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Back in December I made some spin tops with string launchers. Everyone enjoyed them immensely. Those were all made around 2.5 inches in diameter. They all worked well but some of them would dance around wildly if they were spun too fast. I had also made one special one that was twice the size at 5 inches diameter. Well the youngest of the kids were impressed and all wanted to take the large one home and since I had just one I had to promise to make them each a larger one. I made eight of them but there was a problem. Five of them spun wildly and it took me a while to figure out that it was balance that was throwing them off. Using wood it had to be straight grain lumber with all the growth rings close in size or flat sawn could be used if the grain on the end of the board looked like it was giving you a big smile and the center hole was dead center of the arc to get a good balance. Then I got to thinking what could be used that would have better balance. MDF or particle board would work but I just didn't like the idea of using them. I did make one out of cabinet grade plywood and it worked perfect but wasn't the best candidate for turning. I went to looking around to see what else I might have and found some shorts of composite decking boards. I almost passed them over thinking they would be in the same category as MDF. Luckily I didn't and threw a piece on the lathe. Worked out fabulous. It turns like green wood with big ribbons which is good but it also throws smaller pieces when making some fine cuts. The smaller piecse stick to everything, static electricity. Not so great but livable. It sands okay and burnishes smooth with some medium steel wool. They are perfectly balanced and spin a long time. I actually clocked one at over five minutes. They spin long enough and smooth enough that I got six of them going at the same time. There was two more wooden ones but the grandsons got theirs already.
Family Christmas Dinner is coming up soon. Every year I like to make a handmade toy for everyone to amuse themselves with. This year it is string top with launchers. Should be about 40 of them there. Used some spindles from a crib I picked up at the curb on a trash day. Ran three sides through the jointer for a flat to register on for drilling the holes. Got four launchers from each spindle. Had a bunch of 3/8 X 4 inch metal shafts and was able to turn them to a point on each end and cut them in half for the spindles. I cut the shafts to .260 inches 5/8" down on the point ends which made a press fit into the hard maple blanks that I drilled .250 inch holes into. Tight enough fit that I didn't have to glue them. Mounted them in a collet chuck and turned them to shape.
Every year for the past five or so years at Christmas time I make a couple dozen ball and cup games. I take them over to the local Akron Children's Hospital and give them to the volunteers to pass out to the children who have the misfortune of being in the hospital at this time of year. I figure even if confined to the bed they may still be able to play the game. Here is this years batch completed today. I use pine 4X4s to make them but I buy the balls at Pat Catans craft supply store. They have three coats of Shellac on them.