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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43 thoughts on “Gyroscopes

  1. I did not own it but I have played with it. And I’ve used it with my science students to discuss conservation of angular momentum. These are so fascinating that it’s rotational axis is maintained while the outer rings are free to rotate in all three axis. So cool! And your doodlewash is fantastic!

  2. Hi Charlie, I really like your drawing. I agree with Kirk, you manage to render the dimension beautifully. My younger brother had a gyroscope. I do remember playing with it. I’m loving your toy series, so far ever toy has been in my life too. Thanks for all of the fun.

  3. What a fascinating object! And well doodled, too, Charlie! 🙂
    Never had one of those, although the only spinning toy in my possession was the standard wooden spinning top, of varying sizes, also needing a string pull to make it work. I always spun those on the wooden floor and was amazed at how far it travelled and the circuit it took, if you get what I mean. Always brought lots of squeals of joy! I’m sure, as you’ve described, I’d be making lots of wishes too if I had this beautiful gyroscope. Cheers! <3

      1. I must investigate our local toy stores…
        You know my Mr Smiley in the kitchen posts (tag smiley)? Well, I found him on the street. He’s a spinning top of a different kind…I twirl him occasionally. 😉

          1. …A ‘rescue’…lol…you have a wonderfully mischievous sense of humour, Charlie! I’d say some poor kid is missing his Mr Smiley…but I don’t care! 😉

  4. I also remember this fascinating toy. Funny how a self imposed quality can add even more fun. At one time you must have wished to be a fabulous artist? Because you’ve made it.

    1. Hehe…I don’t have a much of a personal filter! 😊 I’m the Creative Director of a boutique creative group that specializes in consumer packaging design and marketing. At least currently…before that I had several different jobs, but always creative direction for the past 20 years. 😉

          1. Lately, I’ve been loving Pyrrol red because I’ve been working in layers and I like its transparency. If thinks get a little flat and gray in my shadows on say an apple, I can just do another wash of Pyrrol over the whole thing and bring the color back. As for Yellow, I like Gamboge to mix. But when I want a bright yellow on its own I actually use a watered down Quinacridone Gold because it’s a bit sparkly and stands out better.

  5. Oh wow! As a child I must have missed the boat as far as these are concerned, but I’ve just sat and watched a chap playing with one on YouTube. Captivating! How adorable that you turned it into a genie’s lamp. Your doodlewash captures the command and wonder of the object in a way I can’t quite put my finger on – perhaps it’s the nostalgia creeping in. Marvellous! (And yay for you rendering more metals!)

      1. Magical indeed… I want one! Add it to the ever-growing list of (REDACTED)th birthday presents… 😉

        You should do a series on metal shiny stuff. Well, if I had my way! 😛

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