Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Old but still Fresh - Part #5

Initially, when we went through the list of yo-yos we thought would be good in our “Old but still Fresh” article, we weren’t sure if the Freehand 1 would fit into this category. After all, the Freehand 1’s design still lives on in today’s Freehand Zero, with minor alterations. But after much consideration, we decided that to NOT put this yo-yo in our hall of fame would be unacceptable!

Besides, the Freehand 1, in our opinion, was the yo-yo that opened doors to the next wave of new-generation yo-yos.

Duncan Freehand 1

Regarded by some as the father of modern day yo-yos, the Freehand 1, which was designed by National Yo-Yo Master Steve Brown and marketed by Duncan, was the first yo-yo to specialize in the Counterweight, or Freehand, or 5A division. The yo-yo sported a wide gap, which was not new to the yo-yoing world, but seldom a feature integrated into the designs of yo-yos during that period.

With other companies churning out yo-yos that were more streamline, the Freehand 1 was considered by some to be a yo-yo meant for amateurs due to its wide gap, which wasn’t favored by some who felt slim line yo-yos were harder to hit on string, making it more challenging. 10 years down the road, almost every yo-yo manufactured today sports a wide gap.

Technological Makeup

The Freehand 1’s guts are basically your typical Duncan/Proyo setup - Brass spacers, bearing, and a padded response system.

With adjustable string gaps being quite the hype back in the day, O-rings, which offered “adjustable” gaps were provided to give the Freehand 1 the ability to set a specific bearing gap whenever and wherever, for those who were particular about their yo-yo setup.

The difference between the old bearing seat area and the new Freehand Zero bearing seat would be the area where the O-rings are placed.

From the picture, you can see the Freehand 1 (Left side) has a raised core, as compared to the Freehand Zero (Right side) which no longer adopts this setup.

Sizing Up

There’s really no reason to dislike this yo-yo. It’s fantastic! With just one slightly worn friction sticker, it handles almost everything we throw at it, except thumb grinds and horizontal tricks (not that great at maintaining its horizontal form). Flops were done at ease, so were slacks, boing boings, lacerations etc. Whatever we threw at it, it could handle.

Though the shape and make up of the Freehand Zero is almost similar to that of the Freehand 1, any Freehand 1 owner will tell you that there is a difference in play between the both of them. It’s indescribable, it just feels more solid? Better? You will have to try it for yourself!

The Bad

Some might consider the need to constantly replace response pads to be a hassle. Then again a number of players today adopt some sort of response pad system to begin with so it’s not so much a flaw since it is well accepted in the community these days.

The one thing we did not really like about the Freehand 1 though, was due to the fact that it uses a single-injection mould (Plastic is poured into the Freehand mould through a single point), its plastic isn’t as well distributed as the Freehand Zero, which was manufactured with a 3-point injection mould, making it more stable. This meant that not all Freehand 1s play well. We have had 1 or 2 which were quite a pain to play with because they wobbled so much, whereas the ones that were at their sweet spot faired better than your average Freehand Zero.


The Duncan Freehand has come a long way, seeing through a couple of plastic generations (Freehand 1, Freehand 2, Hyper Freehand, Freehand Zero, Freehand 2010, Freehand Zero with Pulse Technology) and 3 metals (Metal Freehand Gen 1 & 2, Freehand MG). All of this wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for the Freehand 1, which to many will definitely consider it LEGENDARY!

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