I received a notice from my daughter’s school looking for silent auction donations for an upcoming fundraiser. The funds were going towards the school’s parent council and are to be used to fund programs, and purchases, not covered by the schools budget. I thought it would be fun to donate something that was hand machined in hopes that my labor would score a decent bid and therefore increase the funds collected from the auction.

I wanted to fabricate something that would appeal to a wide audience and so I settled upon machining a yo-yo. I figured both kids and adults could enjoy the pleasures that come from rotational energy. The yo-yos I build are not pro style trick units, they do not run ball bearing axles or friction pads. The units I make are for the pure novice that can appreciate the joys that come from classic design.

The first order of business was to change the name. Although yo-yo is a generic, non-trademarked, name I felt it was too immature. Therefore instead of machining a yo-yo I opted to machine a Vacillating Vertical Pendulum. The concept is the same, only the name has changed.

Since the pendulum will be placed on an auction block I opted to machine a custom storage case for it as well. I have posted pictures of my “yo-yos” in the past but have not dedicated an entire post outlining the process. The following is jam packed with pictures showing the procedure I have developed to make a Vacillating Vertical Pendulum.


The entire process starts off with a section of 6061 aluminium. Normally I use 2.250″ stock however I was out so I was forced to start with a 2.500″.


Since there are a total of 18 holes being drilled in each half I try and keep the starting thickness down to a minimum. The final thickness of each half will be .500″. Working with a .550″ thick section allows .050″ for rough, and finished, machining.


First machining step involves facing the one side and then drilling, and tapping, a 6 mm hole .300″ deep. Look at me splitting metric and imperial.


To make the rest of the machining easier, and to avoid damaging the finish, I use an arbor I made that has a 6 mm stud.


Using the arbor I face the opposite side. No need to clean up the diameter yet.


With the 2 blanks built it is time to move onto the milling machine and set it up for the drilling of the lightening holes.


The milling machine gets dialed into the center of the blank.


Next I use the DRO (Digital Read Out) to program in the placement of all the holes.


All the holes get marked using a centering drill.


The twelve outer holes get final drilled using a .250″ drill bit. The inner 6 holes are opened up to .3125″.


The blanks start off at 110 grams (there is that metric again)


The 18 holes shave off 22 grams of weight.


Next it is back onto the lathe to clean up the inside face of the blanks.


These are the blanks prepped and ready to get the final weight machined off.


Here the diameter gets spun down to a final dimension of 2.200″.


As previously mentioned I would typically start with 2.250″ stock however in this case you can see the amount I had to take off from the 2.500″ I actually started with.


Using the arbor in the lathe chuck I face off enough material to bring the thickness down to a final .500″.


In my quest to shave off more weight I set up to trim the outer face at a 14 degree angle.


With the face trimmed up I chamfer the corners using a 30 degree angle.


With the final machining complete I clean up the edges using 320 grit sandpaper. The 30 degree chamfer, performed in the previous step, allows for a sanding of a smooth corner.


Here you can see the rough clean up on the left as opposed to the final machining on the right.


Total weight has now come down to 41 grams.


With all the machining completed it is now time to move onto the second phase of the process. Since the units are going to be anodized it is crucial that the surface finish is perfect before zapping them in an acidic bath. To make polishing easier I decided to build an arbor to help keep the machined faces from “getting away”.


2 stage polishing is adequate for the anodizing process.


The foreground face has been machined where as the background face has only been sanded using 320 grit and Scotchbrite.


This picture makes it obvious I am building 2 Vacillating Vertical Pendulums.The second one is for a friend. The polished faces have now gone through a rigorous cleaning process. Aluminum filler rod has been wedged into the 6 mm holes and they are ready to get dunked in the ano bath.


Here they all sit in a bath of sulphuric acid for 2 hours with approximately 2 amps of current flowing though the liquid.


The anodizing process is complete after the 120 minutes, it is evident that the process worked by the change in color to a light grey.


The unit that is being donated for the silent auction is being dyed a red bordeaux finished. Total time spent in the color bath is approximately 10 minutes. After that the units get boiled in water for 30 minutes to seal the color in.


This picture is kind of just stuck in the middle of everything. The axle shaft is cut from a 6 mm stainless steel threaded rod. Here the bushing , that the axle slides through, is being cut from a section of .3125″ aluminum.


These are the 2 dyed, and sealed, pendulums. Pretty!



I like to add a silver lining around each hole using a chamfer bit on a hand drill.



