Spin about Tops



UPDATE: This blog section has been mostly superseded by the forum (I will continue working on the other sections of the site.)

December 31st , 2009

The first decade of the millennium ends at full revolutions!

Nationals format changed from last year and following the example of Worlds it had two divisions, bearing tip and fixed tip, but with an overall champion. Darren Kim won both divisions and therefore the overall 2009 title. Miguel Correa was the runner up in the bearing division and Robert Gray in fixed tip.

Jan Dvořák won the Czech nationals edging Jakub Konečný. The format was three throws of 1 minute, best one counts. The first European spintop contest will take place in Prague, January 30-31 as part of the European yo-yo contest. The format will be three throws of up to 1 minute each.

The Ultimate Battletop Championship of the Universe took place after Nationals, again with an incredible trophy by Mark Hayward. For the first time a female won (Heidi). Interestingly, at the Denver Winter Tournament they replaced the spintop ladder with a battle top contest while tops could be used together with yo-yos in the freestyle.

I finally edited the video of the Corkscrew Challenge at Worlds (new world record.) By the way, the first Schreiber Shootout for players under 18 was won by Sam Neimeier (FL), 2nd was Kevin Newell (MA), and 3rd was Sean Micca (PA). The annual Whirled Top Festival (Miamisburg, Ohio) had 10 teams battling for $110 in gold coins (Top Toppers won).

Trompos Space is a new spintop manufacturer from Spain. It has a fixed tip model, Saturno, and a bearing model, Saturno Roller. This video by Gerardo Montero is a demo for the top. Their site has a spintop forum in Spanish. Another new spintop forum from that country is maintained by Jorge S., "Pulpowsky", from Madrid, and it includes his superbly detailed reviews.

Born Crucial, a company by yo-yo AAA champion Paul Yath has announced a future delrin top and selected the brand new national champion Darren as his spintop guy. Werrd, a yo-yo company from Australia, has announced a pair of tops. They seem to be of anodized aluminum, perhaps with a plastic crown. On their blog they are called Yikes and DidleySquat (!!).

Maurizio Petruccioli from Italy has developed a new delrin bearing top called S8 (Strummol8, black) or STB (SpinTopBeast, white) that has received very good reviews by all those who have tried the first batch. Some new Italian players are developing and the future looks bright for trottola players.

Trompos Cometa from Mexico finished a new successful campaign promoting tops in parts of Spain using the traditional demonstrator/contest format. Here is a video of demonstrator Salvador de la Rosa doing barrel rolls (átomos).

Major League Dreidel is a contest for longest finger spins of a dreidel organized by the manufacturers of the official "equipment" and a New York bar. Johnny Hei’z (John Heywood) beat 2008 winner Virtual Dreidel (Howard Pavony) to take the 2009 title, among 120 contestants. The "world record" seems to be a 17.88 seconds throw by 2007 champion Pamskee (Pamela Goldman.)

The second Wednesday of October every year is International Top Spinning Day. Here is a video collage assembled by Catherine S. showing many players.

The Mei-Hwa elementary school in Taiwan gives a top to every student on their first day of school and uses them to provide physical education while maintaining the Taiwanese spintop tradition. It even has a spintop museum. Don't miss this video.

A spintop group has grown around the physics department an the University of Cincinnati. John Marcus (with Mike on the photo) is the spintop craftsman in the group and makes tops of any size. He gave me as a gift "Holey Ta0" a custom top 4" top with a Taoist theme and side holes for a transparency effect.

I made spin decay measurements comparing a YYF Throwback and a (discontinued) YYJ Gates. The results were quite similar, specially at high speeds. Here is a graph and more details in this post.

The Duncan World Tour, including Takeshi, was in Colombia and here is a video with some tops including Colombian player Jeisson. And a demo of tops and yo-yos by Takeshi at VHYC09 (Hong Kong)..

See Gustavo Castro incredible demo of how to play soccer with a spintop. Catherine S. demonstrates Evil Knievel grinding trick in this video and Jakub K. shows Around-the-Arm on this one. See a great video of Chirs Neff using the P213 hybrids he makes and here shows the Zorro trick. Neff, who stared on the Duncan 2001 How-to-be-a-Player video, is back into tops and will be competing this year. Finally, Salvador shows Trampa de Seda [Silk Trap].

Salvador Martinez has started uploading spintop videos again (but the old ones are lost). He has a new regeneration trick he is calling Telarañas Eléctricas [Fishing Spiderwebs] while the trick he used to call like that is now Arañas Pescadoras [Fishing Spiders]. I have created a related but different regen trick called Spinning Spider. Salvador also posted another impossible trick: Maximum Spider.

For some nostalgia, see these great photos on top spinning at an elementary in Daggett, CA, in 1955, for a Life magazine article never published. Also of historical interest, here is the story of the Monarch top told by Watts and Olney themselves.

Mauro Sarti is an Italian artisan specializing in miniature finger tops. Also in Italy, there is a monument to the spintop in Montedoro, Sicilia. And here some commercial stylized finger tops from Henry Miller.

The Kongzhu or one-sided diabolo (one-wheeled diabolo, half-diabolo, monobolo) is a kind of top. A cool video, and another one.


September 27 , 2009

World Champ!

We are proud to announce that ta0 won the fixed-tip world title! The 2009 World Spinning Top Contest was divided for the first time into two style divisions, each one crowning a world champion. After a eight-year hiatus, Felix Avellana took his second world title, winning the bearing-tip style. Here is ta0's fixed tip freestyle. 

Mike Hout surprised everybody with a very unusual bearing freestyle, spinning two tops simultaneously while on stilts! The Sports division was won by Hans VanDan Elzen (Yoyofactory) in the senior bracket and there was a tie between Sam Niemeier and Sean Micca in the junior bracket. The first Shreiber Shootout for players under 18 was done informally but still distributed several cash prices ($100 first.)

The contest hotel atmosphere was even crazier than usual, as there was at the same time a "professional celebrity tribute artist" (impersonator) convention. On top of that, a convention of blind people!

Alan Gray discovered that regular incandescent light bulbs can be spun like regular tops. The temptation was too great, so we improvised the first ever light bulb spintop battle. The idea was to add the thrill of flying glass to the battle but the light bulbs proved to be much tougher than expected. "Dazzling Dave" Shulte won with a spectacular kill.

Also at worlds, we had the second corkscrew challenge (rules). I broke last year record by Jon Gates and Alan of 9 wraps by doing a 10-wrap and then an 11-wrap corkscrew. I get to keep for an year the very original corkscrew-top trophy.

Gerardo Montero uploaded two wonderful videos. The first one is a series of fabulous named routines he has developed. The second one shows a way of starting a spintop on the ground by stepping on it!

YYF new Acrobat and Throwback $100 tops seemed to sell well at worlds. Duncan had new prototypes of aluminum Bearing Kings with one-way bearings for testing (they still need some tinkering). In fact, Felix used one in his bearing freestyle (but in the future they will be restricted to fixed-tip freestyle.) By the way, Duncan recently posted at least one little spintop tutorial: gyro-flop. There is a rumor that Werrd from Australia will come out will metal tops. And Maurizio Petruccioli is developing the first Italian bearing trottola (spintop) and the reviews of the prototypes are encouraging.

Chris Neff has been developing a hybrid yo-yo/spintop for a while, something originally started by DocPop as project P213. Here is a great video he made showing its potential. Somewhat related, Sundia, a Taiwanese manufacturer of diabolos, offers a single-sided diabolo (monobolo) with a one-way bearing that can be used as a top as it has spintop-like (bearing) tip.

There is a new section on Mexican spintops in our virtual museum. Some of those tops are still available but most are discontinued. Mexican tops tend to have great design motifs. Note also the line of bearing tops from Cinco Estrellas (Turbo series.)

Archived posts from the old Button and String bulletin board are available again, but unfortunately only for 2005-2006.

An oil painting, Toupie, by Andrzej Malinowski, of a woman spinning a finger top over a mirror sold for 20.000 euros. It probably helped that without the finger top she is topless.

Here is a clip of Indian street performers doing some spintop tricks (plus the wonderful and classic climbing-rope magic trick.)

It was nice to see Titi Freak (Sao Paulo, Brazil) in the MTV show Barrio 19 still throwing tops. Go here and select clip thirteen. And Takeshi doing a yo-yo/spintop demo in Hong Kong.

