I am having to retire my favorite fixed axle wooden yoyo: A Duncan Jeweled Tournament - Vintage. I have had it for 20+ years. Once the paint on the inside of one of the sides became rippled. I twisted it apart, sanded it smooth and put on a clear coat to protect the wood. It has been my old faithful.
Recently after replacing the string, it become beyond unresponsive. It doesn’t wind up tight enough to spin the yoyo upon a throw. The axle seems to be so smooth now that it refuses to catch at all. I have tried different types of string including a standard Duncan string to no avail.
The response of a yoyo is dependent on the friction between the string and the entire yoyo (inner walls especially). Wear will slowly smooth out the surfaces and decrease that friction. Refinishing the inner wall probably helped the smoothing process along.
An “unresponsive” yoyo is really just a “less responsive” yoyo. So, you should find a way to increase the friction.
I don’t know much about fixed axles. My naive assumption would be to slowly rough up the inner walls near the axle. Hopefully a modder or somebody with experience rehabbing old yoyos comes along and can give specific, experience-based advice.
Common issue for fixies when changing strings. Don’t retire it. Pinch string just above yoyo and spin the yoyo to tighten the string around the axle. Once tight hold the tension when you wind up. Throw several hard sleepers and you’ll be back in business.
That’s ultimately the fate of many fine fixies however there is a method to try before you put it up for retirement. It’s based on some knowledge my Uncle imparted when I was a kid and it works for me. Apply water to the inner walls and axle. Use a paper towel or better yet a slim brush if you have one. You want some of the water to penetrate the wood but you don’t want to leave any water droplets when finished. Then allow it to completely dry. Don’t rush the drying process. Be patient. This will rejuvenate and raise the grain of the wood. You will definitely notice a difference the first time but depending on the particular wear you may want/need to repeat the process for more noticeable results. Try it! At this point there’s nothing to lose. Let me know if this helped and happy yoing!
I purchased mine in about 1998 as well. One of my high school students always had a yoyo ready to play and spurred my interest. At the time, I hadn’t thrown a yoyo in many years. Always collected them when I saw something new, just didn’t throw much.