The Color Changing Knives: Survey and Historical Knives

Last updated: Mar 2013. Reformatted.

Thanks to Joe Mogar for discussions on what makes a good knife and for a sample of his new Stag handled knives, Gary Frank for information on the Merrill knives,
Mike Rogers for photos and information on Sander's knives and J.P. Jackson custom knives, Michael Close for the photo of Scotty York knives sold on e-Bay,

Stevens Magic Emporium
for use of the Tamariz' Knives set photograph, and Ray Szwec for information on the Hot Rod Knife.

Some other knives can be seen at these websites:

Gary Michael's "Purchases & Coveted Stuff" page: http://www.gary-michaels.com/collection.html 
(this page is super long and very graphic intensive, so be patient even on high speed!
Scroll down quite a ways; includes Kaymar knives, Eric Wolf, Merrill-style Pakistani knives, and some mini-knives)

Richard Mendez The Magic Museum: http://www.themagicmuseum.com Antiquarian Magic From Around the World.
Photos and descriptions of Color Changing Knives, Chop Cups, Cups & Balls.

INTRODUCTION: The "color changing knives" (I'll abbreviate them as CCK in this article) effect is one of my favorites. I've always been a fan of good pocket knives, and the size, weight, and handling of the color changing knives makes it simply a delight to perform and practice. Knives are a "natural" product and something many people carry around with them every day. Finally, you can do a large variety of effects, from a simple two knife routine to a long, complex multi-knife routine. Knife quality, however, varies widely. You can get cheap flashy sets for under $10, or you can easily spend over $100 for a custom set. This article provides buying advice and provides some photos of many of the color changing knives you may come across.
INVENTION: According to http://www.magicunlimited.com, the Color Changing Knives effect was invented by Mr. Walter Ceretta Jeans. I don't know anything else about Mr. Jeans or the first color changing knife. If anyone has any additional information, I would love to hear it.
KNIFE PARTS: First, a little about knives in general. The basic parts of a knife include the blade, a spring to make it stay open (and shut!), two liners on each side of the blade, and two covers (the handle). Knives may have one or two bolsters, these are the metal tipped ends found on most knives, and they may be found on one or both ends (or neither). The covers are usually held on by rivets, but they may be glued or otherwise attached. Some knives have a shield emblem, which states the maker's name or something similar. Usually, the country of origin can be found stamped on the main blade near the handle.
knife parts

CCK Properites: A good standard pocket knife will have a good "snap" to it when it is opened. This demonstrates a strong spring, and ensures it won't close easily on your hand while in use. The covers will mate closely with the bolsters, with no obvious gaps between them. The rivets will be smooth and well finished. When closed, the knife tip will be inside the handle, such that it won't catch on your pocket. 

Given these knife basics, what should we look for in a good set of color changing knives? The perfect knife will vary a bit depending on your hand size and personal preferences, but there are some common things to look for.

Symmetry and size:

A knife suitable as a color changing knife should be fairly symmetric, that is, it shouldn't look much different on one side than it does on the other. When the magic color change move is performed, the primary difference the audience should notice is the color change. Thus, a knife with a symbol or crest on one side not only changes in color, but in design as well.

Another item to consider as far as symmetry goes is that the knife blade, when closed, should not protrude greatly from the side of the knife. The spectator's attention should not be drawn to the blade, but to the knife cover. Tannen's Magic at one time even made a non-opening CCK that was greatly symmetric, since there was no real blade to break the lines.

The length of the knife should be just a tad smaller than the width of your palm, though slightly longer may be okay. This allows you to hold the knives fully enclosed in your hand without the ends peeking out. Thus, you will find most color changing knives about 2.5 to 3.5 inches long.

The width (depth?) and "roundness" of color changing knives varies quite a bit, and will be largely a matter of taste. Enardoe knives (see below) are somewhat flat and wide, and sometimes are a bit difficult for my smaller fingers to perform the various color change moves (though I've had success with them for several years). Many magician's will prefer a more rounded knife. At the same time, one of the benefits of the flatter knives is they tend to have less "flash" of the color changing principle.

The Merrill knives were pretty flat, but instead of covers rouned on the edge like the Enardoe Knives, they were fairly square. The squareness aids in performing the color changing moves and made these knives very desirable.

If possible, try out the knives you are interested in purchasing to see how you like them.

Colors:

The colors for the change, of course, must contrast. Red and white or black and white are common. Choosing contrasting colors such as blue and green is not a good idea since these colors can be confused in dim lighting or by those who are color blind (using one of these colors with a white alternating color would be okay, though).

Some performers may prefer knives with flashy, sparkling colors, but I prefer a knife to look more like a "real" pocket knife. Most pocket knives I grew up with were more subdued, and had handles in colors such as black, brown, yellow, red, or white. I feel that such a knife will be "accepted" by the audience as a regular knife, in contrast with one that may appear gimmicky. As for the flashy knives, such as the sparkly knives pictured below, one gentleman I corresponded with had great success with these because he would perfom for a jeweler's show, where flash was a necessity!