Salvador Martinez posted videos of two new regeneration tricks he developed but unfortunately he has since taken down from youtube all his spintop clips. He says he will re-record them. The first one, Telarañas Eléctricas [Electric Spiderwebs] raises the top vertically while swapping string ends. The second one, Arácnidas Krishálidas [Aracnids chrysalis, written with a k as in the Hindu deity Krishna] differs from Arácnidas in that he uses the foot to pump the string


July 31st , 2009

New forum, Euro-Top-Tour 2009

The forum at topspinning.com was down for 2 weeks so I started a new FORUM at ta0.com. I have now decided to make the new forum my primary posting board and most of the other posters have moved with me. There are two main reasons for the change: 1) the old board is secondary to a yo-yo board and 2) it belongs to a for-profit shop (Infinite Illusions). I believe the new forum, run by top spinners for top spinners, with the freedom of no economic ties, will be better.

Some history about spintop boards: topspinning.com (TS) first incarnation started in 2000 as well as Button & String (B&S) on the Utah Yo-Yo website. The B&S got most of the traffic and TS languished until the forum part of it closed. When UYY decided to close B&S, TS, that had come under the umbrella of II, was re-started. Unfortunately, the old files from B&S (many thousands of posts) were never put online.

The results from the Bay Area Classic where: 1) Miguel Correa, 2) Boyd Seth, 3) Dalan Kerr.

Spintastics is back! (the Olivers took control again of the brand).

I had the most wonderful spintop related tour of France and Spain. In two weeks I visited spintop players, spintop collectors, spintop craftsmen/artists and even spintop musicians! Everything was amazing, from the people I met, the things I discovered, the experiences (gave 3 shows in Paris!) and even the weather. There are some pictures here.

Salvador Martinez has started a series of videos on youtube showing and teaching regeneration tricks. He named the series: "El Gran Big Bang Mexicano de cuerdas de trompo" [the great Mexican big bang of spintop regenerations] as many were invented in that country. In fact, he invented several himself and a few others were created by his teacher, Gustavo Castro. The first in the series shows Arácnidas [spider-ones], Mandalas (technical name: Super-Órbitas en su Apogeo), Huitzime Quetzálcoatl [Hummingbird (Nahualt) of Quetzálcoatl], Automático [automatic] = Snap Start. Update 9/12: Unfortunately, he has taken down the videos. But stay tuned to his youtube channel.

May 17, 2009

Late but Good Spin

Worlds will have a different format this year. There will be two different styles of play, each one with its own freestyle and crowning a world champion: bearing tip and fixed tip (rules). In addition, the sport ladder rules have changed and new tricks were added.

I experimented again with a fire top. The design is the same one that I used a few years ago but I replaced the Hollow Point with the bottom of a Quick Silver. I tried it at the Texas Jugglefest (video) but I still need to work on it.

Dr. Hiroshiro Tada performs a spintop act (video) around San Louis, specially near the famous arch. The professor of mechanical engineering maintains the Japanese tradition of koma-mawashi taking his act from place to place in a cart. In Japan itself, Shuraku Chikushi has been maintaining the 450 year-old tradition of Hakata koma for the last three decades, the first women Hataka master in 160 years (English interview, Japanese official site). The tradition requires her to make her own tops, preserve the history and perform.

Salvador Martinez is a superb spintop player from Mexico City. He is a pupil of Gustavo Castro but has already invented several regeneration tricks (called in Mexico "cuerdas" = strings). See for example this video or others in his youtube account.

The 2nd South Moravia (Czech Republic) spintop contest had the following results: 1: Vaclav Kroutil, 2: Ondrej Sedivy, 3: Jan Novotny, 4: Daniel Konečný, 5: Jan Pelant. Here is a video. The format was a three-throw format, similar to the one to be used this year at the Bay Area Classic.

Here is a compilation of vintage but spectacular tricks by Matt Ritter.

For the third collaborative video we had to change some of the tricks from the Spintastics 24-trick patch. Here is the list. There is time until september to send me video clips.

Catherine S. made a good video tutorial showing the fixed tip tops available in the US.

The Argentinean artist (living in Mexico) M. A. Ríos has made some incredible but at the same time foreboding audiovisual presentations with white and black battling tops: "On the Edge" (2005), "Aquí" (2006) and "Morir." A teaser of the very good documentary about the filming of Aquí can be seen here.

In Tarragona, Spain, as part of the Santa Tecla celebration (around September 22nd), there is some sort of spintop contest: they have already reached the 30th edition. Check out these spintop costumes by dancers that entertain the crowd during the contest.

There is a second video of a visit to Cyril Mermilloid's collection of antique spinning tops, located south of Paris, one of the largest in the world.

Music with tops? Here is a video of Didier Malherbe with the Hadouk trio playing Toupie Tambour.

Komanotaketyan uploaded an incredible version of the Takeshi tangler using a pair of koma he throws simultaneously with one hand!

Yoyofactory has made a limited release of its new tops (only available directly from them): Throwback and Acrobat. These are ultra-high performance bearing tops (with fixed tip options) and prices to match ($100). The Throwback has a shape reminiscent of a Gates and it is extremely stable, a veritable spintop gyroscope. The Acrobat has a higher center of gravity and it is easier to lean for freestyle tricks. A collectors version of the Throwback ($150) comes in a display case with a card that is a throwback to 60´s Duncan cards.


February 28 , 2009

Second collaborative video

Watch the second collaborative video loosely based on the Spintastics award system. These are "free interpretations" of the tricks 9 through 16 from the second patch. The idea is to have fun so anything goes if it has a top and is somehow related to the trick. See a boomerang with a boomerang, a subway in a subway, a trapeze hanging from a trapeze! Features giant tops galore but also tiny ones.

If you want to collaborate on the third video of the series (to be edited towards the end of the summer) just send me an email. Any skill level can contribute with some imagination.

Mike Hout announced that he will sponsor a freestyle contest with cash prizes for players under 18 at Worlds. It will be called the "Schreiber Shootout" in honor of Rev. Jim Schreiber who taught a lot of people to play tops over several decades.

This year is Duncan's 80th anniversary and for the occasion came out with a logo has a top as prominent as the yo-yo. Takeshi is part of the anniversary world tour and he is showing off his tangler in far away lands.

Mark Hayward made another amazing kinetic trophy for the Ultimate Battletop Championship of the Universe. This one took place at Madfest 09 and was won by Keith Nelson form the Bindlestiff Family Circus.

Yoyofactory has announced a new limited production high-end top! It is called Throwback and those who have tried it say it is fantastic. It will come in black, red and mirror-polish aluminum (it seems some with delrin caps, others all metal).

A new video by David Burhmester showing snap/finger starts and fingernail grinds.

The movie "Under the same moon" ("La misma luna") (2008 Fox Searchlight Pictures) about immigration to the US uses a top as a prop. It won several international awards and I liked it a lot. After some frame by frame detective work I could identify the top as a Diamante from the Mexican brand Cometa.

Read a great true story about a top that has been spun almost every Christmas for 140 years (video).

This is a very nice sculpture of a giant top on a hand at a shopping center in the city of La Oratova, in the Canary Islands. And also in Spain there is another big top in front of the toy museum of Catalunya, in Figueres. And a mural/graffiti (Brazil?) of a top spinner by by master muralist and advanced player Titi.

Dan Lassanske is a professor of Agriculture at Cal Poly and has a huge collection of tops, as you can see.

"Rascals" were metal cones sold as finger tops in the 80's. Here is a fun video with a bunch of them.

Steve Brown exchanged his wife on the ABC show "wife swap." A clip from the show where he throws a top (made by Alan Gray and reinforced with fiber glass) is here.

Magician Cyril Harvey uses tops in several places of this routine.

Do you want to furnish your home with spintop inspired furniture and have a big budget? The check this collection from Site Specific Design from New York.

The YO2-Delta is a hybrid yo-yo top from Switzerland. It has nice looks but doesn't play well. YoEric crafted his own version inspired on it but correcting its problems: here is a comparison picture.

One-sided diabolos are like big tops. This is an interesting video from China using really long sticks.

A Santa Dreidel? :-)

If you are in Pasadena, California, you can eat at a couple of fast food restaurants named Tops: The Original Tops and Tops. Both have nice logos and the first one seems to have gear you can buy.


October 26 , 2008

US Nationals, Battling tops and more

I am happy to announce that ta0 is the new US National Champion!!! The contest was held, as always, on the 1st Saturday of October in Chico, California, home of the National Yo-Yo Museum. The picture shows me jumping over the top during my routine, a sure crowd pleaser. I am honored that one of the tops from my freestyle will remain on display at the museum! Second was Jon Gates and third a promising kid trained by Dave Bazan: Dalan Kerr.

