Steel Ball and Tube

I was going through some old magic pamphlets and for some reason one of them caught my eye. I sat down to read it and I was inspired to come up with a new feature for the newsletter. It is called The Junk Drawer Challenge. The premise is that we all have magic shoved into a drawer that we don’t use. Perhaps we don’t use it because it looks cheap, we got it for free or most likely there seems to be no good presentation for it. The Junk Drawer Challenge will feature a forgotten (at least I think so) piece of magic which doesn’t get shown too much and the challenge will be to come up with a viable and entertaining presentation with it.

This month’s forgotten piece of magic is the Steel Ball and Tube. The Steel Ball and Tube was marketed since the early 1920’s under various names and had it’s heyday several decades ago. Like many tricks, as mass production developed, they became cheap to make and was found in many beginner magic sets. Once that happens, more experienced performers shy away from showing them for fear that someone will say “I know how that works”. In the eight years I’ve involved in magic I had never seen the ball and tube performed.

If you don’t know what The Steel Ball and Tube is, it is basically a solid steel ball bearing which sits on top of a chromed brass tube. The ball is larger than the tube thus preventing it from going through. Under the control of the magician, the steel ball starts to get smaller and slowly sinks into the tube. After it sinks, the ball rises and sinks again. And as some of the original instructions say “repeat as much as tolerable”

There has been a couple of attempts to revitalize this classic. As far as I know, there are only two printed booklets in regards to using the ball and tube. One is called Magic with a Steel Ball and Tube by Magic Ian and the other is Ball and Tube by Docc Hilford. Other than these two booklets there were a few scattered tricks in a couple of magazines.

The purpose of this challenge is manifold. First, it will give us the incentive to use magic most of us already have. As we look for this forgotten piece we will probably discover more we don’t use. Secondly and more importantly, it will spur the creativeness we all have inside of us and force us to work at developing a performance piece that is unique to us. Perhaps you might even be brave enough to present it to the club the following month. So go look for that small brass tube and ball and work up a presentation.