Some knives change not only color, but handle material as well, using a smooth cover for one side, and a stag-type cover for the color change. A benefit of this knife can be in the handling, as it is easier to tell by feel the postion of the knife. The negative side of this is that of symmetry as discussed above. If the effect is supposed to be a color change, then with a stag/smooth knife, the effect becomes both a color AND a material change. I don't think most spectators will be upset by this, but it is something to consider.

Materials and Other Features:

Color changing knives, like their real counterparts, come in a variety of materials. Plastic covers are common, but you will also find knives of stag or bone as well. The material will affect the weight and feel of your knives, but it is difficult to make any hard and fast rules as to handle material as each magician will have different tastes. Of course, a quality knife will likely last longer, and will hold up better if dropped and when carried in the pocket.

In his book, "Ascanio's World of Knives", Jose De La Torre recommends knives with a ring on the end, which can be used to identify a knife in your pocket. By turning the ring either toward the blade, the back edge of the knife, or leaving it pointing straight up, you can identify the knives by feel.

A ring is not necessary, though. A single bolster knife can be quickly identified by noticing whether the bolster is up or down, and whether the blade is left or right. Even a double bolster knife can be determined by feeling the blade shape and direction, though this is not as instantaneous as other methods. Some knives, as noted above, even come with different material handles on each side, though the change effect is not as "pure" since the change is now not only color, but handle material as well.

Finally, dividers or knife holders can be used in the pockets as well. You can place the knives in the holder in a specific pattern, and then easily determine by feel which knife is which. I've included some photos of some knife holders below, at the bottom of this article.

Costs:

A word about cost. A good, normal (non-magic) single-blade pocket knife can run you anywhere from $10 to well over $50 for a commercial, quality blade (and much more for custom knives). If you are purchasing a color changing knives set of two, three, or more knives, the cost could quickly skyrocket. Thus, most commercial sets use inexpensive knives rather than collector's brands such as Camillus or Case (though you may find custom sets made from models from these companies). In general, you will find the fit and finish of color changing knives less than that of their commercial counterparts. So, while you can expect to get color changing knife sets for about $10-$15 per knife, don't expect perfection.

General Advice Summary:

1. Vibrant but classic colors. Most real knives are white, red, black, brown, or bone. Sparkles and such, while showing up well, are a bit too much for my tastes (though if you like them, go for it!). At the same time, you want the colors to be bright and provide good contrast for the color changes. Changing a dark brown knife to black might not be too impressive!

2. Slightly squared shape. Some of the knives are a bit too flat. This does well to prevent flashing, but if the fingers are a little moist (like when you are nervous), the flat shape can hinder the paddle move. For the knives I have tried, the Merrill knives and the Joe Mogar knives have a great shape and are very easy to work with.

3. Non-flashing. Tony Spina (of Tannen's magic) makes a set of "knives" that have the handles inlaid, with no danger of flashing. However, they are not real knives as there are no blades. I feel the knives should be real, so you can use one for cutting rope or string during your routine. Some published routines use the opening of a knife as part of the routine. Knives with extremely rounded handles may present more opportunities to flash the wrong color. The Spina knives may be able to be carried on a airplane, but I'd still be worried about them being taken away by TSA since you'd have a hard time explaining what they really are!

4. Available in a variety of styles. Some knives only come in sets of two, while many routines require three or more knives. Of course, if you only want to do a basic routine, two knives is all you need, and there are even a few routines out there for using a single knife.

Recommendations:

The Joe Mogar knives are currently available and meet most of the properties, with the possible exception of #3. They are my current recommendation (2011) and have been since before 2006!

As for books, Ascanio's World of Knives (translated to English by Jose De La Torre), is really good, and has finally been reprinted. This version is relatively inexpensive, and is Jose De La Torre's "paraphrase" of the original Ascanio Book with some of Jose's ideas included. You can also get a new translation of Ascanio's original "Knives and Color Blindness" as Volume 4 of the Magic of Ascanio. I have not seen the volume 4 book, so I don't know how the two books compare. The Merrill Knife Book is also an excellent reference and is still widely available.

See the CCK Reference for links to many more books and videos with routines.



Samples of Color Changing Knives that have been on the market over the years. Some of these are no longer available.
Knives are listed in Alphabetical order by Manufacturer
Brad Burt Buck Knives Brad Burt - Buck Color Changing Knives

These Buck Color Changing Knives were bought by Matt Herbert from Brad Burt's Magic Shop in San Diego, CA back in 1991. Two sets were offered, with either two or three knives. Even then, the three knife set was $99.

Buck makes a good quality knife, resulting in a set of Color Changing Knives that are top notch. They even came with an additional blade.

Matt's recollection from a conversation with Brad is that Brad had these knives actually  produced for him by Buck Knives; they were not knives that were purchased and then modified.

Matt has a set of Scotty York knives, but prefers the Buck Knives in his shows because they are real pocket knives.
Chazpro Reflecto-Matic Knives
Chazpro: Reflecto-Matic-Knives: Color changing knives with a twist. Available with a mirror and dollar bill, card face, or card back finish. Effect is the card or bill image which reflects in the mirrored knife becomes permanent. $12.50-$30. Chazpro

Crosewl Wooden Knives: Crosewl Magic creates hand-crafted magic props for sale at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and has recently developed a solid wood set of knives. The knives are about 3" in length with a solid maple blade. The case woods vary, sets include red oak/walnut or paduak/bolivian rosewood. You get a three knives, two solids and one gimmick for about $50.(Seem to no longer be available) Crosewl Magic.
daryl's knives Daryl's Color Changing Knives

I don't believe these are available any longer, although the routine is available on Daryl's DVD Fooler Doolers Volume 1.

