Thursday 1 March 2012

Old School Fool

We had Arwen and the boys over for dinner tonight, and after dinner Chris grabbed a couple of wooden tops off of the shelf to entertain the boys. I do a little wood turning now and then, and have more than a few of these old time toys hanging around.

They are surprisingly fun to play with, and although the boys have fingers and hands that are just a little too young to work the tops, they do like to watch and grab. Well, who doesn’t? The more you play with them, the better you get and I like to see just how long I can keep them spinning.
There was a competition at the wood turning club one Christmas to see who could turn a top the fastest and then keep it spinning for the longest. I practiced turning all sorts of different designs and shapes. It turns out that pretty much anything that you turn with a point and a handle coming out of the opposite side is a top. Some better than others of course, but all of them are fun. I didn’t get to show my mad skills at turning tops at the meeting, and was a little disappointed, but I do have a bunch of tops hanging around the house.

I remembered a gift that Santa had put in my stocking more than a few years ago. I told Hurricane not to move! “I mean it, don’t move! Hey, you just sit there!” I walked out of sight and came back. He hadn’t moved, but I told him “Don’t you dare move!” I went into the back room to get my stocking stuffer and when I came back, Hurricane had disappeared. I searched for him in the living room and bathroom without any luck and when I came back into the kitchen he was sitting in his chair with a mile wide smile on his face. Stinker!

I brought out a gyroscope!
For those of the younger generation, they are toys that we kids of the fifties and sixties played with. Thankfully, our parents didn’t tell us they were educational but they were just presented as fun. You would wrap a string around a central axis, pull as hard as you could and it would spin like crazy on the inside while the outside remained stationary. It would balance on the end of a pencil, finger, string or pretty much anything else you could think of. They were made from steel and I can’t remember not having a ball with them. Gyroscopes are used to stabilize the Hubble telescope and the space station. All airplanes have gyroscopes for the compass and auto pilot. I can’t help but think that those geniuses at NASA played with those toy gyroscopes when they were kids and kept their special properties in mind when they needed something stable in space.

Of course, as with any toy, it will either break or be forgotten. When my kids were little I found a plastic version and had hopes that they would love it as much as I did mine. I guess they did for the first three seconds before it broke. Some things need to be well made from sturdy materials. Lucky for kids now that Lee Valley Tools have found a supplier of these wonderful old time toys.,53201  Well, Lee Valley and the North Pole of course.

I still like the old toys, I guess I am just and old school fool. If you are a parent or a grandparent, check out the link above and do your little geniuses a favour and gift them a gyroscope. They come in packs of two, so you can keep one for yourself to play with.

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