Test it !

One of my favorite creation is my take up reel. It’s something that I’ve wanted to use forever and went out and created a way to make it happen. Normally when I put out magic props, I put out what I use. When developing this, I got it to work great for me and thought I had a final product. I then sent it out to some people and they didn’t use it like I did. That led to me improving it and ended up with a better final product!

It’s always great when I get emails from people who have one:

“Louie’s Take-Up Pull is incredible. If you want to perform the Vanishing Birdcage in the “real world” you need one of these, but you can do much more with it. I have several Take-Up Pulls made by Hammerton and Martin but this high quality modern recreation is every bit as good and at a fraction of the price of any of the others. I highly recommend Louie Foxx’s Take-Up Pull!”

Marc DeSouza

Getting emails like this makes all the work in testing it worth it!

Ditching the Cage

A couple of days ago I wrote about doing the vanishing birdcage for virtual shows. You can read the post here. The thought I had was that a virtual show is the ideal venue for doing the vanishing birdcage. The nature of the venue will allow you to ditch the cage in a manner that isn’t really possible in a live, in-person show.

I was just watching a streaming magic show and someone did the birdcage and used shifting of cameras to unhook and ditch the cage. It’s a great logical moment to get rid of the cage. I’m glad to see someone thinking along the same lines as me.

Personally I think a title card is a great way ditch the card over a camera shift, but both work great.

Vanishing Birdcage…

I’m fascinated by the Vanishing Birdcage trick. I remember hearing stories of Bert Allerton doing the vanishing birdcage close up at tables. The story I remember reading was that he took the sides off of his cage so that it would vanish quicker and have less bulk in his sleeve.

There have been many other people that have done the cage, and solved many problems. For example, using a Take Up Reel to allow you to do the cage later in your show.

The biggest challenge is how do you deal with the cage after the vanish (if it’s not your closer)? There are a lot of solutions ranging from using a small, flexible cage and just leaving it in your sleeve, to having a secret pocket in your pants your ditch it in.

Recently it hit me, that a virtual magic show is a great place to use the cage in the middle of the show. After the vanish you could have a title card that says “no rubber birds were hurt in this trick” or something like that. Then in the few seconds that plays, you ditch the cage. As long as you use title cards previously in your show, it won’t feel out of place.

Vanishing Bird Cage…

Every now and then there are tricks that you can’t get out of your head. One of them for me is the Vanishing Bird Cage. I’ve revisited it several times over the years, and in the past hit stumbling blocks with it. The birdcage is probably one of the most difficult tricks I’ve worked on. There so much you need to overcome, it’s not as simple as the old magic catalog ad makes it seem.

One of the issues that’s easy to overcome is the issue of doing the birdcage later in your show. This was solved by Billy McComb with the use of a Take Up Reel. It was popularized by Tommy Wonder in Volume 2 of the Books of Wonder. By popularized, I mean people became aware of it. After that book came out, there were still not many people used one, simply because of price and availability. If you could find one or get someone to make you one they’d cost you somewhere in the ballpark of $1,000 or more!

One day I was driving and an idea hit me for a way to produce the second lock of a Take Up Reel on my 3d Printer, I pulled over and drew it on the back of an envelope. After using it and having some other people use it and gotten their feedback, I’ve finally decided to offer them to other magicians.

Here’s the promo:

When something’s in your head, if you keep chipping away at it, eventually you’ll come up with a solution!

Click here for more info on my Take Up Reel or order one!

Travelling…

Newer performers frequently ask me about how I travel with my show on an airplane. People are worried about lost luggage. Unfortunately the only thing you can really do about that is to either carry everything on, or accept that can happen. I guess there’s a third option and that is having a show where … Continue reading “Travelling…”

Newer performers frequently ask me about how I travel with my show on an airplane. People are worried about lost luggage. Unfortunately the only thing you can really do about that is to either carry everything on, or accept that can happen. I guess there’s a third option and that is having a show where you can find all of your props in your destination city. Then there’s combinations of the three.


Unfortunately for my show, I can’t do it all in my carry on. Some of the items I use can’t be taken in the cabin of the plane and can’t be sourced locally, so I’m stuck checking at least some of my show. Since I have to check a bunch of stuff already, I check almost everything.


Currently here’s what I carry onto the plane in my backpack:

The white tube has my vanishing birdcage. If that wasn’t so easy to break by someone who examining it, I’d check it. In the zipper compartment is my cage pull, a thumb tip, mismade bills and a thumb drive with everything the people running the theater would need (cue sheets, video, music, intro, etc). Then in the yellow case is my audio gear (mics, mic packs, audio ape, etc). Everything else in the backpack is my personal stuff, so books, my laptop, etc.


I’ve had my luggage “lost” by the airline once, and they had it delivered to me within six hours. I also have had TSA screen my bags and forget to put a couple of things back into it, luckily after weeks of phone calls I tracked down my props!


What do I do if my luggage gets lost?


I’m lucky that I can do a lot with simple stuff and in the past I’ve done a lot of standard magic, so I can source a show locally. It’s not the ideal situation, however I can go to the Walmart in any city and pick up a two deck of cards, rope, scissors, yarn, pad of paper, duct tape, a couple of handkerchiefs and some markers and I’m good to go. This isn’t the show that I want to present, but I can do a decent show with that.


The Vanishing Bird Cage is one of the hardest tricks I’ve ever worked on. It seems like every problem I solve, another problem pops up. In the recent past when I did the cage, the plan wasn’t for it to stay in the show for very long. Because of this, I didn’t put a ton … Continue reading “”

The Vanishing Bird Cage is one of the hardest tricks I’ve ever worked on. It seems like every problem I solve, another problem pops up. In the recent past when I did the cage, the plan wasn’t for it to stay in the show for very long. Because of this, I didn’t put a ton of time into it.


