The Buck Top – By Peter Halder

The Buck Top

By Peter Halder

An ancient proverb states: Necessity is the mother of invention

The proverb found expression among poor kids growing up in Albouystown in the 1940s and 1950s. Their parents could not afford to buy toys so many kids decided to invent their own.

One popular Christmas toy during that period was the Spinning Top or Spintop. They came in various sizes. Some spun after the top was pressed down (cranked). For some, a key was used to wind them up. They were in the show windows of large Department Stores and some Drug Stores.

Kids in Albouystown, and other parts of the country exercised  their young wisdom and talent and decided to invent their own “make local” spintop at no cost. It was named “Buck Top.”   

The first step was to obtain a kind of scoop. A piece of very thick wire, about eight inches long was begged for at Sprostons on Lombard Street, at Broad Street. Help was also sought at the the company’s foundry to bend part of the top of the wire into a kind of oval for ease of holding and gripping, sort of like a handle. The bottom, from the oval handle, was about three inches long. Help was also sought to flatten the end and sharpen it so it became a kind of homemade auger.

The kids then began to hunt in yards for large, round corio seeds. They were easily found. Sometimes awara seeds were used. Pieces of rough sandpaper and bees wax from joineries and carpenter shops were solicited. The sandpaper was used to smooth the seed, especially at the top and bottom.

The ready-made auger was then used to scoop holes at the top, bottom and in the middle. They had to be wider than the size of the auger for other reasons.

Once the three holes were made, the auger was used to scoop out the kernel inside of the seed. The next step was to place the 3-holed seed in the sun to dry out the inside and harden the sides of the holes.

A very small piece of lightwood boxboard from a grocery in the neighbourhood was collected and cut to a length of about four inches. It was pared into a round shape with a circumference that would fit into the corio seed. It was then pushed tightly into the top hole, blocking it, the other end going through the bottom hole and projecting about two inches beyond. The very end was made pared slightly narrower and tip made flat.

The next step was to place small pieces of bees wax at the the top and bottom holes so that air does not enter through them. The finished product was the “Buck Top.” It was then put away in a cool place for the wax to harden.

The engine to make the Buck Top spin was the next object of attention. A used and old tooth brush was obtained. Its top was cut off with a cutlass. The handle was to be used as a critical part  of the invention. The same auger was used to bore a hole in the lower part of the toothbrush handle.

A piece of string/cord, usually about 12 inches long, was solicited from a nearby grocery.

It was then time to make the Buck Top spin. The top, toothbrush handle and twine were taken to a flat, hard, dry surface in the yard or on the road.

The process began. To one end of the twine was tied a tiny piece of wood splinter. The other free end was pushed and pulled through the small round hole in the toothbrush handle. Some of it was wrapped in circles, one next to the other, around the handle. The rest of it was wrapped in circles around the wooden projection at the bottom of the Buck Top until the the toothbrush handle was touching the bottom of the Top.

Then holding the Buck Top in the left hand and the toothbrush in the right, the right hand pulled the brush suddenly and strongly against the string connected to the bottom of the top and at the same time skillfully releasing it out of the left hand. The pull of the brush on the string at the bottom of the Top, the letting go of the top simultaneously with the unraveling of the string with the strong pull, and the skillful release, sent the Top through the air and onto the ground so that it fell on the flat end of the projecting piece of wood and it began to spin for some time at a fast pace. The string and the sudden pull on it by the toothbrush handle was the spring to spin the Top

Oh yes, the hole in the middle. That created a whistling or whirring sound as the Top spun at great speed. It explains why the top and bottom holes were completely sealed.

Inventively fascinating and innovative was Buck Top or local spintop. There were many other “home made” toys invented by  kids of that generation.


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  • Deen  On July 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Yes, Peter, the “Buck Top” was one of my favorite toys too…..others included the kite, spinning wheel, pop gun, and the tin cup bomb.
    I, too, used to make my Buck Top and your method was almost similar to mine with minor differences.
    Again, your article brought back rich childhood memories.
    Ah! the good ole days,
    I wonder if they still make the Buck Top in Guyana.
    Thanks Peter

  • Peter Halder  On July 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

    You’re welcome.

  • KEMEL GAJRAJ  On July 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Peter this brings back a lot of memories to me I would have liked to see a photo .

  • Peter Halder  On July 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Alas, I have none.

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