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Simple battle top
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Add the right stem and tip to the right large hard plastic wheel (64711), and you've got yourself a cheap, long-spinning battle top that packs a big punch for its size. Let the games begin!
About this creation
Please feel free to look over the images and skip the verbiage.

I call the simple LEGOŽ battle tops in this video "cleat tops" after the large hard plastic wheel (64711) used for their rotors. They pack a lot of punch and fun for their size.



The simple game here is similar to the ancient Japanese battle top game of bei.





From past experiments with simple LEGOŽ battle tops, I knew that the best choice for a rotor would be the cheap and easy-to-find hard plastic wheel with small cleats (64711). I just call it the "cleat wheel" for the blocky cleats staggered around its tread.



The cleat wheel far outperforms other large hard plastic wheels in the violence of its collisions, in its "staying power" (ability to remain standing after a hit), and in its long, smooth spins when undisturbed. All of these are to the tops's advantage in battle, and the last is desirable in any setting.

I also knew that the Technic ball (32474) tip and 20 mm ground clearance of the top on the right here would optimize targeting and travel speed (long story) without paying too high a price in spin time and staying power.



I think of battle tops meeting these wheel, tip, and ground clearance specs as "cleat tops". They're cheap and easy to build, fun to decorate, loaded with play value, and robust enough to take the highest speeds and hardest hits without parts flying everywhere. (Don't worry -- I'm saving that for next time.)

You can see how other wheel and tip combinations and lower ground clearances affect the action in my first battle top video, but expect less excitement.

My favorite cleat top arena by far is the Ninjago 3D battle arena introduced for Spinjitzu in 2011, but arena options are countless -- including no arena at all.



The key to speeding up the action in a Ninjago arena is to train the floor to sag by parking a weight in the center for a few days.

Once you have some cleat tops and a place to battle, the games are up to you. History, however, has some suggestions.

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Battle top games

In the centuries-old Japanese game of bei, small 8-cornered metal tops called "beigoma" (singular and plural) are thrown, usually 2 at a time, onto an arena consisting of a cloth stretched over the open top of a large pot. The last top still spinning on its tip inside the arena wins, like so...



The natural sag in the cloth causes the beigoma to gravitate toward the center, where they eventually collide -- usually at very high angular speed. The impacts often result in losses of speed that bring down one or both.

When the corners on their octagonal rotors really connect, however, one or both of the beigoma are likely to go flying out of the arena. These ejections are especially exciting because they give a sense of just how much energy had been thrown into the arena to begin with.



If you watched the new cleat top video past 1:15, you saw a trained Ninjago arena standing in for bei's sagging cloth and cleat tops standing in for the 8-cornered string-launched beigoma. You also saw wild rebounds, decisive take-downs, and forcible ejections, just like in bei.



So at bottom, bei and the simple cleat top game in my video are pretty much the same. But the fun doesn't end there: Once you build some cleat tops and start playing, many other games will suggest themselves.

Now, cleat tops and beigoma are almost impossible to damage by design. But in Spinjitzu (below) and many traditional top games around the world, the goal is to damage your opponent's top before he or she can do the same to you.



Of course, playing destructive games with LEGOŽ tops has an obvious advantage: You still get to see pieces fly, but the top is as good as new again in a matter of seconds, as in Spinjitzu. And I plan to take full advantage in my next batch of battle tops, which will have to be based on Spinjitzu spinners but without the minifigs. (For a hint at where I'm going here, see my Spinjitzu tops.)

Since cleat-top games are all about elastic collisions at high angular speeds, it pays to know a little about them.



High-speed top collisions are very complex physical events, but it's fair to say that the perceived violence depends primarily on 2 things: (i) The detailed geometry of the relief on the striking surfaces involved. (ii) The radial and tangential closing speeds of the striking surfaces at the time of collision.

In the cleat top's case, the geometry of interest is that of its cleated tread, and the faster its release speed, the faster the pertinent closing speeds are likely to be on impact.



