Once I had holes through the sarado I jammed it upon my ken and with a 1/16” bit I marked the location of the hole through which the ito will pass through the ken.  I placed the ken in my V-block and once again found that it was necessary to shim up one end of the block so that the 1/16” hole to be drilled through the ken was perpendicular to the shaft of the ken. 

Fig 42 thumb


Assembly One More Time

That should have been the last machining operation necessary to assemble my kendama but, alas, it was not.  As I followed the instructions provided in the video on how to string a kendama in the traditional style I ran into a problem.  The fit of my sarado was so snug that when I tried to fit it over the knot in the ito I could not get the sarado to locate to its proper position.  Once more I had to untie the ito and chamfer the holes passing through the ken to provide a recess in which the knot at the end of the ito could seat.

Finally, success, a completed assembled kendama!  I actually turned a couple of successful kendamas.  Here is a link to the Woodturners Unlimited website where all of the kendamas turned during the challenge can be viewed. 

Fig 43 thumb Fig 44 thumb


Final Thoughts

The first thing I did after successfully assembling my kendama was try some of the tricks shown in the video Kendama Tricks Beginner First 10 Tricks.

After inflicting multiple contusions on my wrist, receiving a few bruised knuckles, and bonking myself on the forehead and nose it became obvious that this simple little toy was going to require a considerable amount of practice before I became a kendama ninja.

I reported my difficulties and injuries to my friends on Woodturners Unlimited and received the level of sympathy and compassion you would expect. My dear friend Curt Fuller, the instigator of this challenge had this to say about my misfortune, “Turning can be dangerous! We all know that. But when old guys start trying to play games with kid toys, then it can really get dangerous. I claim no responsibility for any injuries from, by, because of, etc. from making or playing with said Kendama. It's all funny until someone gets hurt, then it's hilarious!

So try turning a kendama. It is a fun and interesting challenge to properly size the parts and have them fit together as they should.

I had never turned anything quite like this project and it offered a number of challenges for me.  I learned a lot about turning while making this seemingly simple project.  I also learned why a kendama is a kid’s toy. They recover faster from bruising than we do.


About the Author


Mike Stafford thumb

Mike Stafford is a highly valued member of Woodturners Unlimited, and in addition to being a member of our critique panel, he regularly shares his expertise to help all turners improve their skills.  Mike is a teacher, writer and an accomplished turner well known for his lidded boxes.  He has taught numerous classes at John C. Campbell Folk School, demonstrates regularly and is a member of the Chapel Hill Woodturners. In addition to his turning skills, Mike is a natural writer and has been published in "Woodturning Design" and "Woodcraft" magazines as well as online magazines and numerous woodworking websites. Please take the time to check out the many articles he has written for WTU.

Mike is happy to answer any questions you have on turning a Kendama at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information on Mike, please check out the article Behind the Arts with Mike Stafford.

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Wednesday the 21st. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.