Since the Vacillating Vertical Pendulum requires a place to be stored I thought that a custom case would be in order. Here I started by machining down a section of 1.000″ 6062 aluminum to act as a storage perch.


A radius sliced into the top will allow for some stability when resting the pendulum on its stringed axis.


The base of the storage case was, once again, trimmed out from aluminum. A threaded 10 mm center hole will allow the center perch to attached.


The base of the storage case received a coat of matte black powder and then got baked at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.


Time to clean and assemble everything. The pendulums received a hand waxing with some Collinite’s #850.


Here are all the components, before assembly, that make up the entire project. The glass cover was purchased and the base was machined to fit.


The center storage perched was screwed into the base. Note the humidity control holes that was drilled into the base to allow for strict climate control inside the case.


The storage case received a GG decal to finish things off.


To ensure that the person who purchases the item knows that it is authentic a certificate, and specification document, was created.


  1. Nick says:

    Now that’s a project I could wrap my arms around! Very cool

    • gordsgarage says:

      Thanks Nick, it’s a fun, but time consuming, project. The results are satisfying. The anodizing adds a lot of time to the project, I am thinking I may try and powder coat next time to see how it works out.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Mark says:

    Where can we bid on the yo-yo? Which school? I think you are in Calgary, correct?

    • gordsgarage says:

      Hi Mark, I am glad there is interest in the item. Nope, not in Calgary, sorry. I talked with the auction organizer tonight and apparently the auction facility can only hold so many bodies so the attendance is going to have to be limited. Being there in person is the only way to bid and right now it looks like tickets are slim.


  3. Chris Muncy says:

    Wow does not do it justice. The certificate of authenticity is a great touch.
    Nicely done sir.

  4. Rob Woodford says:

    Beautiful workmanship!!

  5. Stu says:

    Awesome as always Gord, that red is a dangerously good looking color!!

  6. Lisette says:

    THANK YOU so much Gord for supporting the school with such a unique and amazing item for the auction.

    • gordsgarage says:

      Hi Lisette, thanks for the opportunity to contribute but more importantly thanks for all the work you are doing to organize the auction. The parent council is very fortunate to have volunteers like yourself. I hope the bidding goes well.


  7. […] only [Gord] gets to build something. He has a pretty nice machine shop, and eventually settled on building a pair of beautiful vacillating vertical pendulums. They’re yo-yos, in case you were wondering what that […]

  8. […] only [Gord] gets to build something. He has a pretty nice machine shop, and eventually settled on building a pair of beautiful vacillating vertical pendulums. They’re yo-yos, in case you were wondering what that […]

  9. guntherv says:

    Kudos for doing this and making such a lovely looking Gords Authentic Certificated Vacillating Vertical Pendulum ™ .

    From a visitor from over the pond.

  10. Alex says:

    Hey great project! If you’re looking for room to improve i’d say it would be awesome if you could apply that silver hole lining effect without causing those tiny chips in the anodization. I think that would really perfect the yo-yos.

    Well done though, this is definitely one for my project list!

    • gordsgarage says:

      Thanks Alex. Your observation stresses me out. I knew the chipping occurred when I did the chamfering. It caused me great concern. At first I thought it was a result of the bit I used. My chamfering bits get used a lot! I used a fresh, brand new, bit and things got better, but not perfect. I studied the issue very close using a loupe and the best I can tell is that it came down to a potential anodizing issue however I am still unsure. I have built these yo-yos in the past and have used the same chamfering technique with perfect results. I was more then disappointed when I saw what happened. Unfortunately I was not in a position to start over.

      I will be dedicating more time, on the next one, to figuring out why this occurred. I know many people do not like the silver ring so perhaps I leave the finish untouched after the anodizing process. I actually want to see how powder coating would work.

      Anyway…there is always room to improve. I learn the most from my mistakes. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  11. […] only [Gord] gets to build something. He has a pretty nice machine shop, and eventually settled on building a pair of beautiful vacillating vertical pendulums. They’re yo-yos, in case you were wondering what that […]

  12. Chris Muncy says:

    Umm Gord…. I’ve brought added attention to your blog…


    as a side note, when people land on your main page, it takes forever to load as all of your projects pics are trying to load up. You might want to think about having just summaries and a “click here to continue” type function.

    • gordsgarage says:

      Ummm Chris…I noticed. I get an email when the blog traffic goes unusual. I figured out what you did around 9:00 am this morning. The last time the blog views sky rocketed was when you submitted the Zombie Bat, the Vacillating Vertical Pendulum exceeded the bat.

