Tommy Wonder's Wandering Chimes. A (biased) review.

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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/16/10 03:29 PM

Wandering Chimes, by Tommy Wonder.

Be aware that since I am the writer of the booklet that comes with the chimes set this may not be the unbiased review you are looking for . I felt I had to write it though because no one else has and I feel that this product deserves just a little more attention than given at the moment.

Just before his untimely death in 2006 Tommy Wonder had about three routines that he was working on. He intended to market these routines and was working with a couple of craftsmen because he was not able anymore to do it himself. Wandering Chimes was the one I was helping him with. It is Tommys turn on the chink-a-chink plot.

Tommy had asked Auke van Dokkum to manufacture these chimes after his design. Back in 2006 Auke made 2 or 3 prototype sets for Tommy. With these sets he and I discussed the history, possibilities and routines for the chink-a-chink plot. Most of these thoughts are written down in the booklet. Underlying the routine Tommy was hinting at a rather unknown principle in magic aparatus, which is also discussed in the booklet.
After Tommys death, the project was left alone for almost 4 years. I was in the possession of the prototypes but left them for the time being. At the beginning of 2010 Auke van Dokkum and Tommys estate reached an agreement to manufacture the Wandering Chimes in a very limited edition. Only since last week I am in the possession of a commercially available set.

Let me first explain something that has barely been noticed . These chimes are designed so that they are the most easily palmed objects you will ever find. Ever tried one of the sets that are out there? Yes sometimes they are little works of art (Eddie Taytelbaum) or cleverly gimmicked to hand out (Tony van Rhee) but what they all have in common is that they are hard to palm! Tommy acknowledged this. He was of course able to palm those conus shaped objects, but he did not like the cramped position of his hand. Now try the chimes for a moment. It is difficult not to palm them. When you cover them with your hand they almost cling to the palm. I will go so by saying that they are more easily to palm than the (for that purpose) popular bottlecaps. To me this makes all the difference. The design cancels virtually every telltale manipulative move. Only pure Magic remains! This set is not designed for a collector but for a performer.

The brass objects look like little chimes but those with a creative and open mind will come up with their own presentations what these mysterious little things are.
The gimmick itself is sensational. It is nothing like youve ever seen and technically speaking it is not even a shell but its opposite. Here Aukes experience with CNC turning (for his stainless steel cups) becomes obvious. The thing works flawless. Be aware that the set is made in brass. They will develope a patina over time so do not store them in a nested condition . Is the set fragile? I would say as fragile as your average coingimmick. If you do not drop any of the components on a hard surface you will be safe.

Now there is one thing that needs to be adressed. Why would I care to pay this amount of money for something that can be done with bottlecaps or, sugarcubes? I can only let Tommy speak for this. It was his opinion that in the right venue, these little objects would be so much more magical, and would add so much more mystery to a performance than common objects. If you add to that the specific design which makes palming a breeze you can make the decision.

As I said in the beginning I am biased. Handling and performing with this set makes me think back at the time Tommy shared his unique insights with me. Also how opposed he was to putting routines on the internet. That is why you will not find a demo on youtube of the wandering chimes. Anyone who knew its creator will keep it for himself. Which, in a weird way is a pity. If you see this being performed you willWonder.
For me, after finally writing this, the work is done.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/16/10 04:44 PM

Unless I missed it, you didn't mention the cost, so we have no point of reference.

I saw these at Blackpool last year and they're fantastic.
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Postby Martin Kaplan » 12/16/10 08:33 PM

Stevens Magic has them and is asking $495 for the effect.

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Postby Roger M. » 12/16/10 09:43 PM

No doubt they're brilliantly designed, and with very few "new" Chink-A-Chink sets being marketed (how many others are there.....one, perhaps two?) it's certainly timely.

But it has to be said that marketing a set of Chinka's for $500.00 almost assures that 90%+ of the sets will in fact wind up being owned by collectors.
It's a shame really, because Tommy himself personified a "performer".

I have no problem paying good money for good props.........but $500.00 is (IMO) somewhat excessive for what's being delivered..........in effect the sellers choice of price point can't help but turn it into a collectable rather than a working prop.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 12/17/10 01:06 AM

I saw the first prototypes of these when Auke brought them to Ulf Bolling's birthday party a few years ago. The design requires some rather interesting mechanical work that most other chinkas do not.
The final product works basically the same way, but is a much simpler version.

