What Are Fidget Spinners?


From Popular Mechanics

I am a horrific fidgeter, and it can manifest in myriad ways. Sometimes I fiddle with zippers, pens, or sometimes a pocket knife. At my very worst, I absent-mindedly chew the back of my headphones. That, combined with an undying love of small everyday-carry trinkets is what first drew me to spinners-and they’re quickly becoming my favorite desk toy.

At its core, a spinner is simple. It is, as you can likely guess, a little widget that spins. Usually the mechanism for this is a single bearing with a larger balanced structure that extends out around it. So, when you place the bearing on your finger, you can spin it freely-all balanced with help from the gyroscopic action. Of course if you want to keep things simple, just pinch the bearing and spin with ease. It keeps your hands busy, and it’s wonderful.

There are also lots of them because of its simple design, so there are spinners made of almost every metal in every shape you can imagine. You can also find some cheaper, plastic ones built with extra weights-often additional bearings-to help lend them some heft.

In my exploration of these little gadgets, I gravitated toward the two ends of the price spectrum. Spinners, you see, don’t need to be very expensive. Then again, they certainly can be.

Take the Torqbar, for instance. Perhaps the closet thing there is to a “brand name” spinner, the Torqbar is the definition of sturdy metal luxury. Available CNC milled from a variety of metals including brass, copper, and stainless steel, a Torqbar is a distinctive chunk of metal formed around a built-in bearing. It feels like a piece of jewelry with the heft of a well-made tool and spins with a quiet, serene hiss.

But all those impressive-sounding adjectives mean the Torqbar isn’t cheap. The brass model (the least expensive) starts at $140 and the stainless steel jumps up to $180. If you have the money, you can spring for the special anodized versions, which will set you back $250. Don’t get me wrong, these are truly lovely pieces, but they’re also just metal trinkets with no practical use

And like any small, expensive gadget, the Torqbar transforms into a low-grade panic when you suddenly can’t find the damn thing. When mine went missing in my apartment, my $250 stress reliever became a nagging worry for two long days.

But where an anodized Torqbar is the Rolls-Royce of spinners, there are also plenty of 2006 Hondas out there as well. To explore a more minimal take, I picked up a few 3D-printed models from CTPlanes on Etsy and picked arbitrarily after a little expert Googling.

Made of plastic and four bearings that look exactly like something in your average skateboard, these cheaper designs usually look like a triad with one spinning bearing in the center and three more for weight and balance.

The first thing to notice in comparison to heavier metal models is the complete lack of heft. This lack of ounces makes them feel much cheaper and not as easy to balance on one finger. But they still spin perfectly, which makes them more than sufficient to occupy a fidgeting hand. In fact, these cheaper spinners were better at some things.

With a thicker center bearing, they can be placed face down on a desk and still offer enough clearance that you can spin them. While the heavy Torqbar would make a horrendous clattering whenever it managed to spin out of my hand, these cheaper plastic models were much less obnoxious to my deskmates. Also, if you happen to have a 3D printer lying around, your supply of cheap spinners is practically infinite.

These two examples only scratch the surface of the wide, wide array of fidget spinners available from dozens of companies with hundreds of designs. A quick search of YouTube or scan down Reddit will give you an overview of this impressively large world of spinners.

I wholeheartedly recommend them for keeping a fidgeter’s heart at ease-but start small. You’ll enjoy a cheap spinner just as much as a pricey one, perhaps even more so because you won’t know what you’re missing (and you won’t lose your mind if one goes missing). Then, if you get addicted and you’ve got the scratch to spend, explore the higher end. It won’t be massively better than your 3D-printed fidget companion, but it’s hard to resist such a well-made piece of kit.

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