Sunday, April 11, 2010

Custom Yo-Yo Case Tutorial

It wasn't too long after I started to yo-yo before I decided I was going to actually collect them as well. Like many others that collect yo-yos, I was in need of a good place to store them while I wasn't using them. I wanted something that was utilitarian. It needed to be easy to carry, and it ultimately needed to protect my yo-yos. I also wanted it to be at least slightly aesthetically pleasing... something that would display my yo-yos and look good doing it. I lurked on the internet for a while, and decided that I wanted a Hyper Heavy Spinner Box. For those of you that know a bit about these,  you know how laughable it is to hope to find one for sale. At least everywhere online that I have looked, they are always sold out. I get the feeling that they are no longer in production. There are some more readily available alternatives out there, but none of them are quite as cool as the Hyper Heavy Spinner Box. I also considered the Black Star Case, which is 50 dollars plus shipping. That was too expensive for me. I mean, I could buy another yo-yo with 50 bucks, so I had to come up with something else.

I searched around on the internet some more and found some tutorials on how to make your own yo-yo case. The particular videos I watched made it look pretty easy, so I decided to give it a try. The hardest part for me was finding a case. Most people have some sort of appropriate case just lying around in their garage or wherever they store stuff they don't use anymore. I looked around my house everywhere and found nothing useful, so I started checking thrift stores. Eventually (for my first case), I settled on an old laptop case. My laptop "kicked the bucket" as some may say, so I really had no use for the case anymore, and it turned out to be a pretty good case for the project. I'll post pictures of it at the end of the post. After that, my buddy found another good project case for me, and generously gave it to me. He wanted a case as well. He had pretty much decided that he wasn't going extend his yo-yo collection too much, but admitted that he'd probably buy a few. Anyhow, he decided that he wanted his case to be in an old blue Pokemon lunchbox. I thought the idea was pretty clever. I haven't seen a yo-yo case like that, and it would certainly be colorful. It was big enough that I was able to get 6 holes for yo-yos in the foam, without them being too close together. That case turned out good too. I'll also post pictures of that one at the end of the blog. I'm working on the third case now, and, for the sake of the tutorial, I'll be taking pictures whenever I feel like they might be helpful.

First you'll need to get materials. Obviously, you'll need a case to put the foam in. Like I said, most people probably have something usable just lying around somewhere. If not, start hitting the thrift stores. You can find good cases at department stores and office stores, but they are usually pretty expensive, and if we wanted expensive we could just buy one of the Black Star Cases. You'll also need to get some foam. Some people use eggshell mattress material, which works fine, but for the sake of making my case look as much like an official yo-yo case as possible, I went out and bought Poly Foam. It might be called other things, but essentially it's a big square of 2 inch thick packing foam. Not like styrofoam... it's softer... kind of squishy. Anyway, if you choose to use this stuff instead of Eggshell Mattress material, you'll be able to find it at some craft stores. I got mine at Hobby Lobby. If you can't find it at a craft store, I've heard of people getting theirs from their local post office (it is, after all, packing foam) or FedEx store. Call the stores first, if you don't want to run all over town looking for it. You'll also need scissors/exacto knife/box cutter (something that is sharp enough to cut through foam easily), and a ruler or something else that is equally as useful for measuring. You'll also need a small can with the top cut off, and preferably a small cup of warm water with some dish soap or hand soap mixed in with it (weird combination, I know, but I'll explain later.)


As far as the can goes, I used a SMALL can of Hunts Tomato Paste. I don't suppose the brand or contents of the can are really a factor, but I know that for it's application in this project, it is the perfect size. Regardless, when you're next out buying groceries or rummaging through your cabinet, take your most average sized yo-yo with you. Hold your yo-yo up to the bottom of the can to compare size, because you'll want to be using a can that has roughly the same diameter of your yo-yo. It wouldn't hurt for the can to be slightly smaller than your yo-yo, but for the sake of simplicity, just make sure it's close to the same size. You are going to be using this can to make the circular cuts down into your foam, where your yo-yo will go. That being said, you've probably realized that you can't simply go out and buy a can of tomato paste and expect it to magically make holes in foam for you. You're going to have to remove the top of the can, but not in the conventional manner. Usually, you open the can by cutting a circle in the top most part of the can, inside the area that the lip of the can surrounds. In this case, however, you are going to turn the can sideways and cut on the outside of the lipped area, just below the lip. This might seem a little bit confusing to some of you, so I'm including a picture of the can before the cut, and after the cut.



