trying to re-invent the top

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Blog entry by Jim Sellers posted 05-24-2014 01:51 PM 2709 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

You can’t appreciate this toy unless you see it in action. I hope the link works. It’s my first ever youtube video and the first video ever shot on my iphone.

I started tinkering and playing with this idea a couple of years ago and just decided to take it back off the shelf. The kids might not want to put their video games down long enough to try and master this simple toy but I would set the age range from 6 – 100. As much fun as I had designing and building this, I’ve had much more fun playing with it. It’s been wound up and launched at least a hundred times. Mostly by me but my adult son and a few friends have had some fun with it too.

My idea was to make it simple, easy and cheap enough that I could mass produce them in the shop and sell them to the parents of kids as they browsed and watched the demonstration at the arts and crafts shows (if I ever got in an arts and craft show). Of course they would be made to look more presentable.

There’s nothing pretty about it but I wasn’t trying to make a work of art (yet). This prototype is actually the best performer out of many. I hastily glued the veneer on it just so it would have a slight visual appeal hoping that it might get some attention. You can see all the putty and where I got too aggressive with the belt sander and went through the veneer. I also wanted a hard flat coat of poly on the table thinking it would spin longer but I can’t really tell the difference compared to the bare wood.

The wind up mechanism is unbelievably simple. I have another prototype with a tighter spring that only take 3 twists. My main obstacle is duplicating the small nylon drive gear on the bottom of the top itself. I found it in one of my junk bins and have no idea where it came from. Looks like it might have came from some type of plumbing fixture. I put a metal pin through it and glued a coat button on the top. I have others made from different parts and they all work but none that performs as well as this particular one.

Anyway, I was hoping for and would appreciate any advice, opinions or comments. I have pretty much given up on the idea of going into production and trying to market these. I’m sure the price tag would have to be under $20 or nobody would touch it no matter how cool it was. Does anyone have any idea where that nylon gear might have come from?

-- J.C.Sellers, Norcross, Ga. Just cut it right the first time. The best carpenters make the fewest chips.

6 comments so far

View S4S's profile


2118 posts in 3221 days

#1 posted 05-24-2014 03:17 PM

That is one cool Top , Jim . I hope you find some similar gears , these look quite saleable at a
craft fair .

View stefang's profile


16817 posts in 3875 days

#2 posted 05-24-2014 04:12 PM

Very cool idea Jim. If I were you I would keep refining it to make it quicker/easier to make and also to enhance the overall appearance. For example a turned handle would make a big difference. You could also experiment a little with different designs for the top to make it stand out a little more. I could see this as a big hit with kids. These type of products always require a development phase to make them marketable. Meanwhile you might want to think about protecting the idea if possible so someone else doesn’t beat you to the finish line.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Woodknack's profile


12927 posts in 2921 days

#3 posted 05-24-2014 06:31 PM

I’ve seen people spin them on a paddle and even bounce them but never with a built in launching mechanism. The gear looks like one from a small electric motor. If you search ebay under robotics you find a multitude of similar gears.

-- Rick M,

View MTMan2's profile


47 posts in 3232 days

#4 posted 05-25-2014 01:56 PM

There are lots of unused cassette tapes still floating around in the world. They all have small toothed gears.

-- - The most recognized name in all of recorded history was worn by a woodworker.

View SalvageCraft's profile


274 posts in 3067 days

#5 posted 06-01-2014 04:51 AM

Looks pretty cool!

-- Jesse --

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4253 days

#6 posted 06-01-2014 05:26 AM

The gear looks like the gear from an acrylic tap handle the one that mates the handle to the valve stem.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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