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Claude Chandler would have us believe that the good old fashioned slate is now an anachronism; whatever, an anachronism may be in its own rights? My own feeling is that the slate is too valuable a prop in magic lightly to discard and that it has very many years of honourable and useful service in front of it. When it becomes really out of date it may still be useful to the magicians of the new era who want to show what those quaint magicians did back in 1949, and to reproduce the effects and atmosphere of the fake seances of the 19th and early 20th century.
No, my only quarrel with the slate as a conjuring prop, is :—
(a) The message cannot be seen too well when used on the platform owing to the spidery attenuation of the chalked writing;
(b) It is usually necessary while the message develops to cover the slate or to put it aside. In real magic the message would — just appear.
I have tried to remedy these defects with the jiffy Slate, and, in doing so, quite naturally introduced a few defects of its very own. You will be able to judge.
The Jiffy Slate, without cover, produces a message on both sides, or, if that statement is equivocal, with the sole " cover " afforded by turning the slate away from the audience for a second and back again.
The Jiffy Slate looks like a slate. It is a slate. Its principal disadvantage is that it cannot be handled by the audience. But it can be viewed from three feet. Its second disadvantage is that it produces beautiful white block capitals of a perfection far beyond the dreams of " spirits." You can read them at the back of the hall, but if vou think that a scrawly caligraphy is something that the spirits favour, well there is nothing to stop you. I really don't think that the spirits are so particular, in short, this is a slate for stage use and quick effect. It does not replace slates with flaps, locked or otherwise, used in intimate performance.
D'Albert who has held the Music Hall rights in this country since 1945 uses a gigantic Jiffy Slate in his " Bookmaker Magical Act." From a blank slate he magically produces the starters and the prices and gets the shock of his life when his tips come off. He gets extra deep letters by increasing the depth of the top and bottom margins of his slate and adequately covers this ruse by using the increased space to advertise the name of " the old firm." You can look at the drawings now, if you haven't done so already.
I am a man of magical ideas. Almost a genius. I freely confess it. But it takes a D'Albert to introduce design and finish into an idea like this and bring it to life.
My first experiments were with ground glass and frames made of brown paper. D'Albert designed and made in wood the frame you see illustrated. The dimensions are not vital of course, but a relative proportion has to be achieved between the overall size of the slate, its thickness, and the width of the wooden frame, so that the slate looks like a slate used for " chalking up or writing down." And no french polish.
I am afraid we will have to look at the drawings again.
The central insert has the Ace of Spades (say) on one side and the Three of Clubs (say) on the reverse, written on black paper in white block capitals. White waterproof ink is the stuff.
The paper cut-outs, two of them, are stuck to the smooth surfaces of each of the two ground glass slides. A smear of seecotine along the extreme long edge of each glass is all that must be used. The completed masks slide up and down over the insert so that the writing is exposed or concealed at will.
The ground glass surfaces form the outside of the slate. They can be written on as an ordinary slate. If the surface appears too white the slightest trace of non-drying oil rubbed over will bring them to a beautiful state of blackness and the white letters will stand out boldly.
There are two holes at the top of the frame to take fixing pins so that the frame can be dismantled when required to change the insert.
Now a word about the paper. The paper used for the cut out should be reasonably thin, but since the degree of blackness of insert and cut-out need to be the same, the same paper should be used for both purposes. Paper black on both sides can be bought. I did mine the hard way and used Indian ink on white paper, with the added burden of smoothing the paper after cockling.
In operation the slide of the slate away from the audience is pushed along with the thumb. It slides quite easily. Just a touch. In my original version the same message appeared on both sides, The " Ace of Spades " — ' Concentrate, sir, the spirits will write the name of your card on the slate." The slate was turned round and back again and the message revealed. " Sorry, sir, you really expected the message on the other side, didn't you ? " Turning the slate round and revealing the duplicate message.
A full routine wili appear in a later paper, but to conclude this article there is the question of Perspex to consider. Ground glass is perfect,
C-WD SOflKD INSEKT
OUTS IVEL THICKNESS--^
CZOUND £i/>55 Stint VKPER CI1T~ OUT STUCK D£H!ND
CZOUND £i/>55 Stint VKPER CI1T~ OUT STUCK D£H!ND
"TWO SLIDES ONE IHSBKT EACH Ag THICK,
but liable to breakage. Better have perspex while you are about it. Perspex, I gather, is sold in sheets which are reputed to be l-16in., Jin., and Jin. thick. The dealers will cut you two pieces to size and you can frost one side of each piece by rubbing it down with fine sandpaper.
Finally a word of warning. Buy your perspex first and make the frame to fit. I ordered Jin. thickness and this turned out to be l-6in., which with the double thickness and the insert was too thick for my frame. I had to start again and ordered l-16in. I imagine that this thickness might have turned out to be a trifle thin and not solid enough to keep flat up against the insert. However, on delivery it was found to be as near to Jin. as dammit. Verb sap.
LOUIS S. HISTED'S
COMEDY ROUTINE WITH THE JIFFY SLATE.
The props you wiil require are :—
(1) A Jiffy Slate reading the Ace of Spades (say) on one side and the Three of Clubs on the other.
(2) A Roterburg card changing box, to change an Ace of Spades put in it to a Three of Clubs with which it is loaded. If you want to exercise your virtuosity use a plain envelope and sleight of hand for this change. But for the lay audience give me a changing box every time. There is nothing to do.
(3) A Forcing pack of 52 Aces of Spades.
Let us start by stating that all " jokes " are something held out to the audience, and that the " something " is snatched away just when the audience think it is within their grasp. Frustrated expectations. The " something " may be real; a coin jerked away by a thread, or it may be a picture in the mind, as in the joke story, or it may be merely a play of words. This forms the basis of all magical " sucker " effects. If the joke is to roll the audience in the aisles, something must be substituted for what was snatched away, something if possible of universal interest. The
Clubs and informs the performer that the card he is holding in the box is the Ace of Spades.
(5) " Ace of Spades," says the performer. " O.K! you wanted the Ace of Spades," and he turns the slate round revealing the Ace of Spades.
(6) " But the spirits wrote the Three of Clubs, and the spirits are never wrong." The slide has been operated and when the slate is reversed it is blank ! !
(7) " But you say the Ace of Spades ? " Operate the slide and show the reverse side is now blank. Both sides are now blank !
(8) "I am getting confused. What is the card in the box. The Ace of Spades? Will you check that. The Three of Clubs? Are you pulling my leg. So the spirits were right?"
(9) " Do you mind if I check this with the pack?" Leaf through the cards face to you as though you are looking for a particular card. You are quite right, sir. Your card was the Ace of Spades. It must have been." Leaf through the' cards face to the audience and reveal a pack with nothing but Aces of Spades.
&uc de la Mwte
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