I don't recommend you waste the contents of the can, (there are starving people out there that would just love to have a big glob of room-temperature tomato paste) but you do as you see fit. Anyway, now that this part is done, you can move on to the more case-related things. Lets get back to the subject of the foam. I personally wanted black foam to be in my case, but I couldn't find anything except slightly off-white foam. If you want a specific color, but can only find white foam, then you'll need to buy some sort of dye to dye the foam. The next few bits of this tutorial will be over dying the foam. If you don't care what color your foam is, or you were able to buy foam in the color you wanted, skip past this part if you want. To prepare for this part of the project, you'll need a big tub. One of those 5 dollar totes from Wal-Mart will do, or you could just use a bucket or whatever. The dye might stain the container, if you're not careful, so make sure to use something that you don't care to stain. If your container isn't big enough to fit the foam down in flat, you might have to fold the foam over a bit or do different sides of the foam separately. You might also want to keep the container in your bathtub, or better yet outside. The dye seems to get everywhere when you're doing this project, and it's nearly impossible to get the dye off of some things. It should also be noted that you should wear kitchen gloves (the big yellow ones that your mom wears to do dishes). The longer the gloves, the better. Your clothes should also be old clothes that you don't care about, or clothes that are the same color as the dye. I had to warn you, because I'm not going to be held responsible for you dying something that you shouldn't.

Black Dye

The first thing you are going to do is put warm or hot (not too hot... you don't want to burn yourself) water into the tub. Don't fill it all the way up. Just make sure there is enough to fully submerge the piece of foam. This is where you'll want to slip those kitchen gloves on. Once you have the water in the tub, you're going to open the dye carefully. If you got Rit Dye, like I did, it's in powder form, and is pretty messy. Dump the dye in the water, and let it get all mixed up in the water. Stir it with something, if you're impatient. If you got black dye, it's going to look like you have a tub full of liquid doom.

Liquid Doom

Once the dye is all mixed up into the water, put the foam down in it. The dye will start soaking into the foam immediately. You're going to want to thoroughly make sure that the foam has absorbed as much of the dye into it as possible, a bit like a sponge would absorb liquid. This will allow the dye to change the color of the foam all the way through, rather than just the outside area of the foam. To do this, make sure you submerge the foam fully, and kind of squeeze the foam while it's under the surface of the water. That will help the foam absorb the dye. Turn the foam, flip the foam, fold the foam... do what ever, just make sure that the entirety of the foam has had the chance to absorb the dye into it. 

 Immediate Soakage!

Make sure to soak every part.

Totally Submerged

After you've thoroughly soaked the foam, take it out of the water and hold it over the tub, to let a lot of the excess water drain out of it. After that, squeeze the foam tightly to wring out any extra water. Note that you're not going to be able to squeeze the foam until it's dry, unless of course you intend to squeeze the foam in direct sunlight for about 6 hours. Make sure that, while you're squeezing the foam, that you don't rip it. Anyway, by squeezing out all of the excess water, you'll be able to get a good look at the foam, to determine if there are any areas that are lighter than others. If the color of the foam is splotchy, or looks uneven, just throw it back into the tub and soak it again. Check it again after you're done soaking it again, and just continue to repeat the process until all of the uneven or splotchy places are gone. When you're satisfied with the look of it, just wring it out really well again (preferably to the point where water is no longer dripping from it), and set it on a flat surface. I like to put mine outside on a flat surface on top of a layer of old newspaper ads. That keeps dirt off of the underneath side of the foam. I also like to let mine lie in direct sunlight. That really speeds along the drying process. It might take a day or two for the foam to be totally dry. It really just depends on if it's overcast outside, or if its humid. Obviously, you wouldn't want to let it sit out in the rain, as that would be counterproductive. 
Splotchy Color

