Making Some Take Up Reels…

One of the magic products that I put out and that I’m the most proud of is the Take Up Reel that I created. What a Take Up Reel is used for is to shorten a length of string and was popularized by Billy McComb and Tommy Wonder in their Vanishing Birdcage routines.

As far as I know I’m currently the only person / company that makes a Take Up Reel for sale. I’m working on a batch of them this week. It takes about a full week to make one from start to finish. Here’s one of the locks coming out of my 3D printer:

Magic is being revolutionized by 3D printing, especially stage magic. It allows you to affordably make soo many custom props that would have cost tons of money to have fabricated 5 or 10 years ago.

If you’re not out printing stuff, I highly recommend learning how. It’s pretty easy, and you don’t even need to own a 3D printer as there are companies you send the file to and they’ll make it for you.

Click here for more info on my Take Up Reel!

Am I Old and Surly?

I’m trying to decide if I’ve become an old curmudgeon, or if some other people are simply idiots and the internet is highlighting this. Recently in a facebook group someone was asking for a good way to vanish or produce a die. Anyone with basic knowledge of sleight of hand knows how to do this. I’m going to assume the original poster asked in case there was something strange that they had not thought of.

Then they get this response and you can see my response below it:

Am I being an old a$$shole…or does this the person who responded have no idea what they are talking about?

as far as I know a shuttle pass pretends to move a coin or coins from hand to hand. It is neither a production or a vanish. It may set you up for the production of vanish, but it’s neither of those*.

Why would you suggest a shuttle pass?

My only guess is you don’t know what you’re doing. This is why crowd sourcing your knowledge instead of going out and getting a working knowledge of sleight of hand hurts you. It feels like a short cut until you realize you’ve driving around the same block four times.

My advice is to go out and learn the basics and try to figure it out on your own, that way you won’t be chasing leads that have zero merit.

*Yes, I do understand that from a technical standpoint it’s both a production and a vanish to create the illusion of passing an object hand to hand, however to the audience it’s neither of those.

Vertical Three Shell Game

Last night I was playing with a set of mini cups and balls that I have. This particular set was made by Leo Smesters. These are a great little set, however honestly I don’t have much of a use for them. When I originally bought them I had an idea, but haven’t done much with them.

I had the idea of doing a vertical three shell game. The ball would switch places vertically while the cups were stacked. Here’s a quick video of the basic idea:

There’s a little bit more to the full idea I have. Right now the cups are ungimmicked and they will stay that way. However the balls have magnets in them and they stick to each other through the cup. So the cups can sort of function like a chop cup or regular cup depending on the positions of the two balls.

My idea is to have one ball with a very strong magnet in it and then two others with smaller magnets in them. The audience is only aware of one ball. You will steal the ball with the strong magnet and use that magnet like you would a use thumbtip with a magnet inside of it. That will give much more options with what you can do with the cups.

Now I just need to make the balls…

Working Around Video Lag…

Well I think I jinxed myself yesterday. I was chatting on the phone with a magician friend of mine and mentioned that I’m just getting to the point where virtual shows aren’t stressing me out all day. I think I would have reached that point a lot sooner if I had a dedicated space to perform virtual shows in. I’m having to build and take down the virtual theater each show. I’m just now getting comfortable with the show and doing all of that.

Yesterday right before showtime I was running some new cues with my daughter who runs the production end of my show and we noticed my video was lagging. My video would freeze, then speed up to get caught up to real time. I then spend an hour stressed out trying to diagnose what what going on.

I never did figure it out. If you have any ideas of what may have been causing it, let me know!

However being aware of the problem really helped. We found out that my audio was constant, it was just an issue with video, so every one could hear me the whole time. I ended up having to time the magic moments around the freezes. How I did this was go fairly slow and almost wait for the lag before the magic happened. Once the video froze, then sped up I have at least 15 seconds of good video, so I would make the trick happen then. It worked and the booker was happy with the show. I also made them aware of the problem during the check in before the show.

This is a good example of why being comfortable with the material in your show really pays off. My brain was working overtime working around the tech issue, that if I had to think much about my show, it would have been a really tough show to do. I’m not saying doing “easy” or “self working” magic tricks is the way to go, I’m saying being comfortable with your material. I do a couple of technical things in the show, and I’ve practiced and done them a ton, I don’t need to devote brain power to them if I don’t need to.

Four Ace Production…

Here’s a little four ace production I thought of a few nights ago.

I have a feeling the book Principa by Harapan Ong led to this, it feels like several of the ace productions in that book.

The work is pretty simple, you need the four aces on top of the deck. They alternate face down and face up, with the uppermost ace face down.

Take the deck and slip cut two cards (a face down and face up ace) off the top of the deck on the lower have. Do a faro shuffle, it only needs to be a perfect faro for the first four cards and leave the cards outjogged (don’t complete the shuffle).

Your left index finger pops the top card off the top forward half and the thumb on your other hand does the same with the top card of the inner half. When you do that the four aces will be face up.

