Balls for the Cups and Balls
Ideas and comments on balls to be
used for the Cups and Balls
Last Update: Nov 2006
The ideal ball for your needs will vary depending on your type of
routine and the cups that you are using. Things to consider will
include weight, size, material, and shape.
enough so it won't "stick" inside a cup, but probably not too heavy
so it "thunks" when the cup is turned over on the close-up mat. If
performing outside, can't be too light so it will blow away (like
Size: The size will
impact handling, visibility, and ability to "nest" between cups.
Some routines require that up to three balls can sit on the inverted
bottom of a cup, with another cup on top without "rocking".
Typically, a cup worker will want the largest balls (for visibility)
that are small enough to allow nesting.
Material: The core
will affect the weight of the ball, and balls use anything from cork
to rubber to steel ball bearings. The covering affects the handling,
visibility, and "sound" of the ball. A steel ball, for example, will
clink loudly against a metal cup and reveal hidden loads, thus
something soft like cloth, leather, or rubber is desired. A ball
that is too "sticky" may stick against other balls or objects, which
is why plain rubber balls are not usually used.
Shape: Most cup
workers simply use round balls, but for the street worker whose
working surface may not be level, round balls can roll away. Leather
covered balls might not roll much, but perhaps something unique like
pyramid shapes might be more useful.
Types of balls available.
Pom-Pom Balls are often supplied with the inexpensive plastic cups
and balls sets. They are very light and could blow away outside, but
won't roll away easily. Their light weight may make some
manipulation more difficult, but they certainly won't "talk" against
the cups. They can easily be made in a variety of colors.
Sponges. Sponges as used in sponge magic can be used for the cups
and balls. They are available in a variety of sizes and colors. They
are light and can blow away outside. Because they compress, they can
fit in your pockets better without creating buldges. There is a
possibility the audience may feel that this compression factor is
the key to how the balls are "hiddden" throughout the effect.
However, Johnny Paul is famous for his cups and balls act using
sponges, so they certainly can be effective given the right routine.
Crocheted covers over cork or rubber balls. Most that you find are
over cork balls, in a variety of sizes and colors. The color can be
anything you need if you find someone who can do this for you. You
typically want a tight weave so the balls handle well. These balls
are nice because they have some heft to them, yet don't "talk" and
are relatively inexpensive to produce. Some magicians refer to
these balls as "wearing sweaters."
Cloth covered balls. Felt, wool, or other material can be used to
cover a ball. These will operate similar to the crocheted balls.
Leather covers over a core. Leather strips can be either braided or
tied in a "Monkey-Fist" knot over a solid core. The thick strips
provide some edges so the balls don't roll around as much,
especially with the Monkey-Fist knot. Leather has a good feel to it,
the balls have a good weight, and the look is classy.
Sports balls: Small balls that look like tennis balls, soccer balls,
or baseballs. Cover may be made from leather, vinyl, or some other
"new-age" material. You might even find these in a dollar store if
you shop around, but it is rare to find them small enough for the
main balls; you are more likely to find balls suitable for load
Load Balls: These are larger balls that are produced at the climax
of many cups and balls routines. A load ball should fill as much of
the cup as possible. There are some routines that actually produce a
load that is larger than the cup. A load ball can be of any type,
but often matches the regular balls, or might be a piece of fruit or
other surprising item.
Cups and balls can be performed with any types of cups, even coffee
mugs or tea cups. You can do impromptu routines using styrofoam cups
and wadded paper balls, if that's all that is handy.
The type of ball used is up to your imagination. On the various
Internet forums (Genii, Magic Cafe, KJ Magic Board, etc.), I have
seen idea such as:
Wadded Up paper
Wadded Dollar Bills
Olives, Grapes, Cherries (real or fake)
Rubber balls from toy stores (various shapes, "molecule" balls)
Computer Mouse balls
Roll-On Deoderant balls
"No-Bounce" Ball from a Bounce/No-bounce
End loads: hackey sacks, tennis ball, baseball, live baby chicks,
Some sources for specialized balls:
The balls for cups and balls also come in many varieties. For
some reason, crocheted covered cork balls seem to have become the
norm. These balls have a good feel to them and can be made in lots
of colors. Some sets use pom-pom balls. The late Mike Rogers made
some nice small leather baseballs that work great. I have heard
that Mrs. Rogers is planning to continue to make these balls
available. Denny & Lee's carries a nice leather "Monkey's
Fist" ball that has the added advantage of not rolling, which may
be quite helpful for street performers.
You have to be sure the balls you purchase match your cups. Some
cups have a very small area between the cups when stacked and
cannot hold more than one ball, or may "rock" when even one larger
ball is between the cups. Balls come in 5/8", 3/4", 7/8", and 1"
Load items are limited only by your imagination and the size of
your cups, and not necessarily even by the size of the cups.
Typical loads have been large balls, fruit, large steel ball
bearings, and even live mice or baby chicks.
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