The 2008 Ultimate Battletop Championship of the Universe took place after nats ended. As always, it had a unique and fabulous trophy created by Mark Hayward. Here is a video recap I made. If you like battling with tops, check these fierce tops crafted by Richy Nye. By the way, 12 three-player teams battled this year at the annual Miamisburg Whirled Festival of Tops.

If you throw tops, you can appear on our 2nd international collective video. Record a clip with a "free interpretation" of any of 8 basic tricks. This is open to players of any ability. Closing date will be end of November. Read more here or send me an email. We expect to have even more countries this time, like Bulgaria.

There was a Guinness World Record attempt of "most people spinning a top together" (picture) at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, organized by spintop craftsman Roy Campbell.

Csam made a fun video of her trip to Orlando and another of her trip to Chico.

Make and spin a origami top with this excellent tutorial.

I recorded the "squawk" sound of a vintage Duncan Squawker top.

This is a striking slow-motion video of Eric W. throwing his big Chicago Fire top.

The Taiwanese seem to have the biggest tops anywhere: here is a picture of a family reunion of behemoths!

The Hmong community in the US organizes tournaments of their traditional battle top game, Tuj Lub: they have deadly accuracy as this youtube video shows.

Here is a nice interview (in Spanish) of an old spintop turner from Quito, Ecuador.

Joe Mauk is a preacher living in the Philippines that uses tops to illustrate his sermons, following a tradition started in the States by Rev. Schreiber in the 1940's. This video shows him spinning a very large top and in this one he shows some of his tops.

Kyo was showing at nats the prototype of a new all-aluminum Bearing King top he is designing for Duncan! The nicest thing is that it has a one-way bearing! I had the opportunity to throw it and it feels surprisingly similar to the plastic version. From our feedback there will probably be a second prototype without the grooves around the body and with a bigger tip. This top is going to be sweet! By the way, Duncan is redesigning the Imperial top with thicker walls and a other minor changes.

YYJ is making new replacement tips for their old tops and they should be available soon. There is also a rumor they will make new Gates tops: we are crossing fingers! Finally, their new wood and aluminum big top may be available in limited quantities by the end of the year.


August 3rd, 2008

New champion, new record, new and old tops, new sites


Jon Gates won just a few hours ago his second World Spinning Top Championship. He had won in 2000 and he is the current US champion. Congratulations! Mike Hout got silver and Tom Connolly got bronze. Due to a last minute emergency I could not travel to Orlando this year. In fact, Mike was the only one of last year seven freestyle finalists to compete this year.

At worlds there was a contest to establish a record of "most corkscrew wraps." This will be the first "world spinning top record" to be certified by the future Spintop Players InterNational (SPIN) federation. The winner was also Jon with 9 wraps (he tied with Alan Gray but had fewer attempts). The trophy was designed by Jim Boehm so that it could only be spun after using it as a corkscrew to open a bottle! It was made by spintop turner Phillipe from Bourgogne, France.

Yoyojam has just unveiled the prototype of its new large production top. It is a truly revolutionary top, as it is made of laser-cut thin sections of wood plus an aluminum ring. It will be the largest (and more expensive) performance production top ever, about 4" (10 cm) diameter and 5" (12.5 cm) tall. It will come with fix and bearing tips. The bearing tip will have the bearing inside the tip, as previous YYJ tops. Those that tried it at worlds say it is "sweet". According to Jon, in spite of the size it plays very similar to a "Gates" (it is hollow) . It will probably be available by the time of the US nationals, but production runs may be small. The expected price is between $75 and $100.

Cyril Mermilliod from Paris has one of the largest private spinning top collections in the world. Here is a video Jim took on a visit. From antique automatons to ornate toupie hollandaise tables, thousands of wonderful tops in this private museum. My head is spinning!

Here is great video of Gerardo from Mexico in which he names several of the tricks he uses in freestyle (in Spanish).

Two excellent Japanese Koma trick resources are available. Komaspace by Yuuya is a professional looking site, now translated to English. It has descriptions and videos of many tricks plus diverse background material. Don't miss this demo clip by Yuuya himself. The other resource is a group of close to 100 videos on youtube by user komanotaketyan (Taketyan of the spinning tops). Many of the tricks they do are similar to the ones we perform with Western tops. But the traditional koma has no groove on the tip (and it is always fixed-tip, of course) what makes these tricks much more impressive. Some of the clips were recorded at the Nagoya museum.

Do you want to see a nice spintop combo filmed in real slow motion? Here it is by Taka.

Do you want to see a nice spintop combo filmed in 3D? Here it is by Chad Lunders (you will need red-blue anaglyph 3D glasses).

Moreno Bartolini is an Italian who makes and plays with old fashioned tops and does the "medieval/renaissance show" circuit in Europe. In this long (100MB) wmv video he demonstrates how the first rudimentary lathes worked.

Is this the first recorded picture of a boomerang? :-)

On June 17 the US Postal Service issued commemorative stamps in honor of designers Charles and Ray Eames. One of the stamps has a spintop motif as it refers to their short movie from 1969, "Tops".

I like finding wounds of old top battles. This top has a conical tip patented in 1910. But the crater marks on the crown were obviously made by a top with a spherical tip, also popular at the time.

Throwing a glass spinning top can give a great rush. I threw this vintage Avor glass candy container like a normal top and I could boomerang it without problem.


May 22nd, 2008

The World Spinning Together


With the goal of having a project uniting spintop players from around the world I had the idea of compiling a video of with collaborations sent via internet. The only requirement was that the tricks should be loosely related to the ones on the Spintastics 8-trick Patch Award. To make it accessible to any level of play and at the same time interesting, I asked for "free interpretations": tricks performed in an interesting location, with an unusual top, comical, playing on words or extreme versions were welcomed. I think we were successful. The result is here. Contact me if you want to participate in the next video in the series, based on the next 8 tricks.

The rules for the 2008 World Spinning Top Contest have been posted for the sports and championship divisions. It is likely there will also be an open sports division.

The winners of the "South Moravia Spin Top Contest" in the Czech Republic where: 1) Jakub Konečný (freestyle) , 2) Ondřej Šedivý and 3) Peter Kišoň.

Dani Miras from the Amics de la Baldufa started a photo spintop group on Flickr that aggregates spinning top pictures from any photographer on the site. It already has more than 600 really wonderful pictures from around the world. An incredible resource to browse for hours! Like this one.

On Flickr I found out about this statue from Tai-chong, Taiwan, perhaps the best spintop statue ever.

Look at this giant "throw" top from Taiwan: Fickr photo, youtube video. Actually, according to the Spinning Top Museum the World Record holder is Chang Tai-Yuan of Dashi, Taiwan who spun a 60.29 kg top (the tops look very similar).

You can watch two circus performances by Gerardo Jimenez from Mexico, who calls himself "el Rey del Trompo" (formerly "Mr. Trompo").

I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with Rusty Steubing, who at the age of 11 won the 1963 US National Spinning Top contest by Duncan. He confirmed to me that he got a check for $5000 (about $30k current money)! The contest also ran in 1964.

The first giant top made by Alan Gray, The Great Bambino, went on ebay for the record amount of $1550, but this was a benefit auction. Alan has made to date 19 giant tops (9" or bigger), including Figaro.

There is a little town in the mountains of Venezuela, called Borotá, where there is a spintop festival every year during Holy Week. It is a top "race" along the streets of the town. Other towns in Venezuela have it but this seems to be the most famous (slide show).

Here is a little video showing Japanese children playing with traditional beigoma tops. And here a top dancing around an antique Toupie Hollandaise table.

A Japanese restaurant named Koma ( こま: spinning top) modified the kanji characters for top, 独楽, to look like tops:

Several late 19th century spinning top articles are available online in the archives of La Nature (in French), including this one with a famous poster of a variety of tops. Also, check the article on the fountain top and then see it here.

Reading another article in La Nature on the Induction Top it occurred to me to try it with an aluminum top. As expected, the non-magnetic top does not interact with the magnet when it is static. However, when the top rotates inside the magnetic field, (eddy) currents are induced in the aluminum that create their own magnetic field, converting the top into a magnet. The result was startling! I even made an induction motor out of two tops and a magnet (click image)! Note: the magnet has to be very strong (neodymium).

