When should I change my string... heh?


http://www.theyo.com/yoyo/images/smilies/icon_banana.gif http://www.theyo.com/yoyo/images/smilies/icon_banana.gif (The long awaited dissertation on string care and feeding) http://www.theyo.com/yoyo/images/smilies/icon_banana.gif http://www.theyo.com/yoyo/images/smilies/icon_banana.gif

“Before it breaks is a good rule of thumb.” is the advice over at Dave’s Yo-Yo Talk(*).

Generally the advice is to change the string when it:

  1. shows signs of wear or fraying.
  2. looks dirty or grey.
  3. feels stiff or hard. (Looses it’s spring)

This is good advice from the experts in the field. However, some elucidation is in order to clarify things a bit. The FAQ at Dave’s Yo-Yo Talk goes on to say that you should inspect the area around the slip knot. If you see any loose strands in this area ditch the string immediately. Look for a reduced diameter or constriction in the slip knot area. This is a prelude to a breakage there. Another place to look for wear or fraying is right at the outer edge of the yoyo. This is especially true for “imperial” style yoyos. I have had a few strings break due to wear here, but usually at the slip knot. Looping is especially hard on strings and causes wear in both areas.

How about wear around the axle loop? In my own experience I have never broken a string due to wear at this point. It’s always been at the outer rim or at the slip knot. Maybe I don’t sleep my yoyos long enough or hard enough to cause wear in this area. This is generally a non-issue with bearing yoyos. YMMV

Another factor in string wear is the coating on a yoyo. Anodization and other coating processes can cause the string to wear abnormally fast. The Anti-Yo Fluchs and Eetsit come to mind here. This can be alleviated to a very large degree by rubbing the yoyo body with a towel or piece of denim without marring the surface noticeably.

OK, what about other signs? As noted above, a dirty or stiff string is a sign it needs replacing. A stiff string is close to breaking.

What causes this? Oil on your hands is readily transferred to the string every time you handle it to wind the yoyo. This in turn attracts and collects dirt, again probably from your hands. A dirty string is usually a stiff, brittle string. How to avoid this? Keep your hands clean. For instance, don’t eat PIZZA!!! HMMMMMMMM PIZZA!!! when you yo. Handle your string as little as possible. “Well then how am I supposed to wind the string then?”, you might say. One way is to learn to do the thumb flip trick and wind it that way. Myself - I’ve never been able to do that very well (at all). What I do is to try to avoid sliding the string through my fingers when winding. Instead I grab the string 10-12 inces from the yoyo, wind that part, then grab it again a similar distance from the yoyo and wind, repeating until I get to the end, or at least far enough that I can do a gravity drop and pull it up wound to the finger loop.

Other signs that your string needs to be replaced soon are if it has developed a noticeably permanent, tight twist, or has lost all of its stretch or springiness (it’s stiff). If you throw it down and it thunks on the end of the string, it has lost it’s spring. If the string won’t unwind or “relax” satisfactorily it’s worn and stiff, and needs to go.

A worn string will be evident in the play of the yoyo. If various moves or tricks that you normally can do become hit or miss, that could be a sign that your string is bad. You may see this particularly in loops, even if you can normally do only say five to ten good loops, and all of a sudden you can’t do any very well. As the string wears and becomes tighter or stiffer, the play of the string will deteriorate and have an effect on the moves you can do.

Another sign is if you notice a distinct snap, crackle and pop during loops or a hard throw down. If you’re not eating rice crispies at the time (remember, you shouldn’t be eating anyway), replace the string immediately. That’s the sound of strands snapping.

What other factors affect the life of a string? Well, your skill level for one. Looping for instance is hard on strings, and if you are learning, your string will wear faster due to the inevitable rubbing of the string on the yoyo until you get pretty good at it.

Colored string is another factor. Colored strings wear out faster than plain white strings. The dye in the colored strings makes them stiffer to begin with, and they tend to break down faster. I use colored string only as a last resort. They seem to last about half as long as plain white ones for me.

  • Note that this applies primarily to cotton string. Slick 6/8, 100% poly and other new strings do not exhibit this a lot.  (**)

Strings often need a break-in period, but a worn string will definitely affect the performance of your yoyo. Don’t try to wring the last bit of useful life out of them. Change them often (“Before it breaks”)!!

p.s. - This is based on things I have read here, in other forums, and personal experience. I just thought it would be good to get it all down in one place.

Update 11/11/03
** Note from Dale Oliver: “The poly/cotton blends (slick 6/8) wear much longer than 100% cotton. I have not noticed the dyed slicks wearing faster than the white although I agree with you about the dyed cotton strings.”

Edited by: jhb8426 2/14/03

Update: jhb8426 10/15/o6

Update: jhb8426 10/19/10
Note: This was originally written in another time and place far, far away when cotton was king and slick 6/8 was starting to gain momentum. Be that as it may, the concepts and factors are still relevant with newer type strings.

How to put a string on:
Note - links currently broken.
For a very nice illustration, go here:

(Courtesy of Yomega)

Useful modification & maintenance guides -- clean, repair, tune, fix yoyos

great post, thanks

actually, many beginners would be happy to see pictures of worn strings of most types next to the same model of string, but new, I know I’d appreciate it