Introduction: How to Mod a Bolt Yo-Yo

About: A full time artist and maker. Craft mogul, yo-yo genius, comics illustrator, nerdcore rapper, and a Mission dweller.

Yo-yoing is a constantly changing sport. What started as a hobby dominated by slimline responsive yo-yos for looping is now full of wide-gapped butterfly yo-yos that don't respond at all.

This instructable will teach you how I mod my Bolt yo-yo for an unresponsive style of play that you can't get from most stock yo-yos. The Bolt yo-yo, made by YoYoJam in Florida, plays great out of the package, but it's highly responsive. There's nothing wrong with this type of play; it's great for looping tricks and regenerations, and it's preferred by most beginners.

However, the tricks that have popped up over the last 3 years usually require a yo-yo that can handle a good deal of slack in the string without returning. That's why I mod my yo-yos to return with a "bind", an unresponsive technique I'll discuss later.

For this mod, you will need a yo-yo, a tube of Flowable Silicone Windshield & Glass Sealer, medium grit sandpaper, shims, a plastic tipped syringe and mineral spirits.

I use a Bolt yo-yo (available from this site) for this instructable, but this mod can be done on almost any YoYoJam model that uses o-rings for a response system.

Step 1: A Note About "Binds"

Since the purpose of this modification is to create a unresponsive yo-yo, I should probably give a brief explanation of the Bind Return method.

Binding is the method used to get a unresponsive yo-yo to return by creating a "bind" with the string. J's glossary defines a bind as "Intentional insertion of extra string segments into the yo-yo gap (usually a wrap around the axle) in order to get an unresponsive yo-yo to return."

It's a really useful technique to know, even if you play with responsive yo-yos.

I highly recommend watching Houdini's "How To Bind 2" to better understand the bind technique.

(Note: I don't recommend "the basic bind" (also known as the lindy loop bind) at all. Instead, study the Backspin Bind and the "Dave" Bind in the video.)

Step 2: Disassembling the Yo-yo

Unscrew the yo-yo. Remove the bearings and the o-rings.

You can use a safety pin to help pluck out the o-rings. Once they're removed, you won't really have a use for them anymore, but it doesn't hurt to keep them around if you change your mind.

If you have difficulty removing the bearing, you can use a pair of pliers to help get it out. Use a rubber band to protect the surface of the bearing. Pull the rubber band tight around the bearing then grip the pliers over the (now covered) bearing, then gently wiggle them back and forth to pull the bearing out.

Some players also remove the bearing shields, because this makes it easier to remove grime that accumulates as time goes on. If you choose to do this, take a safety pin and run it along the outside inner edge of the bearing until you get under the c-clip and pop it out. The shield should come off with little trouble. Repeat the process on the other side. This step isn't necessary, and also makes it easier for dirt to get in the bearing, but it does have its advantages if you decide to do it.

Step 3: Clean the Ball Bearing

After removing the bearing, soak it in a cup of mineral spirits. This will remove the oil that the yo-yo is shipped with. Having a dry (non-lubed) bearing is key in an unresponsive yo-yo.

I personally use mineral spirits, but lighter fluid or rubbing alcohol (use a very high %) will also work. You won't need much, just enough to submerge the bearing. I also like to shake it up well to really clean the bearing.

You'll only need to soak the bearing for 5 or 10 minutes. Afterwards, pour the contents out (being sure not to lose the bearing down the drain) and put your freshly cleaned bearing on a paper towel to dry. To help remove the mineral spirits, I like to place the bearing on the tip of a pencil and spin it with my finger. Centrifugal force tends to pull out the mineral spirits faster than gravity does. If you have access to an air compressor you could use that dry the bearing super fast.

Cleaning a bearing does shorten its lifespan a bit, but it will still last you for a long time. They usually last me for about a year.

If you would like to extend its life a little, though, you can drop one small bead of oil on the bearing races. Yo-yo players use many different kinds of oil, but some common solutions are 3-in-1 sewing machine oil and trumpet valve oil. Be careful not to add too much, or else you'll be defeating the purpose of cleaning it in the first place. (You can also purchase a product called YoYoJam thin lube, which does about the same thing.)

Step 4: Recessed Silicone

For this process, you'll need flowable silicone. Specifically, I suggest Flowable Silicone Windshield & Glass Sealer; it's my favorite to use because it flows well and smoothes itself out as it dries. If you want a less "grippy" silicone, you can use Silicone Gasket Maker. Flowable Silicone is easy to find in the automotive section of any given department store, just be sure not to pay more than $4 for it - the same tube that I bought at Fleet Farm for $2.50 costs $7 at Kragen.