Dale Oliver announced he will soon release red, blue and black-anodized QuickSilvers, in addition to the polished aluminum finish. By the way, here is a beautiful blue Spintastics Hollow Point anodized by Jorge Sanjuan (with the cap from a YYJ Bulldog).


February 9, 2008

Regeneration: old, new and future


This is an amazing fix-tip performance by Gustavo Castro at the Mexican Winter Games: click here

David Buhrmester posted a video doing some regeneration variations, including "Apogee" and I posted another regen trick, "Drum Rolls," on the tricks section.

The current "Guinness World Record" for spin duration of a top was made with a finger top (LSX) regenerated by manipulating the surface where it spun. It seems that because the top was "not touched" it was within their rules. Lately, I have been trying this type of regeneration with other tops and have succeeded with several, including a vintage pegtop and the Spintastics' Hollow Point (video).

Catherine Sampietro is leading a wonderful "spintop program" at the primary school The Academy, of Berkeley, California. See the action in these two youtube videos 1 & 2. Some of these kids can regenerate and have a huge potential in the sport..

French musician Didier Malherbe, of the Hadouk trio, uses tops spinning on a drum to make music. You can find his latest album Utopies here, or listen to Toupie Tambour here.

I found a wonderfully detailed article on a spinning top factory that was the biggest one in the world in the 1930's. I posted scans of the pages: read them by clicking on the Yankee magazine in the Papyrus section.

I believe this top may be a prototype of the first top ever patented in the US: patent number 11,187 of June 27, 1854, by W.E. Woodbridge of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. I'll have more about this in a future section on spinning top patents.


Eerie video "On the Edge" by Argentinean artist Miguel A. Ríos.

The original photograph of a kid spinning at top on the Titanic can be acquired from Father Browne's archives.

This is the latest kinetic trophy made by Mark Hayward for his ultimate battle top contests. This one took place at Madfest 08: worth fighting for!

Watch this video of Hans Jochen Schell doing the classical Japanese sword trick.


December 1st, 2007

Czech, French and US Nationals and a Mexican brand team


The winners at the 2007 Czech Nationals, November 17th, were: 1st: Jakub Konečný, 2nd: Jan Dvořák, 3rd: Václav Hajna. Jakub repeated but Jan was very close. The format was 2 minute freestyle to music (videos).

The French National spintop contest taking place this weekend has this fantastic trophy made by "toupie" artisan Phillipe D. from a small town in the center of France. The trophy disassembles into many unusual finger tops. You can see a tour of his wood shop and more on this video.

Jon Gates posted a slide show from the US Spintop Nationals in youtube (link). A white YYJ Gates top is your guide.

The demonstration team for the Mexican spinning top brand Cometa is touring Spain and promoting their trompos with kid contests. Here are a couple of videos of the team taken by Jorge Sanjuan: 1, 2.

I discovered a pegtop themed restaurant in San Antonio: De Wese's Tip Top Cafe. It's a third generation family establishment that has stayed opened for 69 years! The food is good and merchandise is available with their logo.

I started the Legend section with a pictorical reference of vintage Duncan tops. It is not complete yet, but most tops are there.


October 13, 2007

Flip Flop, US nats, UBU trophy, Federation, Tachometer

The US Nationals spintop contest took place in Chico, California, and Jon Gates collected another national title (won in 02 and 05). Silver was Takeshi and bronze Boyd Seth. I could not attend and so I missed the first "Ultimate Battletop of the Universe" organized by Mark Hayward. It had an amazing mechanical trophy that was won by "Dazzling Dave" Schulte.

I came up with a way of reversing the Gyro Flop, so it can be done in any direction. I will try to post a tutorial soon for the conventional Gyro Flop and for the new Flip Flop (video). The secret is mostly in the bind of the tip.

There is the idea to start an International Spintop Federation. The website will eventually be at ispintop.com

A while ago I took some tachometer measurements on a few tops. I was surprised how fast I can spin a Bearing King (7000 RPM). Here is a comparison between the BK and the Gates. The slow decay of the Gates's bearing is impressive.

This is a poster from 1964 of the major spintop contest of all time, just before Duncan declared bankrupcy.The $5000 would be equivalent to $32000 today!

Jorge Sanjuan.from Madrid, Spain, is trying to popularize bearing top play over there.

A 9 year old juggler, Ty Tojo, includes Japanese throw tops in his act.

I got the September 10, 1945 issue of Life Magazine. The table of contents under sports has no mention of baseball, football or basketball: just top spinning! Three grown-up top spinners show their tricks, including the "jerk system" regeneration, that they learned a generation before in Chicago's South Side.

From youtube, an old cartoon from Cuba with pegtops and a bully pump top.


August 25, 2007

Worlds 07 plus !

The World Spinning Top Contest was held August 2-4 in Orlando, Florida. Matt Ritter won as in 06 and 04. Takeshi Kamisato got silver and ta0 (!) bronze. Other players qualifying for the freestyle finals included David Buhrmester; Michael Hout, Boyd Seth and Titi Yokota. The winners in the sport ladder divisions were by age group: up to 12: Seam Micca, 13 to 16: Jonathan Feldman, 17 to 29: Christopher Oneil, 30 to 44: Alex Ayers, 45 to 106: Jeff Smith (77!)

Honor Guest : the city of Miamisburg, Ohio, is honoring the world spinning top champion by awarding him a $1000 prize to attend the “Whirled Festival of Tops." Matt gets it this year by virtue of his 2007 championship and also in recognition of him being the first ever to win three world championships.

There was so much opportunity to throw tops at Worlds 07 that sometimes we had to quit out of exhaustion. We had two beginner workshops, an advanced tricks breakout and the first ever regeneration class. Eric Wolf gave a workshop on turning tops with a lathe (there may be a spinning top modding contest next year.) At midnight the last day, we had a mini version of a “pro-contest” (Top Pro II) between some advanced players with a pool of money and a modded spintop as booty. I should mention that at Lucky´s barbecue Mike Hout did a “juggling 3 bowling balls while having a top spinning on the head” routine!

Isaac Kanarek, president of the Mexican yo-yo association, has started inviting trompo players for the Mexican nationals next March in Mexico City! With their great tradition in spinning tops this could eventually have a big impact on the level of play, perhaps as big as the Japanese had in yo-yos! By the way, the famous Japanese yo-yo player Taka(hiro Hasegawa) entered the spintop sport ladder this year. I was glad to see Titi represent again Brazil in the championship finals.

This is Quick Silver, the new all aluminum Trompo Bearing from Dale Oliver. He sold the first prototype batch of 20 at World's and after trying it I can say it is a winner! Quick Silver weighs 130 grams (not as heavy as you would think because the walls are thinner than on the HP). The cap screws on very nicely.

David Buhrmester has developed a regeneration version of the blizzard trick. He showed it a Worlds and he also made a video here. It seems the name will be Magnetic Wire or Magnetic String.

Mark Hayward is pushing along to have a spintop-battle contest at Nationals. Here is a link to his discussion on planning the event.

June 19th , 2007

Videos Galore plus Gasing!

I was contacted by Gerardo Montero Rivera from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. He is really good with a spintop. See some videos of him on youtube including his creation: “La mejor suerte.” 

He does some very good teleféricos (cable cars) that inspired me to add a tutorial of the basic cable car to the tricks section.

Something I wanted to have for a looong time was a Malaysian gasing top set. I finally got one! Mine weighs 6.5 pounds (2.9 kg) and it won a contest in 2001 in Kota Bahru, Kelantan province, with a time of 1 hour and 27 minutes!

Gasing [ga-sing] is a popular traditional game in Malaysia and giant gasing is played specially amongst the villagers in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu, who compete each season after the rice harvest. A low quality video of how it is thrown is here.

Here are two nice video web-finds of traditional spintop craftsmen: one from Japan (Masa-aki Hiroi) and the other from Colombia (Octavio Londoño).

A group from Osaka, Japan, has been trying to introduce a new spintop sport. It is called ASPHIP: A SHPere and a wHIP. Paul from Asphip contacted me. He is the main American player on the site video. That was filmed 15 years ago in Atlanta in advance for the 96 Olympics there. I would like to try it.

I posted an old video (1970's?) (40MB Quicktime) showing Joe Mauk, one of several “spintop preachers” from the Jim Schreiber tradition, spinning his giant 60lb spintop in Philippines.

Finally, I found what I think is a nice spintop related song: .
Artist: Mozez; Title: Spinning Top; Album: So Still (2006)
Video with lyrics here.