These do not use the normal methods and do require quite a bit of machine work to produce.
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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/17/10 06:11 PM

I do agree with the steep price. But, as Bill mentioned, there is a LOT more machine work required to make these, in comparison to other available sets.
(It may interest you though that Tommy himself was involved in deciding the esteemed price.)

Just compare them with a set of high end spun cups. They can be both collector's items AND actually being used in live performance.

The (rather unknown) principle at work here is very subtle. A couple of magicians to whom I've shown the routine were excited about how it looks. Only when I handed them the props and they discovered the inner workings, they became really interested.

Nonetheless, it is the fluent handling, without any cramped hands which makes this such a magical routine to me. It should be seen to be appreciated.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/17/10 07:10 PM

Fancy machining and intriguing mechanics aside what's to recommend these over using bottlecaps?

What's the "extra special tommy wonder" feature about this set of props?
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Postby Dick Koornwinder » 12/17/10 08:01 PM

Yes I have seen beautiful chink a chink routines performed with bottle caps or sugar cubes and also wonderful cups and balls routines done with paper cups.

Image

I have posted this photo before but after studying the picture at least you have to confess the principle used here must be very subtle.
Anyhow I like it and it is proving again the genius of Tommy Wonder.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/17/10 08:48 PM

Is the key to what makes this special how easily one can palm them? That and something that makes their setup and lockdown especially easy to setup and carry around?

Dick, real people don't care about how clever the machining is or "principles" used in tricks unless they are not deceived by the trick. It's even worse when they come away feeling they know how a trick works.

To anyone after their neophyte stage in this craft doing the trick using magnets in their jacket and a toe switch to unload metal from one sleeve while picking them up using the other is just engineering - while using an extra and a little bit of angly handling saves much fuss and preparation - but the effect is the same.

Okay they look like brass miniatures modeled on the TV show The Invaders, minus the landing triangle parts. One might expect to find a tube on the other side for holding a stick of incense or ... I dunno- what are folks supposed to make of them? Real people that is.

Maybe there's something special in the routine design (patter theme, pattern of transportations...)?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/17/10 08:58 PM

The point of the design, Jonathan, is so it visually precludes the idea of one piece nesting over another. With empty hands and props which look like they can't possibly fit together in some way, it makes the trick more mysterious as well as easy to perform. That's one of the things you're paying for: the design makes the pieces easy to palm.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 12/17/10 10:20 PM

BTW, The design in the photo is not the final product. The final product has a small knob on the top of each chime, so that it becomes even more impossible looking.

The design has two functions. One is that it makes the chimes apparently impossible to nest. The other is that it makes them very easy to palm without the hand apparently getting close enough to them to palm them.
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Postby Denis Behr » 12/18/10 05:09 AM

Are there real chimes that look like that? Because I have never seen a design like that before. The google picture search didn't lead to anything similar.
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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/18/10 05:41 AM

I don't know if there are real chimes that look like these. Do you think that real people know? What exactly are real people? What are unreal people?

After motivating the high price, it seems to be the time now to motivate the design? Uhm, I think I won't. All the questions that came up in this thread are discussed in the booklet. (And as you know without a doubt Jon, sometimes the questions themselves are more insightful than the answers they could provoke.)

Tommy had a delightful little presentation in mind which gave these little objects their name (also discussed in the booklet).

I myself have come up with a presentation which is something completely different. I only got the idea when I got the commercial set a week ago. One thing I will share is that my presentaional idea was induced by the peculiar shape these things have. They have some characteristics which, when pointed out to the audience, will make them wonder... That is what I like. That is what fits my style.

I will try to make a picture of one and post it here. The reason none have shown up on the internet is that they are not (and can not be) mass produced. Very few sets are out there. In my opinion exactly as Tommy wished.

Thank you for giving your thoughts and questions about this. That was what I hoped for!
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Postby Terry » 12/18/10 11:47 AM

School for Scoundrels has a nice set for $150:

http://www.chefanton.com/scoundrelsstor ... oducts.htm

Pop uses a presentation of them being weights used to weigh gold.
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Postby Tom Stone » 12/18/10 11:53 AM

Dan LeFay:With these sets he and I discussed the history, possibilities and routines for the chink-a-chink plot. Most of these thoughts are written down in the booklet.

