Intro: Speed-Tuning Spinner Bearings
Make your spinner bearings spin smoother and faster!
This Instructable covers how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the most common types of skate bearings found in toy spinners.
Skate bearings generally come pre-greased, which is great when they are used under load such as when skating or skateboarding. Lubricated bearings prevent wear and decrease friction.
However, when bearings are used in toy spinners where there is no substantial load, greased bearings do not spin well and feel "sticky."
To speed up your bearings, I recommend removing any lubricant from the bearings and also removing the dust shields. I'll show you how to do this with a few different kinds of skate bearings.
Step 1: Basic Bearing Anatomy
Here's the breakdown of a common skate bearing. From left to right:
- dust shield - bearings may be single- or double-shielded
- nylon retainer - this keeps the ball bearings evenly spaced
- ball bearings
- inner ring
- outer ring
Some types of skate bearings can be broken down and reassembled, while others cannot. In this Instructable I'm covering three common varieties of bearings and the details of each.
Step 2: Some Common Varieties
Note that all varieties covered here are 608ZZ style, 22mm radial bearings which are universally used for skates and skateboards.
Pictured first are a pair of crusty, grimy ABEC-3 bearings I pulled out of some thriftstore skates I picked up for a couple of dollars. These are double-shielded, and the shields on these CAN BE removed and then reinstalled if desired (I see no point however, if used in toy spinners).
The second pair are BC Precision bearings I bought on amazon for pretty good price. These are basic, generic bearings and are double-shielded as well, but the shields are NOT replaceable once you remove them.
The third pair are Bones Reds bearings that I paid way too much for. They are single-shielded with a rubber/metal shield that can be removed and replaced very easily.
Step 3: Used Skate Bearings
Let's start with these used ABEC-3 bearings.
The dust shields on these are held in place by a C-ring. One of the ends of each ring will be ground to an angled point, which allows you to poke behind it with a sewing needle and pop the ring out.
With the C-rings removed, the shields will just fall out or can be lifted out with the needle.
Step 4: Metal Retainer
On these bearings, the ball bearings are held in place within a metal retainer that cannot be easily removed . . . and in my opinion, it would not be worth the effort to try.
I tried a few ways to clean this type of bearing, all of which had perfectly acceptable results.
Step 5: Soap and Toothbrush
I soaked this bearing in undiluted degreaser (Simple Green) for about five minutes, then gently scrubbed both sides with a toothbrush, and then rinsed it with water. The bearing was spun to loosen up any stuck debris, and this scrub/rinse/spin cycle was repeated a couple more times, and then the bearing was spinning nice and smooth.
On another of this same style of bearing, I skipped the soak in degreaser and just went straight to the sink with the toothbrush and dish soap. The scrub/rinse/spin cycle was repeated a few times, and this bearing came out equally clean to the first.
Step 6: Solvent and Toothbrush
For another of this metal-retainer style bearing, I tried using solvent to see if it made any noticeable difference.
I soaked it in acetone for about five minutes, then gently scrubbed with the brush, rinsed and spun it. I repeated this a couple of times, rinsing it by bouncing it around in a jar of fresh acetone.
Step 7: Thoughts: Soap and Water Vs Solvent
Perhaps it was in my head, but for these bearings, the one cleaned in solvent seemed to spin slightly better than the ones cleaned with soap and water.
It wasn't a huge difference, though, and both approaches worked well enough for me.
Note that these types of bearings are noisier than the ones with nylon retainers, and they don't seem to spin as long.
Step 8: Generic Bearings
This is one of the generic BC Precision bearings I got on amazon. The shields are easily removed, but they get destroyed in the process.
You could just soak these in solvent with the shields in place to try to degrease them, but the shields tend to slow the bearings down. It's better to remove and just discard them if the bearings are going to be used in spinner toys.
To remove this type of shield you need a small sharp implement, like a tiny precision flat-head screwdriver.
Press the tip of the screwdriver straight downward into the tiny gap at the center of the shield, and then gently pry back. The shield will deform and eventually pop out of the outer ring.
