An Old-Timey Wooden Top

Here's how to build a spinner and a wooden top.

| May/June 1980

  • 063 wooden top - photo
    The finished wooden top, ready for a spin.
  • 063 wooden top - diagram
    To make the project simpler, redraw these patters on 1/2" squares then transfer to your working material. Be sure to retain the center-point mark on the circular flywheel.)

  • 063 wooden top - photo
  • 063 wooden top - diagram
Amidst the gadgetry and gimcrackery of today's modern toys, a plain old-fashioned plaything sure looks good! And it would be hard to imagine a more old-timey toy than the homemade wooden top put together by MOTHER EARTH NEWS' craftsmen.

The little spinner can easily be built by even the most amateur woodworker . . . and requires nothing more than a coping saw, a drill (with 1/8", 3/8", and 7/16" bits), some sandpaper, a small roundhead finishing brad, carpenter's glue, a 3 1/2" length of 3/8" dowel, a 2" section of 1" dowel, an old shoestring, a piece of scrap wood (that measures about 3/4" X 5" X 7"), and approximately half an hour of time.

Cut the wood to size, then carefully drill a "pilot" hole through the handle and cope out the round opening that serves as the top's string housing.

With that done, "guesstimate" the center of the just-cut opening and bore two 7/16" holes — on a vertical line that intersects the central point — through the upper and lower "walls." Next, carefully drill a straight 3/8" hole exactly through the midpoint of the toy's flywheel . . . to serve as the axle mount.

Now take your piece of 1" dowel, find its center, and drill a 3/8" hole about 1/4" into one end. Using a coarse piece of sandpaper (or a file), fashion the opposite end of the peg into a point and tap your brad right into the tip. To complete the "gyro" part of the top, lightly coat one end of your 3/8" dowel with glue and push it through the wooden disc until a 1/4" nub protrudes. Cover the nub and a small area around it with adhesive, and fasten your metal-tipped peg to the flywheel and its axle. Then temporarily slip the shaft into the handle's two holes and drill a 1/8" bore through the rod to serve as a catch for the string "motor".

Finally, sand the entire knickknack to a smooth finish (you might want to round its edges), and stain it or add a coat of polyurethane if desired.

To set the gyro spinning, merely slide it into the handle, thread one end of the cord through the axle hole, carefully wind the remaining string around the shaft, and pull it smartly . . . the whirling gizmo will drop from the handle and dance merrily along any hard, smooth surface. There's little doubt that your home-built top will fascinate the youngsters on a rainy spring day . . . and who knows, once in a while you might be tempted to give it a whirl, too!
12/21/2007 10:47:10 AM

Thanksomuch for featuring a wooden top. In this high-tech age, some do not have any idea what a merry spinning top could BE. Any top. Here is the story of the "Strawberry Top" to add to yours: One year, I purchased a little wooden strawberry-shaped top to add to stocking stuffers. Three inched high, in the shape of a strawberry, and with a simply green spinning stick, protruding at the place for the stem, painted bright red/pink, with green strawberryseeds, it cost all of 75cents, at last-minute closeout at a local little shop sale. With lots of things of the day, under the tree, I did not give it much thought ... just a little thing to look classic and cute in the stocking for our very good children.... But my children were fascinated by the mirthful little top, and each Christmas, thereafter, they became gleeful at the thought of spinning that tiny strawberry top, and it became our way to kick off the holiday celebratory spirit, re: santastuff! As the years passed, the top became a special moment and a focus for the warmest and most loving and dear holiday feelings. When our spaniel pup put a toothmark in it, teething, we held our breath, at top-spinning time...would it spin? A wooden top depends on a delicate balance... pup chewing might ruin it! spun more merrily than ever! And with our otherwise-amazing pup's toothmark in it, we loved it all the more It would spin and spin, for more than a full minute and more than that sometimes....proclaiming the strong and merry life, in the very smallest things, that always touches us so much to heart! The year my husband died, it was summer and the following Christmas had some really sensitive moments, that first one without him, but in spirit! But the Strawberry top earned its honors, as I whisked it out with the children, in their early teen years, by then, so solemn , at my side ... hushed...."I guess we're ok", I said, as the top spun merrily and impertur

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