Dan, I'm a bit curious about the history of the plot, as well as the work you did with Tommy.
Any chance that you could make a small article for Genii?
Or, perhaps make a small addition to the MagicPedia entry at http://geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/Chink-a-Chink
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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/18/10 12:27 PM

Tommy's thoughts are in the booklet. It was his wish to offer these with the set. It would be unfair to purchasers if I would eleborate more on the subject.
Which is also the reason I may seem overly vague in this thread. I hope that hose who have a set will work with it and showcase it in their repertoire. That is truly the best way to enjoy (and magicians appreciate) Wandering Chimes.
I would love to show it to you one day Tom. Tommy always spoke highly of you.
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Postby Roger M. » 12/18/10 01:22 PM

I'm sure they'll age gracefully in whatever locked, hermetically sealed, glass fronted enclosure most of them will be spending their time in :)

All kidding aside.......I'd love one of these sets, and perform the Chinka's regularly with .v1 of the School for Scoundrels set.
The only thing that's stopping me from buying a set of Wandering Chimes is the extremely high price.

I do understand the costs of machining, and accept that perhaps this set of Wandering Chimes may just not be able to come to market for less than $500.00...........although I suspect the $500.00 price point is intentional, and in excess of what marketing these at a profit actually requires.

I'm not sure that "pricing to keep them out of the hands of the merely curious" does, or should apply to the Chink-a-Chink..........whatever principal is involved.

Whatever works though........obviously some customers have put in orders, which is the point after all.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/18/10 01:30 PM

I understand the reasoning that goes with "keeping X away from the merely curious" and the costs of producing a product that not only works but is reliable and presents an appearance of dignified normalcy.

That said, I feel it a tragic error to make such things in small quantities as it pretty much summons those who would re-make them in lesser quality and far greater quantity- as happened with the works of DeKolta, Germain, Hofzinser...

If the handles on the chimes permit them to be treated as chimes and they make a nice sound ... very much tempted to spend for them. For now I will balance those sentiments against the coy and incomplete disclosure proffered and use those funds for car repair - perhaps instead consoling myself by getting a new hat and continuing work on the project of a hat one can use in ordinary life which also shows/conceals a coin.

Anyway - Dan, congrats on getting Tommy Wonder's latest and perhaps last project completed and into performance. That's where magic belongs IMHO - in the hands of those who bring the delight to others. And best wishes in your performances.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 12/18/10 05:49 PM

Terry wrote:School for Scoundrels has a nice set for $150:

http://www.chefanton.com/scoundrelsstor ... oducts.htm

Pop uses a presentation of them being weights used to weigh gold.


These are to the Tommy Wonder Wandering Chimes as a KIA is to a Rolls Royce.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 12/18/10 05:53 PM

Denis Behr wrote:Are there real chimes that look like that? Because I have never seen a design like that before. The google picture search didn't lead to anything similar.


The choice of the word "chimes" is rather odd. Bells would be more accurate. This is where translations become problematic. Bell is a much more generic term.

Remember the photo that you see in Dick Koornwinder's post is NOT what the chimes look like. There is a small knob in the center of the top of each one.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 12/18/10 05:57 PM

To Roger M and Jonathan -- the factor of keeping them out of the hands of the merely curious was less of a consideration than anything else in the pricing of this item.

Since neither of you has seen this, then you really aren't qualified to make a decision on what they are like. I purchased one of the first sets from Auke at the WMS. I don't have them in a glass case.

I haven't performed with them yet, because I haven't worked with them enough to do them justice. But the fact that you can actually nest two of them so that they appear to be one is the main reason the cost is so high.
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Postby Roger M. » 12/18/10 07:18 PM

Hey Bill, I wasn't directing any of my comments at you, please refrain from directing any of yours towards me.
There are no "Qualifications" in the world of Chink-a-Chinks anyway :)

You can nest two of them so they appear as one........ like every other Chinka set in the world?

BTW, I wouldn't call Jim Risers work that of a "KIA". As an owner of that particular Riser set (as well as the earlier Riesman version), the Risers are somewhat a "Rolls" in their own right.
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Postby Terry » 12/18/10 09:36 PM

Bill Palmer wrote:
Terry wrote:School for Scoundrels has a nice set for $150:

http://www.chefanton.com/scoundrelsstor ... oducts.htm

Pop uses a presentation of them being weights used to weigh gold.


