7 Vital Tools to Create Gimmicks
The thought of spending hours handcrafting something that looks completely ordinary is what grabbed my attention to make magic gimmicks. I bought a gaffed deck back home in Nashville in the early 90s and was hooked. My dad felt the same about putting wallpaper on the walls. His attention to detail and artistic-eye inspired me to be precise in my craft and had me asking questions.
How do these cards stick together? How are these cards shorter? Where do you purchase this thread? - all questions I asked myself. Little did I know that years later, I would know those answers and be able to act on them.
Performing magicians usually have a lot going on, I feel most have no time to worry about making the props. Growing up, I always wondered who the people are that work for my favourite magicians, making those props and gimmicks? Again, I had no idea I'd eventually be working with some of those people.
The thought of the journey to this point brings me to tears. It wasn't always magic, though. In the mid-90s, I was full force in the music world. Dj'ing and producing. But still, everyone knew I'd bust out a trick or two. Always quick to tell people that I'm a magician. And every time a magic special came on, I taped it and watched it a billion times. The love never stopped.
Fast forward 20 years and I'm touring the world living in LA working with Rob Zombie and closely with DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill. I quit cigarettes and desperately needed something to do. We had the day off in NYC, and I thought, "maybe I'll go to a magic shop". Tannens was next to the hotel. That's all it took.
Within days arrogantly, I felt I could make the same gimmicks I purchased way better. And thought again, "who makes these gimmicks for these companies?".
In the next few years, I bought as much as I could afford. Going to all the magic shops across the world & making friends with people who shared the same passion for this art form. I enjoyed music but loved magic way more. Constantly taking notes from what resources were available and spending every second at home building the same things over & over. My girlfriend at the time hated it!
But that's what it took, fully submerging myself in the art form and focusing only on the dream. The dream of literally making magic.
Soon I would make card and paper gaffs and gift them to all the magicians and friends that would come through the Magic Apple here in LA. This led to work!
You gotta do the work, to get the work!
My name would get thrown in the mix of builders, and magic companies started reaching out to see if I could build 1,000 units of one thing. I had moved back to Nashville after 10 years in California, and the thought of making a living building magic tricks was so incredibly humbling.
I also had friends in magic who truly cared and threw my name in the mix to more companies and other gimmick makers. (Shouts out to Xavior Spade, Jeremy Hanrahan, Franco Pascali, Calen Morelli and Nobody Knows' own Chris James).
My biggest inspiration is Danny Garcia. Working closely with him the past year, he constantly surprises me on what he comes up with. From elaborate stage illusions to up-close finely detailed gaffs.
Calen Morelli, who is from an entirely different planet, is also one of my favorites. He can handcraft his original effects to ultra-precision while doing something that has never been done before in the world of illusion. I love the OG's as well like Koornwinder, Zimmerman, Plants, & Fiedler. All completely original and all obsessed with making their own magic.
My build process typically starts on paper. During this quarantine, I've thought what would the average person want to see. Cut a woman in half, float something, erase my debt, make me rich? These are good starting points for potential effects. Now I think of how can I approach these ideas and apply them to a close-up situation?
If it's building 3,500 units of someone else's effect for a company. The process is completely about efficiency & quality. How can I maximize average units per day & limit build material cost to maximize overall profit without compromising the quality of the gimmick? This requires rehearsing the build, knowing when to ask for help, and not getting in over your head. Trust me, I've been there and learned.
I think the key to creating a "fooler" is coming up with your own techniques. Doing something that has never been done before. And by doing so, you are already a step ahead.
Bad example: "what if I had a magnet secretly stuck to the back of my head?". What could I make with that? No-one ever is gonna be like "he's got a magnet on the back of his head" because that's a completely abstract and new concept. Create a new technique and then start building on it. Then disguise that technique in an everyday movement or manner & you have a fooler!!
Magic is the most beautiful thing in the world. It's given me hope & at the same time spreads joy to the people who witness it. Magic is having a dream, putting it in your heart, & seeing that dream come true.
There is so much more to make and so much more to learn!!
Here are some links for some tools I use every day to make magic. Stuff that can fit easily in a bag you can take anywhere.
Used to cut and trim playing cards. Add a ruler w/ tape onto it, and you can make stripper deck in a breeze. I once cut 1000 stripper decks with this trimmer, no joke. This one is small, sharp and doesn't take up much space.
You'll need to round your corners cleanly after cutting, the 3mm size is exactly the correct size for USPCC playing cards.
This thread can be used on anything from Flap cards to making objects appear and disappear. I've tried them all, and this is The One.
A utility knife is most efficient, you can replace and break off the blades to always have a sharp edge. Exacto knives tend to go dull quickly and cost quite a bit more.
After researching every glue known to man, these two are my everyday goto's. The cement works well with precisely glueing thin paper & this particular super glue will hold magnets, rubber, plastic, and thick paper together.
You'll want to clean excess glue off the sides of your gaff, this does the job.
This one took forever to find. Incredibly thin but also very strong! Fits easily in-between a card layer but can "lift" a metal object with ease. I use these regularly.
Other items you'll need.
- Scissors (Kitchen scissors stays sharp, can be sharpened, and are easy to handle)
- Cutting mat
- Sewing needles.
All of these are easily found, so I'll let you search for your own. Put together a kit with these items, and you can pretty much make any card gaff and close-up illusion. It's up to your creativity and ideas from this point on. Have fun creating, experimenting, and making magic!
Magic for Humans Season 3 airs this Friday on Netflix (wink* wink*)
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