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Spinner Knobs: Get a Grip

One of the nifty things about all of the spinners in this roundup (with the exception of the original TRON spinner) is that they all use ¼" shafts, which means all of the different knobs are compatible with all of the spinners. Want to use a Oscar DOT knob with a SlikStik Tornado spinner? It’ll work.

Spinner Knobs
Top Row: Oscar DOT, Oscar Engraved, Oscar Tempest Repro, and SlikStik Standard
Bottom Row: SlikStik DuoTone, SlikStik O-Grip, and SlikStik Skirted

Oscar Engraved ($16)

Oscar Engraved Knob

The Oscar Engraved Aluminum knob doesn’t have any special design features, such as a special shape or unique sculpting. It’s a nice size (1.5") and it does the job well, but what makes it stand out is the MAME logo engraved on the top of the knob. This is a very nice touch, and makes what would otherwise be an ordinary knob, well, cool.

Oscar D.O.T. ($15)

Oscar Discs of Tron Knob in Anodized Black and Natural Aluminum

The Oscar Discs of Tron (DOT) knob is a fairly large (1 ¾") knob that has a very rounded, sculpted shape with very nice “embedded” knurling in the side of the knob. The side of the knob is basically smooth, but if you press in slightly with your fingertips you’ll hit the embedded ridges. This makes this knob great for games like Tempest, where you can spin the knob loosely in your fingers and then quickly stop this spinner with just a little more pressure. The shape is also “retro” looking (in a good way). The unique shape of this knob, however, is what makes it so game-worthy. I really like the feel of this knob during gameplay. The size, shape, and unique knurling really set this knob apart.

The knob comes in two styles: black anodized and natural aluminum. The black anodized knob looks great, with a nice "metallic black" sheen. I actually prefer the natural aluminum knob, however, because you can easily polish it up with some Brasso to a (literally) mirror finish. Anodized knobs can't be polished (or at least, they won't get any shinier in my experience).

SlikStik Standard (Discontinued)

SlikStik Standard Knob

The SlikStik Standard knob (now discontinued) is another fairly large1 ¾" aluminum knob. It has good weight and a nice knurling pattern on the side that allows for easy gripping. Aside from the large diameter (which is great for bigger hands), it’s a fairly ordinary knob. Like with the Oscar Discs of Tron knob, the large size is good for “steering” games such as Pole Position. It's available in six colors (natural aluminum and anodized black, red, blue, purple, and green).

SlikStik Skirted ($18.95)

SlikStik Skirted Aluminum Knob (with the Anodized Colored Versions)

The SlikStik Skirted Aluminum knob has a very unique shape, even more so than the Discs of Tron knob from Oscar. The knob has a skirted bottom, a narrower “shaft”, and a bulbuous domed top with knurled sides. In many ways this knob is tailor-made for Tempest, but it’s actually great for very fine control over any game that requires lots of little spinner moves and changes of direction. It’s also the tallest knob in the roundup, which I found makes this a very comfortable knob to use.

The only drawback to this knob is the sharp machining on the knurling, which makes it feel as if you’re slowly grinding your fingertips off while playing games. Luckily, a little sanding can take care of this, at least with the non-anodized version of the knob. Like the SlikStik Standard knob, the skirted knob is available in five colors: natural aluminum and anodized black, red, blue, and purple.

SlikStik DuoTone ($17.95)

SlikStik Duo-Tone Knob in Blue

One of the more unique knobs in the roundup, the SlikStik Duo-Tone knob is the same size as the now-discontinued SlikStik Standard knob, but adds a smooth "indented" section in the middle. This section makes a world of difference in gameplay, as it allows you to lightly grip the knob during fast spinning, and yet still stop the knob quickly when necessary.

The style of this knob is enhanced by the fact that the indented section is cut after then anodizing process, producing a sporty silver "ring" around the knob. This knob has replaced the SlikStik standard. It's all that I've come to expect from SlikStik: innovative, stylish, and all with a focus on playability.

SlikStik O-Grip ($19.95)

SlikStik O-Grip Knob, Blue Anodized Version

The O-Grip knob is another new knob from SlikStik. Roughly the said diameter as the top section of the SlikStik skirted knob, the O-Grip adds dual Buna polypropylene o-rings to the sides of the knob. This is a compact knob with a great, smooth feel to it, one that doesn't irritate the fingertips while still giving plenty of "grab" when needed.

The current version of the O-Grip knob has a reduced diameter compared to the original, which was closer in size to the SlikStik standard or Duo-Tone knobs. I especially like the size of this knob, and it seems ideal for fast Tempest-style gameplay.

Oscar Tempest ($16.00)

Original Tempest Knob (L) and Oscar Tempest Reproduction Knob (R)

A near-perfect reproduction of the knob used on Atari's Tempest game, the Oscar Tempest knob is machined of aluminum instead of plastic, and then anodized black. This gives it a cold, smooth metal feel. The "knurling" pattern on the knob is slightly wider and deeper than the original, and the fact that it's made of metal gives it a harder, sharper feel.

While the knob fit well in my hand, I found the sensation of spinning it a bit like holding a metal gear — the knurling felt like it was cutting into the sides of my fingers, especially when I made quick changes of direction with the Vortex spinner. The well-worn original Tempest knob was extremely comfortable, and it's strange that two knobs so close in design could feel so different in use.

Note: I didn't have as much trouble when I used the Oscar Tempest knob on the Tornado spinner, as the lower-mass flywheel in the Tornado didn't require as as tight a grip on the knob to change direction.

A different (or tighter) knurling pattern might help — this may be one of those situations where diverging a bit from the original design may be beneficial.


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