      I appreciate that you submitted the project, it is always nice to share my work. Criticism is hard to take but that’s the reality, it’s what I get for posting on the internet.

      As far as the loading time of the main page is concerned I agree that it is most likely a result of all the pictures. It would take me some time, and research, to see if I can modify this. I suspect the problem will be short lived as the traffic is excessively high right now. In a few days things will slow down and I would hope the loading issue will resolve itself.

      Thanks for being a long time follower. Your comments, and suggestions, are always welcome and appreciated.


  13. […] only [Gord] gets to build something. He has a pretty nice machine shop, and eventually settled on building a pair of beautiful vacillating vertical pendulums. They’re yo-yos, in case you were wondering what that […]

  14. […] only [Gord] gets to build something. He has a pretty nice machine shop, and eventually settled on building a pair of beautiful vacillating vertical pendulums. They’re yo-yos, in case you were wondering what that […]

  15. J Velez says:

    Your work is amazing. I have no experience in metal fabrication but its something I have always wanted to learn. Do you have any suggestions on where to start? I am very mechanically inclined but being able to turn a blank into something beautiful is currently beyond my skills.


    • gordsgarage says:

      Thanks J, I appreciate the comment. You and I have much in common, it was my desire to fab things that helps me to continue to grow and improve. I could write pages on what you are asking however I’ll try and keep it short and to the point. I can only speak from my own experience.

      1. You need to be persistent despite failure. You learn the most by figuring out what went wrong.
      2. You need to embrace the process of the build. Many people are too anxious to reach the end goal and do not take the required steps to ensure success. The disappointing part for me is always the end because it’s over.
      3. A well planned project is a project half done. Sometimes just winging something can be fun but…frustration can easily set in when trying something new. Not having proper equipment, materials, or a plan will only make things worse.
      4. Don’t do big things poor, do small thing well. I often repeat the phrase “Why make things simple when they work just as well complicated”. I like the idea of over doing something purely for the satisfaction of the challenge but…learning lots of small things will only lead to success in larger projects. The best is when you can start to combine your skills into 1 project.
      5. Research, research, research. Before purchasing equipment or trying something new do your best to figure out where things may go wrong. Always be skeptical of what others have to say. I have learned some great things by listening to others but it has also resulted in mistakes and failure. Internet forums can be dangerous as much of what is posted can be negative and critical. You will always come out ahead by taking educated risks and trying things for yourself, do not let others scare you away from trying something.

      Enough of the philosophy, I suspect what you really want to know, in practical terms, is how to make this happen. Without knowing your situation it is hard to give direction. Are you looking to weld, machine, sheet metal fab, all of it? What kind of facility do you have available to you? Budget? Project interests? Spare time? Knowing what I know now I suspect I could turn out some cool projects even if I lived in a 1 bedroom apartment with a balcony.

      When I build some of my projects, like the Vacillating Vertical Pendulum, I have a strong desire to share the process with others. I would be thrilled to hold a weekend workshop for like minded individuals, like yourself, which would result in people turning out there own yo-yos. I am certain I can talk a mechanically inclined person, with no metal work experience, through some highly satisfying work. Unfortunately doing something like this has issues and sometimes all the red tape involved out ways the simplistic joy that it supposed to provide.

      Perhaps there are others that can shed some light on your question. There are many of us that have a continuing urge to build.


  16. Federico Compean says:

    Hello there, pretty interesting project and truly excellent work.

    I teach Introduction to Manufacturing Processes on a school over here in Mexico and I stumbled on your page as I’m preparing and activity for the kids related to manufacturing costs and machining economy.

    Since this is kind of an introductory course I opted for selecting some pieces, give them drawings and machining parameters so they can calculate some times and the general cost structure of the component.

    The detailed way in which you describe the process of manufacturing the yo-yo is excellent, so I wanted to ask you for your permission on using this piece as part of my activity.

    I would re-direct the students to this post, but it would be very helpful for me if you could share the schematic drawing image of the yo yo and maybe share some of the machining parameters and tools used along the process.

    Let me know if this is possible as I think it could help me wrap up a very interesting project for the students.

    Best regards!

    • gordsgarage says:

      Hello Frederico, I am glad you were able to stumble onto my site and take a look around. I love promoting, and encouraging, others to build and create! Your project sounds interesting and I like the fact that the students need to plan and do their homework. A project well planned is a project half done! You have my permission to use anything you need from my site, both information and projects, in order to execute your student learning project. I will PM you in order to make the transfer of any information you may require a little easier.


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