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Day 10: Prototype Freehand

When Steve Brown first started working with the folks at Duncan on the Freehand yo-yo, he called me up and asked if I would be test some of the prototypes. Of course I accepted and a week later a box of yellow Freehands arrived. Like most yo-yos of that time, the Freehand protos used a simple starburst design for response. The only differences between the different prototypes were the sizes and shapes of the starbursts. One week passed, and Steve called and asked what I thought of the yo-yos. He thanked me for testing them out and said he had to call the other testers to see which was their favorite. A month later the production model Freehand was released. When I got mine, I ripped into the package to see what size starburst he used. Man was I surprised to find out that Duncan had decided to use friction stickers.

At the time, ProYo was suing Custom for releasing friction stickers, which Tom Van Dan Elzen claimed were infringing on his patent. The lawsuit was costing both companies a ton of money, so it was surprising that Duncan would release their own version on the Brake Pad (ProYo’s friction sticker) during this time.

When I next talked to Steve, he mentioned that they had also molded many other response system prototypes, including a bunch of Freehands with negative starbursts. He shipped me a box of these halves, and I put together a working prototype using two halves of translucent blue Freehand prototypes. One half is smooth with a friction sticker, the other half has a combination of positive and negative starbursts. I wanted caps on it, but didn’t want any opaque caps to prevent light from going through, so I had my friend Skizzy remove the centers from them to allow light pass through.

I assume the reason he didn’t send me any of these protos was because ProYo held a patent on negative starbursts. It was a bullshit patent (toy patents are often awarded without close scrutiny), but the guys at Duncan didn’t want to waste time fighting it. Then I guess they must have felt that if they were going to release something that may infringe on a patent, they might as well go for the full monty and release their own version of a friction sticker.

Negative starbursts are usually just dimples in the surface of a yo-yo. Both positive and negative starbursts are just providing an interrupted surface which pulls on the string when it has slack. One of the most unusual prototypes that Duncan made was the batch of Freehand prototypes with “DUNCAN” written around the area where the starbursts would go, thus creating negative starbursts AND branding at the same time. A few years later, a company called Yes, Absolutely completely ripped off the name around the inner hub of the yo-yo idea.

Room104- feel free to post pictures of your awesome freehand proto collection.
Steve- Feel free to correct me. I’m sure I got some info wrong.

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