The Fun and Educational Slippery Slope - Spinning Top Talk with Bruce Charles Designs

Today we're sharing our visit with Daryl! Daryl is retired from 30+ years in the aerospace industry, where he was an avionic software and systems test engineer with Lockheed Martin. After his father passed in late 2015, he was able to take early retirement in 2016 and made the easy decision to return to Tennessee, where he shared his childhood home with his mother. And that's when his spinning tops hobby took off (or as his mother might have said...started spinning out of control)!

When did you first start spinning tops? How did you discover spinning tops?

With my return to Tennessee and being closer to 2 great-nieces and a great-nephew, I wanted something fun, entertaining, and even educational that I could share with them. I started with a Euler's Disc. While watching a YouTube video talking about the physics behind the Euler's Disc, I saw some videos about collectible tops that led me to discover BilletSPIN tops. I couldn't fathom spending more than a few dollars on a top, but what I saw fancied both the kid and engineer in me enough to buy something.

I bought a $24, scaled-down clone of a Foreverspin top, called ShadowSpin. It spun well enough to tease me into purchasing something nicer, an $85 Prometheus Lights Lambda. And with the Lambda, I learned the meaning of "precision spinning top." I was officially hooked! I just "had" to get a BilleSPIN Nexus and luckily was able to do that within the 2-3 minutes before they sold out on the day of launch. 

I was officially on the so-called "slippery slope" that I had heard other top spinners speak of! I started with a single top, and in 18 months, I owned 142 tops. Today that number has more than doubled!

How did you discover BCD?

I discovered BCD by accident, actually, thanks to Amazon. I had been shopping and comparing pricing on a few K9 borosilicate glass lenses when the BCD 100mm Fused Silica Glass Optical Lens showed up as a related product of interest. I had never tried a fused silica lens before, so I had to try. I was surprised to find it very affordable, and yet it was still able to outperform my other spin stages by delivering the longest spins for a great many of the tops I tried on it. 

I actually bought the lens with the Teak Spin Base and was so pleased that I purchased another, plus an extra lens. With my engineer hat on, I spent time measuring the lens' diameters and focal lengths and started a conversation with BCD. They graciously gifted me my first BCD top - the Schulte Fused Aluminum and Brass. It's quite a nice top for the price, almost equaling the performance of my Prometheus Lights Lamba (still a classic in my opinion) at less than half the price.

What is your favorite BCD product?

Without question, my favorite BCD product is the 100mm Double Concave Fused Silica Glass Optical Lens. That lens provides for an optimum spin with any of my tops, and I can incorporate the bare lens into some of the wood spin bases I've made for my own use. My dad was the true woodworker, but making a few things from wood has been one of the side interests spawned from my top collecting. My favorite BCD product to recommend would be the Teak Wood Spinning Base with Fused Silica Glass Concave Lens, especially if paired with any of the Schulte tops to create a great introductory spinning top package for someone.

Where's your favorite place to spin?

I spend so much time at my PC and desk that my desk is probably my favorite place to spin. It is also where I have equipment set up to create videos of my tops and take photos of them to share online, as I do of many through my YouTube channel. I especially enjoy creating high-speed warping videos.

What's a fun spinning memory you have?

My dad was the real woodworker, but I've enjoyed making my own simple spin stations. I've designed some with multiple stages so I could spin a few tops at the same time. I also set out on a little spinning adventure - to get all the tops that I owned at the time spinning concurrently! I made some "spin trays," so I'd have enough stages for all my tops. I almost succeeded, getting about 87 tops and spinners all going. 

What is one top spinning tip you want to give our readers?

Be patient when trying to achieve long spins, and learn what feels the most comfortable way for you to launch your top. Once you do that, start looking at your launch from the side, to see how flat you're keeping the top as you release it, and aim to improve your technique until you feel you're getting the flattest release you can. Then, try to work more power into the launch if you're going for a long spin.

Know that not every top is going to be a long spinner and may very well require a different launch technique to achieve a clean and reasonably long spin. Every top is going to be different, and even muscle memory is going to change over a series of spins, so don't expect to get the same result every time. 

Oh, and let's not forget about the spin stage either...they make a difference, and what seems the best surface may not prove the best for every top, which is a bit of an oddity I can't begin to understand.

While I got into top collecting as something fun and educational for my great-nieces and nephews, I've been surprised how it's fueled and furthered my learning as well. As a result of top collecting, I've learned new woodworking skills, continued building my photography and videography skills, and have researched certain topics to be able to better share what I know with others. It's been quite an education!

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Daryl! We love hearing top stories from our spinners!