After having seen a few Ed Haponik and Drew Tetz videos with modern fixed-axle play, I knew there was more to fixed axle yoyoing than the “beginner” tricks I already knew. I especially liked the way they could do cool stuff with stalls and stop-and-go type tricks.
I have a “Classic” Yo-Yo™ and a Duncan Butterfly, but I wanted something a bit more premium. Since Ed’s signature fixed-axle yoyo wasn’t available, I turned to TMBR (collaborators with SPYY on Ed’s “EH?”) and after reading a few descriptions decided on the Baldwin.
First impressions before throwing were mixed. Here is a nice-looking yoyo, no doubt. I love the contrasting woods and the dadoed (?) stripe. Opening up the halves to see a wonderfully-executed screw-apart system. Threaded inserts in the wood receive an axle that passes through a perfectly-fit “tube” of wood. The wooden axle recesses in a similar way to bearing-equipped yoyos and provides and absolutely perfect fit when tightened back up, creating all the benefits of a glued wooden axle with the convenience (and trust me, this is a convenience most of you will want!) of a screw-apart design. I noticed that TMBR also provides replacement axles for when (if) yours wears out or (more likely) you want to try a different kind of wood for the axle. Nice to know these are out there!
However, there were a few flaws that I wasn’t expecting. Inside the catch zone were some rough patches that can (and usually do!) occur when a cut comes across the wood end-grain “just so”. These are almost unavoidable, but I was sort of expecting something like that to be sanded smoother and possibly buffed out. The dado also had a missing sliver, again almost unavoidable but which could have been filled in with CA.
I also felt that the “transition” between the catch zone and the response area was kind of sharp and rough looking, and that the edges could’ve been smoothed out a bit.
Now, take the above with a grain of salt and let’s be realistic: this is not a $200 made-to-order yoyo. It was $30-ish. Not cheap like a Butterfly, but it’s a low price for what it is, and too much hand-finishing would cause any profit to evaporate. Pore-filling and fine-sanding take manual labour, which equals cost. We wouldn’t want TMBR out of business or to charge more, so I think it’s an acceptable trade off.
It’s also important to note that these are “first impressions”. And first impressions can change, as you will see as you read on.
The rough spots were somewhat noticeable, but not too many tricks were affected by it. It slept nicely, returned responsively, and I was doing trapeze stalls immediately. I’m barely an intermediate thrower, so I couldn’t really put it through its paces. As such, it was hard to tell if the failed UFO attempts were from the rough patches or my iffy skills (though I usually have no problem landing a UFO on a Butterfly).
All in all, throwing the Baldwin just kept bringing grins to my face. For this kind of play, it seems to be just the right weight, right size, right responsiveness… everything!
After a While:
Things just get better with some play. While I originally considered lightly sanding the transition between the response and the catch zone, I’ve thrown that away. Cotton has texture to it, and this texture is enough to polish and smooth out that area.
It’s also proving to be enough to smooth and polish the other rough spots I was mentioning. Several hours of play later, and there’s still evidence of those patches (teasing me to get out some ultra-fine sandpaper or other gentle abrasive) but I can tell that time and play will also eventually smooth those out, which is what I’m now leaning towards. There’s something that strikes me as “proper” about letting time and love put the right patina on the wood and condition it to a nice smooth finish. As time goes by, the more it makes me smile that all it takes is… well… playing with it!
That said, picky people or those who don’t want to go through that phase may be well served by using a super-fine sandpaper. Unless you consider yourself a skilled woodworker, err on the side of the finest you can find, and use a light touch. Time and patience will serve you well, and taking off too much material can’t be reversed.
There are all kinds of other things you can do to finish bare wood, but this isn’t a woodworking tutorial so I’ll spare you those. Suffice it to say, there is room to add your own touches if you so choose, in terms of aesthetics and also finish.
The design of this take-apart yoyo is top-shelf. The aesthetics are wonderful. There are a few rough patches that you can work out with a bit of time and love, or some effort with sanding/finishing.
In play, it can handle what it claims to handle with aplomb… stalls are fun and easy. I can get through most of the other tricks I know, and the sleeper is smoother than you’d think. After landing a double-or-nothing, I still have enough spin to dismount and bring it back to my hand, and that’s a guy with a less-than-confident throw. The gap is small as you would expect for a fixed-axle throw, but I could also pull off Oliver Twists and double-on Trapeze (Lindy Loops) without it instantly wambling up. This bodes well for helping me through more complex tricks as I learn them.
If you’re considering fixed-axle play and moving from 1A Unresponsive play, I think this throw is for you.