I recently got into researching throwing and buying my first throws. In some ways, that interest is simply an extension of my interests for spinning tops–namely Beyblades. Both share quite a few similarites: they’re small, spinning and mechanical, and both can be customized, albeit in different ways. Whereas Beyblade is a game that opposes two players, and as such its customizability is clearly defined and constrained by official releases, yoyos presents itself as an individual skill contest, which allows for broader and more creative, if more subtle modifications.
Getting into throwing in the current Canadian economy can be a daunting process, as the market is not very well developed in the country, whether online or through regular retail. Working against the exchange rate and the limited access to free shipping can be frustrating, especially when you end up paying for an average Duncan Drifter what an American would pay for his excellent YoYoFactory Shutter. However, since we’re not limited to officially yoyo-licensed products, there are alternatives to save a few dollars on throwing gear.
Unless you’re skilled in wood, metal or plastic craft, the actual yoyo is the most uncompromising for prices. If you do your research, you’ll see a full spectrum of recommendations, from cheap responsive yoyos to a fully unresponsive metal yoyos. Opinions will vary of course, and mine is based primarily on information gathered rather than first-hand experience, but I would say the best course of action would be the latter: buying an unresponsive metal throw, plus possibly buying a cheap fixed-axle. The reasoning is as follow: for many throwers, unresponsive metal is the destination, many dropping responsive a few hours in. Going straight to it saves you from spending money on intermediary phases. Furthermore, making an unresponsive yoyo responsive is probably easier than doing the opposite, as most responsive yoyos come with thinner bearings and fatter pads, requiring they be changed to make it unresponsive, while lubricating your unresponsive bearing accordingly should be enough to make it responsive for as long as you need.
The advantage of a fixed-axle is that it’ll probably do what you’ll want to do with a responsive yoyo–learn how to throw straight–but it’ll do it for a quarter of the price of a budget responsive since fixed-axles are the easiest to find locally. And, since they’re so cheap, using them as your beater throws seems like an overall smart option. Still, the ideal yoyo responsiveness for a beginner is the source of much debate, and I encourage you to follow it here.
Die counterweights bought at online yoyo stores generally seem to go for 2.00 $ USD + shipping; buying a die at a local hobby shop and drilling a hole through it will cost you 0.50 to 1.00 $ CAD. At ~4.50 g on average, 15 mm d6 fall short of the 1/7th weight range recommended, but bringing my scale to the store, I found that 19 mm d6 were a little under at 9.30 g and d24 were a little over, at 11.30 g.
I only really found two ways to save on strings: buy a lot or make your own. The latter can be considerably more economical (twice as many strings for the price), depending on how much you pay for your thread. You need to consider that one 5 foot string requires about 40 m of thread. Buying thread from China on eBay, is probably among the cheapest options at 1.33 $ to 1.96 $ for 914 m, netting around 22 strings (Assuming 14 m of loss on loose thread and no failures on making the strings), but so long as you get more than 150 m for your dollar, you should match the price/quantity of strings sold by american vendors before shipping.
The most common recommendations for response pads seem to be Permatex flowable silicone rather than silicone O-rings. One of its advantages is that you can purchase it at your local Canadian Tire. One tube costs the same as it would for three pairs of O-rings before shipping, making it the most affordable solution.
Bearings were not invented for the yoyo, and thus it seems silly to pay more for lubricant just because it was branded for that purpose. The most popular “alternative” option for thin lubricant seems to be oil marketed for brass instruments, which you’re likely to find in any store selling musical instruments. At converted currencies, a bottle of valve oil with the sales tax applies is still 2.00 $ cheaper than a yoyo lubricant before shipping.