One of the best things about the cleat top is that it routinely delivers exciting collisions at speeds easily reached by hand, and much of the credit there goes to its cleat geometry. Finger twirls also offer the greatest control over the top's travel across the arena, which goes directly to targeting.



But you can really amp up the action by increasing release speed with a spin-up tool. The reversible wind-up spinner above is but one example.

Warning! Always wear eye protection when working or playing with high-speed LEGOŽ rotating machinery and keep valuables and bystanders (including pets) a safe distance away -- especially when testing new designs. Really.

And that goes double for LEGOŽ tops colliding at high angular speeds.

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Construction

The cleat top has 6 components:
  • A cleat wheel serving as both rotor and striker
  • A through-going central 10L axle serving as stem at one end and tip mount at the other
  • A hub to key the axle to the rotor
  • A shim to maintain the proper ground clearance and center of mass (CM) height while reinforcing the axle below the wheel
  • A ball tip to promote fast but controllable travel across the arena
  • Colorful decorations to personalize the top and distinguish it from opponents


The one-piece hard plastic rotor is both convenient and safe. The hub, here underneath the decorated Technic disk, is necessary because the cleat wheel has a pin hole rather than an axle hole at its center.

The 4-plate shim seen above in orange seems to produce the best offensive behavior and the most exciting collisions. It maintains a minimum rotor ground clearance of 20 mm, which corresponds to an optimal CM height of ~31 mm.

Most of the tops in my original battle top video, on the other hand, used the 1-plate shim below.



You can see the 3x3 pulley-wheel hub a little better here in orange.

To maximize a cleat top's spin time and sleeping tendency outside of battle, just eliminate the shim altogether. This drops the ground clearance to mere 6 mm, which means that it may take some practice to keep the rotor off the ground during hard twirls.

On the bright side, however, you'll have a rock-bottom 15 mm CM height and a spin time of 45-50 sec -- just about the longest possible with any cleat wheel-based top.

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Wheel options

Wheel choice affects a number of important trade-offs with consequences for top travel speed, collision violence, staying power, and spin time. The cleat wheel occupies the sweet spot.



The unmatched violence of a collision between 2 cleat wheels rests largely in the favorable size, arrangement, and spacing of their cleats. Meanwhile, a favorable mass distribution and tolerable aerodynamics lead to the longest undisturbed spin times available from any of the wheels covered here.



The cleat wheel also accommodates a much broader range of hub and decoration options by virtue of having 13 pin holes on its face rather than the 7 found in all other large hard plastic wheels. Decorations like the ones above seem to have little effect on performance.

The only other large hard plastic wheel worth considering in battle is the much less aerodynamic hard plastic wheel with small cleats and flanges (64712), and it comes in a very distant second.



Spin times are half those of a cleat wheel, and most 64712-64712 clashes are ho-hum at best, though splashy collisions do occur now and then. Collisions between a 64712 and a cleat wheel are a little more exciting, but you just can't beat a clash between 2 cleat wheels for excitement.

Two large hard plastic wheels that make lousy battle tops (for lack of tread relief) but fun spinning tops are the treaded hard plastic wheel with 7 pin holes and 6 small holes (11094, 19.5 g, below) and the bulky hard plastic wheel with large cleats and flanges (27254, not shown).



An 11094-based top with 1 shim plate can reach spin times of 20-25 sec, but exciting collisions are very rare, and hub and decoration options are no better than the 64712's. I haven't tested the 27254 wheel, but it's surely even less useful in battle tops.

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Tip options

For an attacking battle top to have any hope of hitting its target, it must travel away from its release point in a reasonably predictable way, and the quicker, the better. Tip geometry and ground clearance turn out to be everything here.

Far and away the best tip for battle use is the Technic ball (32474) at far left here.



A ball-tipped top tends to travel in reasonably predictable spirals of ever-decreasing radius. This turns out to be the key to effective targeting.

Tops with the bare-axle tip seen in the middle in the last photo are less predictable but tend to travel faster along straighter paths. These "bare tips" can be a lot of fun in larger arenas.