March 11, 2007

Championship Compulsory videos

The last few years both the US Nationals and Worlds have had a fixed set of compulsory tricks to qualify for the freestyles. But there was no place to see videos of every trick exactly as described in the list. See them here. Some players would like to change them or even change the freestyle qualification process but it seems 2007 will continue with the current rules.

Mark Hayward posted a great story about a new version of battle top that happened at the 2007 Madfest Juggling Convention. He wants to organize a "Super Battle-Top Championship of the Universe" at the Nationals in Chico this year. It could include three weight classes: Stock, Mid-Weight, and Heavy-Weight. I hope it happens.

You can click these links to hear the difference between the sound made by a Duncan Hummer and a Duncan Whistler (both from the 1960's).

A really charming video of finger tops was posted on youtube: Spinning-Top Circus.


January 28, 2007


At last there is proof that spinning tops can be juggled!!! I filmed the video JuggleTopFest last weekend. I juggled 3 tops in a cascade pattern and also did some related goofing. I started the cascade by loading my hands with the 3 tops spinning, one of which had a double-tip. In another version I started directly from a nested boomerang of 2 of the 3 tops. I filmed the video Friday and Saturday nights, somewhat in a hurry. With more time I could have gotten longer and better runs. Juggling spinning tops is indeed possible!

Juggling tops is an idea that has been bounced among spintop players for a long time. This is not surprising as many top players are also jugglers. But it wasn’t clear if it was really possible. The first challenge is that of simultaneously starting 3 or more tops and getting them in the air. But there are more fundamental problems. If you push a top along a line different than its axis it will precess and tilt. When landing a top on the hand players generally correct the tilt by a hand movement that requires dwelling time not available while juggling. Furthermore, these corrections require looking at the top on the hand but in juggling “catches” are generally blind: you look up at the peaking of the juggled objects.

I noticed while I practiced juggling one top and two balls that I was slowly getting better at catching the spinning top and throwing it again without disrupting the spin. Perhaps my subconscious was reading the tilt in the air and catching the top in a move that compensated. Probably not, but I am not sure.

Wrapping 3 tops and getting them spinning on the hands or arms takes time and can be tiresome after a while. What I want to pursue in juggling tops is the boomerang start. The first time I attempted juggling tops was when I got the nested Triple Play top from Alan Gray, around 2002. For a solid weekend I was throwing boomerangs without success. I named the imagined trick “Too Much Trouble” (throwing a boomerang with a Twin Spin was called “Double Trouble” in the Duncan trick book of the 60s). Ideally one would want to have the lower two toplets coming back low and close together while the third toplet should go into a high arch. Designing such a top may be as much a challenge as then hitting the trick. But on the JuggleTopFest video I showed a start in which I already have a top spinning on my left hand and I throw a boomerang with two nested tops (Hollow Point and Sidewinder). It should be possible to boomerang the left-hand top at the same time as the two nested tops: that’s my future goal.


January 14 , 2007

New Year, New Videos!

Happy New Year everybody!

I taped two new videos in the first two weeks of the year! I WISH I could keep that up, but I will be happy if I can finish the year averaging more than one per month.

The first one, "Stacked Odds" shows some fooling around stacking two spinning tops one over the other. The Yoyojam tops have a round hole at the crown that allows this to be done. Unfortunately, they are out of production (temporarily, I hope; a Gates top just went for $81 on Ebay!). The Spintastics and Duncan tops have non-circular holes but it may be easy to mod them for that. The “stacked arm-walker” was the second trick clip I ever posted (circa 2000) but in a very low-resolution video. At the time I also posted a photograph of a stacked bind: now you can see how I got into it. The forehead stack is new. It is the first time I use swimming goggles and a mirror as props! You can see it here.

At the topspinning.com forum I posted a quiz about a mistery top. The answer was: "It’s a Lulu!" The packaging says: “The Exciting, Swinging 3 in 1 GO – GO Spinning Toy." I got this vintage toy that transforms from a (bad) diabolo to a (terrible) spintop and finally to a (-n awful) yo-yo on Ebay. Hull-Ottawa Wood Products, Ottawa, Canada, manufactured it (but it is made of plastic). My guess is that Lulu is from the 1950s, but I would appreciate any information I receive. The zip code is R.R.4: that may help dating it. The name of the toy inspired me to use the old Little Lulu comic as the theme (here 15MB).

This video is the first on a series of videos I plan to make (eventually) showcasing vintage tops. It will start the legend (museum) section at ta0.com.


November 18, 2006

Topspinning.com - Pro Top I video

The discussion board about tops, formerly Button and String, has moved to Topspinning.com. It is sponsored by the Infinite Illusions shop. It runs the same software that was developed for yoyoing.com so it will work very well for our purposes. A very nice feature is that it links directly to the huge II video vault with the spintop videos tagged and filtered. I will probably post my not-so-well finished videos there, but my main videos will still appear and be hosted here first.

Unfortunately, my taping of the national freestyles failed and nobody has posted them yet. But I managed to get some of the action at the informal Pro Top I competition. I uploaded it here (the sound is delayed a couple of seconds). I think I had a good regeneration run.

Two contests that will include spintops are coming up before the end of the year. Indy States will take place Saturday December 2 in Indianapolis. Just announced, the 2006 Greater DC Open Yo-Yo & Spin Top Contest will be held December 27 at the "Sounds Like Fun" event at The City Museum Building, in Washington DC. A great thing to do between Christmas and New Year.


October 16, 2006

Chico in name, Grande in fun

U.S. Nationals 2006 was a great meet. However, there were not as many spintop players as I would have liked. In fact, the number of freestyles spots was decreased to be more fair to the yoyo players that only get a freestyle spot per several compulsory entries (don't miss this spectacular photo of Yoshi Mikamoto). Dave "Buzzon" is the new national champion (for a second time), edging Takeshi thanks to a better compulsory score.

Cliff Coleman (from the Spinology video and skateboarding pioneer) wanted to have the first ever "Spintop Pro Competition" and made it happen. He got us a small conference room at the hotel late Saturday night for the hard-core spintop challenge. We rounded up seven advanced players who had to fork $20 each into a prize pool to compete and judge on a peer-scored two-minute freestyle. Takeshi got the bragging rights to the first "pro" title and $100. Myself, I got a $10 balance, becoming a de-facto "professional". There was also a best trick contest (2 tries) but no money on it (stairway to heaven won).

Alan Gray presented Boyd Seth with Mjolnir (in norse mythology, the hammer of Thor, the god of lightning, thunder, wind, and rain) his latest giant top creation. What a beautiful top!

World Spinning Day was October 11th, according to the Spinning Top Museum of Burlington, Wisconsin. To celebrate, I tried to beat my personal record for drumbeats. On the first try I did 293, which, at about 24 drumbeats per minute, is over 12 minutes. I had noticed in Chico that my drumbeats seemed smoother than they used to. Sunday morning I drumbeated myself from the hotel lobby to the elevator, pushed the button to call it, entered and pushed the 4th floor button, exited and said hi to the guy that won tops in the older ladder division, went to my room, got the top into the hand, opened and entered, without dropping once! I wish somebody would have followed me with a camera!

Look for the videos of the freestyles and pictures of the meeting soon (I renamed the photo section "Visions").

ATTENTION: The Button and String bulletin board is moving to www.topspinning.com next week!

September 20, 2006

Last Quarter in Review

Lots of things happened since the last posting. Sorry about that; I should be able to update the site much more often now.

I inaugurated the photo section with a Figaro Gallery. This will be a gallery of spintop players having my giant top Figaro spinning on their hands (or heads, etc.). It is just starting but it should turn into a great project.

The Worlds Spintop Contest took place August 12th in Orlando, Florida. I could not attend this year. And the winners were . . .1) Matt Ritter (repeat from 04) 2) Takeshi 3) Alan Gray. All the freestyles are here. Titi Freak (Brazil), David Buhrmester and Boyd Seth are up and coming exiting players that will be very competitive in the future. Dale Oliver was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

I did compete with success at the South Central Regional contest in Dallas, Texas. For the first time I completed in competition an upside-down whip and boleadoras. I had the chance to visit the retail shop of yo-yo manufacturer Buzz-On and throw tops with Dave Bazan. The shop is really hip. At the front it has displays with Dave's yoyo and top collections, as well as trophies (including his two world spintop championships). Val and Dale Oliver (Spintastics) invited my family to have diner at their house. I got to see the very nice collection of vintage spintops and yoyos they have on display. You wouldn't believe how big the spintop trophy Val's brother Forest got in 1964 is! Got their pictures for the Figaro Gallery.

