The mystery of wooden fixed axle response

My yo-yo history is kinda backward, here. I started with modern metal unresponsives and sorta intentionally ignored classic wood axles of all kinds. So am coming at this as someone who looks at, say … a modern metal slimine responsive such as the YYF Confusion … and sees that as the norm. That’s the kind of responsive yo-yo behavior I expect.

I’ve been experimenting with wood axles over the last two months, and I finally found some that I like! My favorite wood axle responsives are on the heavy side, and glossy, lacquered wood kinda like this:

(Unrelated: I wish I had that one, it looks awesome, but first I’ve seen, like a hybrid BC and TK! But you see how glossy it is, that’s what I’m trying to show.)

I think of most wood yo-yos as relatively unfinished. But the ones I like are lacquered, which means the inside response area is also shiny and smooth. No engraving, just completely flat surface lacquered wood. But no wood yoyos have any provision for traditional silicone response areas like we’d find on a metal yo-yo … do they?

Well, some yo-yos have circular recessed cuts as permanent “wood starburst repsonse”, if you will.


And there’s gotta be a reason people invented response stickers, right…? Particularly for metal yo-yos where the interior is even smoother than any lacquered wood.


I know @edhaponik has sometimes been known to add response stickers to his wooden No Jives.


So here’s what I find mysterious:

My super shiny glossy lacquered yo-yos respond greatfor the most part. But not always!

When they’re not responding “right”, I can’t nail down why that is, or why it comes and goes?

  • Is it because the string lacks enough torsion / tension?
  • Is it because the string has too much torsion / tension?
  • Is it because the axle is too smooth? I’ve replaced the TK axle sleeve with a fresh one and had the same exact phenomenon occur.
  • Is it the “sweet side / sour side” of the string depending on the throw?
  • Is it the “wind” of the string or the thickness of the string?
  • Is is the string material, cotton, cotton/poly, poly? I’m pretty sure it is not because I have had awesome responsiveness with all three types on these yo-yos?

When the response is working, it is working great. But like @Myk_Myk I can’t determine what’s off about it when it gets into that not-quite-responding-right mode. I have varied string a bunch and I can’t find any commonality … and there’s not much else I can control on a simple, fixed axle, glossy lacquered butterfly yo-yo, is there?

What am I missing here? Learninate me some thinkings from your mind grapes!


Honestly, it could be any combination of these in varying measures.

I believe on a shiny lacquered yoyo, the wood choice for the axle, the axle diameter and the gap width all need to be carefully tuned for reliable response. But there are other environmental factors that may affect such as the humidity. I believe ed already mentioned that response can even be effected by things on a microscopic level. That can be difficult to control.

In my experience, more open grained woods tend to yield more reliable response rather than finely textured woods such as maple.


Would that matter on a lacquered yoyo though? I’ve said before that I think the optimal wood is lacquered on the outside and raw on the inside, for better response! But maybe that doesn’t matter because the Clean Machine and BC Apollo respond great… most of the time.

I only have one wood yo-yo with response holes cut in it, and the response is really aggressive as a result. Surprisingly so!

It should matter on a lacquered yoyo, yes. But axle diameter is also a very big factor. I was also talking about a yoyo with the halves lacquered inside and out.

Yeah, leaving the inside without lacquer, should help a lot. I like drilling the response holes areond the axles in my yoyos, it makes a huge difference.


All that stuff matters. To me, in descending order, it goes something like:

  1. string tension
  2. gap width
  3. string type/direction
  4. axle type/diameter
  5. yo-yo weight
  6. shape of inner wall
  7. finish/tackiness of yo-yo

I can boss almost any wooden yo-yo around using string tension and gap width alone - with the caveat that I don’t often want to play a yo-yo with a kinked string or which kicks back or loops down. So I have to negotiate the other variables. I have sanded gaps/shimmed gaps. I’ve used every string type to which I’ve had access. I have used linen stickers, mainly on No Jives, as a means to keep the response even and predictable. (Worth noting that the heavier laminated No Jives like the one you posted actually shipped with TK Turbo Discs because they responded less consistently than the typical No Jive.)

But it’s really a combination of factors and the algorithm you use to nail the sweet spot with one yo-yo will not universally apply. Part of getting good at fixed axle is about developing the techniques to execute the trick, and part of it is developing the intuition so you know what to adjust to even try the trick.


