Tom Griffin_Griffin Precision
Tom Griffin – Griffin Precision Gallery
All Things Spinning interview with Tom Griffin of Griffin Precision Spinning Products
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, what’s your day job, etc.
I am married with four children and live in a small town in Ohio. I build custom firearms for my day job. A few of the things that I enjoy when I have some free time from making tops and working my day job are drag racing, fishing, and hunting.
2. When did you start doing what you do?
I started making tops about the middle of January of 2016. The first top that I made was the Big One and it was made from a piece of plain carbon steel and a piece of aluminum that I just had lying around my shop. The first bearing that I put in it was out of an old Honda motorcycle. From that point, I started to refine my pieces, with the next one being the Number Two — the first one that I made with a ruby bearing. I sold the Big One for $45 to someone on the Pocket Top Talk board.
3. What’s your full-time job? What reasons are keeping you from being a full-time top maker?
My full-time job is building custom firearms, as I mentioned. I would prefer not to divulge what keeps me from making tops full-time.
4. What are your current EDC items? Let’s do a pocket dump photo please!
I have a Ruko spring-assisted folder as my everyday pocket knife, a Camillus little folder knife with a straight blade, a screwdriver that my dad used to carry, my EagleTac flashlight, and my SOG multi-tool scissors.
5. Do you have any other hobbies? Are they related to EDC or tops?
Some of my hobbies are drag racing, hunting, and fishing, which I try to enjoy when I have free time, though that is currently in very short supply.
6. What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced during your products’ development? Tell us how you created your style, your own combo metals, your own designs, etc.
One of the biggest challenges that I faced as I was figuring out my process was how to make tops not wobble as they spin. This appears to be quite the challenge, even still. Uniform materials like stainless steel, brass, copper, and other normal materials are relatively easy to make wobble-free tops. However, when you start dealing with tungsten and some of the more exotic materials, it becomes especially challenging because some of these materials have density issues that cannot be overcome.
I have been fortunate enough to find a supplier for tungsten that seems to have relatively uniform material, so I can make tungsten pieces nearly wobble-free.
7. What is your favorite metal? What metal do you hate the most? Please tell us why and any stories about your reason.
I can’t say that I have one favorite material to work with. I would have to say more like three. Aluminum, copper, and tungsten I would say are my favorites because of their ease of cutting. On the other hand, the one that I dislike the most would probably be Damasteel simply because it’s very tough to machine. I have to use very specific tools when I’m machine this; they have to be carbide and they have to be very, very sharp in order to machine with any efficiency. The other thing that I don’t like about Damasteel is that it requires a secondary process to bring out the pattern in the material. The acid makes it a dangerous material to work with.
8. Do you have a word for the up-and-coming collectors and new makers? Any suggestions you’d like to share?
For new collectors, I would say to start with something inexpensive to make sure that this is actually something that you like and want to pursue. You can easily go down the wrong rabbit hole and get into some very expensive pieces, only to find out too late that maybe this isn’t for you. For new up-and-coming makers, I would say make what you want, be creative, and try new materials. There’s always something out there that somebody hasn’t done yet, so use your imagination.
9. Once in awhile, we see people copying other makers’ design (by accident or intentionally), metal combos, and such. What do you see in this topic and what would be your opinion about this?
I don’t agree with copying other makers’ work or blatant plagiarism. However, there is only so much that we can do with these lathes that eventually somebody’s work is going to look like someone else’s.
10. What would be your next shop integration?
Probably the next thing that I am going to integrate into my shop would be a CNC lathe of some sort. It would simply be to make blank pieces; I will still hand finish the final product. I also plan to integrate some sort of milling equipment, so I can start to do more intricate design work for my tops.
11. Your craft of the long, precision spinning top is fascinating. Tell us more on how and what made you focus on performance?
The reason I primarily focus on performance is because I see so many other makers out there who focus on aesthetics. Paying big money for tops that only spin for five minutes is fine for some people but conflicts with my drag racing background. I’ve always been performance-oriented, so it’s not necessarily how good something looks but how it performs. If it looks good and performs well, then that is just a bonus. This too seems to be part of the market that no one had really touched on — the performance aspect of it and trying to make something that would spin as long as possible.
12. What does your inspiration come from? Who has been the most influential in your maker’s career?
I would have to say that my inspiration comes from the entire community of the top world. Just seeing how passionate people are about these little spinning toys makes me want to create something that no one else has done.
13. Please tell us one of your favorite projects that was mesmerizing and unique. What kind of ideas that were brought to you and you wanted to put in reality.
I would have to say that my favorite project to date has got to be the new Quantum that I just released. With the Quantum, I tried to make a top that would spin longer than anything that I had made before. It was quite the challenge, and so far I am very pleased with how it has been received and how it is performing in the field.
14. Will you be attending the TopCon this year?
At this point I do plan on attending the TopCon in Atlanta in June as well as Texas TopCon in October.
15. Do you like music? What’s the music that you blast when you’re working? What’s your favorite band?
Yes, I absolutely love music and I do blast music when I’m working in the shop. Picking only one favorite band is hard. It would be a toss-up between Def Leppard and Metallica probably. I am very eclectic on the types of music that I listen to. I listen to things from techno to R&B, hip-hop, metal, eighties, pop — pretty much everything except country.