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Long Live the Spirograph!

24 November 2009 Stories and Appreciations 9,993 views 2 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

During a recent impromptu game night, I pulled the long-neglected Spirograph out of the hall closet, and I can honestly say that the classic drawing toy was the hit of the evening. A room full of cynical, beer-swilling adults was held rapt; we had hours of mathematically-perfect circular fun. Plus, everyone left with a handful of art. Win!

I remember playing with a Spirograph as a child and being endlessly entertained while simultaneously frustrated by it. I’d get a great pattern going and then disaster would strike — the inevitable crink of a cog skipping a groove, and the disappointing straight line ruining my complex (and colorful) series of arcs and curves. Disaster! Fiasco! Giving it another go would result in my pen running out of ink. Being an impatient kid, a third attempt was pretty much off the boards.

However, despite the crinks and the painful memories of failure and frustration, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Spirograph. The set that I have now is an older edition — it doesn’t have the crazy boomerang shapes that the new models have, and it’s got that great old game smell. It even comes standard with a dozen sharp pins and a handful of the small cogs which are quite the choking hazard.

The Spirograph the very epitome of a classic toy — one that draws on those reserves of imagination and creativity that recent advances in electronic entertainment have all but depleted. Using a Spirograph is a lot like reading through those “Chose Your Own Adventure” books of the 1980s: You kinda know where you’re going, and you kinda know how you’ll get there, but the journey is where the fun is.

From a vintage SpirographYou could get easily a new Spirograph set — the toy is still in production and easily found on Amazon — but I prefer Kenner’s 1967 pressing of the toy, which has more pieces, is more sturdily-made, and is just plain better-looking than its modern counterpart. The first step to finding a 1967 Spirograph is hitting up eBay; courting thrift stores is a fool’s errand. Only the truly lucky could hope to find a complete set, and yes, you will miss those missing cogs. However, with a little bit of good eBay mojo, you should be able to find a gently-used set for around ten bucks.

Once you’ve found the game of your dreams, get all set up at a sturdy table. On game night we camped out on the floor, which was fun and all, and how we used to do it as kids — but then there was a point when we all cried “oh, my aching back!” in perfect unison. Don’t get sidelined by bad posture.

There is one more thing that’s absolutely vital to Spirographery success — ditch the pens that come with the set. These innocuous-lookin ballpoint pens are actually portals into a World of Hurt, and you must rid yourself of them as quickly as possible. I’ve found that fine-point markers (we used Sharpies and Spectracolors) work a million-billion times better. The movement was much smoother and more precise, and once we figured out a good speed there was virtually no skipping. Plus, the array of available colors is downright amazing.

And from there … just loosen up and go! Chill, have a beer. Draw some circles. It’s fun!

Lorien Gruchalla

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  1. They always had the worst possible pens with the Spirograph set. We were forced to dig through the junk drawers for appropriate pens (not everything would poke out far enough to use the holes in the wheels)

    What would be cool is some sort of “platinum edition” Spirograph set, in a wooden box with lots of fancy pens and extra “special edition” wheels and cogs, and a place to store each piece.

    I think I have some cogs in the heat vents, along with melted crayons, Lite=brite pegs, all coated with the deadly poison powder of a broken Etch-a-sketch.

  2. […] Monkey Goggles Klassics: “Long Live the Spirograph!” by Lorien Gruchalla […]

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