Guides: Bearing Basics: Steel vs Ceramic Hybrid vs. Full Ceramic Bearings
You really can't talk about spinners for long without coming on to the subject of bearings. These little pieces of refined engineering have been re-purposed by the Hand Spinner community into the heart of these funny little devices. As you might expect for a product that has long been an integral element in a whole host of high tolerance applications, the options are vast. One of the main things to take into account when considering bearing options is the materials involved.
When looking around the array of spinners on offer, you will likely come across terms such as "Hybrid" or "Full Ceramic" related to bearings. Let's break down what all these distinctions mean and what each have to offer you in your chosen spinner.
Stainless Steel Bearings
At the lower end of the market you are likely to see spinners employing full Stainless Steel bearings. This means that both the bearing's races, cage (if there is one) and balls are all Stainless Steel. Bearings can be made with chrome steel, stainless steel, or carbon alloy steel. While these might be the cheapest option, it doesn't mean they aren't the right choice for you!
Pros of Full Stainless Steel Bearings
- Low Noise
- Cost Effective
- Widely Available
Cons of Full Stainless Steel Bearings
- Lowest Potential Spin Times
- Susceptible to Becoming Magnetized
- Low Corrosion Resistance
Ceramic Hybrid Bearings
Hybrid bearings are often considered the perfect choice for spinners, and with good reason. They are much like SS bearings in that the races and cage will be stainless but diverge by employing ceramic balls instead. The bearing balls are almost always either Silicon Nitride (Si3N4) which are black ceramic balls, or Zirconium Dioxide (ZrO2) which are white ceramic balls, and due to their hardness, burnish the stainless races and as such improve in performance over time. This is what is referred to as the "break-in" period for new spinners. You'll often see improved spinning and longer spin times as your hybrid bearing gets more use as long as you keep your bearing clean.
Pros of Ceramic Hybrid Bearings
- Highest Potential Spin Time
- Improved Performance after "Break In"
- Quieter than Full Ceramic
Cons of Ceramic Hybrid Bearings
- Noisier than Full Stainless Steel
- Still Susceptible to Corrosion in Damp Conditions
- Potential to become Magnetised
Full Ceramic Bearings
Lastly we come to Full Ceramic, and perhaps the most polarizing of the options available to spinner buyers. Full Ceramic, as the name implies, feature entirely ceramic races, cages and balls. They can be entirely comprised of black/grey Silicon Nitride (Si3N4) or white Zirconia Oxide (ZrO2), or on some occasions even a combination of both. These have found favor with users who enjoy the distinctive feedback/sensation they offer while spinning.
Pros of Full Ceramic Bearings
- Impervious to Corrosion
- Increased Tactile Feedback
- No Risk of Magnetization
Cins of Full Ceramic Bearings
- Noisiest of the Options
- Less Smooth, "Rough" Tactile Feedback
- Potentially Fragile on Impact
So there we have it! Of course, as with any topic there's a host of details and subtleties we can, and I'm sure will go into in further articles, but for the uninitiated the above should serve to help refine your decisions when selecting your ideal hand spinner(s). Whatever you choose, while the bearing composition is of great importance it can only perform as well as the tolerances of the spinner design and balance allow. With that in mind, have a good look around for full reviews of spinners that interest you most to see how well every aspect has been implemented. Most of all though, enjoy!
Written By: Stuart Robson