Talking about contests, I am going to the U.S. Nationals Contest, October 7th in Chico, California.

Chad Lunders posted a clip of a new trick: horizontal corkscrew. I need to learn it. It seems there is always a new corkscrew variation to be discovered.

Spintop trick playing had a fleeting appearance on primetime TV back on July 6th. On the ABC program Masters of Champions, during a yo-yo challenge, Dave Bazan brought out a spinning top! The whole segment is here.

On the shop of the very interesting Grand Illusions site from the UK, there are new motorized little finger tops with lights that can keep spinning for hours.

I expect lots of new stuff after Chico.

June 22, 2006

The World Spins

Work, work, work. No life, no Tao, no tops . . . At this time I doubt I will be able to go to worlds this year. Or do a major update to this site any time soon . . .

There are some new amazing spinning top videos from Colombia (taped by Japanese yoyo master Takahiro Hasegawa) at the yoyoing.com video vault: short, long. Part of them was taped at a tournament. The full-body corkscrew (by who appears to be the winner) is one of the many wonderful tricks I want to learn. I loved to see really small kids doing difficult tricks: a future generation of champions! There is also a video of a Colombian man making a top on a lathe in a very short time.

Tony Stein from South Africa sent me pictures (1, 2) of his amazing tops that spin for a super long time. He throws them by hand with "no mechanical means of launching." His spin time record is 1 hour 7 minute 5 seconds! This is still not as long as the record for a big Malaysian Gasing top, but incredible for a 10cm-diameter fixed-tip top. Moreover, his record for number of revolutions, 54416, is probably a world record (his smaller tops should spin much faster than the Gasing tops). He decorates the tops with holographic paper and makes them spin in elegant pedestals: really beautiful work.

A friend that visited Paris brought me a metal finger top with the Eiffel tower as the stem. The base is a reproduction of the medal it won in 2003 at the Concours Lépine of toy designs. It was created by a Véronique Lemesle. The proud little top has its own website. It does spin well.

March 07, 2006

Rabitt out of a top hat!

I performed at the Texas Jugglefest in Austin. The freezing weather affected the turnout but it was still lots of fun as the public is always very enthusiastic and supportive. This time I added some humor to it by producing a "rabbid" out of Figaro. Out of the big top also came a wooden top and from inside that one a vintage Chiquito top. Here is a video with some highlights.

I corrected the link to Nickel-Eye. They dropped the second "Bad Ass" video of Matt Ritter but I uploaded it here with his permission.

A page of top related photos is coming soon . . .

I am working on three new tricks that have a lot of potential but they are still half baked. At least one of them would be a classic if I a figure out how to do it correctly. Wish me luck!

February 7, 2006

Back from el Sur!

From Uruguay I came loaded with wooden tops. Below are three examples made by master craftsman "Tomaldo" of Montevideo (see links page): 1) a nested wooden top, 2) a top with longitudinal holes (it has a weak "vacuum cleaner"effect), and 3) a combination wood and nylon. A picture of the complete bounty is here.

I found a giant Perinola (teetotum) in the streets of Montevideo's Old-City. See it here. They had a huge storm about six months ago that felled thousands of trees. Some artists took advantage of the wood to make a street display of sculptures with the theme of the children of the world. The inscriptions on this Perinola were adapted to the subject of hunger. Fortunately, the face looking up says: "everybody eats".

I have added some new links and bibliography (see Papyrus).

December 23, 2005


This will be the last posting of the year as I am going on vacation to the country of Uruguay for the holidays. I hope to bring back several one-of-a-kind wooden tops made by local craftsmen. I will also try to spread the sport of spintop trick-playing. Supposedly, battling with pegtops has been a popular pastime over there the last few years (no batteries required!) what gives me a great foundation to work from.

I added a link for the I-Top, a fascinating high-tech finger top that includes a microprocessor and a sensor that works as a magnetic compass. Using the compass as reference, the top can not only measure its rotation rate but can synchronize a column of LED lights to display messages that remain static while the top rotates. Several games are available thanks to the microprocessor, such as the most-rotations-from-a-throw or hitting a certain number of rotations target. There are two versions, the "classic" for $8 or less, and the "Pro" for $14, which are quite remarkable prices for this self-contained compass/tachometer. It has been a bestseller for the holidays and it is out of stock in most places. The Pro can be programmed with custom messages and has a one-digit display to provide feedback when the top is not spinning. However, it doesn't have the live RPM (tachometer) mode of the classic (perhaps it is one of the features activated by a hidden code: email me if you know it).

I have established a "posting contest" at the Button & String message board. The best post from now until January 15th gets a one-of-a-kind peg top made from exotic wood, postage paid anywhere in the world.

I wish everybody a Top 2006!

October 26, 2005

Spinning Times

At B&S there was a question about how long does a top spin.

I proposed the following benchmark for bearing tops: number of crazy 8 loops until extinction (C#). There are some advantages but also some problems with this approach: the complete discussion thread can be found here. I performed measurements on several of my tops.

My limited results seem to show that the bearing king and blizzard are very similar in spin times; the trompo is significantly better; and the old topdog and gates are much better (with the gates having the advantage). Of course, spin times and number of loops are only part of the story about bearing tops. For example, the smaller tops have an advantage for doing many loops but are more difficult to lasso.

I also measured the plain spinning times on my hand and the rankings I got were similar to C#, so the value of the proposed benchmark is debatable. Hand spin times varied from 60 seconds for my best stock BKs and Blizzards to 3 minutes 40 seconds for the best (cleaned) YYJ tops.

Talking about long spin times, it is now available on the internet the LSX (or hypno-top) finger top that has the longest spin recorded on the Guinness Book of World Records (almost 3 hours). Actually, the spin on this top is regenerated by manipulating the board where it spins and thus it is a regeneration record. The website of the creator, Ed Rubin, is here. However, there is an earlier patent for this concept from June 19, 1965 (US pat. 3,191,341) by an L. W. Martin, from Wichita, Kansas. I suspect that most finger tops can be regenerated in similar fashion if the tip is made blunt. The discussion thread on B&S can be found here.

I posted the freestyle videos from the US nationals. They can be found on the tricks page.

October 6, 2005


The U.S. Nationals in Chico, California, were a blast but way too short! I did bring a medal (second in spintops) but, as always, the best part of going to these contests is meeting fellow players.

Takeshi Kamisato, who finished third, blew everyone away with his Top Tangler. He first taped a perfect one off stage and then he started his freestyle with one! He has already posted a video here, a must see. The reaction of the crowd is priceless. We are much honored that he dedicated the video to us. I'll write more about this trick on another post. Takeshi gave several of us bearing kings moded with a yoyo ring: a beauty!

Jon Gates won the national spintop championship. He had his typical amazing play but smoother with little dead time: a joy to watch! He got, besides a medal, a nice size cup, and the use for one year of Alan Gray's masterpiece. That is a giant top that will be a traveling trophy to pass on to the next national champion. Jon is in the YYJ team and had a YYJ shirt but actually used Duncan tops! That was in protest until YYJ makes new tops, he said. But André Boulay from YYJ (who is a spintop player himself) just posted on B&S that those tops are coming soon (yeah!).

How nice to see Alan again! His collection of handmade tops and yoyos is superb. He took a big risk on his freestyle by taking only 3 tops on stage. Actually, he wanted to do the whole thing with just one of his wooden tops but it eventually went off stage.

There is some new blood coming to the sport. Jared Villareal, Boyd Seth and David Mellon will soon be competing for the title.

I was happy that on my freestyle I nailed staircase to heaven and upside-down corkscrew. I started again with the back stab.

We had a small trick throwdown (horse style) with the players that were around at the time (Jon, Alan, Jared and I). My winning trick was an upside down lasso. We need to do this again at other meetings.

Thanks a lot to the judges Dick Stohr, Dave Bazan and Dale Oliver: without them this could not happen!

The freestyle videos should be available soon.

September 9, 2005

Colombian Street Video

You have to watch the video on Colombian spintop throwers (it's on the tricks page). It was broadcasted last week in the Spanish-language network Univision. The segment appeared in the program "Ver para creer" and really, I had to see it to believe it. They play with pegtops of all shapes and sizes, including miniature and giant tops. The “teleférico” is a killer trick that I have now learned. They even do some double-tip-like tricks using the crown.

