The Art of Pen Spinning To most folks, it's mindless fidgeting, but to a select few, it's an artform. The BPP filmed master pen spinner Kam Kuo in action, and learned a bit about the pen spinning community in the process.
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The Art of Pen Spinning

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The Art of Pen Spinning

The Art of Pen Spinning

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.


Well it's time for the next installment in he BPP series talking to people who take their leisure activities quite seriously. It's Extreme Hobbies.

(Soundbite of Music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Some build model airplanes and some like to dig in mud. You say you want to act and play, well, while you practice, I'll study your line. That's my hobby. I want you for my hobby. After work I…

STEWART: Today we have the first video contribution to the extreme hobby series. In studio now our producers Dan Pashman and Win Rosenfeld who were juts a little too excited to go to see this guy engage in a sport, an activity, a skill, pen spinning. What would you call pen spinning?

DAN PASHMAN: I guess it's all of the above, really. Well, sport is probably pushing it. But it's more than a hobby. Its part art, part craft, part community building activity.

STEWART: All right. When you first pitch the story at out morning meeting, you brought in a missive from a gentleman who enjoys the pen spinning.


STEWART: Would you mind sharing a little bit of that to the…

PASHMAN: I have the e-mail here. Yeah, I mean this guy is really great. He's name is Kam Kuo. And I wrote to him - his Web site Pentrix ending in X, had not been updated recently. I said are you still in to this pen spinning thing? And he writes back, hi, Dan. Yes, I'm still active in the pen spinning world. Just a little too busy to update my site. He goes on in saying an interview sounds interesting but there's - you know, as you may be aware, pen spinning is a very wide subject and depending on your focus, I may or may not be the best person for you to interview. Now, at that point of the e-mail I already decided he was the best person for me to interview.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: But he'd be listing a list - many different angles he could take on the pen spinning story.

ALISON STEWART, host: Such as?

PASHMAN: Lifestyle, moves, fixed combos, video instruction, naming convention, concepts. Then there's pens and pen modifications, community, physics, related manipulations and public relations.

STEWART: Well, I think you got all of the above when you went to visit him at the sort of toy fair sort of thing where these new pens were being announced, rolled out.

PASHMAN: Yeah, he's the spokesman for a new line of pens that have been designed specifically for pen-spinning, called Spinz, with a Z. And he put them on display and did some tricks for us. You were there, too. Were you impressed with this guy and his crap as I was?


It was remarkable. The hand speed is incredible. It was truly a sight, truly a sight to see. I mean, he was, you know, he was very serious about his craft, pensive even. He had a penetrating glare.

PASHMAN: He's actually so in to what he does and so earnest and so committed.

ROSENFELD: You might say he has a penchant for it.

STEWART: Okay, I'm getting a stomach ache. I think we need to hear from him. Not when, but now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: This is a clip from the video of him that we're putting up on the site right now, where Kam Kuo discusses the kind of commitment to his hands that is necessary to be such a great pen spinner.

Mr. KAM KUO (Pen Spinner): I don't have my hand insured right now. I just try to take good care of it. I do finger exercises. So I do that to keep my hands in shape. I also a lotion when it's too dry, you know, try to keep my hands from going to dangerous activities.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: And that came up because he was showing a trick that a friend of his had invented, but that friend hurt his hand and now was, like, out of the community.

STEWART: See. Got to take care of yourself. How long has he been doing this?

PASHMAN: About 13 years. He's 28 now - I'm sorry 15 years. He's 28 now, started when he was 13, just sitting in class. And actually if we can go to clip number two. He actually talks about how he got into this...I'll let him say it.

Mr. KUO: I was 13 when I learned my first trick, which was the Charge, and I just saw someone doing it in class. And I just had to learn. I just thought it was cool. I didn't like paying much attention to class, unfortunately. I never imagined I would actually be doing this and getting paid to do this, or even have that much influence in the whole pen spinning community.

PASHMAN: Yes, he did just say pen spinning community.

STEWART: Yeah, I was going to ask about that.

PASHMAN: And it is a rather large community. It is international. They have international competitions online via videos. It's huge in Asia, he said. In China, Japan, Korea, it is extremely popular. And this guy is one of the pillars of the international pen spinning community.

STEWART: Wynn, you must have loved shooting this...

ROSENFELD: Oh, it was huge.

STEWART: You must have just been...

ROSENFELD: It was incredible. It was incredible. Here is a guy who is literally - I mean, he talks about tricks that he pioneered that sort of changed the world of pen spinning. The reverses and the air tricks were things that no one did five years ago and now they're everywhere.

PASHMAN: Everywhere. I mean, you see them all over the place, Ally.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Of course.

ROSENFELD: But I guess that's the way the pendulum goes.

PASHMAN: Oh, boy. Can we cut his mic, please?

STEWART: All right.

RACHEL MARTIN, host: How long did you spend thinking those up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROSENFELD: Hey, don't be so rude.

PASHMAN: I think this (unintelligible) business comes naturally to Wynn.

STEWART: Hours and hours. So let's listen to Kam. He has a little bit of fortunetelling about what he thinks the future of pen spinning holds.

Mr. KUO: There are several areas that has been under-explored. I try to do some tricks, very involving, for example, two pens in one hand, like, both spinning at the same time, but others that I can't. I can't really do them smoothly at first. Things like that will be considered, you know, more advanced. So we have to wait to see what the future holds for pen spinning.

STEWART: Did you learn anything?

PASHMAN: We did. We actually had Cam teach me a trick. We have two separate videos to go up on the blog today. One of them is up right now at on the blog. And then a video of him teaching me the thumb around will go up later on in the day.

STEWART: The thumb around.


STEWART: The old thumb around.

PASHMAN: It's something you can do for pennies. It's like this, watch. See...

ROSENFELD: What's your favorite motor oil? Pensky?

STEWART: Stand by for the thumb around. Dan and Wynn.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Thank you, guys. I think.

MARTIN: Pennzoil. Pennzoil's my favorite.

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