Wrist to Wrist Pull…

There’s a lot of misinformation around about the Vanishing Birdcage. I have never really considered myself an expert about that trick, but recently it’s become clear that I know a lot more than most people, but still don’t consider myself an expert. It’s a trick I’ve been fascinated with for a long time, I’ve used off and on since I was a teenager and tried different styles, at one point I even did the Tommy Wonder vanish with the sleeves rolled up.

In a facebook group someone posted a link to a reel that was being sold as a door closer. Then this conversation happened:

You really can’t beat a wrist to wrist pull for the actual vanish of the birdcage. The power needed for the vanish happens before the vanish happens and there’s no way a reel or elastic can reasonably come close to the power your arms can. For the flash vanish, right before you are going to put tension on the pull’s cord by pushing the cage away from the body as hard as you can. This is going to start building up energy and when you let go of the cage you are releasing all of that energy and that explosion of power is what sends the cage up your sleeve. Once you let go of the string the pull doesn’t really do anything…except at the very end, it may help keep it high up your sleeve so it doesn’t peek out.

Most magicians think it’s pull dragging the cage up your sleeve, and not the cage shooting up your sleeve. Yes, you can vanish the cage by pulling it up your sleeve, however it’s an inefficient use of energy and you need a lot of arm movement to accomplish this. Having the cage shoot up your sleeve requires very little arm movement. The exception to this is Billy McComb’s Slow Motion Vanishing Birdcage, however it’s still a situation where a reel or elastic would be inferior as you lack control of the vanish.

When using a reel or elastic for the vanish (this is different from how a Take Up Reel is used) you are going to have constant tension on the corner of the cage that’s attached to the elastic. That means you are going to be fighting that tension to keep the cage upright. It would virtually rule out using an Abbott’s / Blackstone style Vanishing Birdcage, and make using a semi-rigid card really difficult. From the audience’s perspective your arms are going to be tense the whole time you’re holding the birdcage. You’ll be holding it like it’s 20 pounds, not less than a pound. This is the huge advantage of a wrist to wrist pull, you can instantly add the tension to the line whenever you want. In the case of the vanishing birdcage, you can do it a fraction of a second before the vanish.

For the actual power of the vanish, to get a reel strong enough to match the tension you can put on the cord with a wrist to wrist pull, the reel would have to be massive. Same with an elastic cord, it would be very thick.

Something else to consider is that with elastic or a reel is if there is any clean up, or to keep the cage up your sleeve. If the arm that it’s anchored on moves away, the cord will stretch. That will cause you to have to make exaggerated motions to compensate for the stretch to move the cage in your sleeve. Also after the vanish and the cage is in your sleeve, the cage’s weight will be pulling on the line, so you’ll be fighting it wanting to crawl back out of your sleeve. Sure you could have the elastic super short, but then there will be constant tension on your arms after the vanish.

I think people want to complicate the vanishing birdcage by adding things to it because a wrist to wrist pull is too simple to be what’s connected to the complex cage. Yes, a Take Up Reel is something that an addition to the trick, but something that helps with everything except the trick. The Take Up Reel has done it’s job before the vanish happens. When the actual vanish happens the Take Up Reel is functioning like a wrist to wrist pull.

If you’re going to do the Vanishing Birdcage, learn to do it with a wrist to wrist pull before you start playing with elastic, or whatever. That will give you a baseline for how the vanish should look.

Thoughts on the Cage…

Ever since I put out my Take Up Reel, I’ve been invited to a lot of magic zoom get togethers to answer questions about and the vanishing birdcage. I never really thought of myself as an expert at the vanishing birdcage, but apparently I am (or at least people think I am). I don’t think I do anything groundbreaking with the cage, but I have put a lot of time into it and know what I like and don’t like with them.

During one of these magic meetings, someone asked me a great question. They mentioned they showed a video of someone doing the vanishing birdcage to their girlfriend and asked what she thought of it. The girlfriend’s impression of it was the cage looked funny. When asked how she thought it worked she said it was a trick cage designed to disappear. She didn’t know how…

This is a very important observation and it highlights the problem with most vanishing birdcage routines.

The problem is most people only present it as the effect. The cage disappears. When the only thing in the routine is the cage disappearing you live and die by the prop. For example you walk out onstage with a funky looking tiny birdcage with a rubber bird dangling in it. Then the only real “routine” is how impossible the vanish is…of course it’s not going to hold up for a modern audience.

This is where Billy McComb got it right. He started used a mouse not a bird, and it’s a little cage for the obviously not real mouse. The mouse then does some comedy, and then the cage vanishes. The routine isn’t about the cage disappearing, it’s about the mouse doing stupid things.

I think the way to make the Vanishing Birdcage good is to not make it about the cage. You’re selling something else, and the vanish of the cage is a punctuation at the end of the routine!

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!

