Maxwell's Dynamical Top
The research, design, prototyping and manufacturing of our products is all performed in our Canadian facility.
Engineering and science are what drives us and our philosophy is to perform all work in house to the highest standard possible. We do this for the love of the work, and quality is more important to us than offshore cost savings.
The top consists of two separate assemblies: a base which is 3 inches in diameter with a column that the top spins on, which is approx. 2.5" high. The second assembly is the actual top which, with the adjusting screws, is approx. 2.5 inches across the ring that holds the adjusting screws and is 3.5 inches high to the top of the axle.
When the top is on the stand, the overall height is just under 5.5" and the total weight is just over 1 pound.
The top and base are made of brass, the axle is brass with a hardened tool steel spin point and tool steel spike on upper end. The stand is also machined brass and has a hardened tool steel cup that the spin point spins in.
We suggest as an option, the glass dome found at: https://.www.ikea.com/us/en/p/begavning-glass-dome-with-base-70343938.htm
We added a felt circle to the inside of the dome's base and together with the top, it looks great!
The top is a reproduction of a scientific instrument consisting of small parts, exposed screws that can cause scratches and fairly heavy machined pieces that can cause damage to surfaces if dropped or mishandled. The top itself can easily be knocked off the stand in use and will definitely be damaged by doing so.
It is not a toy and not suitable for children.
Maxwell designed the Dynamical Top as a scientific instrument to demonstrate its rotational motion when not balanced perfectly and spinning on its axis over the centre of mass. Through careful adjustment the top can spin very smoothly but it won't match a one piece top for dead smooth spinning.
The dynamical top consists of 15 pieces that are very carefully machined as precisely as possible, but as with any assembly of parts there are tolerances involved, which will mean that some precession and or nutation will be present when the top spins.
The idea behind the top is to simulate how a spinning massive body like a planet precesses as it spins and orbits. The top simulates this and as the spin axis changes the coloured disk shows on what axis the top is spinning through at any given time.
When the top is spinning and disturbed slightly, the coloured disk will show a progression of colours as the spin axis changes usually cycling red, yellow, green, blue or blue, green, yellow, red depending on how the top is adjusted.
We are working on a PDF and videos that will demonstrate how to use the top and how to make adjustments. Maxwell's paper to the Royal Institution also describes in detail how to adjust the top a copy of which is available here:
Yes, try these out: James Clerk Maxwell foundation which has a video showing an original top in use from the University of Edinburgh: https://www.clerkmaxwellfoundation.org/html/dynamical_top_.html
Dr. Reid from the University of Aberdeen has very good info about Maxwell and the top here: https://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/j.s.reid/pages/Maxwell/Legacy/MaxTop.html
There is nothing applied to the brass after polishing. Maxwell's original tops show a nice patina as the brass has aged. We are leaving the choice of letting the tops patinate or not to the collector.
If developing a patina is not desirable, the application of conservator's wax will keep the top's shine intact. Conservator's wax is available here: