Art of Pen Spinning

When I was in school a lot of the kids used to spin their pens with much ease and confidence. Pen spinning is a form of object manipulation that involves the deft manipulation of a writing instrument with one’s hands. Although it is often considered a form of self-entertainment (usually in a school/office setting), multinational competitions and meetings are sometimes held.

This pastime originated in East Asia,  and is referred to as “pen mawashi” in Japan.

For the convenience of describing tricks pen spinners have adopted a common way of numbering fingers and space between them (commonly known as ‘Finger Slots.’)

The fingers are numbered sequentially from ‘1’ to ‘4’, with the index finger being ‘1’ and the pinky being ‘4’. The thumb is represented by the letter ‘T’. Finger slots are represented by combining any two of these. For instance the space between the middle and ring fingers is represented by the notation ‘23.’ If the pen were to be held between the index and pinky finger it would be in slot ‘14.’ Sometimes, the space between the thumb and index fingers is called TF (thumbflap).

The four basic penspinning tricks are:


The ThumbAround is performed by pushing a pen by one’s middle finger (the index finger is also used to make it look smoother in combos) so to initiate the pen to spin around one’s thumb a single time, then catching it in between the thumb and index finger. There are many variations, but one used most often for combination uses just momentum and only a rotation around the thumb with a jerk of the hand or a push with the middle finger

Thumb Around was previously known as 360 Degrees Normal. To do this the 1st finger is put on the eraser, the 3rd finger near the middle, and the thumb in between. Pressure is then added on the pencil/pen with the thumb.


The Pass involves spinning the pen through the fingers. A combination of Passes are called FingerPasses. The FingerPass was used in the “James Bond” “GoldenEye” “Boris Grishenko” However, the FingerPass Boris performed is a variation which involves only three fingers instead of the usual four.


The idea behind the Sonic is to move the pen from one finger position to another finger position in as little time as possible. In this trick, the pen is normally held between the middle and ring fingers (but could be performed with other fingers using mapping) and is moved so that it ends up between the middle and index. As this trick can be executed in very short time, its name means a supersonic movement.

The Charge

The Charge does not involve spinning the pen around any fingers or any body parts, rather, the pen is manipulated in such a way with two fingers, that it seems to spin in a very fast motion, in a shaped path. Its conic path and its speed thus create an illusion of the charging motion of the pen. This trick is often performed by drummers using drumsticks rather than pens. It looks like the pen is spinning in the 2 fingers.