B Focus Magic

I sometimes think that, if we conjurers would only be downright honest with ourselves, we would have to admit, perhaps reluctantly, that at times we do some darned silly things. I am not referring to the occasion when you got all mussed up with the Grandmother's Necklace, after you'd had all the silks tied upon the cords, or the time when I forgot that intricate card trick where I had to force the 26th card down, have it returned to the 19th position, deduct the number of the next car that passed, deal four heaps, etc., etc. No! I'm referring to some of the things we do, even when they go right and the denoument comes off, as planned.

We make our left hand into a fist, and, taking a small 9 or 12 inch silk we laboriously push, shove or thrust it into the almost closed fist, making it perfectly obvious to the least intelligent spectator that what we are really trying to do is to push the silk into a half-inch hole! I once heard a layman, witnessing such an incident, remark, "Why on earth doesn't he open his hand a bit?", and if you come to think of it it does seem senseless to a spectator to push so vigorously when the operation could be eased by opening the fist a bit more. Try pushing a silk into the left hand, minus the gimmick, and see what a difference there is ! The lesson is obvious, but more of that another time.

We use the weirdest shaped boxes and can-nisters, utterly unlike anything in general use, and which literally shout at the audience "Specially made for the job. Guess how it's done!" One of the oldest of the cannister type is the recognised Coffee Vase, though who designed it. as such, I haven't the faintest idea. The earliest reference I possess of this apparatus is in Hoffmann's Modern Magic, where the sub-title reads "Coffee Berries changed to Hot Coffee"—Logical —"White Beans to Sugar"—again logical—" and Bran to Hot Milk"—maybe magical, but not so logical.

Of latter years the coffee vase has been modified a little in its construction, but one still sees conjurers stuffing white cotton wool into the vase and producing—well, anything from paper streamers to coloured silks, and sometimes, a little more logically, milk. It may be the height of magical effect to fill a vase with cotton wool and then produce in its stead, steaming hot coffee, but I believe that such a proceeding would be much more acceptable to the present day spectator if one gave a reason for so doing.

The explanation can be scientific, it can be illustrative of a story however far fetched the story may be, it can even be a ludicruous explanation, tongue-in-cheek-sort-of-thing, so long as a reason is given. For myself, I would prefer to use, say the coffee coloured paper shavings (or are they chocolate coloured?) used in candy boxes, in order to produce coffee. But maybe I'm too particular.

At the moment, however, I am more concerned with the manner in which the coffee vase and its adjuncts are used, than in what you stuff into it and what you produce from it. Some time ago I witnessed a film, all about magic, and presented by a well known magical society, which shall be nameless, and in the course of the film a well known performer, who shall be nameless, presented the Coffee Vase. Perhaps I should not have noticed anything untoward in its presentation, for, I have seen it used hundreds of times and have maybe come to accept it in its general form, but I had a relation with me, a non-magician, and his comments at the time and later were, I thought most enlightening.

Three things were most obvious to him. 1. That the conjurer having filled the vase with whatever it was, picked up a decorated tube in order to cover the vase, and his manner of picking up the vase was such as to convey to the layman that it must be full of lead ! He grasped it tightly round the very base of the tube, guided it meticulously over the mouth of the vase, and carefully lowered it all the way down, not relaxing his grip until the tube was safely over the vase. 2. When the performer realised that he needed the tube off again, he picked it up delicately by the top rim, slid it easily off the vase, and deposited it lightly upon the table. 3. He then placed the metal lid upon the vase AND PROMPTLY FORGOT ALL ABOUT THE CARDBOARD TUBE, for he never used it or referred to it again. Surely it must be patent to the most tolerant spectator that that tube was merely used to put something else into the vase. I know that later on the performer was careful

The apparatus, as you well know, consists of a 'vase' proper, which is really a tube or cylinder, mounted upon an ornamental base. Over this there fits a sort of double tube or container, the outer part of the container going outside the vase and the inner portion going on the inside. To enable you to 'load' this container into the vase, a long cardboard tube, closed at the top, is supplied. This is often gaudily decorated, and is a little longer than the container. In addition there is a lid supplied, which lid fits loosely into the mouth of the container. The lid itself has a small gimmick in the form of a tray, to enable the performer to take off the lid proper and show cotton wool to be still there this is really a small wad of cotton wool in the tray of the lid, and when the lid and tray are removed together, the cotton wool has disappeared and in its stead the performer produces whatever he has previously placed into the container gimmick.

