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A collection of frequently asked questions about looking after your kendama. This resource will be added to. If you have any questions you would like answered here please contact us!
All Kendama will suffer wear during play. The paint on the ball will chip, the wood may chip. This is normal wear and tear and is not covered by any warranty. In most kendama the wooden pieces are pushed together with no glue being used. This is by design, and is not a fault. Wood is a natural material: finish and weight will vary.
Kendama are not recommended for children under 12 years old. It is possible to cause injury when playing with a kendama. We accept no responsibility or liability for any accident or injury resulting from the use of kendama. Please play with kendama with care.
How to maintain your kendama
My kendama has come loose!
How to glue your kendama
Why is my kendama string stiff?
My kendama has chipped wood!
The paint on my kendama ball has chipped!
Which kendama are "Competition" kendama?
Loose Yumu Kendama Pegs
How to restring a right handed kendama
Setting up your kendama for left handed play
What are OG Ozora?
It is very important to ensure your kendama is tightly fixed and that the string is in good condition. Kendama should not be used by young children because they can come apart during play and break objects or cause injury including broken teeth. Please play with care. Make sure the kendama string is not worn or frayed. The string will wear out over time and is a user replaceable part. Please replace your string regularly. Note that on some kendama models the string is ONLY held on the kendama by the tightness of the joint between the crosspiece and the stem. So it is vital that this tightness be maintained. Routinely check that the crosspiece is firmly fixed to the kendama stem. If it is loose, please follow the guide given in "My kendama has come loose" below to tighten the crosspiece onto the stick.
On a traditionally constructed kendama there are no glued parts. The pieces push together. If your kendama cross piece becomes loose, you should fit it back on to your kendama using the following procedure:
1. Put the ball on the spike.
2. Ensure the string is not tangled at all.
3. Place the kendama vertically on a firm surface.
4. Rest a magazine or something similar on the ball to protect it.
5. Give the ball a sharp tap with a hammer or other similar weighty object. Not too hard! Just a firm tap to complete the joint. There may be a small sound coming from the kendama which is normal. This is the sound of the two pieces of wood being squeezed together.
There is very little chance of damaging any parts if done in this way but you must do this at your own risk.
In competition play many players like to ensure that nothing comes loose on a kendama. You can achieve this using a drop of superglue. With the kendama assembled with the crosspiece nice and tightly fitted using the procedure described above, place one drop of superglue on the joint between the crosspiece and the stem. It is best to use the opposite side to the hole. This will keep everything together during even the wildest moves! If you want to change the kendama string or ball it is easy to break the Super Glue seal and take the kendama apart. It is NOT recommended to use a wood glue or PVA type glue to fix your kendama. Wood glue is absorbed by the wood and forms a more permanent bond, and will not come apart easily. It is more likely to cause the wood to splinter. Again, if you choose to glue your kendama you do so at your own risk.
This is normal! It is not a fault. The strings used on kendama vary by make, but traditional competition kendama strings are made of a slightly stiff often flattened white thread. I think this is because the stiffness helps you better perform tricks with the kendama and is also less prone to tangles.
It is common for a kendama to chip during play. The wood may break along the grain, especially around the cups of the kendama. This does not mean you have a faulty kendama! Wood is a natural material is not of uniform strength; breaks may occur due to many factors such as humidity, heat, and usage. If your kendama has a chip or split, where a piece of wood has broken from the kendama, then a strong repair can easily be made using some good quality wood glue. The white PVA type is very effective and will bond the wood back together. Some tape can be used to hold the piece of wood in place whilst it glues. If the break is along the grain then the repair should be almost invisible and will be as strong as the natural wood. Of course, if you want an (almost) unbreakable kendama then you could buy a plastic model!
It is quite normal for the paint on the ball of the kendama to chip: over time the ball will get quite battered, the paint will be chipped off during play and will become patchy. This is not a fault and happens on all kendama to some degree.
Some kendama makes will chip faster than others, due to different types of paint being used. The paint is a compromise between durability and playability. Some players prefer the ‘stickier’ paint such as that found on the Dragons and Ozora kendama, which they find better for advanced play or certain tricks, but can be less hard wearing. ‘Sticky’ paints tend to be less robust. Harder paint finishes (the TK16 is said by many to have a tougher paint) can be more slippery, making some tricks harder to perform. A more expensive kendama does not necessarily mean a harder wearing paint.
The loss of paint on the ball should not affect play. For many, a well-worn kendama is the sign of a serious player who puts in a lot of practice and becomes a bit of a status symbol!
