The small but mighty Washburn spinning top

by | Limited Edition Scovie Tops

Since I’ve started selling the spinning tops that I design, I have gotten some great feedback and input from customers. I have started learning what excites users and what they’re looking for in future purchases. I am thrilled to offer a new spin top series that addresses two of the most resounding requests that I’ve received:

  1. New types of metal
  2. Smaller size

As it turns out, long spin times are not the be-all and end-all of tops. Many people value size, shape, aesthetics, and design just as much.

The Washburn top is the smallest top I’ve made so far, at just about an inch in diameter and an inch high. It’s also the lightest, weighing in at under an ounce.

Though I’ve made brass tops in the past as one-off projects, the Washburn is the first top available for sale that comes in a brass variation.

Read on to learn about how this top is made, where the name “Washburn” comes from, and how to get one of your own.

The Washburn design and manufacturing process

Like several other spin tops I’ve designed – for example, the Cahaba and the Dauphin – the Washburn is made from two main pieces on a precision lathe. An aluminum core creates a sturdy but lightweight base that includes a stem to hold onto while spinning the top. A heavier body adds the visual design of the top as well as the weight distribution that keeps it spinning for so long.

The images below show one of the several lathe operations needed to create the Washburn body. On the left, you can see that the front face is flat. On the right, a curve has been added to it by the lathe tooling passed over it and cutting off a small portion around the whole diameter.


The various lathe operations for the Washburn include:

  • Making a bore in the middle of the body
  • Adding a groove and other design elements on the body
  • Machining the core to the size of the body bore
  • Creating the stem
  • Adding a diamond knurl to the stem
  • Boring the bottom to hold a ball bearing at the tip

Once these steps were all complete, I had a set of steel bodies, a set of brass bodies, and a bunch of cores all ready to be assembled into tops!

Washburn top bodies and cores ready to be assembled

Once the top bodies and cores were fully machined, they had to be put together. Because they are so precisely machined to tight tolerances, they can stay together using nothing but friction. But it takes quite a bit of force to get them into place. For this, I used an arbor press with custom acetyl tooling to hold the parts in place as I pressed them together.

Using an arbor press to assemble the Washburn tops

Want to see more of this process? Check out how the arbor press works in my YouTube video.

The final product in action

Here is a glimpse of the finished Washburn top spinning!

You can view more videos of these and other top designs on the ScovieTurning YouTube channel.

The Washburn in numbers

Here are a few specs.

Height: 1.17 inches

Diameter: 1.1 inches

Weight: 0.8 ounces (steel) or 0.9 ounces (brass)

Materials: Aluminum and either stainless steel or brass

Spin time: About 6 minutes, depending on the surface and human factors

Product life: Lasts a lifetime!

Price: $33 for a single top or $59 for one of each type (if purchased here in the Scovie shop)

Washburn Island: a place near and dear to my heart

The name Washburn comes from Washburn Island, a part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in eastern Massachusetts. The island is one of the last large undeveloped coastal properties on Cape Cod. It truly is a gem, offering beaches, woods with hiking trails, ponds, campsites, and some World War II history.

Washburn Island’s location in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Though it is very close to mainland, getting to Washburn Island requires navigating by boat around a large portion of the island. So it seems somewhat remote. A trip to Washburn Island is a fun combination of boating, hiking, and relaxing.

The beautiful view from Washburn Island’s shore
Kayaking to Washburn Island

Washburn Island’s personal significance to me is that my wife and I kayaked there on our first date and have been back a few times since then. We’ve noticed that the kayaking trip out there and back tends to include both calm water and rough, choppy water. The paddling can be relaxing one minute and quite difficult the next. I consider the Washburn spinning top’s steel and brass varieties to be a reflection of this dichotomy.

Get a Washburn top of your own

The Washburn spin top collection is now available in the Scovie top shop and in our Etsy store. You can get a single top in either brass or steel, or a set of both at a discounted price. As always, shipping is free within the United States.

The ideal desk toy

I hope you’ll consider adding one of these unique, high quality tops to your desk, bookshelf, or everyday carry!

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