Now that I think this is something that’s going to be in the show for a little while, I’m putting more time into it. I want to do the vanish of the bird cage faster than the “slow motion” vanish. I’m having a frequent problem with the cage hanging up on my sleeve at the exact same spot. I think it has to do with the coat more than the cage. Material seems to bunch about 3 inches inside my sleeve and the cage gets stuck about 20% of the time.


My solution was to have it not run up the sleeve. I’m having it run across my hand. This gives me a more unusual grip of the cage, the cage sits on the palm of my hand. It’s similar to the one handed grip that John Carney uses in the CARNEY 2013 video on the Vanishing Bird Cage.

John Carney Vanishing Bird cage

The main difference Carney’s grip and mine is that my hand is completely palm up. The cage can be displayed with no support from either hand, aside from my right palm as a base.

Adjusting my grip has reduced the cage hanging up to less than 5%. This is good, but still a long way to go!

Writing for the Vanishing Bird Cage…

Yesterday I was doing some writing for the routine for the vanishing bird cage. The basic flow of the routine is the box is introduced, the cage vanishes and the bird reappears in my pocket. Here’s the first rough script that I wrote: When I was a 7 years old, I wanted a pet bird … Continue reading “Writing for the Vanishing Bird Cage…”

Yesterday I was doing some writing for the routine for the vanishing bird cage. The basic flow of the routine is the box is introduced, the cage vanishes and the bird reappears in my pocket.

Here’s the first rough script that I wrote:

When I was a 7 years old, I wanted a pet bird more than anything…even more than a pet tyranosaurs.  Turns out my brother is allergic to birds, so my mom got me a rubber canary. One the plus side his cage is clean, on the minus side I’ll probably die in a coal mine.  I also learned I’m allergic to latex. 

He’s trained to do tricks.  Stay…incredible. Freeze…amazing.  Play dead (shake cage)…tah-dah!

Most amazing trick he does is jump up, eat the cage,then fly into my left pocket, which is amazing because everyone knows canaries are right handed. 

Drum roll…One Two Three 

OK, the above isn’t the worlds greatest routine, but it’s a start. Then I just wrote some random jokes for it:

This cage is made of reinforced suitable for holding pretend animals and despot rulers. 

The cage looked soo much bigger on the ebay listing

You can’t spell PETA without pet.  

The decline in this tricks popularity corresponds with the decline of coal miners.

Display at a coal mine supply shop

I like the “despot ruler” joke, however I don’t think it will get a big laugh.


Next I tried writing the script again with a slightly different approach:

This is the only trick in the show that I didn’t invent, so it’s the best one in the show.   It was invented in a magician in the 1800’s named Dekolta. He was famous for making his wife disappear…he also held the guinness world record for most number of marriages.  

He’d take a cage with a canary and make it disappear.  This is the actual cage he used, and inside is the actual canary he used…according to ebay.  

Unfortunately this trick is copyrighted by the magician’s guild and I can’t show it to you.  So I’ll do it undercover of a handkerchief.

It happens quick.  1, 2, 3

What I don’t like about the above trick is that I’m telling them about a trick that someone else did. I should really be telling them something about me, or what’s happening now, not two hundred years ago.

I gave the script another try with another approach.

When I was a teenager I went to magic camp…I know, can you believe I turned out this normal.  I got to see Harry Blackstone Jr do a trick with a canary in a cage, I always wanted to do it.

I begged my mom for a canary…I wanted to do the trick more than anything…even more than a a normal social life.  Mom said I wasn’t “responsible” enough for a pet, so she got me a rubber canary. One the plus side his cage is clean, on the minus side I’ll probably die in a coal mine or from my latex allergy.   

This cage was made by my middle school shop teacher / life coach, and is suitable for holding rubber animals and despot rulers. 

His name is frankie, he likes sunflower seeds. 
(put sunflower seed into cage and falls through)

He’s trained to do tricks. (put sunflower seed into cage and falls through) Stay…incredible.  Freeze…amazing. (put sunflower seed into cage and falls through) Play dead (shake cage)…tah-dah! (put sunflower seed into cage and falls through)

Most amazing trick he does is jump up, eat the cage,then fly into my left pocket, which is amazing because everyone knows canaries are right handed.  

Drum roll…One Two Three

I like this script best, as you learn a little bit about me. I think that the feeding the rubber canary is an original bit. There’s still a long way to go, and this probably isn’t what I’ll use, but it’s something.


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.

Always Be Tweaking…

Over the last year I’ve been working on a Take Up Reel of my own design. If you don’t know what a Take Up Reel is, it’s a complicated process to do something very simple. All it does all you to have a piece of string and shorten it. That’s it. It becomes very handy … Continue reading “Always Be Tweaking…”

Over the last year I’ve been working on a Take Up Reel of my own design. If you don’t know what a Take Up Reel is, it’s a complicated process to do something very simple. All it does all you to have a piece of string and shorten it. That’s it. It becomes very handy if you use a wrist to wrist pull and need freedom of movement before using the pull.


What I designed works great for me, however I designed it for how I use it, not how other people may use it. Recently I sent some out to other performers and am getting feedback. Based on that feedback, I’m working for it to hold a thicker gauge line.

Adding a thicker line is a small change, but it adds a bit of an engineering challenge to the device. Hopefully it’s not too hard, I’m working on the first adjustment now and we’ll see how it is once it’s done printing.


Being open to other people’s feedback is something that I think is very important, especially if it’s something that I want to bring to market.


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