Pour the silicone into the groove that the o-ring used to be in, being careful not to get it into the bearing area or over the rest of the yo-yo. If you do slip up, don't panic; it's easy to clean up once it dries, but it's better to just be as fastidious as possible and get the job done right the first time.

To make application easier I use a syringe (the types for babies and pets are the best to work with). You won't need too much silicone in the syringe, but I always like to try to do a bunch of yo-yos as a batch to keep my waste at a minimum. Try to avoid air bubbles - once I have the silicone in the syringe, I point the nose up while compressing the air out of the tube until the silicone is the only thing left.

After filling the o-ring groove with silicone, wipe off any excess silicone using your finger (or place a business card flat on the plastic's surface and scrape the excess away). The goal is to keep the silicone flush with (or even recessed from) the yo-yo's surface.

For best results, I pour the silicone in the groove towards the outer diameter. This way, when the silicone levels out it pushes out the air and prevents trapped air bubbles from forming. After pouring, I like to use a business card to level off the silicone. Just place the card flush with the surface, then turn the yo-yo. To get a nice recess, slightly over pour the silicone... then when you use the card, it will concave the silicone nicely as the card collects excess silicone on the top.

After the silicone is added, let it set for at least 12 hours. You can then come in and remove any extra dried stuff around the yo-yo's body and in the bearing seat. Use your fingers or a pencil eraser. Be especially sure to remove any excess bits of silicone that could get worked into the bearing, because those can greatly reduce spin time and add response.

Step 5: An Alternative to Flowable Silicone

I understand that the flowable silicone may intimidate some, and isn't
always readily availlable, so a quick an easy alternative to silicone
is shaving down the o-rings.

You'll need to use a hobby knife or a razor blade.

Place the blade against the o-ring and slice into the o-ring. Try to
cut the o-ring flush to the yo-yos surface. Continue the cut all the
way around the o-ring until it is all cut level to the surface of the

Of course you want to keep the blade facing away from you.

Step 6: Sand the Yo-yo

One of the most common reasons to make a yo-yo less responsive is to make it easier to perform "grinds" . A grind is a trick where the yo-yo makes contact with your hand (or finger, hat, etc) while it is spinning. This is usually difficult to perform with a responsive yo-yo, because responsive yo-yos want to return to your hand as soon as the string gets any slack in it.

Sanding your yo-yo won't make it any less responsive, but it will reduce the friction between your hand and the yo-yo's surface. The goal of sanding is to create concentric grooves from the yo-yos center, thus reducing the amount of surface area that your skin actually touches. It also removes the waxy coating that the yo-yo is shipped with.

I use a medium grit sandpaper. A fine grit doesn't make enough difference, and extra coarse is too much. I screw the two yo-yo halves tightly together without a bearing inside before sanding. Hold the sandpaper against the domed sides of your yo-yo and sand away. (You can push down with your middle finger to get into the crevices, using the gap of the yo-yo to keep your sandpaper centered.)

Remember, the goal is concentric circles, as if the yo-yo was spinning against the sandpaper. If you sand in all different directions, you will be creating more friction on the yo-yos surface.

After you finish sanding, unscrew the yo-yo and clean off the yo-yos surface. Try to avoid plastic waste that can get into the bearings.

Step 7: Re-assemble the Yo-yo.

Once the silicone is dry, the excess silicone removed, and the sides sanded, it's time to put your yo-yo back together.

If you have shims, place one on each side of the bearing before screwing the yo-yo back together.

Shims are available through various yo-yo stores. They help make your gap wider, thus enabling more room for layers of string and making your yo-yo more unresponsive.

Some YoYoJam yo-yos (such as the newer Bolts and the Lyn Fury) already have pretty wide gaps, so shimming is not necessary.

Once you have put the shims in, screw the yo-yo back together and then put your string on. It's always a good idea to fully assemble the yo-yo before putting string on because it helps ensure the string does not end up on the side of the bearing.

Now your yo-yo is ready to go. It takes a few throws for the silicone and bearing to break in – in fact, the first throw of a newly cleaned bearing can seem more responsive than if it was lubed. Don't worry, it loosens up, and soon binding becomes necessary.

If the yo-yo remains highly responsive after a few minutes of play, check the area around the bearing seat for bits of plastic or dried silicone that you may have missed.

Good luck with modding! Please feel free to ask any questions or give me tips on how to make this instructable easier to use.