Toy Top

This project is rated: DIFFICULT

Materials needed:
  • Wood, small pieces of various thicknesses
  • Dowel rod, 1/4 inch, about 6 inches long
  • Electric drill and bits
  • Hole Saw
  • Sand paper
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • String
Toy Tops

In the above project image, two tops are shown. The one on the left is a commercial top and it is painted with some designs and a face. The top on the right is a homemade top. The homemade top was turned on a lathe and it uses a nail as an axle. The way you operate this type of top is as follows. Wrap a piece of string about 4 feet long around the “neck” area of the top. Keep wrapping the string around the top until only about a 6 inch length is left. Hold the remaining string tightly in one hand and hold the head (ball portion) of the top in the other hand. Then pull your hands apart until the string unwraps from the top. This will set the body of the top spinning. Let go of the head and let the top drop onto a smooth surface (not carpet.) The top should keep spinning in an upright position until the spinning slows and the top falls over.

You can purchase a top, but it can be more fun to make your own, even if it is not as fancy as a commercial top. The kind of top that we will make works in a similar way as the tops shown in the project image. If you own a lathe and are experienced in turning wood, you might try to make a top like the one shown on the right. However, an easier design has been created so that you can make a top with simple tools.

You can purchase individual hole saws in various sizes, or you can buy a kit that contains various sizes of saws. A kit will consist of a quarter inch drill bit which is mounted through a circular metal plate. The plate has circular groves in it to accommodate several different size saws that are included. These saws usually range in size from 0.75 inch in diameter to 2.5 inches in diameter. For this project, we will use the 0.75 inch size, the 1.0 inch size, and the 2.0 inch size.

Project Instructions

The steps requiring power tools should be done by an experienced adult. 

  1. The first piece to make is the large one. Use a 2.5 inch length of a 2 by 4 board. With the 2 inch saw blade in the hole cutter, drill down through the piece of wood. Your hole cutter may not be able to cut all the way through that thickness. You can do it in two steps. Drill as far as you can from one side, and then turn the piece of wood over and drill in from the other side. Another alternative is to use two thinner pieces of wood and cut 2 round pieces which you will later glue together. (Yet another alternative is to cut the circular pieces with a coping saw or jigsaw. Your pieces may not be perfectly round, but you can smooth them to a reasonable shape using sand paper. You will need to drill a .25 inch hole in the center of each piece.)
  2. The second piece is made from a .75 inch thick piece of wood and you use the .75 inch saw to cut it out.
  3. The third piece is made from Masonite (or a thin piece of wood) and is cut using the 1 inch saw.
  4. The last piece to cut is the right most piece in the picture. It is another piece that is cut using the .75 inch saw. The piece shown is about .25 inch thick but you can use any thickness that is convenient for you.

  5. You will also need a ball. You may have a wooden bead that you can use, or you might purchase one at a craft store. You might even use a thread spool if you can find one that would be satisfactory. The important feature of this ball is that it must have a hole through it such that it can turn freely on a .25 inch dowel rod. If you use a wooden bead, it should have a 5/16 inch hole drilled through it.
  6. You also need a piece of dowel rod. The length will depend on the total thicknesses of all the parts. Measure the thicknesses of each of the pieces and add them to get a total. For the pieces illustrated, this total was a little over 3.5 inches. The dowel rod was cut to a length of 4 inches and one end was sanded into a rounded shape. The pieces are to be assembled on the dowel rod. A picture of an assembled top can be seen at right.
  7. You may wish to sand and paint the pieces before doing any assembly. Optionally, the wood could be stained or left bare.

Hole Saw Kit

The picture below shows all the pieces we will make or buy.

Toy Top parts
Wooden cylinder
Wooden cylinder
Toy Top part detail
Toy Top part detail
Toy Top
Toy Top

Assembly Instruction

After you paint the pieces and the paint is dry, you may permanently assemble the top.

  1. Place a small amount of glue in the hole of the largest piece. Slide the rounded end of the dowel through the hole and out the other side with about 1/4 inch of the rounded end of the dowel exposed.
  2. Take the next piece (3/4 inch diameter and 3/4 inch thick), put a little glue in the hole and a little glue on its bottom surface. Slide the piece down the dowel until it is firmly pressed against the bottom piece.
  3. The next piece is the 1 inch flat disk. put a little glue on the upper side of the second piece and then slide the flat disk down the dowel until it contacts the second piece.
  4. Clean any residual glue off of the dowel. Slide the bead onto the dowel. It should turn freely on the dowel.
  5. Put a little glue into the hole of the remaining piece and slide it onto the dowel until the top of it is flush with the top of the dowel. If you have made the dowel an adequate length, the bead should have at least a 1/16 inch clearance to move up and down the dowel.
  6. When the glue is dry, your top is complete. You can now spin it according to the directions given earlier.
3 Toy Tops
Toy Top
Tags: hole saw | top | toy
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