Some kendama players are naturally more aggressive in their play style and this will be reflected in the level of wear and tear the kendama shows. Younger and new kendama players who are learning will tend to wear out the paint on a kendama more rapidly as they will miss more tricks. Some tricks are faster and more damaging to a kendama when not executed perfectly! A kendama can look quite well used after just a few hours of intense use.
Chipped paint is normal wear and tear and is not covered by any warranty.
Traditional kendama are made from wood (usually beech) and consist of five parts, namely:
The ken or stick
The crosspiece or cup body
The ball or tama
The pointed end of the ken is called the spike or point (kensaki) and is used for catching the ball. The cup on the base of the ken is the center cup (chuuzara). The crosspiece or sarado has a cup at each end: the small cup (kozara) and the big cup (oozara). The ball (tama) has a hole drilled part-way through it on which to catch the ball on the spike. The edge of the hole is deliberately beveled (chamfered) to a larger diameter to make it easier to catch the ball on the spike. On traditional kendama the ken and crosspiece are not glued in place. This is so you can easily take the crosspiece from the ken to replace the string. It also allows you to convert the kendama to left handed use. Kendama string is usually around 38 centimeters long, or less for junior players. The longer the string, the more difficult tricks become. The Ball diameter varies but is typically about 60mm in diameter on a standard sized kendama. Wood is a natural material and the weight will vary, the ball can be as light as 50g to over 75g. The paint used and the finish of the ball affects the slipperiness of the ball. Some experienced players prefer particular kendama models because of the perceived differences in how the ball behaves during play. Some players describe some models as being more 'sticky'.
Traditionally, the only kendama considered true 'competition standard' kendama were those endorsed by the Japanese Kendama Association (or JKA). These include the Ozora, TK16 Master, Shin Fuji, Mugen and Sakura. JKA Approved competition kendama carry a special JKA logo on the stem of the kendama. JKA Approved kendama are the only models that can be used in JKA kendama competitions (held in Japan), and they conform to criteria set by the JKA for weight, shape, finish etc.
Note that the kendama awarded JKA approved status change over time as new models are introduced and old models are no longer made. The world of kendama is evolving rapidly and we are seeing the establishment of new National Kendama Associations, such as the British Kendama Association and the European Kendama Association. These new organisations are sanctioning their own designs and makes of kendama, and introducing their own logos on the stem of the approved kendama. So the answer to the question of which kendama are true competition kendama now also depends on which country the competition is being held in, and the rules of the competition organisers. For example, the competition rules of the British Kendama Association for the European Kendama Open 2011 state that the "All tricks must be performed with a JKA-sanctioned or EKA-sanctioned kendama." (source: BKA Web Site http://kendama.tlmb.net/EKO2011.html July 2011). At the time of writing, if in doubt buy a JKA Approved kendama if you want a competition standard kendama.
The spikes in Yumu kendama can be too small for the holes. This is a common complaint but has a simple fix: wrap a bit of tape around the peg to create a snug fit in the Yumu hole.
The manufacturer deliberately makes the pegs a bit smaller than the holes. This is in part so that the wood does not swell and lock them in place, and also because wood is a natural material and the dimensions will vary during machining.
Yumu have a video addressing this query here:
If you need to change your kendama string, it is easy to forget how the string was fixed to the kendama! The photo below shows how the string is attached on a right handed kendama. The string is knotted at both ends to help prevent the string pulling through the hole in the stem and ball. The end inside the ball usually also has a bead behind the knot. Tip: a paperclip is very useful for pushing the string back through the holes.
Kendama are sold set up for right handed play, so that the string comes out of the hole to the left of the large cup (ozora). See the top photo below. To convert a kendama for left handed play you need to restring the kendama so that the string comes out of the opposite hole on the cross piece. Ie so that the string comes out of the hole to the right of the large cup (oozara). See the second photo below. Note that a paperclip is very useful for pushing the string back through the holes.
Right Handed Kendama setup
Left Handed Kendama setup
OG or Original Generation Ozora were made using a different type of paint and are no longer manufactured. Some kendama players like the OG Ozora because they prefer the paint that was used on the tama (ball). OG Ozora have become quite collectible. As we understand it, Ozora changed the paints used in late 2011 to get safety certification for the US market. The OG paints have a slightly different feel in play, perhaps due to the different chemical composition.
OG Ozora are difficult to identify. The most obvious difference is the colour or hue of the paint. The manufacturing process was slightly different too - OG Tama were painted directly on the wood while new generation Ozora are painted on an undercoat of white primer. OG tamas also have fine horizontal lines on the paintwork, which are more distinct than the new generation Ozora. The difference is minor and would not be noticed by most players but the OG Ozora have acquired a bit of a mystique and are in great demand!