Gaffs, gimmicks, fekes and...?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Dan LeFay » 06/20/12 07:06 AM

I've been thinking lately about the routines I prefer and how they relate to the props I use. And I noticed that my money is spent mostly to essentially the same stuff, besides books. Now a question popped up in my head that may help me understand my choices. I have to explain what I mean:

Magic seems to have an abundance of gimmicks and gaffs that (sometimes, and if used properly) can help in improving a method to create an illusion. My study is literally stuffed with boxes and drawers with all kinds of weird esoteric props that are not normally seen in "real life" (for instance dye-tubes, magnetic hold-outs, transferable topits or that-thingy-that-can-switch-cards-in-my-breastpocket).

Besides that there are also little trinkets that emulate to be something, while in fact being something else (thumbtips, shells, double-sided cards or watches which hands can move in fast forward, to name a few). I am quite fond of these!

Now the words gimmicks, gaffs and fekes have been used all over magic literature, sometimes one substituted for the other. To me it is not exactly clear what is the difference. Gaffs seem to turn up more in cardmagic, while gimmicks are used everywhere. The only book that sheds a little light on it, that I've read is In concert by Roger Klause and Lance Pierce.

My question is twofold.
First I hope someone can point me out where to find anything that describes the difference between gaffs, gimmicks or fekes. Or by any means describe it here .

Second, my interest is drawn towards those magic props that look (and in some sense are) normal and can be handled by spectators, while hiding a function that is not normally related to it, but is added to aide in a magical method. For instance spongeballs, the cups for cups and balls (with heightened attic), a shell for 3-shell game with a chanin dip or maybe even a Dean's Box? Now these props have my greatest interest!

Is there a name for these props? Are they essentially gimmicks? Or gaffs? I would like to see a list of objects used in (close-up) magic, that are not suspected by laypersons if they hold or use them (and I am not referring to a locking scotch&soda gimmick).

Any thoughts on these?
(I am particularly interested in close-up or stand-up props, but would not mind to learn what is out there in the world of stage illusions as well.)

Dan
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 06/20/12 08:01 AM

This is from Magicpedia and it may at least help defining two of your terms.

Gaff: A Gaff is a modification of a seemingly ordinary item used to accomplish magical effects. Very often gaffed cards and coins are referred to as "trick cards" or "trick coins".

Gimmick: Secret device used to accomplish magical effects.
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Postby Dan LeFay » 06/20/12 08:40 AM

If that is true, than a gaff can be out in the open, while not recognized by the audience. And a gimmick remains hidden (underneath clothes in a box or behind a table). I that correct?

The strange thing is that because of a very small community of Dutch speaking magicians, there does not seem to be a Dutch translation for these words. We just talk about gimmicks, gaffs etc as well.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/20/12 09:30 AM

Is a shell coin a feke or a gaff?
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/20/12 09:33 AM

@Dan

The language can be simplified by dropping the historical gambling/conman obfuscations. Ancient argot does not always light the way for students.

Fake - seen as item but can't be used as ordinary item. Think of those plastic flowers in some shops that look pretty but you don't water them and they don't have a scent. Or wax fruit in baskets. :)
Gaffed/Gimmicked - item that can be seen and acts as ordinary item though also has method/function utility - cardbox, deansbox...
? device? (need a name for a device which stays hidden)
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Postby Denis Behr » 06/20/12 10:40 AM

Stephen Minch posted his thoughts on the distinction of gaffs, fakes/fekes and gimmicks here:
http://hermeticforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=44
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Postby Dan LeFay » 06/20/12 10:52 AM

Denis, that is a great link. It deals exactly with what I was hoping to find!
Thanks!
I could have known Stephen would have something sensible to say about this.
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Postby Thomas Van Aken » 06/21/12 08:23 AM

Hey Dan,

Lang geleden.. Hoe is het met u ?

If I remember correctly, there are some thoughs of Roger Klause on that topic in "Roger Klause in Concert".

Thinking about it and desptite the important legacy of French speaking magic litterature, I don't think there are precise translations of gaff, gimmick or fake. All of them are referred under the generic term of "tricked" (truqu).

But maybe Philippe Billot will jump here to proof me wrong on the coming minutes....


Regards

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Postby Dan LeFay » 06/21/12 05:30 PM

@Jon, you are more or less referring to the simulacrum theory of Jean Baudrillard which is fascinating but far beyond the scope of what I am trying to understand right now.
Stephen's text (quoting TA Waters)is what I was looking for.

@Thomas, het gaat prima hier. Leuk om van je te horen!
I know about Klause. I referred to him in my original post.

I still have the idea that one sort of prop is missing. According to Stephen (TA Water's) text a Dean's Box is a feke, if I understand correctly, but also a gaff!?
It is, form a spectator's point of view just a box (as in "a container with a lid") but outside of magic reality no such a box exists. It has certain aspects that are not suspected (curtains and a trapdoor) but who aide in the method, as well as a hidden "secret" (gimmick?).

The same counts for a Paul Fox cup. It is a normal cup, but it has some oddities in design that are only meant for magic purposes. Besides that I can not imagine someone drinking from a copper cup. Maybe put a flower in it?

Or what about a plastic walnutshell? Nothing to see for a curious spectator. Not even related to magic if seen as a single object. And yet it is one of the highlights in my close-up work.

And what about a spongeball? It is just a ball made of sponge...

How do we call these objects?
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Postby Joe Pecore » 06/21/12 07:26 PM

Dan LeFay wrote:
Or what about a plastic walnutshell? Nothing to see for a curious spectator. Not even related to magic if seen as a single object. And yet it is one of the highlights in my close-up work.

And what about a spongeball? It is just a ball made of sponge...

How do we call these objects?


A prop?

prop n. Any item of visible apparatus or paraphernalia used during performance.
Share your knowledge on the MagicPedia wiki.
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Postby Dan LeFay » 06/22/12 08:15 AM

Ha, could it really be that simple Joe? I guess..?
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Postby federico luduena » 06/25/12 10:52 AM

Henry Hay includes definitions for 'gimmick' and 'fake' in his "The Amateur Magician's Handbook". I transcribe three lines from page 258:

"On the authority of John Mulholland, a 'gimmick' is a secret device never seen by the audience; a 'fake' is a device seen by the audience, but not understood. A dye tube is a gimmick; a bottomless glass is a fake".

It would be interesting to see under what category some topological props fall. In the competition version of the Afghan Bands, for instance, everything is in the open, including the twists. They are not understood by the audience, but not in the sense of the bottomless glass, since the bands are normal objects in their entirety.
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Postby Dan LeFay » 06/29/12 04:16 AM

OK, topological seems to be a word that may fit some of these objects. Is a Dean's Box a topological prop?
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Postby Riversky » 09/15/12 06:59 PM

Does anyone have recommended reading material for close up performances using everyday common objects? Or threads I can refer to?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/15/12 07:00 PM

Find a copy of Martin Gardner's Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/15/12 07:12 PM

... or Karl Fulves's Self-Working Table Magic:
http://www.amazon.com/Self-Working-Tabl ... 0486241165
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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Postby Riversky » 09/15/12 07:32 PM

Thanks Richard,
I just downloaded a Kindle version of Sef-Working Table Magic
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/15/12 09:56 PM

Martin Gardner's Table Magic is also worth picking up; it takes some of his early books on impromptu magic and combines them into a "best of" book.
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