Compared to the ball tip, the dome-based "antenna tip" (far right) delivers longer, smoother spins with little if any travel. The vast majority of my LEGOŽ spinning tops use antenna tips for all these reasons, but no travel is no good in a battle top.

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Axle and hub options

The ball tip's 5 mm radius of curvature results in a fairly predictable top trajectory that tends to spiral inward from an initial radius of 60-70 mm in my hands. You then control the top's speed along the spiral by controlling the stem's "tilt" (inclination from the vertical at the moment of release).

Since longer stems give finer tilt control, I generally prefer 10L axles, but anything between 8L and 12L will work reasonably well.



Tilt, by the way, is where ground clearance comes in: Too little clearance, and tilt is too restricted, which makes targeting that much harder. But too much clearance, and the top's too easy to knock over. A successful LEGOŽ battle top must play this important trade-off between offensive and defensive capabilities correctly.

To key the axle to any of the wheels discussed above, including the cleat wheel, you need to add a hub with a central axle hole.

A sturdy lightweight hub that works well with all wheels consists of one or two wedge belt pulley wheels (4185) joined to the wheel face with 3 half-pins or friction pins, respectively.



Another good hub suitable for all wheels is the Hero Factor weapons barrel (98585) joined to the wheel face with 2 friction pins.



But the cleat wheel opens up at least 2 additional hub options.

One option uses of a trio of #1 axle and pin connectors (32013) mounted on a Technic hub with 3 axles (57585).



The other option uses a single 3-blade Technic rotor plate with smooth ends (32125) or 3-blade Technic rotor plate with toothed ends (2712) attached to the wheel face with half-pins.



For a lower CM, these hubs can also go under the wheel, as seen here with a 64712 rotor.



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Arena options

You certainly don't need a fenced-in arena to have fun with a battle top, but exciting collisions come faster when opponents can't get too far from each other, and even faster when the arena itself pulls them together.

The Ninjago arena is my favorite battleground -- mainly because its playing surface can be trained to sag in the center like the traditional Japanese bei arena. Between collisions, all top trajectories then gravitate toward the center, and the collision rate goes up dramatically.



As an added bonus, the textured plastic playing surface makes wonderful whirring sounds as ball- and bare-tipped tops travel across it. The only downside: The 25x29 cm play area could be a little larger for battle tops of this size.



The glass microwave platter on the left here is slightly less restrictive than the Ninjago arena with the added advantage of longer spins via reduced tip friction. Since tops won't gravitate toward its center, however, the collision rate will depend much more on your aim.



If you need even more room, a fence of daisy-chained Technic liftarms can enclose an arena of any size and height in many polygonal shapes.



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Specifications

Overall dimensions:62x80 mm (DxH)
Average mass:19.6 g
Rotor:Hard plastic wheel with small cleats (64711)
Rotor mass:12.3 g, 66% of total
Shim length:4 plates (14 mm)
Center of mass height:~31 mm
Rotor ground clearance:20 mm
Rotor grounding angle:36°
Axle:10L (80 mm)
Tip:Technic ball (32474)
Tip radius of curvature:5 mm
Release speed:~1,600 RPM by hand
Topple speed:~600 RPM
Spin time:20-25 sec by hand
Modified LEGOŽ parts:None
Non-LEGOŽ parts:None
Credits:Original MOC
See also:Znappers, LEGOŽ spinning top folder

