Sunday, May 11, 2014

JL Lawson Tops

Please I am not going to pretend these have any utility whatsoever.  They don't even have a bottle opener for Pete's sake.  And everything has a bottle opener these days.  But they are damn cool.  I dropped the two sent to me for review in my top shirt pocket over the course of a week and they entertained me, my three and half year old son, my two nephews (ages 4 and 7), and my entire office at lunch.

Lawson and his Dad are both machinists and they work out of Joshua Tree, California.  Lawson has made a name for himself with exceptional machining skills and a minimalist aesthetic.  Through his site and a few retailers, like Huckberry, he sells a wide assortment of stuff, from bottle openers to lanyard beads to cufflinks.  The two tops, one made of brass and the other of stainless steel, can be purchased through Kickstarter (they have to fund, etc.) found on this page.


I have zero expertise in reviewing tops, but then again who does (not this guy but how about these folks)? Perhaps someone on the top spinning forum, yes there is one, should weigh in.  Hell, one of the competitors in the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TOP SPINNING COMPETITION would be more qualified.  I am sitting in my home office typing this, utterly astounded that there is such a thing.  I heard a rumor that the slogan for Prague 2014 is "Spin Big or Go Home", but again, that is just a rumor.  I make fun because, well, its kind of ridiculous.  No more ridiculous than four figure flashlight, I get that, but its a form of ridiculousness that is new to me.  Behold the power of the Internet.


Here is the weird thing though--after playing with Lawson's Kickstarter Tops I can see how this form of ridiculousness came about.  Lawson's site shows him getting a ridiculous time out of his stainless steel top, well over 8 minutes.  So naturally, when I got the review sample, I started spinning.  I realized that there was a lot of technique involved.  But I also realized that the surface had a great deal of impact on how long the top spun.  I feverishly when through my house looking for smooth flat surfaces.  I cleared off tables and rearranged desks.  I even started taking dishes out of the cupboard, as their gentle sloping sides discouraged energy-wasting "walking".  Eventually I found that my home office desk was a very good surface.  After some real practice I got a 7:46 spin.  I am planning a trip to the local home store to try for an even better time on one of their kitchen counter top displays.  Its really a sickness--I am scouring my environment to ultra-smooth, ultra-hard, and ultra-flat surfaces.  I might even venture into my wife's lab where all sorts of exotic tools and materials like to live.


All of this is a complex way of saying just how cool these tops are.  They surpass the plastic and wood tops by lightyears.  They are easy to spin, steady, and spin silently forever.  The brass model has a bit of antiquing to it that gives it a sense of history and personality, while the stainless model appears every bit the modern marvel that it is, even including a micro bearing on the bottom for better spins.  But the long spin times come from the superb machining skills the Lawson boys have.  These tops have a fit and finish that rivals the best custom gear out there--the RJ Martin/Cool Fall gear of the world.


If you have kids, a passing interesting in fun pocketable gadgets, or an appreciation for fine craftsmanship, you can't go wrong with these two tops.  Both are genuinely cool.  If I had to pick one, the long running stainless steel model would win out.  They come in a handy cinch sack to keep them from getting dinged and off balance.

So much of the gear world is deadly serious.  People virtual shouting over the difference between 3V and S90V, when the reality is that doesn't matter all that much.  Sometimes stuff in your pocket should be fun.  And these tops are fun.  They are transfixing.  There is really nothing useful about them, but not everything in life or in your pocket needs to be useful.  Lawson's tops ARE fun, no doubt.  


  1. Very cool! I just ordered the black SS version!

  2. have you seen this one, looks cool!

  3. Usually you review Jason's stuff so i was surprised when you went with the other one first. Maybe a review of that one as well?

  4. As much as I love with this site, I may need to stop visiting it just to save money. It's amazing the toys this site compels me to spend money on.

  5. You do realize that the brass one is a Put and Take game thus it only needs to spin for just a few seconds

  6. That's amazing, but I'm holding out for the dreidel version.

    1. HA!

  7. Jason- cool link. I just ordered a Lambda Top. Should have it by September...

  8. Got One! only 6 days left