These knives feature a bit of a wider knife, which may be more difficult to perform the moves with than a narrower knife. However, the unique feature of this set is the "thumbprint" on the two colored handle,  making it appear as if the color was painted on "live", and providing a very unique routine.
Enardoe knives

Routine: The original Enardoe routine is one I consider a classic and is very well done. I don't know if it comes with any of the newer versions of this knife, however. The instructions came on a two-sided 8.5"x5.5" sheet with illustrations and a very logical routine that is not too hard for beginners.
Enardoe:

The first color changing knife set I owned was from E.O. Drane, otherwise known as the Enardoe knives (E.O. Drane spelled backwards). This came standard as a two knife set: one regular and one gimmicked in black and white. They used to be available with either a regular all white knife or regular all black knife. This would expand the routine capabilities by obtaining two sets to provide a three knife set (well, four counting the two gimmicked knives). In my searches, however, the all-black knives don't seem to be available anymore. The Enardoe knives used to be made by Imperial Knife Co. in the USA, and they are the "trick" knives in that only the magician can open them. These knives were and still are widely available in the used market, so you may be able to find suitable additional knives at yard sales, auctions, and knife shops. The knives are fairly flat, and the covers have a slight curve to them. They don't flash when laid on a table, but their flatness and width make them slightly harder to handle, especially for smaller hands. They represent a good, basic set. While the original Enardoe knives are no longer available, you can find replicas from several manufacturers for around $15. I believe the current sets are made by Morris, Empire, and Royal Magic. The trick knife feature is a nice bonus. I have also seen on the Internet a Roy Rogers knife that appears to be similar. This might add to your patter potential as a final switch.
Fantastic Magic Knives 1
Currently Available Knives

Fantastic Knives Old
Older style knives (no longer available)

Fantastic Magic Company, Inc.

Owner Gary Frank. Gary Frank had carried on the Merrill Color Changing Knives after purchasing the company in 1975. After production of the Merrill knives was ceased, Gary began to produce the knives seen in the top photo, which are currently available from him.

These knives have several advantages: 1) they aren't too wide; 2) they have bolsters at both ends, which makes them very symmetrical and eliminates any "show" when spectators view the knives from the ends; 3) the stag/smooth handle differences make finding the correct knife in your pocket easier; and 4) they look like regular pocket knives.

The knives are 2 7/8" long and a three knife set comes with Dr. Merrill's Classic Color Changing Knives and Paddle Routines booklet (a subset of the Merrill Knife book). Gary also offers a Visible Color change knife (also in B&W) for $20. In overall handling, I still prefer the Mogar knives, but Gary's knives represent a suitable alternative.

These knives are also available from Mark Wilson, along with a short 18 minute DVD of Mark's straightforward color changing knife routine.

The bottom photo is a set of double bladed knives that were the predecessors to the above knives, but sadly are no longer available. They feature two blades, which makes them thicker and heavier. This extra thickness and weight greatly enhances the handling with these knives. These knives were of good quality and were made by the Colonial Knife Company in the USA. Highly recommended if you can find them.
frahme knife 1
frahme knives 2


Michael Frahme's Custom Color Changing Knives.

Michael made these knives just for himself and was kind enough to donate a few photos for this web site. They are not available for sale, but they do show what a nice set of custom knives can come out like. Michael wrote that the guys at Tannen's in NY wanted a set, but he had to tell them he didn't want to go into business. Michael used CASE peanut knives as the base.

Michael also sent me photos of the Weber knife case (see below)
Funtime Ganson Knives
India knives
Routine: The routine that comes with the "Ganson" set (top photo) is very good, and is simply a reprint of the routine as found in Ganson's Routined Manipulation (see the Books section for a full table of contents listing). The other set is titled Three Color Changing Pen Knife, and is provided on two single sided illustrated A4 sized sheets. It includes two basic routines, and describes The Paddle Move, The Flick, and The Switch.
Funtime Magic / "Ganson" Knives:

Around the year 2000, some inexpensive sets were made in India known as the Ganson knives, since with one of the sets a routine by Lewis Ganson (from his book, Routined Manipulation) is included. There were five knife colors available: black, white, red, blue, and white with colored stripes. The black, white, red and blue handles are plastic, with one rivet and probably glued the rest of the way. The striping on the white knife is achieved through a clear striped sticky paper. I didn't peel it off, but this idea could be used to make a regular knife into a color changing knife if you can find some clear tape with colored stripes on it, or for that matter, colored tape. The colors are "dull", rather than shiny. There is one bolster, and the liners and bolster are silver. The handles are rounded at the edges, which aids in the handling. Even though they are rounded, they don't flash easily as long as your angles are right, but you need to use more caution than with the flatter Enardoe knives. Also, because the color goes all the way to one end, you have to be sure to keep this end away from the audience because the non-bolster end does flash.

