By the time Trevor Hirschi decided to make a fidget spinner, the market was already saturated with $2 plastic devices that covered the shelves of toy stores and bodegas. So Hirschi, a machine tool technology instructor at Bridgerland Technical College and men’s jewelry designer, got to work on something a little more exciting.
After shuffling through a couple different concepts, he settled on an airplane propellor. He’d kept a World War II airplane model in his room as a child that would later inspire his first fidget spinner, the TiSpin Prop. To make it, he assembled a 3-D model and used a computer numeric control machine to carve grade 5 titanium into the shape of a propellor. That machine runs at up to 30,000 rotations per minute, which Hirschi says is necessary to create precise blades for his propellers.
You could call the TiSpin Prop a fidget spinner, but it’s not the kind you’re used to seeing in mall kiosks and convenience stores. The meticulously crafted device, made from premium materials, takes hours to design and manufacture. Oh, and it costs $425.
“This is a form of art that few others ever attempt to work with in the manufacturing industry because of its highly time-consuming nature,” he says. That’s because Hirschi and others who are creating ultra-expensive “luxury” fidget spinners don’t see their spinners as toys. They see them as pocket-sized works of art.
Most fidget spinners, which were initially marketed as a remedy for conditions like anxiety and ADHD, share the same basic anatomy: They have a three-knob design with a center piece that houses the spinner’s bearings. You can find fidget spinners in different materials and colors; some even pack some flashing LED lights, or come with Bluetooth connectivity, but you’ll mostly get the same experience—a cheap, accessible way to keep your hands busy.
Hirschi’s TiSpin Prop is a little different. The titanium spinner has two blades, rather than the traditional three, and packs high-quality bearings that avoid the whirling sounds of its more affordable counterparts. This one is dead silent as it spins away.
It’s also not the only “luxury” fidget spinner on the market. Take the 9 Gear Fidget Spinner from Real Gear Spinners, which retails for $600. It’s a wild contraption that packs nine stainless steel gears and 52 total parts into a brass casing that creates something of a blend between a children’s toy and steampunk contraption for your pocket.
Not all luxury fidget spinners are as bold as the 9 Gear Fidget Spinner. Others are meant to be as nice to look at as they are to hold, like the $335 Sterling Silver Black Lotus from House of Yurich. Ben Richardson, an engineer and jewelry designer, modeled it after an arrowhead pendant. Each of its three small blades have cutouts that reveal an almost circuit-like design. You can get it in sterling silver, stainless steel, brass, or bronze; it looks like a totem that a character from Inception would carry on a dream-chasing adventure.
Then there’s the Damasteel Stubby Spinner from Rotablade. As its name implies, it’s made of Damascus steel, a material originally produced in Syria and used for sword blades. The material is notable for the patterns on its surface, which often resemble crop circles or wood grain, and add a seasoned flavor to the aesthetics of the spinner. In a unique blend of form and function, the $430 Stubby Spinner also doubles as a cigar stand.
In a market saturated with fidget spinners that can be bought with pocket change, these luxury versions are a tough sell. But for the creators like Hirschi, that price is easily justifiable. “I’ve been criticized for my price point,” he says, “but if I didn’t place value in what I do, why would anyone else?”
For starters, they’re made with much nicer materials than you’ll find on any store shelf. Some use titanium, others stainless steel or brass. Some luxury spinners, like the $199 Maelstrom Custom from Flyaway Toys, even use aerospace grade materials. Each unit is anodized with a unique array of colors and designs—no two units look the same.
Then, there’s the way these funky contraptions are made. Flyaway Toys uses heavy-duty saws to slice metal bars into little wafers, then once those wafers are converted to their final form, they’re sprayed with liquid nitrogen to shrink them down for fitting. Once the parts are assembled and warmed back up to room temperature, the pieces fit snugly together without requiring glue, screws, or any other undesirable parts that may drag down the quality of the product.
Richardson’s process might not involve liquid nitrogen, but it’s still a complicated endeavor. Each spinner starts as a 3-D model that’s then either immediately 3-D printed to produce the final product, or for the steel and brass models, printed in wax and then later cast in the desired metal. Then, each unit is machine-equipped with bearings and screws to turn it from a motionless trinket into a spinner. After this is done, some models are polished before shipment, while others are sent as is.
While this may explain the high cost of luxury fidget spinners, even some creators don’t find it ideal. “If I were able to produce these just by 3-D printing alone that would make their price tag less premium,” Richardson says, “but it’s still a few years away from having that kind of consistent accuracy at an affordable price.”
These luxury fidget spinners are made for people who like art they can carry with them, show off to their friends, and ogle in their down time. Their role as fidget spinners is secondary to serving as a work of art.
Hirshi’s goal has always been to create art for himself, and anybody who enjoys it is just a nice little bonus. “My intended target market was simply spinner collectors, but I soon found more than that,” he says, “I found retired Air Force Captains, pilots, drone enthusiasts, knife collectors, and EDC (everyday carry) gurus as well.” The goal, he says, isn’t to make money from an expensive toy. It’s about making art that people can interact with.
Alison Miles of Flyaway Toys explains that the company’s intention is to make a product for high-end collectors who appreciate unique designs. “I’ve been told several times [collectors] like the idea of having something that will still be around in 100 years,” she says.
The fidget spinning trend may be old news soon. But a $600 titanium fidget spinner could last forever.
© 2018 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.
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