Buttons and grips and pads, oh my!

Hello, folks. Power outages in California have led to a lot of thinking time, especially about my latest project, Gatsby. Let’s talk about what I’ve been pondering for the last week: buttons.

To me, buttons are like the unsung heroes of spinners. Their importance cannot be overstated – after all, they are the only place where your hand maintains constant contact while spinning. Despite this, their design usually takes a backseat to the design of the spinner body. This could also be because buttons are hard to get wrong, but also challenging to get right. You can put any two pieces of metal on top of a bearing and get a good enough grip, but making it comfortable and aesthetically pleasing is a completely different story. As such, I tried my best to address the various nuances of good button design in this post.

There’s the height, for one. You can’t have too little clearance between the button and the body, or else you run the risk of hitting your finger on the spinner every time you go to flick it and ergonomics suffer. You can’t have too much clearance, because then you’re putting more distance between your fingers and the center of balance on the spinner, giving you less feedback from the bearing and more violent judder when the spinner moves out of its plane. The Gatsby is already a thick spinner, and therefore will have thick buttons by most standards. However, my goal is to minimize the button height as much as possible in order to maximize the feedback from the bearing and spinner, while still providing enough clearance for comfortable spinning. With the experiences I’ve had and the plethora of spinners I’ve had the privilege to try, I’ve found that 1.5mm of clearance above the body on each side will likely be ideal in terms of ergonomics and feel.

Next, diameter. The spinner community has generally trended towards these sizes: 20, 22, 23, and 24.5mm. There are a few oddballs at 16, 18, 19, and 21mm, but these suffer in compatibility with other designs. Personally, I am not a fan of “overhang,” so the button diameter on Gatsby will most likely be equal to the width of the spinner body, which is 20mm. 20mm is on the smaller side of what’s popular these days, but I find it provides adequate surface area for grip and is most compatible with all other spinners. Since you can always put 20mm buttons on a spinner that came with 23mm buttons, but vice versa will not always work. Plus, any larger and the buttons might overwhelm the design of the body. Buttons shouldn’t take a backseat to the spinner, but at the same time, they should work with the spinner to create an overall aesthetically pleasing package. “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” 😉

Then you have to think about comfort and grip. We naturally like concave surfaces that fit into the convex of our thumbs – take worry stones, for instance. There are a couple ways to achieve that, with steps down or a smooth bowl shape. In keeping with the art deco theme of symmetry, I’d like to mirror the design of the spinner in the buttons using steps. So the buttons will have three flat surfaces and two steps down, just like the layers on the body itself.

There is so much more to think about when it comes to buttons, like chamfers, the undersides, the posts for the screw, and various little adjustments for comfort; but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. The design will most likely be finalized when it comes time to model, since it was hard enough for me to draw the spinner in 3D on paper, much less concave surfaces. I’ll have more to share with you soon!

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