A while back I bought a Super Spirograph Design Set and just left it under my desk. My goal was to have something I could do whenever I just couldn’t find anything I wanted to draw. I never had to resort to that so I decided that 3 months in was as good a time as any to just open it up and play around.
I’ve never owned a spirograph set so this was sort of new to me. I had a pretty good idea of what it would be like and it didn’t surprise me too much. I didn’t spend much time with the instructions, opting to just dive in and learn as I go.
The first things I noticed was that it’s very easy to mess up. This makes you want to go slowly and carefully, but then, the pens shipped with the set will bleed, again messing up your spirograph. There isn’t any easy solution to this problem with what’s in the box and it can get pretty frustrating.
I did try using the set with other pens and paper.
The issue with using other pens is that the holes where you put the pen is fairly large. So, many pens, especially technical pens, will have a lot of wiggle room. This causes all sorts of problems. They’ll cause inconsistencies in the spirals and may even cause the wheel to lift away from the paper and guides.
The set included one metal wheel. It is much less prone to some of common issues, especially jumping off the track. It’s weight makes it want to lay flat more than the light plastic ones do. There is a full-metal anniversary set which I ended up buying as well. I’ll review that soon.
I couldn’t find another pen that didn’t suffer from other issues. Yet the pens they include aren’t very satisfying in color or precision. The best solution I found was to just point a technical pen straight down and be very careful. But even that wasn’t perfect.
I plan to experiment more with other pens and solutions in the future. I think putting something around the nib of a technical pen could solve the problem.
Moving to other paper was generally very helpful. There’re many other papers that bleed less than what’s included in the box. So, I’d say use their paper to learn how to use the set and then move on to better paper to avoid bleeding. Marker paper, Bristol, and even watercolor paper all seem great.
There were a few problems I had with the instructions when I did try to use them.
One small complaint is that the instructions include a lot of examples but not a lot of theory. For example, I couldn’t find any explanation of how to do simple calculations for the spirals that would come out of a combination of wheel and ring. Yet, they gave examples for many combinations. These calculations are simple math and could easily be included somewhere in the fairly long instruction book.
A bigger complaint is that the instructions can easily be confusing. I didn't go through the instructions in order. Since the instructions are long and I didn’t want to do every example I decided to pick and choose which spirographs I wanted to make.
When I attempted one of the somewhat complex ones near the back I found the instructions unclear. They assume that you would have done some of the earlier ones. I don’t think it would have been too hard to write clearer instructions or at least refer you to the necessary information.
Overall, I had some fun playing with this set but I found myself getting frustrated much more than I expected I would. For me art is about relaxing and not about frustration. I think a lot of my frustrations could have been alleviated if the pieces were higher quality (one even came broken) and the instructions were more thorough.
I think there is room for someone to make a higher quality precision spirograph set. I did find one called Wild Gears. But, I feel the price for that one may be a little too steep and while the pieces do look higher quality I’m not convinced enough of the issues would be solved.