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Comments

 I made it 
  April 15, 2017
Quoting Oliver Becker Haha, BANZAI! LEGO should like THIS and perform, my friend! ;)
Many thanks, my friend! Wonder if anybody from TLG ever wanders by MOCpages? Hmmm, maybe they even have a clandestine account for spying purposes -- you know, like "Too Little Gas" or "Nobody Here But Us Chickens!"
 I like it 
  April 15, 2017
Haha, BANZAI! LEGO should like THIS and perform, my friend! ;)
 I made it 
  March 30, 2017
Quoting Jack Sparrow Excellent job here. Not only are tops fun, but "battle tops" is a fun game. I made my son a couple of Lego tops to amuse him, but this has more depth and thought. :-)
Many thanks, Jack! Couldn't agree more about the game aspect! My top displays at LEGO shows usually cover 4-6 standard 3x6-foot folding tables, and I let visitors spin most of the tops I put out. The battle tops are perennial favorites -- and more for the games the visitors make up on the fly than for the tops themselves.
 I made it 
  March 30, 2017
Quoting Oran Cruzen Hey Jeremy, you are just tops in tops! LOL
Thanks, Oran! My wife would say "obsessed with tops". She may be onto something.
 I like it 
  March 30, 2017
Excellent job here. Not only are tops fun, but "battle tops" is a fun game. I made my son a couple of Lego tops to amuse him, but this has more depth and thought. :-)
 I like it 
  March 30, 2017
Hey Jeremy, you are just tops in tops! LOL
 I made it 
  March 27, 2017
Quoting jds 7777 Very clever Jeremy! I was surprised you didn't get to battle tops until now! I really agree with you that Lego needs to stop weaponizing every theme they introduce. They had a rule that any non-licensed theme had to use fictional weapons, but it doesn't look like they are sticking to that anymore.
Thanks, JDS! Walk down the LEGO aisle at Target these days, and most of what you see boils down to war of one kind or another. If that's the only thing TLG's demographic will play with now, heaven help us! Discovered these cleat wheels for battle tops almost 2 years ago but was stuck on the idea that all my tops had to have the lowest possible centers of mass (CMs) to maximize spin time and smoothness. Only recently did I figure out that low CMs make battle tops too hard to aim and knock over -- hence, too few collisions and take-downs and too little excitement. After that revelation, the tops got good enough to post.
 I like it 
  March 26, 2017
Very clever Jeremy! I was surprised you didn't get to battle tops until now! I really agree with you that Lego needs to stop weaponizing every theme they introduce. They had a rule that any non-licensed theme had to use fictional weapons, but it doesn't look like they are sticking to that anymore.
 I made it 
  March 25, 2017
Quoting Clayton Marchetti These are a really awesome batch of new tops. Keep spinning!
Thanks, Clayton!
 I like it 
  March 25, 2017
These are a really awesome batch of new tops. Keep spinning!
 I made it 
  March 25, 2017
Quoting Doug Hughes Another enjoyable post with awesome tops! Keep em coming!
Very kind, Doug!
 I like it 
  March 25, 2017
Another enjoyable post with awesome tops! Keep em coming!
 I made it 
  March 25, 2017
Quoting Nick Barrett Knobbly wheels are the way to go! Great stuff, as always, and the performance of these really impresses.
Thanks, Nick! One of the beauties of making tops with LEGO is that the experimentation needed to optimize them for one thing or another goes so much more quickly than if they had to be scratch-built. And since everything depends on everything else in tops, that's a big deal. Good thing I enjoy the experimentation as much as the finished products!
 I like it 
  March 25, 2017
Knobbly wheels are the way to go! Great stuff, as always, and the performance of these really impresses.
 I made it 
  March 24, 2017
Quoting Petey Bird Wow, those tops work well! They're so stable while spinning. Until they hit each other that is! And as mentioned below, they look great too!
Many thanks, Petey! Once I got the basic design down, I had a lot of fun decorating them. Too bad some of the parts one might use for this don't come in more colors.
 I like it 
  March 24, 2017
Wow, those tops work well! They're so stable while spinning. Until they hit each other that is! And as mentioned below, they look great too!
 I made it 
  March 24, 2017
Quoting Nils O. A very good idea and the tops look extremely cool, too! Let's fight, but not really... Great job! :-))
Thanks, Nils! You and your family could have a lot of cheap fun with these. Make tops, not war!
 I like it 
  March 24, 2017
A very good idea and the tops look extremely cool, too! Let's fight, but not really... Great job! :-))
 
By Jeremy McCreary
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