Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Devil Amongst the Tinkers"

I am in the process of cleaning the storage building in back of the house. I found the "Toptafel" or "Devil Amongst the Tinkers" game that Dad constructed of cherry wood. When he passed away in 1999, the game was stored away. I found it this week and am in the process of cleaning and restoring it to it's orginal luster. Still have a way to go in the cleaning process.

Toptafel, Table รก Toupie, is a game primarily popular in America, France, Belgium Holland although it probably first originated in England or France. The correct name for the game has not been ascertained. In North America is often just called "Skittles" which confuses matters since that is the name of the much older European ancestor. Other possibilities are "Racketeer" and "Devil amongst the Tinkers" but whatever the name, the game can be lots of fun albeit almost totally down to pure luck. Being a simple traditional game without governing body, variations of equipment and rules abound.
"Devil Amongst the Tinkers" game consists of several skittles or pins (You will notice that Dad tired with making pins so he substituted clothes pins for those pins not completed.), a top and a string to launch it (usually with spares) and specially designed table. There are no standards and various designs for the table, skittles and top exist. The table is a rectangular area enclosed by walls on all four sides. Walls within the game segment off several rooms but spaces in the walls allow the tops to enter and leave the rooms.

At one end of the table, a hole in the end wall allows a top to rest against the side wall and the string to be pulled through the hole thus launching the top into the game.
In each room and in various places in the central area of the game table, a small round circle on the floor of the game box indicates that a skittle should stand at that point. A number within the circle indicates the score that is made by toppling the pin that stands on that circle. Sometimes, a few of the circles have negative numbers within them indicating that this number of points is deducted if that pin is toppled.

The rules are simple. Each turn consists of a single launch of the top into the game table. The string is round around the top and the top positioned in it's starting position at one end of the game. The string is then swiftly pulled away from the table spinning the top into the table. The turn finishes when the top comes to a halt and the points for each of the pins toppled is then calculated.

A typical game will consist of each player taking 5 turns to spin 5 tops. The total of the scores at the end determine the winner. Anyone up to a game?


Blogger John Waldsmith said...

I have found your blog about your Skittles game. Our family has been playing what we call "Kentucky Skittles" since the early 1960s. We have an annual family tourament of which we have had as many as twenty participants ranging from 5 year olds to persons in their early 90s. This event is done by single elimination. Usually we play 5 "pulls" per game but when we have a large crowd we cut it to 3 "pulls." Our Skittles boards are the standard Berea College size. In our rules "leaners against the walls" do not count. You must knock down the pins to get the points. A few of us (including myself) have had perfect pulls (knocking down all of the pins). But that is rare. Pins often fall blocking the doorways. It is against the rules to touch the pins once the "pull" is made. A top that comes straight out into the first large room is "a good pull." You want to stay out of the negative side rooms at the beginning. The board must be level. The first board was made by my Grandfather Walter T. Poppenger based on the Berea College (Kentucky) design and measurements. Made exactly, it is in Tulip Poplar. Popular allows a nice smooth "bump" off the walls and is hard enough to keep the pins and spinners straight. The second board was made by my brother Jim when was still in school. Jim purchased a new board a number of years ago at Berea. My board was purchased at an estate auction in Ohio and is exactly like the Berea Board except it is stained pine and the pins are thicker. It was manufactured in Connecticut by a company which is now defunct. A few years ago I found a smaller childrens version at another estate sale. It is finely crafted of an unknown wood by an unknown maker. It about half the size as the Berea "Standard Kentucky Board." Our tournament features a trophy which is passed amongst the winners. Second place is a bag of "Skmitles" candy. We also consume mass quantities of "Skittles" during the "Pull-off." I see your board is missing some pins. I believe you may still be able to purchase a new set of pins from Berea College. There is also a website which sell replacement pins and tops.
Enjoy your game. We have over nearly 50 years. I am 64 and still "Pulling."
John Waldsmith, Ohio

10:39 AM  

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