With the demise of Pro-Yo (also known as Playmaxx) several years ago, so too has the reputation of the once giant yo-yo manufacturer faded. Although the company, which was original founded by Donald Duncan Jr., set new standards for sponsored yo-yo professionals and yo-yo innovations, what most of us (at least the ones that have been yo-yoing for over 6 years) remember is Tom Van Dan Elzen.
Tom, the company’s owner, had a penchant for lawsuits and a reputation for holding deep grudges. For whatever reason, Tom developed a grudge against the German yo-yo manufacturer Henrys. I was working for Henrys US distributor at the time, and none of us could figure out what bee got up Tom’s bonnet. After all, Henry’s was pretty much the most innocuous company around.
It was during that time that Tom released The Mongoose. This was a metal yo-yo hub that was the same size as the hubs on a Henry’s Viper and even accepted the Viper’s rubber shells.
But Tom claimed that any similarities between The Mongoose and the Viper were coincidental and that The Mongoose was just a mini yo-yo… a very terrible mini yo-yo… That just happened to perfectly fit into Viper shells… and was named after the natural enemy of the snake.
Of course he had to deny it because Henry’s had a patent on the method of attaching the rubber shells to the yo-yo. He wasn’t selling a Viper hub with brake pads… he was selling a “Mini Yo-Yo”. I once had a conversation with Tom were he bragged about suing companies for stealing his patents while simultaneously expressing shock that Henrys was upset about the release of his patent infringing Mongoose.
What made the whole thing even more unbelievable was Tom’s plan on releasing his own set of rubber shells to fit onto Viper hubs. The String Pilot shells, which were rubber versions of the Bumblebee GT shape, never got released. I assume that if the String Pilot shells ever would have gotten released, they would have been sold as “paper weights” or something.
The Tom Kuhn No-Jive was one of the earliest take apart yo-yos. It’s a reversible shape yo-yo (it can be altered from a wide gap shape to a narrow body shape) with a removable wooden axle.
It’s a classic yo-yo that, along with the Silver Bullet, brought on the era of the modern yo-yo.
One day I was talking to Dr. Mo on the phone about how the SuperYo Renegade was such a rip off of the No-Jive. Somewhere along the conversation Mo offered to mod a No-Jive into a ball bearing yo-yo for me. So I shipped him a No-Jive and a Renegade.
The mod wasn’t as easy as just switching the guts, in fact I’m very impressed as I look at all the work Mo did that I never noticed. Obviously the friction stickers are recessed, a necessary step since Renegade gaps can’t be made wider. He also had to add some metal tubes for the bolt to slide through. I do believe the axle itself is the original axle though.
The yo-yo still has a “wood” feel to it, but it plays great with ball bearings. Actually, I think Dr. Tom should sell these himself. A Tom/Mo collabo. TomMo? MoTom?
The Zero-G was a highly anticipated offstring yo-yo that never actually hit the market. It was one of Yomega’s first attempts at creating a rubber shelled yo-yo, a effort that would again appear in their Xodus, Crossfire, and Lancer.
Friction stickers and rubber shells seemed to be the two patented items that everyone wanted. Just as companies were trying to work their way around the friction brake pad patent, many were also trying to get around Henry’s patented removable rubber shells patent.
Yomega’s idea was simple, don’t make the shells removable. Which also solved the problem of how to work with soft rubber without it flying off of a high spinning yo-yo. the Zero-G’s plastic shells are assembled over the rubber shells, locking the shells in to place and making removal of the shells impossible without dis-assembling the plastic body.
Those who are familiar with the new “soft-core” process that Yomega are doing with yo-yos like the Crossfire, you may notice similarities between the assembly of the Zero-G and that of the Crossfire.
The biggest technical flaw with the Zero-G would have to be it’s trans-axle system. Yomega decided to use a trans-axle system similar to the Fireball (probably to save money), but the Zero-G’s trans-axle was much narrower. Meaning you couldn’t exchange it’s parts with a fireball or any of their ball bearing yo-yos. Around this time, Yomega really seemed to be into making all their systems incompatible. They didn’t want you to be able to buy a fireball, through in some bearings, and make your own Raider. The parts were all propietary, so that Yomega had full control of their yo-yos. Ultimately, Yomega released that making all their parts inter-changable would only help their sales (open source yo-yos), but not in time for the Zero-G
In 2001, yo-yo companies were clammering for novel new ideas for a yo-yo. A few companies decided to try to out-do each other by creating the smallest playing yo-yo that they could. The first miniature transaxle yo-yo would undoubtedly have been the Mini Screwball, a Japanese yo-yo that was a narrow body design and just a little larger than a quarter. About a year later, YoYoJam, ProYo, and Tom Kuhn would all have their own entries in the mini market.