An alternate tool that seemed to work even better for me was a small curved pick, shown in the third photo.
Step 9: Cleaning
These bearings have a nylon retainer that holds the ball bearings in place.
With the shields removed, you can clean these bearings with either soap and water or with a solvent like acetone as shown in previous steps.
A pair of long tweezers is helpful for fishing these out of jars of solvent.
The nylon retainers were not effected by the acetone I used, but other types of solvents may soften the nylon and ruin the bearing. So be sure to test out any alternate solvents you may be using on a single bearing before proceeding with more, just be be safe.
If you use solvents always be sure to have plenty of ventilation to avoid breathing the fumes.
Step 10: Disassembling a Bearing
If you're interested in taking a bearing all the way apart for a really deep cleaning, here's how I do it:
Start by pressing out the nylon retainer with a small screwdriver. It will just pop out with a small amount of pressure.
Rotate all of the ball bearings to one side.
Step 11: Remove Center Ring
Push the center ring to the opposite side of the ball bearings. It will take a little bit of pressure, and it will "click" free from the ball bearings. Lift it out, and all the ball bearings will be free. If you do this on a rag the balls won't roll away.
Step 12: Clean All the Parts
Now you can clean all the parts as desired. I dropped the metal parts into some acetone, let them soak for a few minutes, and then wiped them clean with a rag.
I used a toothbrush and soap to clean the nylon retainer, and then rinsed it in clean water.
All the parts were then dried.
Step 13: Bearing Reassembly
To reassemble a bearing, I've found that a small coin like a US dime is very helpful. The ball bearings ride in small grooves on the outer and inner rings, and the dime holds them up to level of these grooves while reassembling the bearing.
Reassembling a bearing on few layers of rags made from an old t-shirt provides just a bit of squishiness, which is also helpful.
The dime is put in the center of the outer ring, and the ball bearings are placed on top and located to one side as shown.
Step 14: Bearing Re-assembly
The center ring is placed as shown, opposite the ball bearings.
Getting the center ring back into place is the trickiest part of this operation, but the dime and the squishy rag layer make this much easier. This is what I do from here:
- hold the outer ring in place with one hand
- with a finger of your other hand, put a small amount of pressure on the center ring sideways against the ball bearings
- at the same time, put a little downward pressure onto the dime/rag layers. Sideways pressure will keep the ball bearings in their groove on the outer ring, and some downward pressure on the center ring will allow it to to drop down so it will be level with the outer ring
- When the inner and outer rings are level and the ball bearings are inline with the grooves on both rings, put more pressure on the inner ring against the ball bearings until it clicks back into the group of ball bearings
Step 15: Bearing Re-assembly
Rotate the ball bearings around the center ring to space them out evenly. The nylon retainer ring can now be snapped back into place.
There might be other ways that work to do this, but this is how I do it!
Step 16: Removing Rubber Dust Shields
This is so simple, but I'll mention it anyway.
The rubber dust shields on fancier bearings can be popped out easily with any small sharp implement, like a sewing needle or precision screwdriver. They can also be popped right back in.
With the shield removed, these bearings can be cleaned just like the other styles of bearings.
Step 17: Thoughts
In my estimation, the fancier and pricier skate bearings work exactly the same as the cheaper generic versions.
Once cleaned, the bearings with nylon retainers all seem to spin smoother and faster. The ones with metal retainers are not nearly as fast, but still very good once they are clean.
Across a handful of the nylon-retainer-style bearings, among both the generic and name-brand ones, there are some notably faster-spinners for whatever reason (minor manufacturing differences, maybe?).
But from what I can tell, there are "good" and "better" from both lots.
Now, if you want really ultra-fast, smoother-spinning bearings you'll have to pony-up for ceramic bearings.
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. Thank you for reading.
(And yes, I admit it - spending this amount of effort to disassemble, clean, and reassemble a bearing for a spinning toy will likely seem incredibly silly very, very soon!)