Originally called a “Chandler Gyroscope” and created in 1917, this little thing has wowed kids and adults for almost 100 years. They were also sold at science museums when I was growing up and even though I usually already had one, I always wanted a fresh one to take home. Along with my astronaut ice cream, of course, which tasted and looked super weird, but was cool because it could apparently be eaten in outer space.
It came with a little string (not shown her because I ran out of time to sketch it) that you threaded through it and wrapped around the center pole. Then you grabbed each tip and tried to yank the string as hard as you could, hoping it wouldn’t tangle, to make the inner wheel start spinning. Once spinning, the magic truly began, as you could balance the spinning object on the supplied miniature safety cone, balance it on a finger, or even the string you just yanked loose.
The fact that this version was metal, made it seem ultra-fancy and valuable, but it luckily didn’t cost very much. It came in a little plastic box that made it feel like a tiny treasure. It also had a mini book of “tricks” you could perform, but I didn’t end up trying many of those. I was content just balancing it on my finger as the weird and strange sensation of the centrifugal force grew intoxicating. After about a week, I’d get bored with it, and it would just set there like a tiny trophy on the little table in my room.
In my little child brain, I decided it had magical powers and that whenever it would successfully spin on my finger for more than minute, I would get my wish. Nowhere on the box or in the little manual did it every proclaim to be a magical genie, but I was convinced this was the case so I kept spinning and wishing. I didn’t get most of my wishes, but like any good gambler, I went back for more knowing that the next time would be the one to work!
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham watercolors: Pyrrol Red, Azo Green, and Neutral Tint. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal
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