It’s it the best, or most practical four ace production? Probably not.
Was it fun to play with? yes

Do what you want with this new knowledge!

Removing Visual Clutter..

I’m trying to free up floor space and visual clutter in my performing space for my virtual shows. One of the ways I’m doing this is switching from using camera tripods to using mic stands. I found some mic stand camera mounts and using them to attach the camera.

The mic stand in the picture is a tripod style, but also using the pedestal style. Visually there’s a lot less clutter that I have to see while performing. Also these pack down much smaller than a traditional cameral tripod.

I’ve done one gig using these and I like it. I really like having to see less clutter while I perform. Got another gig tonight and hopefully I’ll still like using them.

To Keep or to Delete…

Something I try to be aware of is the content of my show and how it relates to the current world. An example of this is trying to stay about from politically charged topics, and not gendering people. I’ll be 100% honest that I struggle with not assuming someone’s gender, I’m getting better about it. The thing is I’m not just pretending it’s not a thing, I’m actively trying. Just breaking 40 years of habit is tough.

Right now I’m having a struggle with a line in my show where I say:
“…it gives you the illusion of choice…like voting”
The original intent with that line was my opinion on the electoral system. However with the political challenges the USA has faced in the last six months I can see how that line now carries very heavy political baggage.

Do I keep it or drop it?

Here’s the thing, it’s not a huge line in the routine or show. So dropping it won’t hurt the show. Also, it’s a probably pretty easy to write something to fit that format, just change “voting” to something else.

It comes down to how bad do I want to defend the punchline if someone gets upset at it? It’s not a joke or bit I would fight really hard for. There are other edgy jokes that I definitely would fight for, this just isn’t one of them.

Moving forward, I’ll probably drop the line, or rewrite it and a few years from now it may make it back into the show…

How To Work On Your Show

One thing that I think is never taught to magicians is how to work on your show. Most magicians have no idea how to do this…I didn’t for the longest time. This week 5 years ago I drove from Seattle to Nebraska to do an 8 week school assembly tour.

The pay was garbage, but that’s not why I took the tour. They had me doing three to four shows a day, five days a week, and that’s why I took the gig. I left Seattle with some rough ideas for what the show would be like, but no established routines, just some props.

Let me stop and say that this really isn’t a good way to approach a tour. I took the gig specifically to generate material. For what it paid, I wasn’t going my tried and true material. That’s said, I did have an idea of tricks that I wanted to do, I just hadn’t really done them in a show context before.

For example, this is where I learned to do my multiplying billiard ball routine. It started out using a shell, but due to the wide angles of a school gym, it morphed to a no shell routine. I dropped a lot of material and added a lot on that tour.

OK, so how do you work on a show?

For this tour I recorded at least one show a day. Then I got back to the hotel and watched at least one show’s recording from that day. I took notes and wrote jokes every night. That’s a crap ton of watching yourself, but you get good really quick. Every night I would have several actionable things to not do in my show as well as several new jokes or bits to try the next day.

That’s how you work on a show. Record every shows (or at least one if doing multiple a day) and actually watch it with a critical eye. Write notes for what you like and don’t like. Then watch it again and write new material to add.

Pretty simple?

Yes.

However, it’s work and it’s a pain to do. When you’re on the road by yourself it’s much easier to do than when you’re at home with your family, or whatever home based distractions you have.

You need to sit down and actually watch your previous performances. It’s amazing how many shows you thought were amazing are pretty cringy when they are taken out of “the moment”.

Magic 3D Printing Tutorial

One thing that’s been life changing for my show is learning to use a 3D printer. Recently I was part of a panel that was talking about 3D printing for performers and I made a quick video tutorial that took you through the entire design process of making a holder for a thumb tip and dollar bill holder.

Here it is:

Hopefully this took some of the mystery out of 3D printing. Honestly I thought it would be much harder, until I got one and learned to do it!

Socially Distant Material…

The reality moving forward whether we like it or not will be shows that are socially distant. What that means is a gap between the performer and the audience and having to have people onstage stay somewhere between six and twenty five feet from you. What that means is people can still manipulate objects, they just need to do it from a distance.

That has me thinking of tricks that can be done with someone onstage, but on the opposite side of the stage and using props that I never touch. One of these tricks is Promystic’s Color Match. I did this trick for years, but it cycled out of the show a couple years ago. This fits the rules, it can be done at a distance and without any contact or sharing of the props.

I went out an bought a collapsible easel and 3D printed some cup holders for the easel.

One the right side (when facing the easel) is the cup full of pens and on the left is the empty cup. I have the cup on the left labeled “used”. The “used” pen bin is something that’s very common right now at stores and restaurants due COVID rules. It’s something 18 months ago would be strange, but something that people see often now. Even if they’ve never seen the two cup system at the store, it’s a very simple concept to grasp.

The cool thing is that this solves the problem with what to do with the pen after they use it during the Color Match trick in a logical manner.