The knives are cheaply made with no country of origin stamped on the blades. They are difficult to open, and some don't close cleanly (each knife varies). The fit and finish is not so good, and there are significant gaps between the bolsters and the handles.

In addition, the sets also come with a brass bent metal knife holder, so you can keep the knives straight while in your pocket. However, the holders don't work so well because they use a single piece of elastic. When one knife is removed, the other knife now hangs too loosely in the holder. This can be easily remedied, however, by simply replacing the elastic with individual pieces.

I purchased two sets in order to obtain all the colors. Despite the low cost and cheap quality, these knives are decent to work with. They "work well", in my hands anyway, and they are inexpensive enough that if you lose one you won't be too upset! I could recommend these knives as a good first set. Their main advantage over the Enardoe knives is the variety of colors available, but I certainly give the Enardoe-style knives the edge in quality
Lee Kibbey Custom Knives Lee Kibbey Custom Knives

MagicLanny makes a knife set based on a Winchester knife. The reviews on Richard Mendez' The Magic Museum site (www.themagicmuseum.com) rates them very well.

They can be purchased directly, and sets are occasionally found available on e-Bay.

I have heard good things about these knives from others as well, and they are available in a variety of materials, as seen in the photo.
Merrill Knives
merrill pakistan compared
Merrill Million 2 One
Routines: Merrill's Knife Book would have likely been purchased along with these knives. It is fully described in the Books section and is an excellent resource no matter what set of knives you own. Gary Frank sells the Merrill Knife Book, along with a more inexpensive "extract" in booklet format.
Merrill Knives:

by Dr. R.D. Merrill. Ah, these knives are nice, but sadly no longer commercially available (production of the silver bolstered knives ceased in 1977). My first introduction to these knives was the purchased of a used set in red and white, with a third visible change knife. After purchasing, I was informed that the set I obtained were not "original" Merrill knives, but later generation copies. These later generation Merrill-type knives have brass bolsters and were made in Pakistan. The originals have silver bolsters and were made in Japan.

I have since obtained a set of "original" Merrill's as well, shown here in the top photo. The colors are pearlized, and look very normal for a knife. The knife is fairly flat, but narrower and more square than the Enardoe knives, so they handle very easily. The flatness (along with bolsters at both ends) also helps them not to flash, and they can be laid on the table without fear. The blades open and close well with a good snap. Three rivets hold each cover on.

Original Merrill's came in Red/White or Black/White, and in the later years, more colors were made available.

For me, these knives are about perfect. If you can find a set, I highly recommend them. Even the inferior Pakistani-made sets are pretty good (since they've copied the basic Merrill design), though the fit and finish leave much to be desired.

The middle photo shows a Pakistani knife on the left (brass bolsters) and an original Merrill knife (silver bolsters) on the right. The better fit and finish of the original Merrill knife is clearly apparent. I should also mention that for some reason I can't get a really good photo of these knives. I think they look much better in person.

The bottom photo shows the Merrill "Million to One" knife, issued in a Jumbo size, to be used as a "Hot Rod" style knife. This knife was available in the late 60's, early 70's, and is likely quite a collectors item (this photo courtesy Gary Frank). As seen below, Ray Szwec re-introduced this concept, which is now available from Joe Mogar.

Jumbo Merrill Knives (Pakistan)

Gary Husson recently (2011) had a set of these jumbo Merrill style knives for sale on e-Bay. He did not make the Merrill connection, and I am just speculating based on the similar appearance, brass bolsters, and that these knives were indeed make in Pakistan.
jpjackson large
J.P. Jackson
              Custom Knife
J.P. Jackson Knives
J.P. Jackson Custom Knives:

There are probably many custom sets out there in magicland. J.P Jackson used to be found working at Brad Burt's Magic Shop in San Diego until Brad closed up his brick & mortar shop.

J.P. makes sets using CASE brand knives, which are excellent. The main problem has been in getting a supply of knives to work from however. CASE stopped making both the designs that J.P. used as his base. Thus, J.P. can only make sets as older knives are made available to him, which certainly drives up the price!

The top photo is of one of J.P.'s original sets. I had never seen a set of these knives until this photo was sent to me from Mike Rogers, who was kind enough to let me post it here. By the looks of the photo, they appear to be an excellent set. When Mike sent me the top photo, he stated that these knives were great, but that he still preferred his Sanders' knives.

In an interesting bit of trivia, J.P. re-acquired this set after Mike's passing, so they are now of extra value to him!

More recently, J.P. was able to find another CASE design that made for a nice color changing knife set. The photo at left and the one below are of a more recent (2006) creation. As with the above set, CASE no longer makes this knife either, so availability is an issue.

 J.P. told me he is still currently (Oct 2006) making custom knives on a case by case basis and he is eager to speak to knife enthusiasts. J.P. Jackson does not have a Web presence, you need to use the old fashioned land line (telephone)! You can contact J.P. Jackson at: (858) 569-0096 (phone number included here at J.P.'s request).

