MAKE AN OLD FASHIONED HAND SPINNING TOP

Back in the good old days of hand crafted goods that didn't require a battery, power pack, or software to operate, toys were simple in design, sturdy in their construction and did what they were supposed to do over and over with only the power provided by the child playing with it. Spinning tops were very popular then as they are now and it would be a welcomed change of pace from our normal machining and model making hobby ( usually very intricate ) to attempt to make something that is simple to make, yet will provide the builder hours of playing fun and maybe a bit of nostalgia.

Tops came in many shapes, sizes and types of materials but since this is a metal lathe project, we will of course, make our top out of solid metal.

I always make tops from bits of scrap slices of aluminum rod and short lengths of drill rod or other steel rod of 3/16" to about 1/4" in diameter. Begin by locating a 3/8" to 1/2" thick slice of 1-1/2" or 2" diameter aluminum rod. It can be very rough end cut as it will be turned to a smooth final set of dimensions. Chuck the rough slice on a three jaw chuck and center drill the slice with a #1 center drill and drill out to .005" to .010" under size to the diameter drill rod you plan to make the shaft out of. Whatever size drill rod you have on hand will do fine, from 3/16" to 1/4" as I mentioned before, as long as you also have the same size chucking reamer to finish the undersize hole with. Ream the hole to final size using a slow speed and plenty of cutting oil formulated for aluminum. Remove the disk from the chuck and press fit the short piece of shaft through the reamed hole You may need a bit of CA glue to help out is the fit is a bit loose. What you want is a shaft length that is about 75% the diameter of the disk for length. Insert it so about 1/6 of the total length is protruding though the disk. Chuck the assembly by the long end of the shaft and proceed to turn the disk as true to the shaft as you can with facing and turning cuts. Set your compound slide to cut a 60o taper and proceed to cut the point on the short end until it is sharp and nice and true. Flip the work end for end on the chuck and turn the remaining rough face of the disk until it is parallel the opposite face and it runs true. Use a fine cut file and chamfer the edges of the disk. Face cut and chamfer the end of the long end of the shaft. Polish the whole thing while it spins on the lathe with wet 320 through 600 grit silicon carbide paper wiping all of the previous grit and sanding slop off the project before the next finer grit is applied. You should end up with a very nice super smooth finish.

To spin your top you merely grasp the long shaft with your thumb and middle or fore finger, which ever feels more comfortable to you and spin it clockwise with a quick snap of the fingers on a hard smooth surface. It will no doubt take you a few attempts before you can get it to spin smoothly and steadily but once you master that special " snap " you will have a hard time keeping your friends or your kids from wanting to get a turn at a spin.