Spinners. Dreidels. Nature Beyblades. Call them whatever you want. They are quick and easy to make and provide a range of learning opportunities (including measurement and safe tool use to name a couple). This year, we made spinners at the end of our Grade 2 skills unit, after students had been working with tools for a number of weeks. If you haven’t introduced sheath knives and bow saws already, please do that first. Here’s how to make them:
Find some wood
You can use anything that you can get your hands on. Hazel is great if you can find some. Be wary of harder woods like oak that are more difficult to carve. This year, we took advantage of the German Spermüll, or Christmas Tree Graveyard as we like to call it. The branches were a little sappy during the spindle carving process, but overall it worked out great.
You are going to need two bits of wood to create your spinner: one for the disc and the other for the spindle. For the disc, you’re looking for a small log with a diameter anywhere between 4cm and 7cm. The thickness of your spindle will depend on the size of drill bit that you use to make your hole. We used a 5mm bit and then worked on finding sticks that were the same thickness as our index fingers and then whittled them down.
Top Tip: Fresh sticks are easier to carve and are great for ensuring carving success. You’ll get a nice tight fit on the day, but remember to discuss what might happen when the wood dries out.
Cut the Disc
It’s time to get the bow saw out. Measure 2cm from the end of your thick log and make a mark. Try to cut as straight as possible as this will ensure your disc is even and not heavier on one side than the other. The photo above shows the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to disc cutting.
If your learners have little experience with using a bow saw, getting a straight cut might be easier said than done. If this is the case, put yourself in a position to assist or give them some time to practise.
Drill the hole
This step is important. Getting your hole in the centre will make your life a whole lot easier later on. If you’re short on time, you can use an electric drill, which will require supervision. Otherwise, crack out the hand drills and make sure that your students don’t try and drill through their disc with their hand on the back of it.
We used a 5mm drill bit, but you can play around with different sizes that you have. A round file can be useful for making small holes bigger.
Measure and cut your spindle
You’re aiming to find a stick that is ever so slightly too big for the hole. Measure and mark 7cm. Measure twice, cut once. You might have the grip strength to cut the stick with a regular set of garden clippers. Learners who have eaten less broccoli than you may require the added leverage that comes from using a pair of loppers.
Loppers crash course: using loppers involves two people. One person is the boss and the other does as they’re told. The person holding the loppers is the boss. The other person holds the stick in front of them like a set of handlebars from a bike. The boss then moves the loppers into position and makes the cut. Accuracy becomes difficult if both people move the thing that they’re holding.
Shape your spindle to fit
It’s time to grab a sheath knife. First, you want to make the end of your stick look like a pencil. Once you’ve done that, test that it fits easily into your hole. The next part is the tricky bit. You want to try and remove material from the shaft of the spindle without taking any more off the point. Some students struggle with this and their spindle gets shorter and shorter. It might take a couple of spindles to get the hang of this technique. Insert persistence pep-talk here.
You can always take more material off, but you can’t put it back on. With this in mind, keep testing the spindle in the hole until you get a nice tight fir.
Decoration optional, then get spinning!
Initially, some students might struggle with the fine motor control to get a good spin going and as a result will tell you that their spinner doesn’t work. You might have to demo that it does work and suggest that they need to work on their technique.
We use a fire bowl as our Nature Beyblade Arena. The only rule is that you must shout “Let It Rip” when spinning your top. The last spinner standing is the winner.
So there you have it, the first in a series of projects that will hopefully inspire you to get your make on. Adapt this project as you wish and stay safe.