How long is a piece of string?
A good way to measure the length of your diabolo string is to let the hand sticks drape loosely across your thumbs and extend your arms out. The string should be the length of your arm span. Although shorter strings can be desirable for two and three diabolo tricks, I keep my strings this length.
Fritz and I have an entire spool of diabolo string that we ordered from Dubé. It was not very expensive and has enough string to last a LONG time. If you just want to buy string from a hardware store, look for mason!s twine. You will want a twine that is woven, not twisted. Avoid cotton since it stretches and gets dirty easy. I try to keep my string replaced very often. It keeps the action of the diabolo true.
A good way to thread you hand sticks is to counter sink the holes. The holes in my hand sticks are usually drilled about 1 cm from one end of the stick. The holes are usually about 4-5mm diam. Use a 7-8mm drill bit and drill on the outside of the stick half way in. This give the knot in the string some place to hide.
________________ ___ |___| | | | | <-- Cross section of hand stick. _________________| |____|
Once the hole are drilled, thread the string and tie the knots to the desired length. Wrap the ends with some very thin gauge wire to finish the knots. Wedge the wire wrapped ends into the counter sunk holes. Viola! Smooth on both sides of the stick. No knot to catch when doing hand stick tricks. If you want to get really fancy, drop a dab of silicone epoxy on the hole to really smooth the stick.
I have found that a good AVERAGE length for most tricks can be found thusly: tie one end onto one stick (see below for some methods), lay that stick on the floor between your feet and bring the string up to between your lower lip and chin.
It is easier to learn with a shorter string (up to your Adam's apple [or for you ladies, two or three finger widths down from your chin]) but you get more spinning speed (and thus, more tricks per spin) from a longer string.
Different tricks work better with different lengths. Close to the body tricks (i.e. jumping the diab over your upper arm, or running it under your backward leaning head) work better with shorter strings. Swing tricks (around the world, etc) and string-wrap tricks (cats cradle) work better with long strings.
You have to plan your series of tricks and find a length that accommodates all your tricks.
Nobody can tell you what is correct, you have to discover your own preferences.
I like these methods because you can use the little knot on the side of the stick to catch and hold the string for some string-wrap tricks (ex: after setting up Cat's Cradle, you can pull your hands apart and point the tips slightly towards each other. This lets the strings 'ride up' the sticks until they catch on the knots. This is a midway point towards a dismount of your choice). Maybe that was confusing, no?
| | | STRING | / STRING /K\ || STICK / \ K KNOT \ || / \||/ || || ||This method results in NO KNOTS against the stick. Maybe it looks a little nicer, I 'dunno.
I suppose there are many strings in Europe that we don't have in the States, and many strings in each region of the States that aren't in others. I use string called MASON'S LINE (no relation to Jeff). It is woven as opposed to spiraled. The spiraled string tends not to hold up well. It shreds more readily. The woven (or cross-hatched) style lasts a lot longer. Use synthetic as opposed to cotton for the same reason.
I like thin string instead of thick as I feel it lets the diab spin longer with less friction trying to slow it down during tricks. I think string about as thick as #18 is good (I don't know what these numbers refer to, it says #18 on the label). I understand there is a KITE STRING being sold that is also woven and is very thin. Some of the crap I've received with the purchase of diabs could not possibly work well and may well discourage new diaboloers before they ever get a chance to learn correctly.
Extra note about style of diabolo for beginners:
(FLAME ON) Don't try to learn with the plastic whistling diabolos that have flat ended NON-CONE-SHAPED discs on the ends. The center of gravity is so wide on these little buggers that you will suffer terribly just trying to get them spinning before they twist to the right/left. They're OK to play with later (after you've learned how to control the left/right turning habits) because the noise they produce is really loud and annoying and we know that's very useful sometimes (street performers take note). (FLAME OFF)
Hope this helps more than it confuses.
I bought some 2 mm woven nylon string from Black's (mountaineering and outdoor stuff). The friction is so low that I can't do string climbs any more, but as everything else works better I got myself 30 m of the stuff at 25 pence per meter. I don't know who makes it, but the string is white with bits of blue in it...
...I just built myself handsticks out of hollow fibreglass spars bought in a kite shop (Wind Things in Edinburgh). They are thinner than the standard wooden sticks and have so much less friction that I had to relearn my stick grinds. The string goes through the handsticks and comes out at the handles. I tied a knot each end to stop it slipping through. The glass fibres are unidirectional. To prevent them from splitting at the ends I wrapped some string around the ends and smeared some epoxy over it. To reduce chafing I have rubber inserts where the string exits, also bought at the kite shop. The sticks weigh about 60 g, compared to 100 g for the standard wooden sticks. Apart from the epoxy reinforcement at the end all of this was another guy's idea whose name I don't know. I recommend those sticks. Have fun building them. If someone actually does and has problems, email me.
Fire Diabolo's will melt through most strings, so be sure that you get a proper one. CircuStuff sent me a kevlar string that is fabulous, and because it is semi-coarse, it is possible to get a regular diabolo spinning very fast, very quickly. You might as well just use kevlar string all the time.