To be honest, I'm just as surprised as you are. My friend Joe, from Scout Leather Co., has been telling me for months that I should make a top. My response was always, "I make tools, not toys." But I was intrigued. Who doesn't like tops, right? Please check out the Kicstarter video just below :)
One afternoon I had a few hours to play around on the lathe. I had no plan, I was just cutting a top free-hand on the lathe. No measurements, no design drawings. Instead of cutting a cone for the tip, I dug around in an old project box and came up with a ruby sphere I bought for another job. The first time I spun the top it was obvious that I created something totally different in performance and physics from anything I had seen before.
I showed the prototype to a few people and the most common response was, "Wait, it's still spinning? Are you sure? It doesn't look like it's moving.There is no way it's still spinning." No one else had seen anything like it either. I thought that was pretty awesome, and I believe awesome is worth sharing.
>>> Broken contact balls are not covered under warranty. NEVER drop the Lambda top onto a surface when spinning it, or the ball may shatter <<<
Spin Surfaces: By the same token, a granite (or tile) countertop is also MUCH harder than steel. That means if you drop it on a granite counter top you've just smashed it with something much harder than steel. Please remember, this is not a toy, it is a precision instrument and must be treated as such.
Glass is fairly soft, and the ruby will probably shatter glass before the ruby breaks. So if you drop your top onto a mirror or a glass table top it will impact with a TINY amount of surface area and magnify the force. You might as well drive a nail through it.
Packaging: Every Lambda comes in a snap-top box that serves double duty as a storage container and a display stand. Please be careful when you "present" this top to someone. You might preface the gesture with, "So I'm NOT asking you to marry me right now. I just want to show you this top." Or if you are actually going to use the Lambda as a token of your everlasting commitment...then you are the most awesome person ever. Send me photos.
If you know my work, you know I don't mess around. The Lambda is not intended to be a record breaker, but rather an expression of how I see the world: the ideal balance of performance, physics, and aesthetics. However, you are going to have a really hard time finding something is the same size/weight class that will outspin this top.
Enough chit chat; I present the Prometheus Lambda top.
Yes this is a video...it's not a still image! If you stared at it for a few seconds and then said "woaaah," we are on the same page. Welcome to my project :)
The secret ingredient (beyond a solid design based on Newton and "the physics") is theinstrument-grade ruby sphere. You heard me right, I said ruby.
This type of manufactured ruby is used in things like Rolex watches, super-precision measuring instruments, fiber optic transmission lines, and other really expensive and/or sciency stuff. The hardness is 9 on the Mohs scale. Diamond is one of the few harder materials and scores a perfect 10. That alone is awesome!
From the manufacturer: "This material has five times more abrasion resistance than carbide, zero porosity, high temperature tolerance, extreme chemical resistance, and extreme hardness."
I know, I know. How tough is it? THIS tough.
That's a ruby smashed between the steel top of my bench-vise and a 16oz. dead blow hammer. Yes, I hit it really hard. Yes, it did break. It's tough...not indestructible. Just treat it like a ruby and you should be fine. If you treat it irresponsibly...it will break, as demonstrated above :)
Sphericity: The "sphericity" of the Lambda's Grade 25 ruby is 25 millionths of an inch. Take an inch. Divide it into one million (1,000,000) slices. The amount of error is less than 25 slices...out of a million. The majority of machined parts are manufactured to within about 0.001 inches. I created the chart below to make blowing your mind easier on your brain.
Yes, I know that's not "perfectly" round, but it makes for good reading right?
Below is an electron micro-graph that will give you a reasonable comparison between a metal "machined" surface and the surface of an instrument ruby. The image on the left is the ground edge of a razor blade. This is probably a much smoother finish that you will see with machining. However, compared to the surface of a ruby sphere at the same scale, it looks like the Grand Canyon.
Let's agree to call it a cone. A cone isn't a very good shape for the contact point because you are always on one side of the point...or the other. This means the top will have a hard time balancing upright, wasting energy during the early spin, and then falling over early during the late spin when the top is losing RPM. It's inherently imprecise.
