Q & A: Dylan Polseno of United Machining
Dylan Polseno of United Machining was nice enough to take time out of his busy day to answer some questions and give his thoughts on the fidget spinner industry. United Machining is known for their flagship spinner, The Bow Tie and excellent Mini Spinner as well as their new offering, the United Northstar which is available in a variety of metals and in stock now. This is a great read to get some insight from an actual maker and one of the first guys on the fidget spinner scene.
What were you doing for a living, or spending your time making before you got interested in the production of Spinners?
United Machining LLC was started in 2014 as a machine shop that serves industrial customers as well as making our own products where we had time/ resources to do so. The first couple years were spent by and large machining for other businesses but the last year or so has seen a large uptick in our own products.
Do you think the building fidget toy industry is a passing fad or is here to stay and if so, how do you see the industry evolving and expanding over the coming year or two?
I think given the modern world we live in with the rather over bearing presence of social media and the perceived reduced attention span that that brings, it is indeed a passing fad. I do however think it will go on to have its own community which has been building. I think it will go on to follow spinning tops, knives, machined pens etc. in which at one point in time they were more heightened but eventually plateaued. I think the question becomes how big is the community going to become? Is it on the level of vaping or on the level of spinning tops?
This is obviously a large question on my mind being a manufacturer of spinners and not knowing which way the market will trend. For us that means not extending ourselves too much upfront in regards to carrying too much inventory that we cannot afford to carry. I don't envision the bottom falling out overnight but I do expect a decline to come by next year.
What are some of your most admired fellow makers and favorite spinners other than your own?
I do not own any other spinners nor have I even seen any others in person. I've yet to be blown away by anything out there but my perspective as a machinist is quite different than 99% of people looking at spinners so it's a heavily biased outlook. I will say that I admire those making good quality affordable spinners. When I decided to make spinners all I knew that existed at that time were the Torqbar and the Stubby. I looked at their prices and cringed and decided I could compete equally on a quality level while offering a better price. I think I was and still am successful in doing so but to those making spinners even cheaper than I am, much respect! Of course everyone has a different business, different overhead etc. so anyone that successfully sells below where I'm at has my respect, unless you're a Chinese manufacturer that is. I really wish they would stop emailing me with their $2 spinner offers!
Do you have any plans or ideas for future spinners you can share with us?
I have learned that sharing your plans is a slippery slope because the endless questions occur as well as you may generate interest but then by the time the product is released everyone has moved on. Is there something in the works? Yes. Will it come to life? Only time will tell!
On a side note I was working on a product idea long before I knew spinners existed and could never get it to work right. It's only in making spinners that I now may have it worked out. That could be exciting if I get back around to it!
There seems to be an imbalance between the demand and supply for premium spinners, with drops for popular spinners often selling out within minutes. Do you think this current model of limited drops keeping demand up is good for the industry?
I don't partake in the game that is limited drops so I'm maybe the wrong guy to ask about this. From the customers perspective I can see how it's both fun yet frustrating. Personally I'm not okay with waiting for an exact time to buy something. We all have our own lives going on, why should mine be detoured because you as a manufacturer can't keep up with demand? I think as long as customers participate in them, manufacturers will take advantage of customers.
I always limit releases initially to gauge demand then try my best to keep up inventory so products are always stocked unless they were a limited edition release to begin with.
I don't think the industry as a whole is hurt by it. There are so many options nowadays that if a manufacturer sells out within minutes they are only hurting themselves. Push someone to the edge by just missing out and they will probably take their money elsewhere. I wouldn't be surprised if a decent amount of my spinner sales have come from simply having them in stock and ready to ship.
Is there anything you would like to see change within the current market?
I'd like to see more honesty in marketing. I highly doubt this will ever occur but it would be nice to see. To put it bluntly, most people don't know anything about machining and what it requires. This leads to customers having a respect for manufacturers all the while allowing the manufacturers to inflate their products with fancy hollow buzz words. This I know is a strong opinion but it's all I've witnessed for years now. People are easily swayed when they aren't informed. I suppose it's all a part of the game that is selling products but it's a real shame to witness it occur. If you ever see the word "Billet", "Military Grade" or "Aerospace Grade" know that you are being misled. Even in the cases where it's factually accurate it is still completely meaningless marketing.
Also prices for certain metals is well overblown. Generally keeping everything equal (not a limited edition product, same production quantity level) metal prices will usually go like this: Aluminum to Brass to Copper to Stainless Steel to Titanium to Tungsten/ Blended Tungsten (Tungsten Copper) to blended metals (Dimascus, Trimascus etc.).
Stainless Steel prices vary dependent upon the actual grade used. Generally from a grade perspective it goes: 303 to 304 to 17-4 to 316.
Where the pricing can get overblown is if customers value certain metals too much. Aluminum is cheaper than Brass and Copper but per part cost is often negligible and from a machining perspective they are all VERY easy to machine meaning tooling costs can be kept lower as well as machine cycle time (time it takes for one part/ one process of a part to be machined) kept lower.
Dependent upon the grade of Stainless this is where the jump can start to occur in costs. 304/316/17-4 are all much more demanding on tooling and machine time than 303 is. 303 is pretty much as easy to machine as Brass. Brass is arguably the easiest of all metals to machine.
The short version? Don't over pay for Brass/ Copper. It should be in line with aluminum, it will cost more but shouldn't cost much more ($5-$10 more). 303 Stainless is an okay grade of Stainless, especially for a product like spinners but 304 is much better in regards to rust resistance as well tougher (won't dent as easily). I prefer 17-4 because it machines a bit nicer than 304 but is even more durable with excellent rust resistant qualities.
On a side note to Stainless Steel in general, just because it's Stainless doesn't mean it won't rust. 440c rusts quite easily (a lot of bearings are made from 440c). Also if it's Chinese Stainless Steel, well, good luck.
You as a customer are probably overpaying for Titanium and Tungsten products. I just recently saw some Tungsten buttons being sold for near the same price as I will be selling the Tungsten Copper Mini Spinner ($90). Buttons versus a whole spinner!
Machining Titanium can be a doozy so I'll give respect where it's due there. I just wish manufacturers didn't take such advantage of the perpetual lust people have for the metal (which was all marketing induced).
The old cliché that knowledge is power holds incredibly true in the market of machined products. All customers should try their best to learn more about what they are purchasing.
Also to any manufacturers that are making a metal product with remotely sharp edges, shame on you. NO ONE should ever draw blood from a metal spinner simply because there wasn't enough of a chamfer/fillet on a corner.
What are your greatest hopes for your own spinner production and designs going forward?
I hope our products continue to grow within the market. We have very much done our own thing within the market. We tend to stay low key and let our products do the talking which results in a slower market acceptance but I think people see the passion and care we put into everything we do. We appreciate every single person that's ever chosen to spend their money with us. We know we aren't the cheapest out there, we never will be to be honest because we don't do cheap work but we do try to be as fair as possible. We can only hope people see that over time as our customer/ fan base grows.
Oh and our designs tend to be clean/ minimalistic so if you're expecting some crazy metal art it probably won't come from us. There does tend to be a lot hiding within the details however. We're obsessed and we swear it's in a healthy way.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Dylan. We look forward to great things to come. If you haven't yet, check out United Machining for some of the highest quality fidget spinners in the industry.