Guides: Exotic Metal Fidget Spinners
If you have been interested in Hand Spinners for even a short period of time, you will likely have come across the most common materials employed in their creation. Stainless Steel, Copper, Brass and various Plastic Composites form the core body and button/grip materials for just about any maker you care to mention. All those listed above are indeed a great choice for a variety of designs and offer good looks, quality functionality and relative ease of machining/manufacture. However, there will always be a desire for the rarity and beauty of more "exotic" options, and as the Hand Spinner scene continues to mature, we are finally starting to see some truly stunning pieces being produced in qualities that make them available to more than just the chosen few.
Just what are these rarified materials though? Certainly they are beautiful and with price-tags to match, but what is it that makes them so expensive and desirable? Let's take a look!
Mokuti / Timascus
Both these brand terms refer to multiple alloys of Titanium, layered together in such a fashion that upon machining and flame anodizing, various shapes and swirls of the different layers are revealed. Produced entirely for aesthetics potential in custom knife making, this material is hugely popular. Thanks to the multiple alloys involved, generally either two or three, they each react at a different rate to heat anodisation which gives rise to some truly stunning results once finished.
When it comes to Spinners you can expect Mokuti / Timascus to perform similarly to its single alloy Titanium counterparts, and for the anodized finish to be equally resilient, while prone to non-permanent color changes from finger oils etc. At the time of writing the most notable spinners released in this material have been the Rotablade Stubby, ZeroFeud Compass, Grave Raven Binary Fusion and a few all but unobtainable Torqbar customs. Buttons/Grips are a good way to upgrade a spinner and so far companies like Rotablade, Modusworks, ZeroFeud, Kore Koncepts and Pose Blades have presented full or inlaid options in this much loved material.
One of the most sought after materials for EDC items, Superconductor is a curious mix of two metals; namely Niobium rods set within Copper. Superconductor is a key component in many high-tech applications from MRI machines to particle accelerators! While this is all hugely impressive, the simpler joy of this material is its visual impact once worked; vertical cuts impart a stripped appearance while horizontal reveals contrasting dots of Niobium against a background of Copper. The oxidation properties of the copper alter this effect further as a Patina forms.
Like all the materials we are discussing here Superconductor is extremely expensive to source. Not only that but it's tricky to machine, with the Niobium Rods tending to blend into the softer Copper and require careful polishing and/or etching post machining. The weight varies depending on the composition of the materials within a given piece but you can expect Superconductor spinners to be somewhere between Titanium and Stainless Steel. So far very few spinners makers have taken to using "SC" for full spinner bodies, with Rotablade's SC Stubby being the only regularly available offering. There have been several makers produce buttons/grips in the material though with ZeroFeud and ModusWorks being two of the most notable.
While perhaps not the most talked about of the options here, Mokume is nevertheless a beautiful thing to consider. Generally seen in either two or three metal variations, this material is produced by layering a mix of Brass, Copper and Stainless Steel together. Originally intended to mimic the grain of a tree but in metal form, Mokume has been used to create a variety of patterns in traditional Japanese metal-work. Being that Mokume always incorporates metals prone to oxidization, it alters over time and can be manipulated through "forced-patina" techniques.
Mokume is relatively easy to machine but mastering the way to get the best from it visually is less so. The weight is dependent on the composition of the various metals involved but you can expect something weighty, in the Stainless Steel to Brass range. Currently there have been very few, if any, commercially available spinners with this material as a body but that will surely change very soon! NTO Designs offer a Double Stack button for their RevCore spinners in Mokume, while Pose Blades have recently produced a batch of beautiful custom buttons inlaid with it also.
The art of forging Damascus Steel is both ancient and mysterious with techniques tracing back to the 3rd century lost to time itself. As it relates to modern usage however, Damascus is essentially two different grades of Steel, artfully forged, rolled and laminated together to form a whole variety of designs. These patterns are revealed as the metal is etched and the more oxidization prone of the two steels is darkened. As technology has progressed this has grown into an array of incredibly intricate pattern options and now incorporates Stainless Steels (Damasteel etc) in place of its higher Carbon counterparts.