The guy with the big top says that the one he is showing is the smallest of his big ones. It weighs a hefty 12 pounds. He also has 15, 17, 18, 20 and 23 (!!!) pounders, the last one being the largest he has been able to spin ("bailar" = dance).

One of the comments by the reporter is that the mark of a good player is not only his ability to control the top, but also his ability to withstand the top spinning on any part of his body. A shot showing how they spin spike tops in their tongue proves the point!

August 30, 2005

UD corkscrew and updates

Added upside-down corkscrew to the tricks page. At W05 Jack Ringca told me that he had seen the trick done in Singapore. I guess this completes the corkscrew section of tricks and I should move on to different tricks. However, there are two more corkscrew tricks that I dream of doing but I haven't been able to (yet? never?). One is continuous corkscrews: sequential reversible corkscrews without stopping. The other is corkscrewing down one arm and corkscrewing up the other one. Are they possible? I am not sure.

I have several ideas to incorporate to a new clip video, but it will take a while to make. My guess is that I will release it sometime in October.

I temporarily uploaded the rest of the W05 freestyles. Right-click the following links (MPEG, around 30 MB each): Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth. The first place is on the tricks page. They were taken with an unattended camera so there are no close-ups.

August 7, 2005

2005 Worlds (Part II)

Like last year, worlds was an extraordinary experience. One big reason is that it is much more than a contest. Just the official program is choke full of workshops and events. There were beginning workshops and advanced breakouts in the 5 competition yo-yo styles, plus workshops in general yoyoing (2), old-school fixed axle, one on grinding and one on wraps, besides (of course!) spinning tops. Also workshops on juggling, diabolos and pizza throwing (a skill I am going to learn: I'll finally be able to tell my wife that I can cook ;-). If you are handy there were a total of 7 (!) workshops on using hand tools or wood and metal lathes to mod, plus how to dye. And all the "theoretical" workshops: how to shoot videos, performing (2), promoting, collecting and designing yo-yos. And then all the unofficial stuff, such as the 24/24 hour trick video shooting, the wire-between-chairs line challenge, and (the most important) just hanging out and talking about yo-yos and spintops. To top it all, there were 4 special events that need special mention.

First, Lucky's BBQ, which is a series of events in itself. Many official yo-yoing world records were broken (three by Luke Roberts) but the talk was Bill de Boisblanc interminable Shoot the Moon (1057!): just having the arms up so long is difficult! I was the only one to participate in the "15 seconds of fame" using a top. My idea was to throw Pencil Sharpener and then inverted on my head. I miss the first throw and with the time it took me to rewind the second (successful) attempt was outside the time limit and it didn't count. I was afraid of getting hurt before the spintop contest, so I did not enter the air trick (while diving on a swimming pool) challenge.

The Iron Chef of Yo-Yoing was very popular: Takeshi and Seth Peterson against Rob Tsou and Kyle Weems competed trying to modify several surprise yo-yo's in an hour. The surprise yo-yos turned out to be vintage Duncans. But it coincided with the pizza-throwing contest, so I missed most of it.

The Wheel of Penalty was probably the funniest event. Dave Bazan almost hit somebody while yo-yoing blindfolded. Jon Gates had to freestyle with two Brazilians on his face (and one emptied a jar of water over him). Rounding the strong presence of spintop players, Mark Hayward was the MC. The winner was Rafael (Red) Matsunaga who had to freestyle with his pants on his ankles!

The Fast challenge from Yoyofactory (Hasbro) was fun. Not everyday you see elite players challenging each other with basic tricks like walk-the-dog. But of course, $1020.10 is a big incentive. And boy, were they fast!

One thing I noticed was that there were less commercial booths compared to 2004: for example, Spintastics, Buzzon and Extreme Spin were not officially present this year (Buzzon pushed their yo-yos from a violin case in the hotel lobby). The reason is that the yo-yo market is flat except, perhaps, for the heavily advertised Fast yo-yo. If the commercial presence was a little depressing, the yo-yo player presence was the largest ever!

Now, back to the spinning top scene. We missed Alan Gray (and son), Eric Wolf and Val Oliver, as well as Matt Ritter (who has probably retired from the sport). In fact, the only giant top this year was my Figaro (last year there were five). By the way, I sheared Figaro's metal axle (wow!) on a bad drop (but it should be easy to machine a new one). Compared to last year we had fewer advanced top players, even with the addition of Hayward and Matt Byam. In that sense it was a little disappointing. But there were more non-competitors that approached me with questions on spintops. My impression is that there are many beginning players out there and the challenge is to get them to the next level. All the advanced contestants in spintops have been from the U.S.A. until now, but at least one Brazilian (Titifreak) will probably compete next year. And Taka(hito) Hasegawa was very interested in taping some of my tricks after the competition so something is brewing in Japan. I also tried to convince some Mexican yo-yo players to pick-up tops.

I gave the spintop beginner workshop and it was very well attended. In fact, the interest was so high that it ran well into the time scheduled for the advanced breakout. When we finally got to it we had a very nice exchange of tricks. Thanks again to Jon for taking the time to teach me a better way of doing the snap start. It was the type of explanation that has to be given one-on-one as it would be very difficult to describe in text. On my part, I disclosed the secret to doing multiple around-the-world tricks and explained my (weird) upside-down throw. So I expect to see other players attempting world hitchhiker and pencil sharpener in the future.

Surprisingly, the compulsory scores were lower than last year. I got exactly the same score, in spite of being much better prepared. On the freestyles, the main comment from the judges was that there were many tries but also many misses. I think that in general we tried more difficult tricks (not counting Matt's 2004 freestyle). Last year I regretted not having tried some of my more unique tricks. So this year I went for broke and paid the price. Anyway, it felt good trying to do my latest tricks. What I do regret is not having thrown at least one simple boomerang and done a regen series out of it. Dave had a pretty solid routine and Takeshi hit the most spectacular tricks.

Here is a link to a video of Dave's routine (32 MB). This is temporary until Shawn Fumo posts all the freestyles on his site (look for them on the links page).

See you in Orlando in 2006? (Worlds 2007 may move to Japan).

August 1, 2005

The day after . . .

It's Monday after worlds. I am still exhausted but I need to get worlds out of my system so I can start to concentrate on work. And the best way I can think is to write down the memories impressed in my mind. I will concentrate in the spintop part, I am sure you'll find much about the yoyo part elsewhere.

Worlds is such an intense experience. There is always something going on: workshops, breakouts, contests, especial events, filming, playing horse. After the official program of the day was over, people would remain in the ballroom and lobby to the wee hours of the night exchanging tricks, talking and having fun. Saturday I had to take a nap between the compulsories and the freestyles because I was already feeling crashed. Anyway, I stayed at the ballroom until 4AM because I didn't want the thing to end.

First, I need to thank a lot of people that helped me learn stuff at worlds. I would like to start with Jon Gates who took time to teach me a better way of doing the snap start without hurting my fingers. Jon is such a great guy besides being a superb top player. Dave Bazan showed me several neat tricks such as his BB pass to one hand trapeze (including some that I new only by name from Hornbeck's old postings). Mark Hayward showed us his trademark Claw (finger nails required) and explained the secret to Steve Brown's perfect looking Bermuda Triangles. Many thanks to Takeshi Kamisato (Mitch) who taught the moding with hand tools workshop and also showed me an amazing bounce trick (how on earth can he do all what he does at worlds?). Thomas Connolly showed me a nice looking trick that he calls (?) Spear. And Jack Ringca showed me the basis of an upside-down (tip up) corkscrew he saw in Singapore. Many special thanks to Cole Rominger who with a lot of patience gave me tips on yoyo looping (and a Russell yoyo to take home). And last but not least, top thanks to Matt Byam who was the main player with whom I threw tops and bounced trick tips.

Some other people I would like to thank for making worlds more fun for me are Dale Oliver, Dick Stohr, Greg Cohen, the Brazilian crew, Shawn Fumo, Taka(hito) Hasegawa, Dale and Sue Myberg, Lucky Meisenheimer, and Marvin Takahashi. And the list could go on and on . .

Bazan won the spintop championship, Gates was second and Takeshi third. I recorded the freestyles so I will try to post them soon. I will post more on the spintop competition and worlds in general later in the week.

