Grain Theory started shortly after I picked up kendama, and has always branded itself as "Small Batch Big Idea". Small batch indeed it was, as I felt the pain camping for drops at 3 in the morning because we're in Singapore.
Nevertheless, my friends and I would still pool our funds together and shell out about $140USD (shipping included) just to experience what a GT felt like. Since then, most mainstream GT shapes have passed through my hands - from Birch batch 16, to NS and even the overseas made E-1.
Considerably more expensive than the average kendama, albeit made in the US, the question at the back of my mind was always: Is a GT really worth it?
Was it worth staying up till 4 in the morning?
Was it worth 3-4 other good kendamas?
Could I be like Ben Herald if I used a GT?
Thankfully, with some help from Matt Rice, I will be able to answer some of those questions today.
Let's put this out there first: You will not be able to appreciate a GT 2 for what it is without having played other kendamas.
At a $100 price point, this isn't an entry kendama - nor should it be. The GT 2 is a premium kendama, designed by years of passion and hundreds of hours of precision.
Getting into specifics, the first thing you'll notice is how sharply cut the wood is. Each angle feels intentional, the outcome of using expensive tools to produce. This is aesthetic, but can also affect how comfortable the kendama feels in your hand and therefore how well it plays.
Next, the stall points are as thick as they can get. This increases the amount of contact the bevel has, making it easier to land your stall tricks. Despite being huge, the stall points still match the tama without creating the unsightly gap - spikes slap.
There is no base cup balance hole - for the reason that the weight is shaved off the base cup using the swoop, and a considerably thicker and larger sarado would create the weight difference.
This is one of the only kendamas I've felt can have a competitive lunar balance without the need for a balance hole.
So, is a GT 2 really worth it?
Anyone can make specs like the above, but what makes a GT 2 feel great is the quality of wood they use and the people behind it.
When holding a GT, you know that there is a standard of material that goes into the product and that supporting them also supports players who pioneered the growth of the sport.
I do not recommend getting a GT as your first kendama, but I highly recommend at least letting some pass through your hands at least once. You will feel the difference.
Thank you again Matt Rice for helping me score one.
Disclosure that this isn't a sponsored post and my GT 2 was purchased.