Costs for custom knife sets will vary depending on the knives used and availability, but certainly plan on spending over $200 for a three knife set
Mogar Knives
Mogar stag
Routines: The routines supplied with Joe's knives are very good, and the routine you get depends on the set purchased. All sets come with a separate set of illustrated instructions that explain the moves, including The Master Twist, Push Through, Push Thru Change, Push In Vanish, and Twirl Change. The routines that I have seen are Mogars's Fantasy Knives and Mogar's Miracle Knife Routine; both of which are well done and clearly explained
Mogar Knives:

Joe Mogar knives have become (in my opinion) the "industry standard", and for good reason. They are reasonably priced, good quality, well designed, and come in a wide variety of colors. In addition, jumbo and miniature knives are available to add to the variety of magic possibilities.

There is no country of origin stamped on the blades, and the fit and finish is good. In addition, the Mogar knives fit the bill as a workable pocket knife. They open well, and have a good snap. The colors are solid, and I can say the knife looks like a pocket knife should.

The single bolster and liners are made of brass, and the covers are put in place by three rivets that look the same on both sides. As stated, a wide variety of colors are available: red, white, black, yellow, and green just some examples. A visible color change knife is available, as are some specialty knives such as an American Flag knife.

Joe also makes the Whit Haydn knives, which feature black stag handles (see bottom photo). The black stag-type handle allows you to easily determine which side is which when reaching for a knife in your pocket. There is no shield. 

The covers are rounded, and this is my only mis-giving with the Mogar knives. If you aren't careful with your angles, the knives could flash, though this shouldn't be a problem for most routines. If this does bother you, Joe also makes a line of "Perfect Knives" that have silk-screened colors under clear covers, with no possibility of flashing!

Knives are about $20 each for the regular knives, and $30 or so for specialty knives. Joe sells complete sets with good routines and vinyl carrying cases.

All the knives handle very well, and I highly recommend them. Overall, I rate them higher than the Ganson and Enardoe products, and on par with the Merrill knives.
mogar tiny knives Mogar Tiny Knives: Joe Mogar also makes some other interesting knives, including a Rainbow Knife, a Hot Rod knife (by Ray Szwec, see below), large jumbo knives, a flag knife, bone handled knives, and others. The photo at right are the tiny knives. See Joe's website for the latest prices and availability.

Pace, Jim: The Vanishing Pocket Knife Gone. Both sides of a pocket knife are shown. The magician announces he will make the knife a goner. Suddenly both sides of the knife have the word "Gone" on them. Next, the knife really vanishes from the hands. With knife, gimmick, and instructions. $20.
swiss knives
Routine: I was also disappointed because I was hoping that at least my purchase might include a good routine, but alas, Dave's instructions were pretty meager. The instruction sheet is 1992, and is a single-sided yellow sheet about 7"x6" sheet with three illustrations.

Routine: Two knives are shown and examined. Blue knife is put in pocket. The remaining knife is vanished (using your favorite method) and returns with the other knife. A white knife is removed from the pocket, and changes to Blue. It changes color a few times, until it vanishes and both knives are now removed again for examination.
Dave Powell's Color Changing Swiss Army Knife.
I purchased these knives in Aug 2006, and as far as I know they were the last set left at Midwest Magic. I had put off buying a Swiss Army knife because these knives are a bit too wide and shallow and make handling a bit more difficult. However, since I carry a similar knife on my keychain all the time, I figured I should at least have a set in my collection, and they weren't too expensive (which is important for my budget!)

Although my suspicions held out, overall I was pleasantly surprised. Handling is similar to the Enardoe knives. That is, in my smaller hands at least, the moves are quite doable, but don't come quite as easy as with the Mogar knives, and I have to make sure my hands are a bit "tacky" and not too dry. The knives are very short, however, so they feel very comfortable in the hands. The stark contrast between the blue and the white makes up for their small size in visibility.

One other negative, besides the wideness, is the lack of bolsters makes these knives subject to flashing, so you have to be careful with the handling. I would use these knives in a more casual setting, perhaps taking the knife off your keychain to show a quick trick, since close scrutiny could betray the secret.

Although I don't think Dave Powell's version is available any more, I have seen occasional references to Color Changing Swiss Army Knives during Google searches.
Riser CCK
Photo courtesy James Riser
James Riser's Color Changing Knives

James Riser has started making small runs of color changing knives. They are currently available two or three knife sets in Red/LightBlue, Red/Yellow, Purple/Yellow, Navy Blue/Red, Purple/Red, Light Blue/Yellow, or Red/Green.

They look to me much like the same knife base as Joe Mogar's knives, but I don't own a set to make a side-by-side comparison.

James' work is always of top quality, and at $60 a set (as of Nov 2009), they are quite affordable.

I don't believe they come with a routine.
Riveting the
              knife
Riveting the Handle

Rodger Lovins Hot Knife Rodger Lovins' Magic Hot Knife

Rodger Lovins' recent version of the "Hot Rod" effect in color changing knife form.

While the old Merrill version and the Ray Szwec/Joe Mogar version use multiple handle pieces to make up the rainbow, this knife appears to have the colors just painted on.

Rodger's effects can be found at: http://www.rodgerlovinsmagic.com
Ronjo Transposing Color Knives Ronjo Transposing Color Changing Knives.

