What is the new Spirograph® Deluxe Set like compared to the old one?
I still have my Super Spirograph from 40-odd years ago. I just got the new Deluxe Set to compare.
Best new feature: Spiro-Putty
No more pins! No more special working surface required! “Spiro-Putty” is basically poster putty, a.k.a. Blu-tack, a white (or blue, if you have Blu-tack) sticky putty that holds down your Spirograph ring (or whatever you’re using for the stationary piece) while you draw your design. If you run out, you can just buy some “poster putty” or Blu-Tack Reusable Adhesive (affiliate links go to examples on Amazon). It works brilliantly.
When I first heard of using Spiro-Putty, I didn’t think it would hold the ring firmly enough the the paper; I thought it would be bulky and wiggly, and suitable only for small children who weren’t aiming for perfection in their designs. I was wrong. It’s awesome.
Just put a little ball in 4 spots on the ring, then smush the ring flat on the paper. The ring should touch the paper all round so the wheel doesn’t slip under it as you draw. But the putty shouldn’t get caught in the teeth.
It holds the ring tight to the paper, time after time. I haven’t had to pull the putty off the ring to reset it even after dozens of drawings. I just pull it off the paper and press the ring down again in a new spot, and I’m good to go. If it stops sticking, roll it into a ball and press down again.
I’m now using the Spiro-Putty on my old set too. If you have an old Spirograph, I’d suggest you try some Poster Putty (available in office supply stores) and see how it works. Please share your results with the rest of us in the comments below!
My new set does not have the tiny holes required for pins. If you used pins in the larger, pen-sized holes, the ring would not be held as firmly in place. However, if you have an old set with the pinholes, and really, really want to use pins rather than putty, they can be bought – look for “Map Tacks”, and consider getting a good cork board to use as a working surface instead of corrugated cardboard.
More pens, more fun! (But you’ll have to buy them separately)
Back in the day (I’m talking about the 1970s), there were very few pens you could use with a Spirograph. Either the tip of the pen wouldn’t go through the holes, or the tip of the pen would hardly touch the paper. You were kind of stuck with the ballpoint stick pens that came with the set.
How things have changed! I already wrote about thin felt-tip pens that come in many colors and work great with the old Spirograph. They opened up my Spirograph world again.
The new Spirograph is designed to work with many kinds of pens. It says so right on the box, in fact.
The set comes with three ballpoint pens in red, blue and green. They have very fine points and work well enough, but they feel rather flimsy. I like felt pens better because the ink flows smoothly and they don’t skip.
You will want to try different pens with your Spirograph, and now you can. The designers have done two things to make the parts compatible with most pens: (1) bigger holes, and (2) thinner wheels with less distance between the wheel and the paper.
1. The holes are bigger.
The bigger holes allow almost any pen to be used.
The holes in the new wheels are about 20% bigger in diameter than those in the old wheels. They look bigger than that to my eye, but that’s because the area of the circle, πr2, would be the 156% larger.
So this is great. However, there are consequences to having a larger hole.
The larger hole changes the path a little bit, rounding it more, depending on the design of the pen tip. The effect is most obvious with the larger wheels and #1 hole. In the picture at right, the purple paths were made by the old wheel and the pink with the new. You can see that the purple loops are smaller than the pink ones. This is because of the smaller hole in the old wheel. The pen has less room to move around the edge of the hole as you draw.
The size of the hole probably doesn’t matter to most people, most of the time. It doesn’t take from the fun of making designs. But my geeky side finds it interesting. And some designs look a little different.
2. The wheels are thinner.
Spirograph parts have a thick rim with teeth. That rim is 10% thinner on the new set than on the old (2.7 mm vs 3.0 mm), as measured with my brass caliper in the photo.
My caliper can’t read the thickness of the flat inner part of the wheel because the rim is in the way, but the new wheels feel thinner.
The extra thickness on the bottom side of the wheel, the side touching the paper, has been “shaved off” a bit in the new Spirograph. It allows the pen to be even closer to the paper, and allows more kinds of pen to be used.
Being thinner, the parts tend to warp more easily. This is most apparent on the larger pieces, especially after I’ve struggled to remove them from the storage case.
In general, this warping has not proved to be a big problem. Four pieces of putty on the rings hold them down well enough, removing any problem caused by warping.
The new Spirograph has some of the non-round wheels that came out in later versions of the old Spirograph. I didn’t have them so was always curious about them.
The shaped wheels are more difficult than the round ones to use, but create unique patterns.
Using an off-center hole gives an asymmetrical pattern.
Note: The earlier versions of the old Spirograph, the ones without the shaped wheels, had three additional round wheels 36, 50 and 64, which were missing in the versions with the shaped wheels as well as in this new version by Kahootz Toys. I would most miss Wheel 64, used to make the cool triangular pattern at right.
My old Super Spirograph parts sit in a large open tray made of hard plastic. I lost its cardboard cover long ago. It is hard to store and carry.
The new Spirograph Deluxe Set comes in a carrying case with a handle. The case opens up to reveal a smooth drawing surface in the lid. The blue plastic is somewhat flexible and holds every piece is tightly in place. No more lost pieces.
However, I do find it hard to remove some of the pieces. They bend as I work them out of their places, compounding the warping issue. Maybe I’ll figure out a better method in time, but other people have complained about this as well.
Made in China
The booklet on my old Super Spirograph by Kenner Products Canada Ltd. in Toronto proclaims “Made in Canada” and “Printed in Canada”. So I assume that not only was the booklet printed in Canada, the plastic set itself was made in Canada.
The new set is “Made in China”, as it says clearly on the box. Not surprising; most plastic things are these days.
So how is the quality? It feels somewhat less. But it’s still very usable and fun. All the patterns in this article, unless otherwise indicated, were made with the new set.
The plastic in the new set is less rigid, and the pieces are thinner as I described above. Are they made thinner only so that different pens can be used, or is the intention also to use less material? That’s a question for the manufacturer.
The larger holes result in somewhat less precision, as described above.
Wheel 45 in my new set has a faulty Hole 1. It is too close to the edge and can’t be used. This is a disappointment in what should be a precision tool.
ADDENDUM: The nice folks at Kahootz saw this and sent me a new wheel 45!
I notice small imperfections in alignment, but most people won’t, most of the time. Here’s the worst case I’ve found:
Conclusion: Should you get a new Spirograph? Should you give one as a gift?
If you don’t have an old one, and you’re interested enough to read to the bottom of this article, then definitely YES! It’s so much fun.
If your old set is missing a lot of parts, get a new one to fill the gaps. They are compatible. But don’t buy the new one just for the pens, because there are lots of pens available now that work.
And forget the pins! If you have an old Spirograph, hang on to it, and get some poster putty to use instead of pins!
EDITED to confirm that “Spiro-Putty” included with the set can be replaced with poster putty or Blu-Tack Reusable Adhesive.