(More thoughts on sleight of hand and gaffs)


David Neighbors

I have always thought that you should learn sleight of hand first. That way, you can do magic with anything someone hands you. But gaffs rung in at the right time can kill! As the old masters said, “You have to know not just how to do a trick, but when to do a trick.”

I have always thought of myself as a purist. Some people will say, “But you use gaffs!” Yes, but I define a purist as someone who does stuff that looks like pure magic, not someone who doesn’t use gaffs.

Ed Marlo used to say, “If it were really magic, how would it look?” If you use only one tool to accomplish that, you are limiting yourself. A mechanic working on a car wouldn’t use just one tool. A builder wouldn’t use just one tool to construct a house. They use the right tools for the job. If a sleight makes a routine look better, then use that. If a gaff makes it look better, then employ the gaff. Some of the best magic is a combination of both sleight and gaff. Often a gaff lets you do the sleight on the off-beat. Also, the combination of sleight and gaff will help cancel each method out. Spectators will think, “It can’t be sleight of hand, because he did this, but it can’t be a gaff because he did that.” You get the best of both worlds.

Some amateur magicians believe that using a gaff is cheating. Guess what, anything you do in magic is cheating. No cheating, no magic. If you show a coin in your hand, do a coin pass, and then show the coin is gone, that is cheating, too. You did not really put the coin in your hand. So, I think it’s funny when they say that using a gaff is cheating.

There is some stuff you just can’t do without a gaff. Or, if you can, then not as cleanly and magical looking. If I can do it without a gaff and it looks just as good, then I will do that, because it’s one less thing I have to carry with me. (Also, it makes room for other cool gaffs! 🙂 ) But if the gaff makes it look better, then that’s what I will use.

You also have to ask yourself, “Is it worth paying the price?” Remember, if you’re going to be performing the routine frequently, and it looks better with the gaffs, you’re going to have to carry them with you. If people start asking to see a specific routine, you need to be a good boy scout and be prepared.

I know some people that I would call lazy. They want to use just a deck of cards, four coins, and whatever clothes they happen to have on. I think their magic suffers because of that. You don’t get miracles for free.

Over 30 years ago a friend told me that he always takes a pack of cards with him when he goes to buy pants. If he can’t get his hand into the pockets with a card palmed, he doesn’t buy the pants. I now do the same. Your clothes are another tool, just like a sleight or a gaff. Some magicians ask me for advice on stealing loads, ditching, etc., but they won’t dress the part. They won’t find a jacket with big enough pockets to hold the loads, or they won’t put a topit in a jacket because they think it’s ruining it. Or they simple won’t go to that much work. But again, you don’t get miracles for free.

It all depends on how much work you are willing to put in on it. They’ll spend 100 hours on a sleight, but won’t spend the time learning how to use a gaff properly, or finding or tailoring the right clothes, or attaching clips from which to steal loads.

My advice: Use what works the best to make your performance look like real magic!


Ok So again That’s MY two Cents! 🙂

Best David Neighbors

The Coinjurer