Wring It Out

 Lay It Out To Dry

Some of you have been lucky enough to skip directly to this part. For those of you that haven't been so lucky, it's okay, because once the thing is dry, the hardest part is over. This is where your case is really going to start shaping up. The next step is pretty straight forward. Take your ruler (or other measuring tool) and figure out the dimensions of the inside of your case. Once you have those measurements, you're going to want to cut your foam a tad bit larger than the dimensions of the case, just to be on the safe side. I'm not sure how it works, but if you cut it to the exact dimensions, it somehow always manages to be too small for the case, which is insanely frustrating, especially if you've only bought one piece of foam. Also, it's worth mentioning that if the corners inside the case are rounded, you'll want to cut the tip of the corners of your foam off. If you don't, the rounded corners of the inside of the case will push in on the squared corners of your foam, and will cause the foam to warp slightly. After it's been cut, push the foam into the case and see how it fits. There is a chance your foam will be just a tad bit too large for the case, because of how we cut it too large just to be safe, so you might have to trim a little off. If you get lucky, the little bit extra that we left on might cause the foam to fit perfectly snug into the case. 

 Already Cut Foam and Case

Fits Good
If you're wanting the placement of your yo-yos to be pretty symmetrical, the next step could get a little tedious. Now, because I'm sure you don't want your yo-yos just scattered about in the case, and you probably want them in nice, even rows, you're going to want to make a template. Obviously there are ways around making a template, while still achieving symmetry, but for this tutorial, I'm going to explain how I went about doing it. First, I measured the dimensions of the foam. Then, I sat some of my yo-yos in rows along the top side of the foam, to determine how many yo-yos I could fit in one row without it being cluttered. Turns out, I could have 4 rows, and 5 columns of yo-yos. So, because I'm planning on storing 20 yo-yos in this case, I need to divide the foam into 20 equal parts. To do this, you take the width of the foam, (mine was 15 and 5/16ths of an inch wide) and divide that by how many columns you want. As it turns out, I'm going to have 5 columns that are each 3 and 1/16th of an inch wide. So I orient a piece of printer paper like the foam (landscape in my case) and create a series of vertical lines on the paper, each 3 and 1/16th of an inch apart. I was only able to fit three full 3 and 1/16th inch sections on the sheet of paper, but don't worry, we'll improvise later and there won't be any problems.

 Vertical Lines on Paper

Next you'll want to measure how tall your foam is. Mine was 11 and 1/2 inches tall, and I wanted 4 rows of yo-yos, so in order to figure out how tall each row would be, I took the height of my foam, and divided it by the number of rows I wanted. In my case, each row needed to be 2 and 7/8th inches tall. So, starting from the top left corner of the paper, I measured down 2 and 7/8th inches and made a line all the way across the paper, and measured from that line down another 2 and 7/8th inches. I could only fit two rows on my sheet of paper, but like I said, we'll improvise later. 

 Grid on Template

Now the first part of your template is done. I included the dimensions of my squares on the paper just for reference, and unless you're using the same size foam as me, your dimensions are going to be different. The shaded in areas at the bottom and side are not fully sized. I like to cut off the portions of the paper that won't be used in the template, but you don't have to. Just note that, in the rest of the pictures of the template, the extra portions are going to be removed. Maybe I make this next part harder than it needs to be, but I like to make sure the next part is pretty exact. So, I take each square used in the template, and divide it into 4ths. That means I divide it in half vertically, and I divide in half horizontally. Where the two lines cross will be the exact center of the square. If you have a compass, the next part is a breeze. Just measure out from the center of a medium-sized yo-yo to the edge of the yo-yo with your compass, and put the needle of the compass at the point where the two lines intersect in the middle of your square, and draw a circle. If you did it right, the circle will be exactly the size of your yo-yo, and it will be dead centered in the square. If you're like me and don't have a compass (pathetic, I know), you are going to have to try to position the center of the yo-yo on the intersect in your square, and trace the outer edge of the yo-yo. This method often leads to imperfection, so if you have a compass, I suggest using it. After you're done drawing the circles in the squares, use an exacto knife or scissors to cut the circles out. Do this carefully. The holes should be big enough that you can fit the empty tomato paste can through.

