More Tops

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Blog entry by Dave Owen posted 12-16-2012 07:46 PM 2055 reads 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A year or so ago I wrote about “Tops”, describing how simple, small, hand-spun tops can be easily made using 1-1/2” diameter wooden wheels and 2” lengths of ¼” dowels (sharpened on one end and chamfered on the other). The tops I made for our toy drive last year and the first fifty or so I made this year, were decorated by applying rings of marker colors to tops spun in a drill.
The easiest way to sharpen and chamfer the axle before inserting into the wheel, is to lightly grip it in a drill chuck and spin it against a spinning sanding disk or sanding belt. The sharpened point should extend through the lower part of the wheel about 5/16”. If it takes a hammer to drive the axle through a wheel and I can’t pull it, I usually don’t use glue. If I can pull it out, or if I’m worried about the possibility of its removal, I do. Incidentally, if the wheel is reasonably well balanced, and axles are straight and sharp pointed, these tops will spin for about 40 seconds to a minute or longer.
This year I decided to provide each top with a stand made from scraps. After I’d completed this year’s contribution to the toy drive, I decided to try putting the wheels on ‘flat side up’, and apply printed paper patterns against the flat side – in lieu of an all marker pen design.
The photo below shows one of the stands with a marker-decorated top similar to last year’s. The wheel is semi-recessed in the stand using a 1-3/4” Forstner bit to drill about 5/16” deep. A deeper 5/16” center hole provides room for the sharpened tip.

This next photo shows some of the designs I created using a CAD program. I printed these designs on an ink-jet printer using 44#, matt-finish Presentation Paper. I cut the centered ¼” hole with a common ¼” paper punch – and the outer circle with a 1-1/4” circle-cutter bought at a ‘scrap-booking’ store. In addition to the paper designs I also use marker pens to add color to the exposed parts of the wheel and axle. The patterned circles can be simply pressed onto the ‘axle’ and seated against the wheel where they stay flat and secure without glue. For younger children, gluing the designs to the wheel would still be a good idea.

Here is a photo of twenty of the tops in their stands.

All tops in the photo below are spinning – with the exception of one top near the lower left corner. In order to make a photograph that shows what happens to the patterns when spun, I had to slow the shutter to 1/30th of a second – explaining the ‘fuzziness’. A faster shutter speed ‘stops’ the wheels, and the pattern re-appears. As the photo shows, spinning blends whatever colors the pattern has into rings – sometimes predictable, but often a surprise.

Wheels, dowels, and marking pens are all readily available almost anywhere, and are inexpensive. Kids from six to ninety-six love tops, and they make great stocking stuffers. Anyone who would like to have the paper designs I show above to print on your own printer, send me a private message with your Email address, and I’ll be happy to send them to you in PDF format.

-- Dave O.

4 comments so far

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4301 days

#1 posted 12-16-2012 08:27 PM

Wow! Very colorful and fun

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Cantputjamontoast's profile


416 posts in 4929 days

#2 posted 12-16-2012 09:32 PM


-- "Not skilled enough to wipe jam on toast!"

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4831 days

#3 posted 12-16-2012 09:55 PM

Great looking tops Dave and for a good cause.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View hunter71's profile


3564 posts in 4683 days

#4 posted 12-16-2012 11:42 PM

I’ll bet the kids love them. nice job.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

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