As Ed noted, every wood yoyo is a little different and all kinds of things affect responsiveness. I just read, codinghorror, that you’d written a post asking about waxing axles. One thing you can try that has a huge impact is adding a bit of Burt Bees hand salve to the string end before you put it around the axle. I have a couple of TMBRs I’ve set up with wide gaps and the hand salve makes a big difference. Also, I’ve added red RTV to the little wood starburts holes and have found it increases responsiveness - but they sometimes pop out.

As I’m sure you know, when you start the widen the gap, you need to increase responsiveness somehow, which is the reason people started adding a friction sticker to No Jive. But everything is constantly changing with a wood fixed axle yoyo. The axle is getting smoother and thinner, the string is wearing in, the friction pad is losing friction if you’re using one, etc., etc. Also, as I’m sure you know, when you play with different sizes of string - type 6, type 8, etc. - that impacts all the other variables at play too. It’s complex, this little hobby of ours!


I realize now that string tension / torsion is a big part of response on a classic wood axle. I’ve put perfectly good poly strings on that wouldn’t bind well at all, then after a few throws (and implied string rotations / extra torsion on the string) they started tightening, binding up and playing just fine. However it still does vary by string… some poly strings must not coil as tightly as others, perhaps it depends on the way they’re made?

I mentioned earlier that I accidentally put a nylon on one of the Tom Kuhn wood axles and I was surprised how well it worked.

Since nylon has that incredible tendency to coil up so tight and generate so much torsion so quickly, I’m beginning to see why nylon (or at least poly/nylon) might actually work better on wood fixed axles as @TheThrowingGnome kept telling me!

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@codinghorror, do you find poly or nylon strings respond better on wooden fixed axles?

I haven’t tried nylon on wood enough to tell, however when I accidentally put a nylon on a wood axle, I was surprised how well it worked.

I generally don’t like nylon, so I wouldn’t be going out of my way to test this. But my instincts say nylon’s tendency to coil up mega-tight is going to be a relative advantage on a wood axle.


I am still curious @edhaponik if you generally favor wood hole cuts for a response area? Or a “schmoove groove”? I am guessing no since the 2018 Eh doesn’t have these things…

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I like it for some yo-yo’s, generally based on the gap and the walls. The eH had them up to 2014, but when we went to the wood-thread thing they seemed both prohibitively difficult and unnecessary. The negative space response doesn’t work as well as it gets further from the axle, and the space between the wood-thread and the half seemed to be plenty.

It’s always interesting how little a difference response systems can make with wood. I was blown away when I first tried dead Duncan stickers in a No Jive. Like they are pretty thick stickers for a super thin gap. But that was what started me out with hitting more interesting 1a on them because I had more grip in the wind. Nothing else really changed. The negative space “hole” response is meant to do the same thing.

I have been messing around with newer poly on my eH for the past month. No string breaks, even after several days. Some broken/frayed strands and it left some string particulates stuck to one axle which was crazy - had to remove it with tweezers. It works great with some axles, but I find that many of the inconsistencies with cotton get amplified - most notably the string’s “sidedness”. Even after breaking in, I’ll have moments at neutral tension where in one orientation the yo-yo is near unresponsive and the other it’s downright snappy.


Very true. I’ve experimented, and the closer, the better.


I played with fixed axels as a kid in the 80s, and when I recently came back into yo-yoing I was surprised how no one talked much about tension. It took me a while to realize how much less tension mattered with a ball bearing yo-yo.


In an effort to better understand sometimes frustrating unreliability in wood response, I’m experimenting with “wood starburst” on this Play Simply TK 3-in-1 using radial knife cuts from each corner of the hex center, on each side:

I figure this is OK because the cool engraving always goes on the outside, I am never gonna flip this around to make it an imperial or (god forbid) padoga.


Jeff, you haven’t tried one of my wooden responsives. They are reliable. Wooden response can be reliable if it’s done right.


Wait, @codinghorror you haven’t tried a Harbinger?

It really isn’t just forum flattery, the Harbinger has an extremely reliable response. My Fallen 44 and OUT’s have nothing on it.

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Wow! Never noticed the machine marks on newer No Jives until this photo :frowning:


Wait, haven’t y’all tried the old chapstick/beeswax method? Just rub a little on the strin loop and voila, even the most stubborn fixie responds nicely. I have a couple high quality fixies and some of them require this to respond well.


There’s a separate topic about waxing axles on wood yo-yos.


Post a pic of the response area?

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