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How to Spin
Chip Stone
Shovels & Whips

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By Dan Beard

Fig. 23. 
Winding a Top

Plug in the Ring.

The "plugger" is the top you spin, the "bait" is the top or tops you try to strike with your "plugger."

A top is "asleep" when it stands perfectly erect and apparently motionless while spinning. A "gigler" is a top that goes dancing and hopping about. "A dead top" is one that has ceased to spin; all bait tops are necessarily dead tops.

Boys use as much care in selecting their pegger or plugger as they do in choosing their taw or shooter in marbles. Some prefer a rather long spindle top, others a short, heavy boxwood plugger. All tops should have screw pegs, for these are rarely driven up through the top so as to split them. Besides, the screw top is not so apt to drop out as the common ringed peg.

Get a Good String.

As a rule I think, the string sold for top string in New York is too light.  A cord half as thick again gives better results.

Select for a string a rather heavy cotton cord, about a yard long.  At one end fasten a wooden button mould, or, better still, an old bone button.  About an inch and a half from the other end tie a hard knot in the string and allow the end to fray out below the knot (see Figure 23).   Wet the end of the string and plaster it diagonally up the side of the top.  Then wind tightly until the string covers the bottom nearly to the top of the top, leaving enough string to wrap around the hand.  Slip the string between the first and second fingers, so that the button fits on the outside of the hand; then wind the stack around the hand until the top fits tightly, with the big end grasped by the first finger bending over it.  The peg should rest on the outside of the thumb between the first and second joints.

To spin the top, raise your hand above and back of your head (see second boy, Fig. 15); bring it down forcibly and throw the top six or eight feet in front of you (see third boy, Fig. 15). Don't jerk back.  If you have made a proper throw the top will spin "for all it is worth."

Now for the game: Mark out a bull ring about six feet in diameter and in the center mark a smaller ring about a foot in diameter.  Put as many tops in the center as there are players, and toss up for first shot or decide your turns in any manner you may agree upon.  Many boys play without turns, each spinning his top as soon as he can wind it.

The first player winds up his plugger with care and grasps it firmly in his hand, then with his left toe on the outside ring he tries to hit the tops in the center.  It he misses and fails to spin, or if he strikes outside of the center circle, he must put another top in the middle and await his next Turn.  If he strikes the tops with the big end of his plugger it counts a miss, and all he knocks out must be replaced; but if the peg of his plugger strikes a top and sends it out of the little center ring he pockets the bait top and spins or plugs again.

If his plugger strikes in the small ring and spins there, and by, knocking against the tops knocks them out, it is called a hit--he wins the tops knocked out and has another turn.  A good player will sometimes spin his plugger in the small ring and fail to knock out any tops.  In this case the player must allow his top to stop spinning before he touches it, and if, when it tires out, or "dies," as the boys call it, it fails to roll out of the ring, he must place another top in the center.

A Great Honor.

Good players will often split one of the tops in the middle ring by the force and accuracy with which their plugger's peg strikes the "bait."  This is considered a great honor, but, of course, it ruins the bait top.

You cannot play Plug in the Ring until you learn to hold and throw a top as described above.  The baby manner of spinning by jerking back the string is never accurate and has not enough force to split a pea.  Neither must you hold your top like a girl, with the greater part under the forefinger and the peg sticking into the ball of the thumb.

I have frequently seen this game played "for keeps," but the bait was composed of toothless, battered wrecks of tops that had no other value than as trophies of victory.  The proper game is to use the bait you win as marks or scores, and after the game is finished return them to their proper owners.  The object of the game is not to win tops, but to derive pleasure from a test of skill.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.