The perfect sphere means there is always a perfect point of contact with the surface, wasting less energy and spinning longer. It also means the Lambda is better able to spin along its axis; therefore, it does not exhibit the large amount of precession (angular wobble) that you see in a traditional top (above).
The Lambda name is derived from the Greek letter "L" which is the physics symbol for angular momentum; the Newtonian principle that keeps a top from falling over. I'm not a physicist, but Idid stay at a Holiday Inn Express at some point during college. Here we go:
ANGULAR MOMENTUM (L) = RADIUS (MASS x VELOCITY)
This equation is all you need to know about tops. For a given top, the size (radius) and weight (mass) are fixed, so your only variable is velocity. If you want more spin, you need more speed. How fast can you spin it?
The (major) factors that reduce spin time are friction and the geometry between the top's "contact point" and the target surface. You get to pick the surface, but I get to pick the contact point :)
POLAR MOMENT OF INERTIA (Ip) = p(r)r^2dV
Don't sweat the details. That just means a unique feature of the Lambda is the use of 2 different materials in the design. It looks awesome and it increases performance.
6061 aluminum is used for the spindle to decrease the polar moment of inertia...in other words, reducing the amount of force it takes to get the top up to a given velocity. If you remember, the more velocity the more angular momentum...and a longer spin time.
Solid brass is heavy, really heavy. It also machines beautifully. If you recall, mass is another important component to angular momentum, making brass an ideal material for the outer ring.
It depends...on a lot of different factors. How long "will" it spin is entirely up to you. How long "can" it spin is entirely unknown. My personal record (unofficial) is over 12 minutes. Check out the video below for a "bar-setting" unedited 10 minute spin.
Can you beat me? It's gotta be on video! Submit your "video response" to my 10 min spin on the YouTube page (link) !
Your spin-time can (and will) vary. However, I'll leave you with the guesstimates below. These are based on my personal experience, and observation of other people testing the Lambda. If you can't seem to hit the numbers below, give it a little more "wax on, wax off!" That means "practice" in case The Karate Kid was after your time. Not the new one, the old one :)
- 6 Minutes: Most people should be able to hit this without trying too hard. You have to have a good surface where the top can actually stay on it for that long. Try a plate or bowl to keep your top from falling off the table.
- 8 Minutes: Put in a little practice and 8 minutes can be reached...some of the time. This was the first big milestone. To go past 8 minutes you have to have a good surface...and good technique. At this point I can break 8 minutes almost every time.
- 10+ Minutes: If you practice a lot, you'll start seeing spins over 10 minutes...but that isvery hard to do. Even now, I might get 1 out of 5 spins that are over 10 minutes.
Just keep in mind that trying for a long spin is one way to enjoy your Lambda, but it's not the only way!
I tested a lot of different surfaces in search of the best one. I tried marble slabs, granite surface plates, glass dinner plates, ceramic bowls, various mirrors, optical lenses, and chemistry lab glass.
The Lambda may spin for so long that you won't have a flat enough surface unless you work in a laboratory or machine shop. After a couple minutes it will "drift" and eventually fall off the edge. The best thing to use is any kind of concave dish. However, I had a hard time finding anything in my kitchen where the center of the plate/bowl was actually the lowest part. Most had a raised or uneven area in the middle and this throws off the top.
Right now my favorite surface is a little 5" shaving mirror (12x magnification) that you canbuy from Amazon. It's a reasonable size, is fairly durable (for a mirror) and has a flat back so you can set it on a table. The smooth curve of the mirror means you don't need a perfectly flat surface, the top will naturally find the lowest point.
Please keep the weight and diameter in mind when comparing tops. Ignoring other factors, increasing the mass and/or diameter will increase the potential spin time. That's just physics. A big top will spin longer than a small one. A heavier top will spin longer than a light one.
Materials: Brass ring, aluminum spindle, ruby tip
Some of the photos show a black ring. This was an early prototype and not offered as an option.
My prototype tops are manually machined on my Hardinge HLV-H toolroom lathe. Check out the video below for a quick montage of making the very first Lambda top.
The Lambda top is made in-house on the Haas CNC lathe I purchased with the funds from my first KS campaign. All of the raw materials, including the instrument-rubies, are domestically manufactured.