Begleri Buyers Guide
Like any sport or hobby, the equipment is both a huge part of the hobby, and at the same time almost irrelevant. If you play basketball, you need to have a ball. But do you need to have the $200 official NBA ball to start with, or will the $5 thrift store ball work to get you going? Yoyo players face this dilemma all the time, and the question was answered a few years ago when a World Champion won the national title with a $12 beginner yoyo. The simple answer is that you need whatever you can get your hands on that will work to build the skills. After that everything is ‘want’
The available products on the market range from $1 for a set of mass produced plastic cheap quality Chinese beads to near $100 for high end titanium beads. The joy of begleri is that unlike yoyo or kendama, precision and balance are less a factor. You need a pair of beads that are reasonably close to the same shape and weight, but they can be hand made, crafted from just about anything you can get your hands on. The standard cord to use is paracord, but you can make you own cord out of anything that isn’t going to snap when slinging and will hold a knot.
Once you get past the start up and into the area of “want” you are looking at a wide range of choices. I’m going to cover a few options in different price ranges with some of my opinions on them. I’ll be sticking to beads I’ve actually played with, which for the most part limits the discussion to what I stock at Return Top Shop. Take it with the grain of salt that I’m not an expert, and I’m not you. My tastes won’t be your tastes.
I’m dividing this into 4 categories:
1. Beginner/inexpensive beads
2. As-is beads (not modifications or upgrades available)
3. Modular beads
1. Beginner Begleri
At the basic intro level you have the mass produced Chinese beads. I say Chinese beads because they are designed and made there, whereas many “North American” brands use Chinese machine shops, but do the design and prototyping themselves.
“Thumb Chucks” is the most readily available. It’s a brand that came up in the last couple years. The ‘beads’ are motion activated LED bouncing balls. These were mass marketed in late 2016 and are widely avaialbe and the avenue through which a lot of kids are getting into begleri.
The Cons: The balls are very large relative to most peoples hands, limiting your trick options. They are also ‘tacky’ and don’t slide between the fingers easily. The cord is tricky to change so you are generally stuck with the length of the band that comes with it.
Knock off Thumbchucks - There are a lot of these around. I’ve only played with one set, a hollow metal bead connected with a piece of ribbon, which I actually really like. They are light and fast and while they are the size of thumb chucks they are metal so they slip between fingers more easily. I would hesitate to actually call them knockoffs, but the packaging is clearly a copy and in general I frown on that sort of behaviour, it's not good for any industry.
Mass produced Metal beads - I’ve tried the two sets shown below and they are available in the store for $10 (and cheaper direct from China if you want to wait a month). Both sets play reasonably well.
The Pros: Inexpensive, easy to change the cord to whatever thickness you like. They play pretty well and won’t break easily.
The Cons: They are pretty light compared to what most people prefer (__g compared to the 12-16 that is the most common preference). The finish chips off on contact with concrete more easily that most higher end finishes.
There are plenty of others, but I chose these two because they aren’t copies of any maker’s products that I’ve found, whereas a fair number of the other mass produced beads are.
There are a lot of these on the market. They are the easiest and usually cheapest thing to make as you are just dealing with the machining of a single part. There are a wide range of these available on the market in general in a variety of materials. The Aroundsquare Everyman AL sport and the R2FG ACM are great starter sets. The Rain City Skills "October" beads have a bit more weight and momentum to them.
The Pros: Simple and usually less expensive. There are a variety of designs on the market. So you can try different shapes and sizes
The Cons: Not adaptable, the weight is set so if you see a shape you like you have to adapt your style to it’s weight.
3. Modular Beads
As the sport has evolved the market has leaned towards adaptability. MonkeyfingeR Design and Aroundsquare both offer weight adaptation options with their current designs. The MonkeyfingeR “Monkey Barz” are a set that allows you 3 ways to adapt MonkeyfingeR begleri by up to 3.5g per bead. The "Kokonutz"were designed with this weight modification in mind.
4. High End/Collectables
Aroundsquare - Wide range of products
Sketch Begleri - Monkey Fist style begleri
TGP - One of the longest running makers, plenty of original designs.
Gumdrops Begleri - Very active in the Begleri community, head to Begleri USA on Facebook to read her weekly posts
Thanks for reading! Feel free to add to this overview in the comments, I’m happy to update it with feedback from the community.
Facebook - This links to what seems to be the biggest group, but there are a bunch of others that are pretty easy to find.
Discord - There is at least 1 begleri channel I know of but you need an invite. Use the contact form to send me an email if you are interested in joining.
Instagram - Not much for discussion but a lot of people post videos and pictures there. Just poke around #begleri