These knives are currently available from Ronjo. They are inexpensive at $15 for a set of three, and are about the same size as the Swiss Army knives above. Because the color is inlaid in the handle instead of going all the way to the edges, these knives will never flash. However, they are also a bit too wide to make the handling easy. Thus, even though they are designed for the beginner, they are not all that easy for the beginner to use. Instructions are sparse, taking up 4 panels of a 4.25"x11" sheet, with no illustrations. Made in China.

Routine Outline: Red Knife & White Knife in fist. Red knife removed and changes to White; Red knife revealed in fist. Red knife to pocket & White one in fist; White turns to Red and White knife is removed from pocket.  Red knife left in fist and White returned to pocket. Fist is opened to reveal White knife, Red is removed from pocket, and all can be examined.

Also supports the Ronjo Trick-Key Chain system. This is a series of tricks that you can carry with you on a specially designed key-chain. See Ronjo's website for details.
Sanders Knives Sanders' Knives:

The Jimmy Sanders' knives seem to be considered by those who own them to be the best ever available.

Since I have never seen a set in person, it is difficult for me to comment. Mike Rogers had sent me a photo of his personal set that was almost 50 years old, and stated that these knives "were made for the trick and they are perfect."

The large blade is stamped "SAMCO TENN" for Sanders' Manufacturing Company, Tennessee. The original set came with three knives, one with a removable bone handle so you could even have the handle disappear! In his book, "The Complete Mike Rogers", Mike states that the routine included with the knives "tended to be lengthy, but good".

Obvious features from the photo include: 1) Bolsters on both ends; 2) looks like a real knife, with multiple blades; 3) Even though the knives appear flat in the photo, the multiple blades will necessarily thicken the knife, enhancing the ability to perform the knife moves.

Sanders' knives go for considerable money when you can find them.

The set to the right belongs to Steve Goldstein. You can see that the knives were available in quite a variety of colors and materials
Ultra Color Changing Knives Michael Silver (Bay Area Magic) Ultra-Color Changing Knives

The Ultra-Color Changing knives were produced around 2001 by Michael Silver of Michael Silver Magic, though the company name at the time was Bay Area Magic. About 36 sets were produced. They were favorably reviewed in Genii Magazine.

They share a similar knife design as one of the Eric Wolf knives (see above), but without the rivet. They featured fine wood handles in walnut and maple with chrome finish bolsters on each end. The base knives were manufactured by Frost Cutlery. Each measures 2 3/4 inches with rounded contours and uniform shape, and they handle well. They were available in a two knife set for about $100.
Smash Climax Knives Smash Climax Knives: I got these miniature knives along with my purchase of the Pakistani-made Merrill-type knives. They are excellent for use as a "smash climax" ending to a knife routine, where a flood of tiny knives falls from the performer's hand.

I don't know the manufacturer, but these knives are well made for such a small size. The knives do all open, and you can see how small they are in comparison to the dime.

As far as I know, these knives are no longer available, but Joe Mogar makes a set of tiny knives that could be used.
sparkle knives Sparkle Knives:

These knives look like Merrill Pakistani knives, but with very glitzy handles.

(photo courtesy Ray Szwec)
Stanfield's Colorusing Knife
Image from an unknown e-Bay seller
Stanfield's Colorfusing Knife:

Another set from the past, John C. Stanfield's Colorfusing Knife. Note that the knives include a ring at the end to hold a keychain. At the beginning of the routine, the knife would be removed from the keychain. The color changes would occur. At the end the knife is tossed into the hand holding the keychain with keys, and immediately the hand is opened to reveal the knife is back on the chain.

Knives are approximately 3 inches long (closed).
beyond belief knives
The Routine was supplied on a two-sided 8.5x11" sheet, with no illustrations. Instructions are decent, describing The Paddle Turn, Hand Flip, Color Change, and The Convincer, which are then followed by the routine description.
Supreme Beyond Belief Knives:

I purchased this set used and sight unseen. Had I seen them, I likely would have let them pass. These knives remind me of fishing lures! I don't know the manufacturer, but I wonder if they are from The Supreme Magic Co. as the instructions state "Beyond Belief's Supreme Colour-Changing Knives Routine." The instructions are in a format of other Supreme Magic sheets I've seen, and color is spelled in the U.K. way.

Only one knife of the set is gimmicked. Another knife was supposed to be connected to a reel (not included in my purchase) for a vanish at the end of the routine, to be found inside a case that has been sitting on the table. However, since the case is never shown to be empty, I don't feel the routine was too strong at this point.

One of the unique features of this set is that two of the knives intentionally have the blades further set into the handle than the others. This aids the handling. One of the other knives is the one that vanishes via the reel, and the other knife is found inside the velvet box at the end. Handling of these knives is acceptable, though they are much too wide for my tastes.
Hot Rod Knife
Ray Szwec Hot Rod Knife:

Ray Szwec had Joe Mogar produce a rainbow knife that can be used for the popular Hot Rod effect. This knife could make an excellent addition to any Color Changing Knife routine. After the knife explodes into a 6 color rainbow knife, you ask the spectator to pick a number from one to six. The knife then changes to the corresponding color for a triumphant climax. As seen in the Jan 2003 issue of Genii and the June 2002 issue of The Linking Ring.

