Reel Advice

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby Damian Odess-Gillett » 06/17/10 08:43 PM

Hi All,

Inspired by Michael Ammar's performance on Letterman, I'm interested in purchasing a reel. I've never owned one--I'm interested in performing the silk through... whatever, as well as exploring other uses for the time-honoured device.

I'm looking at two models--the Kirkendale, offered by Stevensmagic ($85), and the Swedish reel, put out by El duco ($150). The difference in price isn't small--does anyone have anything to say about either?

Your advice and feedback is much appreciated.

Damian
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Postby Bill Mullins » 06/17/10 11:09 PM

Before you drop upwards of a C-note on a prop, go to an office supply store and get a badge pull (a small plastic reel that clips to your shirt, and allows you to show your badge to guards, or run a pass-card through a card reader, without removing it from your person).

It is sufficient to develop and practice moves, and determine if this is something you want to pursue further.
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Postby Damian Odess-Gillett » 06/18/10 05:37 AM

That's a good idea. Thanks, Bill.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 06/18/10 01:37 PM

Home Depot has a $2 pencil pull that also works as a try-out reel. I still use one for the Al Schneider vanish that appeared in Genii a few years ago.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 06/18/10 02:27 PM

Great idea. Retractable Pencil & Marker Holder: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1 ... ogId=10053
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/18/10 02:41 PM

Wow, at that price you could stick several on a strap on that onto your wrist(s) and use them instead of much fussing for those tricks where stuff has to go away and you want to end clean.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 06/18/10 05:29 PM

They are cheap, but they are much louder than a good-quality reel.
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Postby John Signa » 06/18/10 06:51 PM

"Mommy, what's that noise that happens every time the Amazing Townsend does a trick?"

"That, my dear, is the sound of magic happening."
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Postby Gordon Meyer » 06/18/10 07:43 PM

One my favorite magic flea market activities is counting the number of reels for sale by various participants, and then tallying how many of them are broken. If you've ever owned a reel, you'll know what the results are.

If you haven't owned a reel. Buy two, and you'll understand soon enough.
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/17/10 10:39 PM

The Kirkendall is the Cadillac of today's reels.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/17/10 11:43 PM

Pete Biro wrote:The Kirkendall is the Cadillac of today's reels.


What's the Thornton Windlass in those terms?
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Postby David Alexander » 07/17/10 11:54 PM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Pete Biro wrote:The Kirkendall is the Cadillac of today's reels.


What's the Thornton Windlass in those terms?


The Thornton Windless is a different animal. It can be used as far away as 40 feet with the same tension at 40 feet as at 10. They were used for a variety of effects: Dancing Hank, Floating Ball, Rising Cards, Card Fountain. A large double-sided instruction sheet came with each one describing several effects.

They were built for reliability and haven't been made for decades.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/18/10 02:26 AM

That would make them Volkswagons? Tractors?

About the instructions, that sheet came all folded up in the green box with the reel.
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Postby Jim Riser » 07/18/10 09:23 AM

JT;
I do not think comparing reels to vehicles is the best way to classify them. There are lots of reel designs - each designed for a special purpose. El Duco still makes a nice reel. Todd Lassen has upgraded reel design. When purchasing a reel, it is a good idea to know how you intend to use it. They come in different sizes, strengths, and some with locks.

As David mentioned above, the Thornton Windlass is a different type of reel. I have upgraded/replaced the long thread on these for several friends, as well as, on my own two Thorntons so I have had the opportunity to carefully examine the insides. They are a duplex reel having two internal springs (long). This gives them the constant tension. Lubrication must be by fine oil. Grease or the like will stop them from working. Due to the construction, adjusting the thread tension without having to open the case is simple.

One of my Thorntons was owned/used by Al DeLage to fly a silk clear across a stage. He soldered on a small compression spring to act as a brake or bumper to prevent thread breakage then the silk hit the reel case - a good solution.

JT, there are some reels out there that could be classified as Yugos, though.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/18/10 01:10 PM

Jim Riser wrote:JT;
I do not think comparing reels to vehicles is the best way to classify them. ...


Agreed, Pete Biro thought it an amusing way to discuss and compare the things. :)
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Postby David Alexander » 07/18/10 01:14 PM

I am fortunate to be one of Jim's friends and Thornton Windless owner. Jim has repaired two of my three Thorntons.

Oddly enough, in cleaning out some old files I ran across a Charlie Miller Magicana (Genii Oct 1968) that detailed the use of a Thornton Windless to power a card fountain. A bit of work in the set up but I'm sure it resulted in a pretty effect that looked quite magical with the cards pouring out of a bare glass with nothing to see after the fountain was completed...no gimmicks, nothing.

Charlie had a clever way of keeping the thread held and ready for use with little effort.

I also recall a one-man Floating Ball based on the Thornton Windless and the old Joe Karson One-man Dancing Handkerchief was built around an old Victrola motor and a Thornton Windless. That effect sold for something like $150 in the late 1940s. Les Smith told me he built less than ten of them. The late Ray Hafler had one that I played with when I was a lot younger. Quite ingenious.
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Postby David Alexander » 07/20/10 12:58 AM

Small World Department - over lunch I was reading through Hugard's Magic Monthly for January 1950 and ran across "Merlini's Magic" by Clayton Rawson. In one segment he describes how he used a Thornton Reel to supply a poltergeist for a Christmas party the previous month for his friend John Dickson Carr.

Carr set up his guests with the statement that he'd been troubled by that "variety of noisy spirt" and Rawson set the Thornton into action. A book popped off its shelf and then a few moments later several more books further down the shelf jumped out and then several more from another shelf.

The last book released the end of the thread and the evidence reeled itself in and was neatly deposited in Rawson's coat pocket leaving Carr's guests with nothing to see but the actions of a "ghost."
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/20/10 08:21 AM

Thanks David, almost makes me wonder if that's where the idea for a moment in the library scene in Ghostbusters has its roots.
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