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Thumb Things

The thumb tip has been a standard "gimmick" or magical prop for almost a hundred years. Developed around the turn of the last century by William "Professor Herwin" Humpage (1861-1946), the thumb tip is useful for vanishing all sorts of things. The thumb tip is nothing more than a hollow flesh-colored tip that fits over the end of your thumb. Because it is somewhat larger than the digit over which it fits, a variety of small object can be hidden inside of it and made to appear and disappear at will.

The drawback to using a thumb tip to vanish and re-appear items is that, because of the thumb tip's venerable history, the tricks that use it can come across as clichéd. Now, I've long believed that the secret to creating a great magic act is not in coming up with tricks that have never been seen before -- that would be nearly impossible for the average magician. Rather, I believe that the secret lies in performing a time-tested illusion with a new and exciting twist.

Which brings us, of course, to the Thumb Thing. The Thumb Thing is, basically, a thumb tip with a spark wheel and a small barrel attached where the "thumbnail" would normally be. By loading the barrel with a small amount of Flash Cotton and striking the spark wheel with the index finger, a small flash of fire can be created. By itself, the flash makes for a nice, if somewhat small, illusion. However, the Thumb Thing can also be incorporated into almost any trick that calls for a thumb tip to add a bit of flash.

As an example, let us examine the Vanishing Silk, one of the oldest magic tricks out there. Before I explain how it works, I would like to ask any magical purists out there (those who believe anyone giving away the secret to a magic trick should be hanged in front of Caesar's Palace) to please close your eyes.

Okay, for the rest of you, the trick goes something like this The magician pulls a silk from his pocket and shows it to the crowd; he then places the silk inside of his closed fist, taps his fist with a wand and "hey presto" opens both hands to show them empty and void of silk. The secret, of course, is that the magician had palmed a thumb tip prior to inserting the silk into his hand. While it appears that he is pushing the silk into his fist, he's really packing it into the hollow thumb. Usually, the last bit of "packing" involves the magician using his thumb to pack the silk down, conveniently picking up the tip as he takes his hand away.

The Thumb Thing can add a whole new dimension to this effect, however. What if, instead of the silk simply being gone when the magician opens his hands, it disappeared in a flash of fire? This can be achieved simply enough by palming a small piece of flash paper along with the Thumb Thing. Once the silk is packed into the tip, and as the magician is opening his hands, a quick spark from the Thumb Thing can light the flash paper and create a spectacular finish!

This is just one possibility for the Thumb Thing. As I've said, any trick that calls for a thumb tip can probably make use of the Thumb Thing for added flair. The Thumb Thing can also be used when a magician needs a fast way to light flash paper on stage, and doesn't want to resort to using a match or lighter. This could lead to some interesting illusions when the Thumb Thing is used in conjunction with our Premium Flash Paper. All sorts of paper props could be constructed using the colored flash paper, and then ignited via the Thumb Thing. Imagine picking a "rose" out of a flowerpot for a female audience member, only to have it burst into flames because "she's too hot to handle!"

One final idea for the Thumb Thing comes from our own magician-in-residence and sales manager, Steve Brown. By coating the flash cotton with a very small amount of electric sparkle additive (remember kids, a little goes a long way) you can create the illusion of receiving a nasty shock, complete with sparks flying from your fingertips! Steve uses this in perfomance tosimulate grabbing a faulty microphone, and I'm sure others will come up with unique and entertaining variations on this concept.

Always reasonably priced, and even more so while it's our Weekly Special, the Thumb Thing should be a staple in every magician's prop box. Its simple design almost guarantees great results for both experienced and novice performers. I like to think that Professor Herwin, wherever he may be, would approve. 

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