(see also Ray's custom knives, further below)
Szwec Knive
Ray Szwec Knives
Szwec Small
Ray Szwec Custom
Color Changing Knives

Some years ago Ray came up with the idea of making a Hot Rod Color Changing Knife (without knowing about the earlier Merrill version). Joe Mogar is currently making this knife along with Joe's other excellent knives (see above).

Recently, Ray has begun experimenting on a small scale with some of his own knives and has been offering them on e-Bay. Pictured to the left is a set that was sold on e-Bay. A set that I purchased are shown below (the three larger knives to the left).

The knives are of Chinese origin, but are well made. The size is over 3", so they are a bit unusual to handle, but the weight is great! I can't do some of the normal color changing knife moves (such as some vanishes) since these knives stick out of my hands, but they are certainly suitable for many routines.

The only other downside of this current crop is the inclusion of the Crest on the handle. In my view, the color change should be a simple as possible, and the inclusion of the emblem just complicates it a bit. Ray tells me he is planning on making some other versions soon that don't include the Crest. On the other hand, such an emblem is a part of many ordinary knives, so it certainly isn't totally out of place.

Ray also started making a set of smaller knives based on a Marbles' Cutlery Small Doctors pocket knife. A comparison with Ray's larger knives is shown to the right, and a closer look at the new model is below. Ray only makes a two-knife version in this smaller size because of the need to custom make one handle.

While many Marbles' knives are made in the USA (and are quite pricey), the newest owner has begun a set of "international" knives that are made in China and are less expensive. The quality of these knives appears to be pretty good, with nice fit & finish and a good "snap" to the spring.

The Marbles' knife is 3 1/4" and features two blades: a spear blade and a special "spatula" blade. My only compliant with this knife as a base is that it is a bit too square. The knife almost turns over on its own in your hand if you are not careful. I did find a good use for this, however, as this "rolling" makes easy a quick color change by simply waving one hand over the other. If this knife were single bladed, I think it would have been perfect!

Ray's craftsmanship is good. The bone handle is smooth and meets the bolsters well. He has taken the extra step to duplicate the rivets as seen on the bone handle side, which is a lot of extra work.

You can look for Ray's knives on e-Bay (seller buckthornroad) or contact him personally at: szwec <at> optonline.net (replace the <at> with the normal @ symbol; done this way to help Ray avoid automatic spammers!)
tamariz knives

Routines: I do not have any information on the routine that would have come with this set.
Juan Tamariz' Color Changing Knives.

Stevens Magic Emporium had these in their catalog for some time, but they don't seem to be available any longer. They look very similar to the Tamariz' knives below, with a dull finish, and include a ring on one end as shown in the photo. These knives are featured in Stevens' Greater Magic Library Volume 41 featuring Juan Tamariz (thus the name).

They also appear to be the knives described in Jose De La Torre's translation of Ascanio's World of Knives. Jose De La Torre recommends the key-ring ring to aid in identifying the knife in your pocket. Also, though hard to see in this photo, the knives only have two rivets, making them more symmetrical when flipped.

I have never handled these knives, so I cannot comment on their use, but they look to be the right size and shape and are probably worth getting! A few years ago, you could get a set of these for about $65 for a three knife set.

Used knives can often be found at Ron Allesi's auction site at:

http://www.ronallesimagic.com/
tannen knives
(Photo courtesy Ray Szwec)
Tannen's Magic - Tony Spina:
Definitive Color Changing Knives
.

These "knives" are unique in that there are no real blades, which makes them safe for handling. They were also designed with Formica handles inlaid to prevent flashing.

The original set included the Merrill Knife Book. The two knife set with Merrill Knife book listed for $45 in the 1990's. I'm not sure if they are still available. Even though they don't have working blades, I still don't think I'd risk taking them on my airline carry-on luggage!
Jose De La Torre Knives
Routines: Jose De La Torre authored the English translation of Ascanio's World of Knives. This is an excellent book, though currently out of print and difficult (and expensive!) to find. Hopefully it will be re-published as a future volume in the recent Ascanio books.
Jose M. De La Torre Knives

I purchased this two knife set from e-Bay. According to the instructions, it was supposed to come with three knives (the full red knife was missing from the set). The instructions look original, and are (c) Jose M. De La Torre 1976. The red knife has some blemishes, and the white knife is slightly cracked at the edges, but overall they are in good shape.

The imprint on the blades are a bit difficult to read, but it looks like it says: "IPAYA INOXIDABLE" (the Ipaya is clear, the 2nd word is a bit pressed together). "Inoxidable" is a Spanish word for "Stainless Steel", Ipaya seems to be a place in Tanzania or perhaps Nigeria, Africa. So, perhaps these are African made knives (?).

The knives appear to be identical to the Juan Tamariz' knives above, at least in design. I'm sure there have been several manufacturers of these style of knives through the years. The blades open cleanly, and overall the quality is very nice.

In handling, I still find the Mogar superior, but these knives are certainly fine and I know they are preferred by some. They seem to be exactly as defined in Jose's translation of Ascanio's World of Knives.

