Maker Interview: Shawn Nelson of One Drop Yo-Yos

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Hello, I am Jeffrey Garman and this is my second year on the Eugene mini Maker Faire Steering Committee. I am excited to present to you the first in a series of “Meet the Makers” interviews with Shawn and David, co-owners of One Drop Design. The whole committee is happy to welcome them to the Faire on June 11th.

Let’s get started!

Jeffrey: It is not common knowledge that there exists an international high-end YoYo market, and it is even lesser-known that Eugene is home to a leading designer and manufacturer of premium/luxury YoYos like the ones you produce in the One Drop Design factory. My first question is, obviously, who the fusiform-gyrus are you guys, where did you come from, and what is your superhero genesis story? (Is that three questions?)

Shawn: Yeah, David and I met in 1991 as random roommates in an apartment that was full of people coming and going. We didn’t actually meet face to face until I’d moved into the room next door to his. We were the only two guys who would get up each morning and actually go to real adult jobs, sometimes stepping over piles of sleeping strangers to make our way out of our own apartment – it was a bonding experience. We quickly realized, as you do in your twenties, that working for other people kinda sucks. We committed to starting a business together although we had no idea what it would be, or when we’d actually get around to starting.

Our first idea was to rebuild and sell vintage VW Beetles. Our business was going to be called Future Bug Paradise, named after a song. Honestly though, more time went into the clever name than the business. One day Dave saw a trinket I’d made for myself at a machine shop I worked at; he thought it was cool and that maybe we could base a business on the idea that we just make cool stuff and a few weirdos would think it cool enough to buy. Life happened and we put it all on hold for 10 years, finally setting up shop in Eugene on 01/01/01.

Jeffrey: With precision ground bearings, side mount ‘spinner’ accoutrement and psychedelic vibrant anodized aluminum hemispheres that bring the thought of Jackson Pollock to my right hemisphere, it is clear that the modern day YoYo is not the simple toy of the past. I have to say these look more like navigational gyroscopes than toys. Can you bring me up to date on what the YoYo of 2016 looks like and how it is made?

David: There are 3 things that have revolutionized YoYo performance. The first is the ball bearing. When it first debuted as a marketing item for a bearing company in the late 80s, it immediately took spin times from 20 seconds up to a couple of minutes. Things have never been the same since, and the current world record spin time is about 31 minutes.

The second is making YoYos out of precision machined aluminum. The density of this material and the precision of manufacturing is ideal for this.

The third is known as “unresponsive”. Traditional YoYos can be returned to the hand by simply tugging the string. Unresponsive means that the YoYo doesn’t return to the hand on a tug. This allows for any complexity of trick without worrying that the YoYo will accidentally “trigger” and try to come back. In order to get it to come back, you need to learn a trick called “the bind”.

These are the three main innovations, but there have been lots of other small improvements in shape, weight, weight distribution, and lately using multi-materials. We machine our YoYos on CNC lathes out of various aluminum alloys, Delrin, and titanium. The aluminum YoYos are tumbled to put a matte finish on them, and then we send them out for anodizing which puts the protective layer on as well as the color schemes. We then assemble, test and ship.

Jeffrey: I for one am very excited about having you at the Faire. Can you reveal anything about what you will have at the event? (spoiler alert) Will you be selling specially priced Faire themed YoYos and schwag, doing trick demonstrations, or perhaps having a raffle? I love raffles!

Shawn:  We will have a booth at the Faire doing demonstrations and lessons (we will have YoYos for people to try). We will also be selling YoYos at a discounted price. David and I will also be doing a talk expanding on the topics of this interview and taking questions.

Jeffrey: This is going to be the best Faire ever.

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