Lines to find the center of each square.
 Circles centered in squares.
Can fits through cut-out circles. 

You're almost done at this point, and I'm sure you can guess what is getting ready to happen next. First, you'll align the top left corner of your template with the top left corner of your foam. If you've cut off the corners of your foam, you can improvise by lining the top and left edges of your template with the top and left edges of your foam, respectively. Now, you remember that cup of water and soap that I mentioned? No, it's not necessary, but it is pretty useful. Once your template is lined up, you are going to be using the cut side of the can to push through the template, and cut through your foam. If you stick the rim of the can in the cup of soap and water and turn it, it will lubricate the can so it cuts through the foam more easily. This could result in less snags in the foam, and ultimately, a smoother cut. Now, when you're using the can to cut the foam, some people like to only twist the can one direction and others like to twist it back and forth. Either way, you DON'T need to put a lot of pressure on it. If you do, it will pull the foam down, and can lead to inaccurate cuts. Sometimes this will cause you to tear the foam or cut crooked and through an area that you shouldn't. Your best bet is to just apply enough pressure to get the thing to cut when you twist it, and thats not a lot of pressure at all. Take your time with this part. You can potentially ruin the entire project if you rush through it. 

 First Cut

When you've cut all the way through the foam, continue twisting the can and pull it out of the foam. You should have a cylindrical "cork" of foam. It'll be stuck in the can and you'll probably have to pull it out. Save these. I like to cut them in half or in fourths and stuff them down into the bottom of the holes, to act as a cushion against the bottom of the yo-yo. I'm cutting one of them in half and using a bottle cap to cut through the foam, to act as an insert because I intend to buy a Mighty Flea or a Big Deal in the near future. Or, if you don't want the holes to be open when they aren't being used, you can stuff the cork back down into the hole, and just pull it back out when you want to put a yo-yo in it's place.


There are multiple uses for the corks.

You might remember from when I mentioned it earlier, but I said we'd improvise at a certain part because we couldn't get 20 squares on a single sheet of paper. Well, when you've cut all the circles that are on the template, just move it over. You'll want to keep the left most holes lined up with the holes you've already cut in the foam. The remaining holes will be over the uncut foam, and you can continue to cut them in proper rows and columns.


Looking at the finished product, you'll notice that the bottom row is hardly aligned with the rest of the holes. The only thing that I can come up with as to why is the fact that I underestimated how much space the chopped corners would take up. Because of this, I had to shift the bottom row up slightly, and on the bottom right hole specifically, I had to shift it drastically to the left, meaning I had to shift the hole to the left of it slightly to the left as well. All in all, the case turned out well. Here are pictures of all three cases. The one on the left is my first case. I recently removed the rectangular area from the bottom right part of the foam as an experiment. It didn't turn out as good as I wanted it to, but I can easily store accessories and string in there now.  The one in the middle is my buddys case. It's small, it's efficient, and it's Pokemon. Can't go wrong. The one on the far right is the one that I was working on for this tutorial. You'll notice in the bottom right corner that I used one of the corks as an adapter, of sorts, to make storing Mighty Flea-sized yo-yos possible. Over all, I'm pretty satisfied with the way the case turned out. If you have any questions about case making, feel free to contact me, and perhaps I can help you out.

Closed Cases

Open Cases

1 comment:

  1. I know this is old, but I wanted to say thank you. It helped a lot. I never would have thought about dying the foam with "liquid doom".