Turning a Spinning Top

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Spinning tops are a fun, quick project for beginners and experienced turners alike. They can be turned using scraps and are a great way to hone your turning techniques.

For this article I turned three different tops, each with a unique profile, and experimented with different coloring, texturing, and finishing techniques. Here are the steps taken for each of the tops.

What are your favorite design choices on tops? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Top #1 – Honduras Redheart

Mount a 2″x2″x3″ block in a chuck, then use a spindle gouge and turn the bottom profile of the top.

Turn the bottom profile first

If desired use apply a decorative technique using a chatter tool, texture tool or just a skew for some decorative grooves. Here I am using a Wagner Texturing Tool held at a 45 degree angle.

Texture with the Wagner Texturing Tool

Once the pattern is set you can color it with a gilding paste applied with a cotton rag.

Apply Gilder’s Paste with a soft cloth
Finished bottom of the spinning top

Start shaping the handle and upper section of the top

Finish shaping the bottom
Use a parting tool for rapid removal

Turn the handle to the final diameter. When the handle gets thin it will flex, use your finger and support the backside of the top.

Finish shaping the handle
Sand through at least 400 grit

Part off the top with your hand close to catch it when it releases.

Catch the blank as you part it off

Sand the nub if necessary. No finish is necessary but you can use a spray lacquer if desired.

 

Top #2 – Lignum Vitae

Mount a 2″ x 2″ x 3″ block in a chuck.¬†Use a spindle gouge and turn the bottom profile of the top.

Start by shaping the bottom of the top
Shape the bottom
Shape the bottom

It isn’t necessary, but if desired sand the end of the top and apply a finish. I’ll sand up to 400 grit and then apply Scratch Freee.

Sand if necessary
Apply Scratch Freee

Once the bottom of the top is finished, turn the handle of the top. Sand through 400 grit and apply a finish, if desired.

Turn the handle, using a parting tool for rapid stock removal
Finish turning the handle profile
Sand the top
Scratch Freee

Part off the top, careful to catch it as it comes free.

Part off the top, catching it when it releases

Sand the nub if necessary, then apply a finish.

Top #3 – Shagbark Hickory

The first step is to mount a 2″x2″x3″ block in a chuck. Then, use a spindle gouge to turn the bottom profile of the top.

Turn the bottom profile with a spindle gouge

Here I’m going to apply a decorative technique using a Wagner Texturing Tool held at an angle with moderate pressure. This will produce a fun spiral texture on the bottom of the top.

Add texture with a Wagner Texturing Tool
Textured bottom

With the lathe running at 500 rpm carefully apply some color with markers.

Add color with a marker

Start shaping the handle and upper section of the top. Use a parting tool to rapidly remove stock, then switch to a spindle or detail gouge to continue shaping the top.

Use a parting tool to get to your handle diameter
Finish the bottom profile

If you are going to texture the top do so now while there is enough material to support the texturing. I’m going to create some lines with the edge of a skew and then add color with the markers. Finish texturing and coloring before final shaping the handle.

Add texturing or color to the upper side of the bottom

Turn the handle to the final diameter. When the handle gets thin it will flex, use your finger and support the backside of the top.

Turn the handle
Turn the handle

Sand the handle through at least 400 grit, then part off the top wit the spindle gouge and sand the nub if necessary.

Sand through 400 grit
Part it off, catching it with your off hand

No finish is necessary but you can use a spray lacquer if desired.

Supplies Used

Spindle Gouge
Parting Tool
Wagner Texturing Tool
Sandpaper
Dr. Kirk’s Scratch Freee
Tombow Markers
Gilder’s Paste Wax

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