Here’s one of those odd crazes that you’d probably forgotten about until now – I certainly had, and I’m not even sure quite why they popped back into my head. In the early Eighties (or it might have been late Seventies) there was a fad for these funny little metal balancing ornaments.
I’m not sure if there was a “proper” or official make of these ornaments, but there were certainly a great many cheap knock offs available, especially in knock down price gift shops, the kind which are usually dotted around in plentiful supply in most good old British seaside towns.
The ornaments were made from lengths of silver coloured metal rod (possibly aluminium but I suspect more likely steel) which were bent in different ways and soldered together. In certain key positions ball bearing like lumps had been soldered in order to move the rods centre of gravity to a different place. This was so that the carefully bent shape could then be balanced on another piece of metal in a manner which initially seemed to defy gravity.
Some of these were incredibly simple. I remember having one such ornament which looked like a little man on a pair of parallel bars. Push the little man’s head and he would start spinning round madly, working his way along the parallel bars until he got to the ends, which were bent slightly upwards. These bends caused him to slow down, then start spinning his way back in the opposite direction.
The more intricate (and generally more expensive) versions of these ornaments started to look almost like perpetual motion machines (indeed, this may have been the name under which some of them were sold). These often consisted of several concentric circles of metal, each with the counterweights soldered on in such a way that setting one going caused all the others to start spinning wildly as well, and would continue to spin unaided in such a manner for quite some time.