of the swivel into. Don't worry if you make the cut too too big as you can seal it with superglue or an adhesive rubber patch. I use the tools pictured. The letter opener is to help push the swivel right into the ball. It's actually harder than it sounds unless you make the cut large enough. At first I tried to make the cut as small as possible but would then struggle for 10 minutes to insert the swivel. Now I'd just make the cut bigger to begin with.
Step 4: Choose Your Rubber Bands - Yes the Colour Does Matter
Ok, the hard work is done. Now comes the fun part of making the band. It might take a bit of shopping around to get the best type of rubber bands for the job. I had these rubber bands (pictured) sent from the UK from an eBay seller. The fancier stationary shops are selling some now, but try to find ones that are long and thin. Another option (that I haven't tried) is using the small rubber bands made popular by Rainbow Loom
. From what I've seen they might just work and would give you much more colour choices. It would also avoid the need for Plockas. These are small plastic bead-like things that you can see in the picture.
Step 5: I Knew These Would Come in Handy One Day
When I first prototyped the Yoball I was looking around the house for some beads to make the rubber bands neater and less prone to getting tangled. I don't remember buying them of why we did, but the big box of Klappar Plockas from Ikea suddenly appeared. Of course, I claimed it as genius, but I honestly can't remember how it got there. These are really small and a little tricky to get onto the rubber bands. I had to construct a little wire tool to make it easier. It's an optional step, but the reduced tangles definitely makes it easier to use so I would recommend it.
As an easier alternative to using these you could also use smaller rubber bands and just loop them around several times to create the same effect. I tried this with the rubber bands that come with the Rainbow Loom product that seems to be a big hit in the US and it works great. They also come in a huge range of colours and don't require any special tool to put on. You can also add them after your Yoball is complete which simplifies things and removes a component which could be hard to get if you don't live close to IKEA.
Step 6: Put the Plockas on Before You Join the Rubber Bands
Joining the rubber bands is simple using the standard loop. It takes a little more effort to make it really neat so that there are no unnecessary twists in the rubber band. This is where the Klappar Plockas come in. You can also use beads but you want ones that are tight fitting so they stay in place and do their job of keeping the bands neat and tidy. The length of the string should be determined by your height. When your forearm is at a right angle to your body the Yoball should just touch the ground. It really is up to you.
Step 7: Put It on Your Hand and Give It a Whirl
The last rubber band goes on your fingers. I like to have it around my 3 middle fingers. Use the Plockas to adjust so that it fits firmly and won't go flying off your fingers. You can now ready to get creative. The great thing about the Yoball is that there are no rules as to how to use it. Unlike the Yo-yo you don't need to wind it back up if it becomes unravelled you just flick it back up to your hand and catch it. If you don't catch it - who cares? You did that on purpose right?! Here's a quick video of some basic tricks.
Step 8: Warnings, Guidelines and More
Rule No. 1: Don't hold your catching hand near your face or other sensitive body parts. The Yoball will return to the point of origin but not always exactly to that point. If you hold is close to your face and fail to catch it chances are you could deflect it onto your head.
Check out the video below I commissioned (not of me) to run through some basic usage guidelines. It's meant to be light-hearted which I'm sure will be obvious. My YouTube channel
does have less professional videos of me doing some basic tricks which you can also watch. But don't let me limit what you can do with the Yoball - there's lots more possibilities. We also have Facebook page
and a standard website
with more info.