These are to the Tommy Wonder Wandering Chimes as a KIA is to a Rolls Royce.


Maybe, but having a prop with a half dollar size top (per picture) to make it easier to palm doesn't make it more deceptive. Bump added on top or not.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/18/10 09:57 PM

Bells usually have clappers.
Threads about prop-centric tricks that can also be done using four borrowed quarters likely need to be considered with a pinch of salt and perhaps a couple of aspirin.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/18/10 10:06 PM

These things look like bells, and the way they're designed there is no issue because you can't see the non-existant clapper.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/19/10 12:24 AM

Like to try them out using a sound gimmick that has a decent on/off so each time one picks up a bell one can ring it then wave a hand over it then ring it where it arrives. Wishful thinking - but tis that season. :)
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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/19/10 07:19 AM

Because bells have clappers, Tommy called them chimes. Like a string of windchimes that make sound because they touch eachother, not a clapper.

If Tommy would have lived, chances are big that this set would only have been sold with a soundgimmick, electronic or mechanical. In fact, the very last discussions he and I had, concerned that gimmick.
We decided to offer the set without the gimmick, mainly because the already steep price would have become unreasonably high.

We concluded that by including a soundgimmick, potential buyers would pay an extra amount of money for the sake of a presentational premise. Since it was also Tommy's wish that people would come up with their own presentaional ideas, the gimmick was left out.

The booklet was written almost 5 years ago. At the time we started this project (early 2006), we were not aware of the sets Jim Riser produced for the School for Scoundrels. It got my attention though when the sets were going into production at the beginning of 2010. From what I read from his website I had the impression that, while the same in basic effect, Tommy's design was VERY different from what was out there. Jim Riser's little weights look beautiful and exactly what they are supposed to be. (Would love to handle one of those sets!)

Lately I saw a youtube video of Whit Haydn performing with the Riser set. Very entertaining and a beautiful performance of this effect.
I've been performing this effect since 1995 (with a set from Tony van Rhee), so I notice how other performers deal with it. Like most of the sets out there, Whit's chink-a-chinks are difficult for classic palming. If I am not mistaken he came to the same conclusion as I did, by altering the palming method and handposition. It looks good. A slight drawback is that with this different palming you have to work a little faster. The hands can not easily rest without looking suspicious.

If you look at the old video (which is around somewhere on the internet) of Fred Kaps performing with a wooden set you see another strategy. Fred did the classic palming. But he was probably aware that the hand looked a little cramped so his hand makes a pointing gesture after it palms an object. Fred's handling is a little bit more relaxed than Whit's.

Believe me when I say that with the Wandering Chimes your hands are as natural, relaxed and empty looking as is physically possible. This is the big advantage which can make a routine so much more magical.
The David Roth version with coins looks so incredibly magical because it seems you do nothing, just waving your hands. Because there is no palming movement. This absence of (from the audience perspective) unnecessary movement is also possible with the big three dimensional chimes. It works better than with bottlecaps, better than with sugarcubes.
You cover them briefly with your hands, add an optional magic wiggle with the fingers, lift your hands, done.
(Because of my former profession as a fysical therapist I realise I could almost lecture about how and why this palming works so good from an anatomical point of view;-)

I hope that those who DO care for such detail will see these little gems in performance!
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Postby Tony Chang » 12/20/10 11:58 PM

super curious about these.

Just a quick question. Did Tommy Wonder come up with his own routine with these chimes that would be in this set?

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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/21/10 12:36 PM

Yes, his own routine is described. It is still an assembly of objects...(which can also be done with sugarcubes, borrowed quarters and bottlecaps, as a matter of fact ;-)
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/21/10 12:40 PM

If Auke is at Blackpool as usual, then I look forward to seeing these again.
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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/21/10 04:14 PM

Ask him to let you handle a set for a few moments. Then let us know if my comments make sense.
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Postby Dan LeFay » 12/28/10 05:08 PM

I got a couple of inquiries for these sets. I'm sorry but I have nothing to do with the sales. As mentioned above, in the US, Stevens Magic may have them.
The manufacturer, Auke van Dokkum mailed me today that he is going to produce new sets soon. So I assume they will be available again.
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