As of January 2007, these sets still seem to be periodically sold on e-Bay (I don't know how many he has in stock!). You can check e-Bay seller     mhmagicmagazines now and then to see if any are available.
Eric Wolf Knives Eric Wolf's Color Changing Knives:

Eric Wolf of Bay Area Magic produced various sets of color changing knives back in the late 1990's. A pair of knives cost around $90 a pair or so (if memory serves me correctly) and were well received. The handle covers are made of various materials, including walnut and maple wood. I had seen a pair at Denny & Lee's magic shop, but alas neglected to ask if I could handle them so I can't make any comments on performance!

A similar pair of knives known as the Ultra Knives were produced using the same pattern of knife shown here in the upper left, but did not include the rivet and were not produced by Eric Wolf.

I had confused these knives in a previous edition of this page and I apologize!
scotty york knives

Routine: The routine was an integral part of this set. It was a complete 36 page book by Scott York: Original Handling and Presentation of The Color Changing Pocketknives. It is a very good routine, and a full description can be found in the Books section. 
Scotty York Knives:

I don't own a set of these knives, and sadly they are no longer available. According to a post on the Genii forum by Brad Jeffers, there were 8 different color combinations made. "The first ones produced were a set of 4 knives, 1 solid white, 1 solid black, 1 black/white and 1 black/yellow. In later sets the black/yellow was replaced with a black/red, the reason being that some people were concerned with there not being enough contrast between the white and yellow colors (although Scotty still prefers the original yellow). There was also another set of 3 knives made - the "colorfusing" set. This consists of a solid red knife, a red/white, and red/white knife with one side two thirds white and one third red, for a "visible" color change." The set pictured at the left appears to be a mix of these!

There are many good features about these knives: 1) they look just like a knife you would carry, including color choices; 2) bolsters on both ends help prevent flashing; 3) size and shape enhance the moves; 4) use of a stag handle aids locating the knife in your pocket.

Potential negatives include: 1) Shield on one side takes attention away from color change, and some people actually think this is a button that causes the knives to change color (!); 2) On the samples I saw, there were noticeable gaps between the covers and the bolsters, though the knives opened and closed well. I don't know who made the knives or if they are stamped with the name of the manufacturer (I forgot to look at the base of the blade).

The photo here was contributed by Michael Close.  The pictured set sold on e-Bay for over $150. A similar 4 knife set sold in April 2005 for $135.
knives compared
This is a side by side comparison of several of the knives. From left to right: Ronjo; Powell Swiss Army Knife; Fantastic Magic Co. (Current), Merrill (Japan); Jose De La Torre; Fantastic Magic Co. (Older style); Ganson (India); Enardoe Style



Knife Cases: 

One of the potential problems in performing the Color Changing Knives routine is management of the knives in your pocket, especially if you are using three or more knives in your routine. Making sure you retrieve the correct knife facing the correct direction can be critical! Also, just carrying your knives in your pocket along with other items can scratch your investment.

I am not aware of too many cases on the market designed specifically for the Color Changing Knives. The following are a few that I know about (see also the knife case in the Tamariz Knife set pictured above):


Starsinic Knife Cases Frank Starsinic at TheAmitiousCard.com makes a wide range of quality leather products (including Chop Cups!). He has added to his product line two different cases for carrying your knives. The first (top photo) is a leather "squeeze" case. The top part of the case holds up to 4 knives. You can arrange the knives in the desired order, and the open design allows them to be grabbed quickly without fumbling. In addition, the bottom part of the case features a squeeze closure, in which you can place a set of tiny knives for the famous Jose de la Torre Smash Climax ending.

The 2nd knife case is a zippered case that will protect your knives from other objects while in transit. In addition, it will hold the knives securely for easy access during your performance.

At the time of this writing (Aug 2006), the zippered case was $29 and the squeeze case was $24. Check out Frank's site for the latest updates and prices.
weber case 1
weber case 2
Weber, Michael: Double Edge Knife Case: Scotty York talks of this case in his routine. This enables you to carry either a two knife or three knife set and not only protects your knives but also gives you control over the location of each colored knife. There is an additional pocket for holding and releasing the Smash Climax tiny knives for the finale. Came complete with a 19 page instructional manual by Phil Varrichio and Michael Weber, and the price was $40

As far as I know, this case is no longer available. Description and pricing were from an older listing at Denny & Lee's.

(Photos courtesy of Michael Frahme)

Metal Knife Holder

This next image is of the simple holder that comes with the India "Ganson" knife sets. It consists of a piece of bent brass, with slots to allow the elastic band to fit through. The basic design is flawed, however. When two knives are in the holder, all is well. When one knife is removed however, the other knife now fits loosely, because a single piece of elastic is use. This can be easily remedied, however, by simply replacing the elastic with your own. Also, while this holder may work okay for a coat pocket. the metal edge is a bit rough for use in the pants pocket!

Mogar Holder

This next holder is a simple and inexpensive solution provided with one of my sets of Joe Mogar knives. it is simply a plastic pouch that has been trimmed at the top so the knives can stick out for easy access. The pouch fits very flat, and will hold the knives securely enough for performance. It appears that the Frank Starsinic case will hold 4 knives in this same width, however, because of the more precision fit.

Please send me any comments, suggestions, information on other sets!

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