DIY: Strings!

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but a couple months ago I decided that I wanted to get back into photography. In addition to properly staging and lighting pictures (with exception to these DIY projects), I also wanted to make some matching strings for my throws.

There are a lot of great string making tutorials on YouTube and I highly suggest watching as many as possible. I’ve borrowed many tips from them all, but primarily focus on visuals over performance.

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Making strings is incredibly simple and inexpensive, especially considering how much custom strings can improve a picture. All you really need is a drill, a hook screw and some sewing thread. I would highly recommend having a couple S-Hooks as well.

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I make my first anchor point with an elastic band and one of the S-Hooks. This handy stepping stool also doubles as a shelf, but a door handle will work just fine.

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Using the hook screw as a drill bit, create a second anchor point about 10 feet away. If, in the end, your strings are too short, then increase the distance next time. It’s worth experimenting to find your own preferences. Once your two anchor points are in place, pick your first string and create a small loop knot. It really doesn’t matter what type of knot you make, as long as it has some form of hoop that slides on the hook.

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Begin threading laps between the two hooks. I typically use 8 full runs (16 total threads), but this is easily adjustable. When matching a colourway, I’ll use the most visible colour as my primary string colour (4 laps) and divide the rest.

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You’ll have to make more hoop knots every time you start or finish with a colour. This is by far the worst part of the entire process. Each time I tie off a thread, I’ll run my hands along the string to make sure there aren’t any tangles or kinks.

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Once done, I’ll slip the second S-Hook between the strings and the drill hook. This will make it much easier to remove a few steps down the line.

Which brings me to the most important tip:

*Keep tension on the string for the rest of the process*

Once you begin winding the string, even the smallest amount of slack will cause it to twist up on itself. At that point, you’ll have to toss out the thread and start over again. It’s not hard to keep tension on the string; you just have to pay close attention.

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Now that setup is done, you can start winding the string. Make sure your drill is set to spin clockwise. Start slow; if you immediately slam on the drill, the string won’t tighten evenly. You can find many helpful tips on how long to tighten the string, or how much it should compress, but I’d recommend experimenting for yourself. I keep my strings a bit loose for photography, as the individual threads tend to stand out more. Once you’ve made a dozen strings or so, you’ll get a general feel for when it’s ready.

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Once you’re done tightening, you’ll have to fold the string in half. This is where the S-Hooks come in very handy. Keeping tension on the string, I’ll take the S-Hook in one hand and guide the string through the drill’s hook. Leaving the drill on the floor, I’ll walk the the string across the room and hook it to the first anchor point. Dragging the drill behind you will keep tension on the string.

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Hook the two S-Hooks together and go back to the drill. The string will need to be wound in the opposite direction, so make sure your drill is now set to counter-clockwise. Begin slowly spinning the two halves together. This part won’t take nearly as long as the first round. Keep an eye on the forming string and once it looks like it’s done, you can allow some slack, remove the string from the two hooks, and let it come to a neutral tension on its own. Tie the string off past the frayed end pieces of thread and trim.

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When attaching to your yo-yo, make sure that your bearing goes through each of the thread loops, as they may not be as compact as retail strings.

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I would also recommend keeping strings as bright as possible, if you are planning on throwing with them. Dark strings can be fairly difficult to see in most indoor settings.

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Once you get the procedure down, it only takes about 10 minutes to make a string. Again, there are some great tutorials on YouTube that use rigs and bench setups, making the whole process even easier. I made all of these strings (plus about a dozen more) using just the thread spools in the first image.

I highly recommend giving string making a try. At the very least, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the physics behind yo-yo strings.

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