Turning a tippe top (the inverting top)
After mounting a drill chuck on my lathe, I made a small wooden knob as a demonstration piece. Peter Brown suggested that it looked like a "tippe top" (the inverting top, like the one shown at left). So I tried the knob as top, but it wasn't the right shape..
I tried tweaking the shape on my belt sander, and eventually I got it to the point where it would invert, though by that time it had little resemblance to the knob I started with.
The body of a tippe is roughly spherical. I made a guide, like I did when I turned this sphere to guide me with getting the radius just right. I made the guide by drilling a 1 1/4" hole in a piece of hardboard.
I chucked the top by the handle, with some paper wrapped around it to keep the chuck's jaws from denting the handle too much. With it spinning, I sanded the end of it smooth. I had to keep moving the sandpaper back and forth to sand the very bottom because the spinning motion doesn't cause the wood nearest the center to move very much.
An important property of a tippe top is that it's self righting. That is, if held tipped, and let go, the top rights itself to handle up. The same physical properties that make it invert while spinning are the ones that make it self-right when not spinning.
It takes a bit of practice to get it to spin fast enough to have enough momentum to complete the inversion maneuver. Because the top is round on the bottom, if it's not spun exactly vertical, it will scoot off to the side, especially under the couch!
Baby Harriet found this experimenting with the top very amusing, and swatted at it whenever it got near her. But everything new to her, so the inverting thing is lost on her. A tippe top is more of a fascinating toy for adults and older kids.
The Hui game also
known as gee-haw stick
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