In the version I am about to offer you, only one thing needs to be altered or further gim-micked and that is the cardboard cylinder. The stiff top should be carefully removed and in its place a disc of tissue paper is fixed. The colour can be to your fancy or chosen to match the body of the cylinder. The disc of tissue paper is about one inch more in diameter than the top of the tube, and it will be well to cut yourself a fair supply of these, for one is used at each performance, not a very expensive addition you will agree.

to take off the metal lid again, to show us that the cotton wool was still there, BUT, IF IT WAS STILL THERE, WHY THE CARDBOARD TUBE? which he promptly forgot all about!

I readily agree with you, that at the best, the coffee vase is an awkward thing to handle, but the above incident made me think, and you might he interested to read my conclusions, the results of my efforts to make the whole contraption easier to handle and a little more logical to present. So, for this month, a discourse upon:—

To fix the tissue disc, place it centrally upon the top of the tube and it will be found to be one half inch too big all round. The surplus edge is shaped round the tube, held in place with a dab or two of paste, and then the top of the tube is finished off with a length of coloured cellophane tape, forming a coloured band round the top of the tube. The bottom rim of the tube can be made to match with a further length of the same tape. The first of my illustrations will make this clear.

To renew this tissue band, merely tear away the original tissue paper, and if you think it necessary strip off the cellophane band, but it will be found that two or three bands can be used, one over the other, before it becomes necessary to peel them off.

Now test the container for length, as compared with the tube, by placing it inside and pushing it right to the top, being careful of course, not to break the tissue disc. Note carefully the difference between the two, and then acquire something which is about large enough to make up that difference. In my own case, I have found that a matchbox suits admirably. If you now place the tube and the container, over the matchbox, the tube will rest on the table and the container on the matchbox. THE IMPORTANT POINT I WANT TO MAKE IS THAT THE TOP OF THE CONTAINER MUST REACH THE TOP OF THE CARDBOARD TUBE. Some containers have a

"The Coffee Vase"

slightly convex base, and in my own case, I cemented a rubber ring to the matchbox and the container, with the tube over it, rests perfectly rigid, the convex base of the container resting on the ring, the matchbox supporting the weight of the loaded container, and the tube resting on the table.

In your own case, you will have to experiment to get the right height for your 'platform', for coffee vases vary in size, but I am sure you will not experience much difficulty. A small cardboard pill box, without the lid, might do, and being of cardboard, you can easily cut it to the correct height.

Now for the set-up and the manner of presentation. The tube together with the loaded container resting on its 'platform', is towards the rear of the table and behind it, the lid of the vase, complete with its loaded tray. Take up the coffee vase, invert it, as though to make sure that it contains nothing, take up a small silk, or even a small tea cloth, and carefully wipe out the interior of the vase. DO THIS, NOT SO MUCH TO SHOW YOUR AUDIENCE THAT THE VASE IS EMPTY, AS TO CONVEY TO THEM THAT YOU DO OBEY CERTAIN STANDARDS OF CLEANLINESS. THE FACT THAT YOUR HAND AND A LARGE PORTION OF YOUR FOREARM GO INSIDE THE TUBE IS SUFFICIENT TO INFER THAT THE VASE IS EMPTY. I am assuming that you possess a vase of the larger type, where the hand and arm can be placed into the vase. If yours is much smaller, then you will obviously use the wand to push the tea cloth inside the vase, or, you will even use a clean, new, bottle brush.

Set the vase down, and then place into it whatever you intend using. Cotton wool, paper shavings, or what have you. You then explain that it is necessary to keep out the light in order to 'develope' the mystery, and you take up the tube BY ITS TOP RIM, HOLDING IT BY THE TIPS OF THE FINGERS AND THUMB, THE PALM OF THE HAND BEING DOWNWARDS AND FACING THE TOP OF THE TUBE.

Do your utmost to hold the tube as though it really is light, and as the hand approaches the vase, bringing the bottom of the tube above the mouth of the vase, gently lower it over. You will find it much easier to place the tube over the vase, than it is to guide the container over it, for the tube is, obviously, larger. You will also find that, having lowered the tube over the vase, the container is automatically registered into its place.

Lower the tube slowly, explaining that 'any rush of air might spoil things (!), and you even add to the nonchalance of the whole thing by pausing with the tube half way down, while you explain some little point to the audience. Too many performers are over-anxious to get the cover on—and off again—and a sigh of relief, though maybe not audible, is often obvious, when the tube has been plonked on the vase.

