Dr Abe V Rotor
Traditional spinning top
Modern versions of the spinning top
Anyone who grew up in the province in our time is familiar with the original spinning top. If not, imagine an oversize chicken egg, of that of the guinea fowl or bengala, its small end sharply tapering into a shank made of nail, one to two inches long. The tip is pointed to reduce friction for longer and more stable spinning. But we always made it sharp ready to nip or puncture the tops of our opponents in tournaments.
Because our town is famous for furniture making, we have lathe machine (pagturnuan Ilk) to make the best tops in town. Everyone could easily recognize a spinning top made in San Vicente, three kilometers west of Vigan, the capital. There were spinning top tournaments held on certain occasions and we would send our best players to the capital. To be a good player, first you must be accurate at marked target. But there is another kind of tournament - you should be able to immobilize your opponent’s top, by puncturing or chopping it out of shape. This is why the wood used in making tops is molave, better still kamagong, which is claimed to be the hardest wood in the world.
Exhibitions are part of the tournament. For example whose top makes the loudest humming sound? How balanced and stable is the spinning of your top? How long will it keep on spinning? Then there is the skill to “capture” a spinning top and have it continue spinning on your palm.
But how do you make a top without lathe machine? I still can recall my experience in making one. Cut a branch of molave, or any locally available wood such as guava or isis or Ficus ulmifolia, the tree that produces sandpaper-like leaves. Choose a branch at least three inches in diameter. With a sharp bolo, shape one end into a round peg, and drive through it a 3-inch nail, leaving half as the shank. Smoothen the wood with boy scout knife and sandpaper, making it even and balanced. Shape and cut off the upper part of the top with a saw or sharp knife.
An immature wood when it dries up has a tendency to crack. That’s why you have to look for a seasoned branch. The harder it is, the better - and the more durable is your top. For the rope or string to spin the top, get a pure cotton thread, numero ocho, that is 1/8 of an inch, and a meter long. Sometimes we would twist two thinner threads to make the standard spinning rope. To learn the technique of playing spinning tops, ask older boys - or us who were experts in our days.
Why don't you try making your own spinning top? It's a real test of craftsmanship, by how well it performs and chance to win in a tournament.
Photos acknowledgment: Google, Wikipedia