The finishing work required in the production of Damascus Steel pieces adds greatly to their prospective price. For the best effects, the machined parts must be polished of any notable machining marks before being carefully etched and then cleaned prior to assembly. In practical terms you can expect similar performance and feel to Stainless Steel, particularly if Damasteel/Stainless Damascus is used. Damasteel has been used on several well known spinners so far and to great effect! The Rotablade Stubby/Tri-Stubby and Steampunk Spinners' Phat Boy Nano have both been offered in Blue Tongue Pattern Damasteel, and buttons have been seen in the same pattern from Rotablade, Modusworks, VenomDD and Pose Blades. ZeroFued have also offered Damascus buttons in both twist and the beautiful Spirograph pattern.
This curious material is most commonly derived from the mineral Zircon and is a metal with superficial similarities to Titanium, in its mildly grey tones and very high resistance to corrosion. Its main industrial use is in nuclear power production, with around 90% of world production finding its way into this field. When flame colored, Zirconium takes on a very hard oxidization layer that ranges from a uniform satin light grey to something verging on black. This attractive flamed look and stability have made it highly desirable for jewelry use and in EDC items.
Zirconium is a great material for a hand spinner; it's a great weight that sits nicely between Titanium and Stainless Steel, it is highly corrosion resistant and when heat colored has a very strong surface layer. On the downside, it's tough, difficult to machine and a fire risk for the machinist! Visually it could be considered anything from perfectly classy to drab, depending on your personal taste. U.K custom knife maker Corbz Knives produced two batches of his slab bodied "ZircusBar" Spinner in the material but since then it has only been in the Rotablade Stubby, Grave Raven Binary Fusion and Metal Worn's Turbine/Beacon that Zirconium has taken center stage. There have been very few buttons produced in the material, probably due to its simple appearance, but Modusworks did produce a small batch in Zircuti/Black Timascus which is essentially Mokuti that includes a layer of Zirconium and is anything but plain!
This incredible material might not be the most visually distinctive here, but it's certainly one of the most remarkable. Being both incredibly heavy, brittle and hard in its raw form, Tungsten has the highest melting point and tensile strength of all metals. Visually unremarkable, with a mid-grey cast and impression not dissimilar to many other "white" metals it is the sheer weight of Tungsten Alloys, its density can be as much as 19 times that of lead, that draw the greatest attention.
Tungsten is a name to conjure with and has been used in spinners in the form of spherical weights for some time. Given its sheer density and toughness, it poses considerable challenges for the makers willing to make full spinner bodies with it, and takes a toll on the machines involved too! As you might expect, spinners produced completely out of this material are the heaviest on the market and while that can be great for spin times, keep in mind the probable finger fatigue that is likely. Rotablade have produced a single batch of Tungsten Stubbies, though the secondary market prices are currently very high, and VenomDD's Tungsten iFDGT/TriFDGT is generating quite a buzz! If you want a taste of Tungsten without quite such a cost and sheer weight then consider the Tungsten weighted Axis Micro from Last Room Standing, or the AlumaFX 6 Shooter.
This world of high-end "exotic" metals might feel like a bit of an elitist mine-field but once you start to consider the complexity of manufacturing, difficulty of sourcing, complications in machining and sheer beauty, it's easier to see why there's such huge demand for any spinner that features these rarified metals. It is still early days of course and as the market matures, more and more makers will take the plunge into this area of production which can only be a good thing for the collectors and users of these spinning oddities. Surely, whether it's the spin-time potential of Tungsten, the subtle beauty of Zirconium or the psychedelia of Mokuti that most appeals to you, these materials will continue to form the cornerstone of the high-end market.
Written By: Stuart Robson