Having lowered the tube, reach for the lid, make to place it on the vase ,and then pause, commenting somewhat on these lines:—"I'm much too careless tonight . I forgot to put on the lid", and with the other hand, take hold of the tube in exactly the same manner as before, that is by the top rim and slowly draw it upward. Raise it at about the same speed as you previously lowered it, IN OTHER WORDS, CONCENTRATE UPON MAKING THE REMOVAL OF THE TUBE AS LIKE AS POSSIBLE TO THE MANNER IN WHICH YOU PLACED IT ON.

As you slowly raise the tube, remark, "I hops I haven't disturbed anything" and when the tube is quite off the vase, move it out of the way ONLY SUFFICIENT TO PLACE ON THE LID. With the lid in place, move the tube back again, over the vase and again lower it, as before. Just before it reaches its limit, pause, address some remark to the audience, and without looking at the vase, give the tube a final press downwards.

The knob of the lid will burst through the tissue paper, and with a look of utter disgust, you comment upon how adverse things seem to be for you tonight. "I do hope I haven't disturbed anything," you say, and, as though to satisfy yourself, you push aside the torn tissue paper, lift the lid, and heave a sigh of relief when you lift up a small portion of cotton wool, or whatever it is you have duplicated inside the lid.

Replace the lid, and later withdraw it, when "sufficient time has elapsed", and commence to make your production, through the tissue paper disc. Later on you can tear this away almost completely, but if you are producing liquid, then it will be necessary to tear it all away first, and press the tube down as far as it will go, exposing the top of the vase.

THF LID auHST/Ni, THROUGH TH£ PAPSR TOP

THF LID auHST/Ni, THROUGH TH£ PAPSR TOP

if you have the Christmas spirit and are anxious to give back your fee. you can hand out to members of your audience.

How can that be done, you say? Well, as you know the original red silks will be pushed down to the bottom of the vase. The water? An Evaporated Milk Jug will account for that! See that you pour (?) in about the same amount of water as wine you will produce later. So much for what you put into the vase. Now for what you take out. Get a strong balloon, preferably of the sausage type, and carefully lower it into the container, but keep the neck of the balloon above the top of the container. With a funnel stuffed into the mouth of the balloon, pour in a quantity of wine—you will be surprised how much you can get into the balloon—then tie off the neck. The weight of the liquid will cause it to shape itself to the lower half of the container, and in the remaining space you place a quantity of pure white silks. If you load the balloon first, you will find difficulty in getting it into the container, besides running the risk of bursting it prematurely. Filled as I have explained, the balloon will hold a large amount of liquid, without risk, for the container takes the weight.

An added effect can be had by using flash paper, preferably coloured, to make the d^sc for the tube, and after the lid has burst the disc, and in order to peer into the darkness of the vase, you apply a light, giving forth the resulting flash and allowing the tube to d:op right down.

The remainder of the details are up to your good self. I have merely endeavoured to make the 'loading' easier and more logical, and especially to contrive that the tube (which is so necessary!) is used throughout, and not put on. taken off, and entirely discarded. The tissue paper top, and its consequent mutilation add a little to the effect, and altogether, I think you will enjoy working it this way. So—for the coming season, get out your Coffee Vases, large and small, stuff them with coloured paper shavings and produce Christmas decorations, stuff-them with small pieces of cellophane paper, and produce cellophane wrapped sweets, or—if you wish to go all bizarre, place a few brilliant red silks into the vase, then pour on a little water. Later when you remove the lid you utterly astound your audience by producing the same number of silks, all perfectly dry, AND BEAUTIFULLY WHITE. The liquid? You merely have a few small glasses handy and into them you pour tiny tots of rich coloured wine, which.

So—stuff the red coloured silks inside, pour (?) in the required amount of water, load in the container, as explained above and when you remove the lid, take out a white silk, display it and place it down. Continue doing this until all the silks you use are produced. You place your hand in again, as though to produce another silk, and finding none, reach for a glass and pour out the wine. Sorry to keep you in suspense but, as you placed the actual last silk on the table, you picked up on one of your f inger tips, a flesh coloured thimble, which has a pin or needle point soldered on its end. When you reach for 'another' silk, you literally tear open the balloon with the needle point. That's all. Obviously, when pouring out the wine, yoi 1 Win keen the mouth of the vase away from the audience, and you will pour with care, watching that the balloon does not float out. Normally the inside of the container becomes wet when the balloon is burst and the latter sticks to the sides.

Have a very Merry Christmas, and as the New Year may be upon us before the January issue is out, may I wish you a Happy one of those too.

Yours Magically,

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