No Outs and Snagging…

Honestly, I’m not sure how I used to do the vanishing birdcage. I think I was very lucky in that years ago it never really hung up on my sleeve in a show. I also think that I’m currently more aware of failure without an “out” in tricks that I do in the show. Billy … Continue reading “No Outs and Snagging…”

Honestly, I’m not sure how I used to do the vanishing birdcage. I think I was very lucky in that years ago it never really hung up on my sleeve in a show. I also think that I’m currently more aware of failure without an “out” in tricks that I do in the show. Billy McComb in an interview on the Greater Magic Video Series says, “…there is no out when the cage is hanging out of your sleeve.

Currently I’m following Tommy Wonder‘s advice. Every time the cage snags on something, I’m trying to figure why it snagged and what I can do to stop it from snagging. It’s a smart approach, and one that’s a lot of work and will end up with a fairly altered jacket.

The last year or so I’ve been working with the vanishing bird cage trick. I used to do it a long time ago, and at one point even did the Tommy Wonder version with the sleeves rolled up. The vanishing bird cage is one of those tricks that I keep revisiting. Currently it’s in the … Continue reading “”

The last year or so I’ve been working with the vanishing bird cage trick. I used to do it a long time ago, and at one point even did the Tommy Wonder version with the sleeves rolled up. The vanishing bird cage is one of those tricks that I keep revisiting.


Currently it’s in the show and I’ve been doing essentially Billy McComb’s Slow Motion Vanishing Bird Cage. The main difference is that I’m doing it fast, just under the cover of the sheer scarf. I think the scarf adds a little bit to the vanish. Yes, it takes away from the instant vanish, but also adds a bit of other options as to where the cage could have gone.


Last night I stumbled upon a video of Tommy Wonder doing his vanish with the scarf:

I like this better than when he does it uncovered.

One thing that the scarf does is that it gives the audience a moment to process what’s happened while you show the sheer scarf empty and let’s their brains get caught up.

Advice from Billy McComb

Frequently I end up driving several hours to gigs. Last night I had a gig at a casino that was only 90 minutes away, but quickly ended up being a 3 hour drive due to unusually bad traffic for the time of the day that I was travelling. I always give myself plenty of time … Continue reading “Advice from Billy McComb”

Frequently I end up driving several hours to gigs. Last night I had a gig at a casino that was only 90 minutes away, but quickly ended up being a 3 hour drive due to unusually bad traffic for the time of the day that I was travelling. I always give myself plenty of time to get to the gig, so this wan’t really a problem. Once I notice I was going to have some time, I listened to a CD set where Nick Lewin interviews Billy McComb.

casino magician

This CD set is amazing, there are three CD’s and every few minutes there’s great advice. One of the things that Billy McComb talks about is the advice that is giving to magicians to have a “flash” opening. A quick, visual trick you can do right off the bat to establish yourself as a magician. Billy doesn’t agree with this.


Billy thinks you need to establish YOU first and that he starts his show with a monologue. He bases this on the theory that if they like you, they’ll like your magic. I agree with this theory.


Last night at the casino I started started my show with jokes that I normally do elsewhere in the show and front loaded my show with jokes. My opening was just a series of jokes about me and my life. The audience was very receptive to that and I’m glad I made the change!



Vanishing Bird Cage

I’ve always loved the vanishing birdcage, ever since I was a teenager and was told about Bert Allerton doing in close up while table hopping.  Then I saw Blackstone Jr. do the vanishing birdcage where all the kids put their hands around the cage, I’d seen Lance Burton do it with his round cage.  However … Continue reading “Vanishing Bird Cage”

I’ve always loved the vanishing birdcage, ever since I was a teenager and was told about Bert Allerton doing in close up while table hopping.  Then I saw Blackstone Jr. do the vanishing birdcage where all the kids put their hands around the cage, I’d seen Lance Burton do it with his round cage.  However the one that really did amazed me was seeing Billy McComb do the vanishing birdcage.  Here’s a video of it:

What made Billy’s version different was that he did his whole act and ended with the cage. He didn’t have that cramped posture, he had a full range of motion. I don’t think Billy was the first person to use a take up reel for the birdcage, however he’s the one that made an impact on me.

Over the years I’ve owned several take up reels, including the one that was sold with the Billy McComb vanishing birdcage set.  Right now I own a funky one that was made in Germany.

If you don’t know what a take up reel is and how you would use it for a vanishing birdcage, it’s pretty simple.  All it does is shorten the length of the string on the pull.  That’s it.  But that simple little thing makes all the difference in the world!

Having used a take up reel, the thing I didn’t like about them was the weight of them.  They are metal and heavy.  For someone like Billy who it appears did the cage at the end of an act, the weight is probably less of a problem then when used by someone doing a 45-60 min show.

Recently I got a 3D printer and started playing with it and ended up designing a take up reel. This is a lot lighter because it’s plastic.  I’ve been using this for months and I will say, I think I’ve finally come up with a solution for me to do the birdcage in my show!

Using a take up reel isn’t just for the birdcage, there’s a lot of cool stuff you can do with them.  I’m not going to go into detail about other tricks you can do with them because there’s soo many.  I’m just glad I came up with a solution that works for me.

Louie