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Author Topic: Top classification  (Read 157 times)

Jeremy McCreary

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Top classification
« on: June 10, 2019, 12:29:59 PM »

Been developing lots of top starters lately, and that's forced me to revisit the way tops are classified.

Gould's book (1973) includes many spintoys (e.g., buzzers) that I don't consider "true" tops because they're not free to fall over during normal play. But I like his first-order classification on spin-up method.

Lourens' book (Bas and Verdoorn, 2010) doesn't offer an explicit over-arching classification scheme -- perhaps because the authors knew better. Instead, they grouped tops variously by starting method, country or era of origin, or key features like sound or visual effects, scientific value, or whippability.

So I offer for comment the following general classification of "true" tops based on starting method...
1. "Throwing tops" are wrapped with a string and started in the air with a side-arm throw.
2. "Hand tops" are started on the ground with a quick twirl of the fingers or shear of the palms.
3. "Assisted tops" are also started on the ground, but with a starting device of some kind.

Q: Any important categories left out?

The throwing top category includes peg tops, chonkakegoma, gasing, and whipping tops (which I gather are mostly started by throwing). Never heard hand top before, but it nicely lumps the "finger" and "palm" tops Lourens spoke of. To my mind, these are much more alike than they are different.

Not entirely happy with assisted top (suggestions?) but like Gould's "supported top" even less, as it includes many spintoys that are never allowed to fall over. IMO, a true top is supported from above only during spin-up or not at all (as with a throwing top). Once launched, it's free to topple when on the ground or hand.

Of course, there are many overlaps. For example, some "humming tops" (Lourens' term) still have some play value when started with a practiced hand but need the added speed of the provided starter (usually a string-pull of some kind) to produce the full effect -- in this case, a certain sound. Hence, they're both hand and assisted tops but arguably more the latter. Ditto for these centrifugal tops...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEMUGFQTux0

And though throwing tops generally can't be started on the ground by hand, it's easy with the right after-market starter...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AXNwJ9tr6s

Nearly all of my LEGO tops fall into the hand and assisted categories. Ditto for many if not most of the non-LEGO tops I've seen in big collections like Cyril's.

Thoughts?

References
Bas, Lourens, and Verdoorn, Arthur, 2010, The Lost Art of the Spinning Top
Gould, D.W., 1973, The Top, Universal Toy, Enduring Pastime
« Last Edit: June 12, 2019, 01:22:47 AM by Jeremy McCreary »
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Playing with the physical world through LEGO

ta0

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2019, 10:47:27 PM »

I guess tops spun by blowing on them wouldn't fall in any of those categories, although they generally can also be started as finger tops.

Whip tops can be started by any means, what defines them is that they are kept spinning with the whip. I think they deserve their own category, specially considering that they are the oldest documented tops.
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Jeremy McCreary

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2019, 01:06:18 AM »

I guess tops spun by blowing on them wouldn't fall in any of those categories, although they generally can also be started as finger tops.

Have to agree with you here. Sometimes I start the LEGO "turbine tops" I've made by hand and sometimes by hitting them with the blow dryer while holding the stem upright inside a low-friction sleeve. Since you could start any of the turbine tops I know of in much the same way, blowing is a bona fide starting method, and the turbine top a valid category unto itself, though not a common one.

Whip tops can be started by any means, what defines them is that they are kept spinning with the whip. I think they deserve their own category, specially considering that they are the oldest documented tops.

You might be able to start a whipping top by whipping it while some brave soul holds it upright, but that sounds more like a circus act to me. I'm still inclined to view whipping as a regeneration method, not a starting method, and let whipping tops straddle the throwing and assisted categories. (Doubt a top massive and tall enough to be whipped successfully could really be started by hand.)

Any suggestions for a term better than "assisted top"?   
« Last Edit: June 12, 2019, 01:10:32 AM by Jeremy McCreary »
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butterfingers

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2019, 06:06:31 AM »

Where would you place the Wizzer style top? McDonald's has offered this style top in their kid meals and Duncan had a short lived series of these as well.
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ta0

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2019, 11:10:04 AM »

(Doubt a top massive and tall enough to be whipped successfully could really be started by hand.)
Actually, small whip tops (e.g. circa 1910) can be started easily by a flick of the fingers.
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Jeremy McCreary

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2019, 12:43:31 PM »

Where would you place the Wizzer style top?

Ah, yes! I have several of these, and they're tons of fun. Even made some so-so but at least working LEGO knock-offs.

One could argue that tops built for the Wizzzer starting method belong in the assisted category, but that seems too much of a stretch. Updated classification...
  • "Throwing tops" are wrapped with a string and started in the air with a side-arm throw.
  • "Hand tops" are started on the ground with a quick twirl of the fingers or shear of the palms.
  • "Assisted tops" are also started on the ground, but with a starting device of some kind.
  • "Roller tops" are started on the ground by rolling a specialized tip connected to a flywheel enclosed in a grip of some kind.
Any suggestions for a term better than "assisted top"? 

I guess tops spun by blowing on them wouldn't fall in any of those categories, although they generally can also be started as finger tops.

Have to agree with you here. Sometimes I start the LEGO "turbine tops" I've made by hand and sometimes by hitting them with the blow dryer while holding the stem upright inside a low-friction sleeve. Since you could start any of the turbine tops I know of in much the same way, blowing is a bona fide starting method, and the turbine top a valid category unto itself, though not a common one.

Decided in the end to lump turbine tops into the assisted category, with the air jet source (blow gun, blow dryer, etc.) being the starting device. Though some assisted tops can be started by hand, many are optimized for a particular starter, not necessarily mechanical. I think that's a fair description of the turbine top.

« Last Edit: June 12, 2019, 03:05:21 PM by Jeremy McCreary »
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Jeremy McCreary

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2019, 12:59:40 PM »

(Doubt a top massive and tall enough to be whipped successfully could really be started by hand.)
Actually, small whip tops (e.g. circa 1910) can be started easily by a flick of the fingers.

And that is why you're our Historian-in-Chief. Will have to look through Gould's and Lourens' books again. Guess you could whip a small enough top with a small enough whip (or wet noodle) without sending it flying.

So whipping tops definitely span at least the throwing and finger top categories. Do you know of any sold in or adapted to the assisted category -- i.e., started with some device on the ground and then whipped?
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ta0

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2019, 02:18:33 PM »

Do you know of any sold in or adapted to the assisted category -- i.e., started with some device on the ground and then whipped?

Lassanske shows here a vintage whip top that uses a spring and a whip with a hook:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1AOWiBOqOs

I have a modern version made in Germany.
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Jeremy McCreary

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2019, 03:01:31 PM »

Do you know of any [whipping tops] sold in or adapted to the assisted category -- i.e., started with some device on the ground and then whipped?
Lassanske shows here a vintage whip top that uses a spring and a whip with a hook... I have a modern version made in Germany.

Excellent! Now I recall that Lourens' book shows an old Märklin version of that.

Really appreciate your expert help on this classification business!
« Last Edit: June 12, 2019, 03:03:43 PM by Jeremy McCreary »
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Jeremy McCreary

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Re: Top classification
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2019, 03:12:47 PM »

My Edo top book finally arrived from Japan! (Cover photo and review here.) It shows maybe a hundred different examples. All fall into the hand (finger and palm), assisted (mostly string-pull), and throwing categories -- in roughly that order.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2019, 03:33:09 PM by Jeremy McCreary »
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