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The full set of Yo-Yo Physics: An Engineer's Notebook, being held in my hand. Each book has a different cover paper, but they look simple DIY zines.

Don Watson’s “Yo-Yo Physics” Zines

One of my most cherished possessions is my collection of “Yo-Yo Physics: An Engineer’s Notebook” books by Don “Captain Yo” Watson. Don is often cited as the creator of the modern yo-yo. His rim-weighted design changed the game with the Silver Bullet, then again with the Silver Bullet 2 when he created one of the first ball-bearing yo-yos.

Captain Yo at 2008 California State Yo-Yo Championship
photo by Amy Snyder, 2008 for the Exploratorium

Don is a charming fellow, often seen wearing a bolo tie and cowboy hat. I seem to remember Don had a curly handle bar mustache when I met him at the National Yo-Yo Contest in 2000, but my mind could be playing tricks on me.

Don was a retired engineer before he got into yo-yoing, but it’s clear that. he never fully retired. He applied his love of math and phsyics to yo-yos to create radical new yo-yo designs along with Dr. Tom Kuhn, founder of Tom Kuhn Yo-Yos. Later he started documenting what he learned in a series of engineer’s notebooks called Yo-Yo Physics. Each of these hand written notebooks covered a different yo-yo topic, like the Radius of Gyration or Yo-Yo RPM, and explained them using complicated diagrams and mathematical formulations.

The hand-drawn art and fun details really clicked with me, because I had been making and collecting zines for many years. So these yo-yo books fit nicely with the punk rock, cooking, DIY, and personal story zines in my collection.

Don isn’t selling these books anymore, but you can download pdfs of the series here (or here). You can also read this Make article about Don here.






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