June 17, 2005

Worlds news and new lathe

The 2005 World Top contest in Orlando is only a month an half away! Finally, the official rules were posted here. The only surprise, and a pretty big one, is that the number of competitors that will qualify for freestyle was increased from five to eight! This is great news! That the hosting world yo-yo contest will give us more time on the stage means that our routines are becoming more appreciated. It also probably means that more contestants are expected: after all they know how many have pre-registered. By the way, with the buzz created this year by the yo-yo ad campaigns I imagine that the whole contest should be bigger than last year which was itself the best ever (so I am told as it was my first one).

I purchased a mini metal lathe and should receive it today! I am ready to start a new facet of the sport and turn my own custom tops. I will start by turning replacement tips. I have some ideas that I want to try on how to improve their performance, especially for regens. We'll see the results. The lathe seems to be a very good deal; it is sold by Cummins Tools for $399, including several accessories. There are a few other brands out there (Harbor Freight, Grizzly, Homier) but all are made by the same manufacturer in China.

I finally saw the Czech movie Kolya, winner of the 1996 academy award for best foreign language film. It is a very good movie, but the spinning top scenes are very short. First there are a few seconds turning the top on a lathe, then about 20 seconds spinning the top and, later in the movie, a few more seconds of an imaginary top spinning above a kid having a nightmare. Interestingly, the top is played as a whip top (even though it is shaped more like a classic throw top).

I don't know if I will have the time to post new videos before worlds. But at least I will try to post to this blog more often.

May 12, 2005

Corkscrew Tricks

Spintastics introduced the first bearing top, the Tornado, in February 1999 and late that year Duncan followed with the Bearing King. Perhaps no trick epitomized the capabilities of the new high-tech spinning tops and grabbed the attention of future players as much as Corkscrew. Invented by Lao Alovous (using a BK) it was considered at the time an advanced and very impressive trick. Although it is now routinely performed by most intermediate players it remains a favorite of both the players and the public. It turned out that corkscrew could also be done with a fixed tip top as shown by John Hornbeck circa 2000. Over the next years I posted on B&S descriptions and videos of three variations: Bondage (independently invented by Dale Oliver), Reversible Corkscrew and Staircase to Heaven (both also claimed by Steve Brown). I am sure Reversible Corkscrew is here to stay and will become very popular (Miguel Correa performed it at worlds 04 and Justin Adams just did it at Quebec 05). At last worlds I go more requests for Staircase than for any other trick so don't be surprised if I include it in my freestyle routine this year (assuming I qualify).

As you may have guessed already, I added Corkscrew and its variations to the Tricks page. There are descriptions and videos. Eventually I want to add drawings showing in detail the string wraps . . . but don't hold your breath.


It seems few people have found the new URL for the Button and String board. Please, follow the link under Links and join the best place to talk about tops!

March 22, 2005

Fire top and more

Recently, while at a hardware store (Lowes), my son Diego pointed me towards a product with top spinning potential: an aluminum cone for closing chain-link fence posts. It was cheap ($1.38) so I bought one to experiment. I drilled a hole at the vertex, inserted a sidewinder steel tip, and was spinning in no time. The homemade top had some wobble (before balancing), but I could still regenerate! They are made by Master Halco and are called "0-way bullet caps".

The caps are easy to drill and mod so I decided to revisit the design of a fire top. I had previously some success using a Hollow Point after been inspired by Matt's video at nickel-eye, but the flame didn't last long enough. These caps are larger than the HP, so I can stuff more wick inside. Also, I had the idea of drilling holes close to the tip as air intakes. Boy, did it work! Truly extreme top spinning! I had to cover most of the holes as the flames were huge. I need to experiment and optimize this fire top prototype, but you can preview a picture and a short clip. CAUTION: this can be dangerous! Follow fire juggling safety precautions. Above all, do not use glass or open containers for the fuel.

I have already reserved airline flight and hotel for the 2005 Worlds Contest in Orlando at the end of July! It will be great!

The Button and String forum changed URLs a couple of weeks ago, but few people have found out yet. I updated the link, so go ahead and visit it. Hopefully, Richard will soon be able to add the thousands of posts from the old board.

February 19, 2005

Jugglefest and rollercoaster vids

Added rollercoaster to the list of tricks. There is a video of RC-to-Hand and another of RC-to-String. There is also a close-up of the bottom of the trick. I'll probably add another taken from above, perhaps using a vintage top.

Like last year, I had a blast at Jugglefest XII at the University of Texas (Austin). I gave two workshops on tops, a beginner and an intermediate. There was again plenty of interest. I met Christopher George who drove all the way from Amarillo (8 hours). John Hornbeck introduced him to tops just a few months ago and I am sure he will become a very good player. This year I didn't perform at the public show but I have all the intention of participating again next year. By the way, the show had some high-caliber performers (a silver medallist from the IJA festival and the 8 ball juggling Guinness World Record holder) as well as some really unusual performances (e.g. "bubble gum manipulation").

January 1, 2005

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (+ videos)

What a better way to start the new year than to post new videos? Actually, these are the first instructional videos, so the tricks page is now officially open for business.

The tricks I selected are of the diabolo-regeneration type: drumbeat, sewing machine and joker choker. All these are classic tricks but quite advanced. I taped them from two perspectives.

December 28, 2004

About the Tricks

Some words about the tricks on the "Over the Top" video. I had previously posted individual videos of several of the tricks on B&S: staircase to heaven, world hitchhiker, walk-the-plank, fetch-the-stick, pencil-sharpener to ud whip, and balance-beam mount. I had described before, but not taped, upside-down lasso and match one. The hop bind is my variation on air-bind type tricks described by others (e.g. Hornbeck), but that I have never seen. Completely new, as far as I know, are: circular saw, rope jumping and back stab. I really like those three tricks and I plan to incorporate them into my regular routine. Pencil-sharpener has become kind of a signature trick for me (I opened my worlds freestyle with it). I also dig walk-the-plank, probably because it's my only regen baby. However, other players don't seem to like it (Jon Gates has been doing it, independently). Upside-down lasso from boomerang is probably the most difficult trick on the video, but it is also the shortest. I wanted to include the fire top footage, even though this first prototype needs improvement. I need to come up with an idea to lengthen the burn. One idea I have is to drill holes close to the tip to let air come in. But I have misgivings about drilling one of my HPs . . .

I have just finished filming the first single-trick instructional videos (diabolo-type regenerations) and I plan to post them in one or two weeks. It has taken me a long time to select a format for the tricks page. The first version will have static hard links. Eventually, I would like to have a database-driven list, but that is in the far future.

I have made some minor updates to several pages. In particular, I added a little book on Taoism to the bibliography.

Have a happy new year! I wish you all lots of spinning in 2005!

November 22, 2004

"Over the Top" trick Video

First large trick video is up! I am inaugurating ta0.com video archive with "Over the top", a 3:50 minute (40MB) MPEG1 clip with more than 10 advanced tricks. Included is footage from my first fire-top prototype. I recommend you increase the brightness of the monitor to maximum, as the video turned out a little dark (the fire top scene is really dark). This is one of the problems I need to correct next time. Some of the videos were recorded with too little light and some with too high a shutter speed. But I am still pretty happy with the technical result. Up until now I had only made single trick videos that I had posted on B&S (and not of the quality I want to post at ta0.com). I will comment on some of the tricks on the video on another post. Enjoy!

November 12, 2004


The bibliography/reference page is up. Actually, only the books (and tapes) are up, the listing of articles will come at a later day. The books are from my personal collection and I included a short comment and a mug shot of each one. If you know of any other book on the subject, I want to hear about it! I am also interested in articles and scientific papers (if it is one difficult to get, I would trade you a copy for one little top gift).

I am working on a video clip with several tricks, some new, I believe. I promised the clip on the B&S bulletin board two weeks ago but I should finish editing it in one more week. Practicing with the unicycle is taking its share of my "hobby" time. If only the day had more hours . . .

Yesterday I tried for the first time a fire spintop made out of an aluminum Hollow Point. I was inspired by the one used by Ritter. I need to improve the design of mine as the flame goes out too soon (I am trying to tape Staircase to Heaven from Hell). It is a real kick to boomerang that thing.

October 20, 2004

First Post

Welcome to my spintop den. You came early: I am just building the foundation so, please, forgive the dust and walk around carefully.

The Yang of this site is the art of trick top spinning as an extreme sport. Its Yin is the contemplation of a motionless sleeping top, defying gravity with its inner energy. Between the two, there will be space for anything related to spinning tops, including history, science, games, collecting and curiosities

I will be populating the Links page in the next few days, so you can begin to explore the world of this ancient and fascinating toy and its current metamorphosis into a high-skill art and a competition sport.