I found this article on wikiHow about making your own wooden yo-yo. Too fun!
One of the simplest and most common toys is the yo yo. A round piece of carved wood or plastic, and a piece of string has entertained people for centuries. But it’s practically impossible to make a yo yo without an expensive piece of machinery called a lathe… or is it? You can build a makeshift lathe that’ll get the job done, but should be handled as carefully as any lathe. This project is aimed at people who are familiar with basic woodworking skills, but may not have a wood lathe in their shop to work with.
- Gather the tools and materials you will need to start the project. A drill motor and a vise are essential, and if you don’t have these, you will need to either borrow or buy them.
- Select a piece of appropriate wood. In the project pictures, a dead limb from a red cedar is used, since it is attractive, lightweight, strong, and available. You will most likely not want to use green woods, very hard woods, or knotty woods, since they are difficult to machine. Here are some things to look for in selecting your wood:
- Availability. Of course you will need to be able to obtain your stock. We simply walked in the yard and pulled down a dead limb from a tree there.
- Machineability. The wood you choose should be cured and soft enough to machine. Green wood has too much moisture in the wood to sand easily, and will shrink and crack when it cures. Very hard woods are difficult to machine, drill, and shape.
- Soundness. The wood you will use should be sound, with no cracks, checks, loose knots, or holes in it.
- Appearance. A wood with nice grain and color will give you a better finished product if you do not intend to paint it.
- Set up a sturdy table. The project we undertook was done on a 2 X 10 piece of lumber set on a chair’s armrest, This is not recommended. A good work bench is the best choice, but a good, strong table will work, if its surface is protected.
- Set your vise on the work surface, and build a standard, or device to support the other end of your stock. This is done by nailing a vertical piece of lumber to the work surface, then attaching a diagonal brace to make it secure.
- Clamp a drill motor in the vise jaws, securing it as shown in the picture, with the handle and trigger up, so it can be turned on and off as you work.
- Align the center of the drill chuck by sliding the vise to a position where the chuck is almost touching the standard, and marking this point.
- Drill a hole through the standard, being careful to keep it in line with the drill chuck, large enough for a number 14 wood screw to pass through.
- Drive a number 14 wood screw into one end of the stock you are going to make the yo yo from. It should go deep enough to get a good bite (or grip) on the wood, and needs to be centered as closely as possible. Cut the head off this screw, so it can be chucked into the drill motor.
- Mark the center of the other end of your stock, and drive another number 14 wood screw into it, after first pushing the screw through the hole in your standard. Again, make sure the screw has a good bite, at least one inch, into the stock piece. This screw will support the stock while the stock is turning, and if it fails, it can injure the person working the stock, or damage the drill motor.
- Tighten the screw in the opposite end of your stock into the drill motor’s chuck, positioning the vise so it is aligned with the standard and spaced so that the stock is supported and will turn freely.
- Clamp or screw the vise down to the work surface so it cannot move. Vibrations and torque from the turning process cause a lot of force on the vise and drill motor if it is not closely aligned.
- Start the drill motor slowly, lock the trigger so it stays on, and use the drill’s variable speed control (if equipped) to turn the stock piece. You will notice it is not turning true to begin with, but if the screws that form the axle are aligned closely enough, it will true up as you remove material.
- Set the speed of the drill and lock the switch in the on position, and begin to remove material slowly from the stock with a 4 inch sander/grinder, or a piece of very coarse sandpaper on a sanding block. Move the sander/sandpaper slowly toward the stock, so that it removes a little material each time the stock rotates. The speed of the drill should start out slow, since the stock is not a true cylinder, and therefore is unbalanced. As material is removed, it should become more and more round, until you have a cylinder.
- Increase the turning speed when you have turned the stock into a balanced cylinder, and continue removing material until it is the desired diameter. You will want to stop the drill and make sure there are no defects in the wood once this is done. Also, mark the places you will remove material to actually shape the yo yo.
- Using a wood-cutting blade on a hacksaw, or a sharp, fine toothed wood handsaw, cut grooves for the string in the stock. You will probably want the stock to be turning about 250-300 RPM for this process, and be careful to apply pressure gradually and lightly to accomplish this cut. Remember, you are supporting the workpiece on improvised centers!
- Using a piece of sandpaper, sand the grooves smooth, inside and out, and sand the edges too, while being careful to maintain equal force (for smooth sanding) and minimal pressure.
- Use the saw to cut the stock, giving your yo yo its final shape. Cut to within 1/2 inch of the center while the piece is turning, then shut the drill off and finish the cut the conventional way, using the saw.
- Sand and finish the yo-yo as desired. Tie on a suitable string, and test it out!
- Use an attractive wood for natural-finished products.
- Keep the string groove narrow enough the string you use will not become jambed when it is wound in it.
- Turning a piece of wood between the improvised centers described here requires caution! It can be done safely, but only if you take your time, use appropriate safety equipment, and pause often to make sure all of the elements are secured correctly.
- Never stand directly in front of the stock while it is turning. Stand to the side, and reach in to do the machining.
- Eye protection, close fitting gloves, and a dust mask or respirator should be worn while machining the wood.
- Tie back long hair to avoid it being caught in the drill, and remove any loose or hanging jewelry and clothing. Such loose items can instantly pull your hand, head or body into sharp turning, cutting or crushing parts of a machine and cause severe injury or even death.
Things You’ll Need
- Drill motor, vise, and saw.
- Worktable or other surface.
- Wood for turning stock.
- Sandpaper in very coarse, coarse, and medium grits.
- Power sander is optional, but helpful.
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