YoYoJam’s model, the MiniJam, was in my opinion the best playing of all the other models. It has a plastic hub and aluminum weight rings (as opposed to ProYo’s and Tom Kuhn’s all metal minis) and pointless rubber rings that seemed to be the hallmark of YoYoJam in those days.
The MiniJam was equiped with their “B” size bearing and negative starbursts.
It was one of YoYojam’s earliest signature series, brandished with Philip Travelant’s name on the side and the phrase “Mini Yo World Champion” underneath it. I believe that title refers to a contest that either WindWizards or YoYoJam ran were competitors entered using only miniature yo-yos.
With the newest batch of my yo-yos on eBay, I’ve decided to finally start my 28 Days of Yo project that I’ve been talking about on YoYoWiki Radio for some time now.
The basic goal of the project is simply to post some cool pictures of a bunch of yo-yos in my collection and share some history or personal stories related to those pieces.
In case anyone is wondering why Doc is suddenly selling off all of his most prized yo-yos, the answer is simple…. My laptop is dying/dead. So I’m doing the unthinkable (selling prototypes, etc…) to raise money for a new laptop. What type of laptop really just depends on how much I make off the auctions.
I have been booked for a performance at this year MONDO in Minneapolis.
MONDO is this nice big juggling festival that happens this time of year in the Twin Cities. Unfortunately this will take me out of the Bay Area during BAC, but if you live in Northern California, you should still be sure to catch that.
I’ll be teaching a few workshops and performing on the Main Stage for MONDO’s open to the public event. I will also have yo-yos, comics, and clothes for sale and will hopefully be running a Yolympics contest.
Josh from www.Schalicto.com recently wrote a blog about The Hesitator yo-yo.
The Hesitator was a very limited run of Spinatstics Eclipses that I hand painted and assembled. Less than 40 where made. Actually I made about 55, but trashed 15 pairs that I didn’t feel looked up to standard.
The name of the yo-yo came from the constant number of kids that would come in to my store looking for hesitator yo-yos.
“You know, the kind that hesitate.”
I would try to explain to them that all of our yo-yos slept, but they would only look for yo-yos that hesitate.
I don’t have any Hesitator’s left.
Josh has three.
Life can be cruel sometimes.
He has some fantastic pictures of them on his flickr page.
The pog art features my art as well. One side has a version of me scaling a giant yo-yo and spray tagging it. The other pog is a pair of hands with a floating “H” above them.
Painting the Hesitators was a total nightmare. Nail polish, blue ink, 3 colors of spray paint, sharpies, black paint, glitter and the lids off of McDonald’s McFlurries were all used to get the desired effect. Each half was numbered, signed, and had a cool flame effect. On one half of each yo-yo the flames would spell out HESITATOR. Since all the work was done on the inside of the yo-yo, all spelling had to be done backwards. I even had to learn how to sign my name backwards. Once, after completing 20 Hesitators, I wrote an entire sentence backwards on a post it note to a friend before I realized I was not writing normally. That could have also been a result of being subjected to many hours of breathing aerosol and nail polish fumes.
For the record, it is widely believed that John(bot) Russeth has the best Hesitator made.
Instructables.com is a wonderful tool for “showing what you make and how others can make it”, but I also believe that it could also become a tool used by yo-yoers to share what they do and how others can do it as well.
I started with a basic trick, Rock The Baby, just to try it out as an instructable.
Now I have just finished uploading all the details you really need to do the Washing Machine. Check it out HERE.
The Washing Machine was created about 7 years ago, and it’s still one of the neatest looking tricks in my arsenal. It’s an offstring trick, that doesn’t require you to start offstring. In fact you can do it in the middle of a normal one handed performance with very little set up.
Adding this trick to the website is more than just an exercise in how useful instructables.com can be for yo-yoers, it’s also an attempt to make one of my favorite tricks more accessible. The Washing Machine intimidates many players, but I’m telling you that any intermediate player can do the basics of the trick (removing the yo-yo and putting it back on).
So please check out my instructable, try it out, and let me know if any of the steps are confusing or could be worded better.
REEDIT: Alright, I just found out there are a few different versions of this Cartoon Network video. One is only 1:15 long and I appear at the end doing the “Martini”. The other is 3:15 and I get a few good quotes. So… I’m still trying to catch the good version. But I can’t watch all that anime for one more second. Below is the shorter version.