May 2014 Demo
“Tops and More”
By John Solberg
The top is one of the oldest toys found on archaeological sites. They have been around for
thousands of years and have been found in cultures all over the world. Today they exist from the
very basic wood to some of the most elaborate metal and ball bearing tops. Three of the most
common are the basic spinning top, the tippe top, and the trompo or whipping top. (See photos)
For this demonstration we are going to concentrate on the basic spinning top. Making a spinning
top on a lathe is nothing more that spindle turning with the grain of the wood running parallel to
the lathe bed. We will start with a basic discussion of spindle turning along with some of the
basic cuts of beads, coves and the various tools that can be used. From there we will move on to
turning tops. There is no one design; tops come in all shapes, sizes and material. Our goal will
be to make a top that will spin for at least 60 seconds. !
We will discuss wood selection including size and grain orientation, tool selection and usage,
top design, top turning, and will spend some time on texturing, coloring, and finish. If time
permits we will finish with a tippe top; one the turns over and changes direction while spinning.