What was your first set of clubs?
Be they novelties or the real deal and what did you like or dislike about them? What clubs do you use now? why?
My first clubs were Freaks Unlimited Kestrel clubs. You won't have heard of them. It was 20 years ago.
They were yellow one piece clubs, with a "suede" wrapped handle (because I was flashy like that), and decorated with red PVC tape circus stripes. A long time ago I gave them away to a juggler who was just starting to learn clubs. I sort of wish I hadn't.
Being one piece clubs, they weren't exactly great - but they were better balanced than the flare clubs my mate had (with the lovely cuboid knobs) and had a little dimple in the end of the knob to help them balance on your chin.
A little while later I bought a 4th one cheap from the "seconds" bin in the Freaks shop on Park St, Bristol. I've still got that one. I don't like it. It's an imposter.
A few years later (94 I think), my sister and I went on holiday to the south of france, where we met Eddie Konig who happened to be staying on the same camp site. He taught us to pass clubs and juggle fire! I had a great deal of fun remembering that holiday with him in the bar at the Crawley convention a few years back.
When we got back to the UK we saved up and bought some Freaks Acrobats - the first club ever produced with a plastic dowel! Mine were black with orange UV decorations, and my sister had pink UV decorations. I bought a UV tube to make them glow. I loved those clubs, elegant thin handles, nice loopy spin... I've still got all 6.
We also bought some "Beard Street Pro" fire torches. They were awful. I always wished I'd spent the extra couple of quid each for Henrys NiteFlites. I bought those from butterfingers at a Bristol convention.
I juggled those until about 1998, when I bought a set of white beard circus specials (IIRC from the Selly Oak Juggling stall at the Birmingham (ladywood) convention) because that's what all my friends had and it made passing a bit more pleasant.
I decorated them all over with purple glitter tape so they looked like the Todd Smith Satelites Jamie Fletcher was juggling at the time. Still got those too.
I pretty much stuck with those until about 2007, when I decided I wanted to work on 5 clubs a bit. John Udry was selling a set of 7 Henrys Delphins cheap - so I bought them.
These days, I don't juggle any of the above (I hardly juggle clubs apart from when I'm at fests) and when I do juggle clubs, I home in on other peoples Henrys Albatross clubs. I love them. The weight, the slow graceful lofty spin, the space they take up in the air, the feeling of achievement you get from working that hard... I just don't juggle often enough to justify buying a set.
> We also bought some "Beard Street Pro" fire torches. They were awful.
Weirdly I read that as "Bastard Street Pro" torches. They were widely unloved. They also earned me (in highly modified form) tens of thousands of pounds standing outside chav swill holes juggling fire for £££.
> I always wished I'd spent the extra couple of quid each for Henrys NiteFlites.
It's a bloody good job you didn't, they're over-rated and overpriced, and unless you're very delicate they are one of the few Henry's products to be wholly inadequate for heavy professional use. And unless you were fool enough to pay Beard's tourist rates for your SPs then NiteFlites were rather more than a couple of quid extra.
The thing about the original Street Pros is that they were essentially a really rather nice design of club, hamstrung by being cheaply and thoughtlessly knocked out. For instance they used a staple to secure the collar to the dowel, which then failed at that exact spot. The slightly loose fit also allowed fuel to run down between the collar and the dowel into the interior of the handle wrap, resulting in all sorts of unnecessary mess and smell. I remember telling Dave Marchant, aka Dr. Spot, about it and him being incredulous that they didn't just use engineering adhesives that would have resolved such a simple problem permanently and effectively.
To this day, I'd still like the opportunity to design a pro fire torch for someone.
"The thing about the original Street Pros is that they were essentially a really rather nice design of club, hamstrung by being cheaply and thoughtlessly knocked out" - very much this, and I bought mine back before Greg took over and started "value engineering" everything. I shudder to think what they'd be like today.
I think mine were quite an early generation, they had "heat proof paint" protecting the wooden chunk in the middle (which bubbled and blistered the very first time I lit them) the wooden chunk in the middle was two pieces glued together and turned, which (obviously) split after not a huge amount of use. The aluminium shaft extended about 5mm into the wood, which obviously caused a weak point as the dowel split at exactly that point a little further down the line.
They leaked fuel into the handle which dissolved the adhesive on the handlewrap causing it to deteriorate into a sticky mess, the rubber o-ring lasted about 10 minutes longer than I expected it to.
I did an awful lot of repairs to those clubs over the years I had them. My dad found them in the garage a couple of months back and asked if I wanted them. I said he should double bag them and send them up the tip. Awful, awful things they were.
My mate who bought niteflites though had none of the above problems. Sure he had other problems (mostly with the wick I seem to remember) but nowhere near as many as I had with the street pros.
I think we've discussed torch design in the past, and whilst we disagree about the street pros, I think we largely agreed on what our "ideal" torch would end up like (and that fire is a terribly messy and smelly way to earn a crust)
To this day, I'd still like the opportunity to design a pro fire torch for someone.
You can't just leave it there!
What would you do differently?
Well, me and LP have resolved this problem in Brizzle fashion before now, by parking our arses in a field, necking beer, and setting the world to rights. For a number of years I had a very clear idea of what I wanted in a fire torch, based on the countless, tedious hours of juggling I was doing outside bars back then.
Here's a list of some of the key points :-
I'd also ensure that I had a functioning set of six at any given time. This is so that you dip set A; dip set B; burn set A whilst set B is dripping excess fuel back into the dipping container; rinse and repeat exchanging sets each time. Using this method along with the big wicks, I found that I was getting 4-5 minutes burn time with each dip, and as the sets warmed up they would evaporate any excess fuel while they were waiting their turn to be used. Because they were kept warm, when lit they would explode into life with a satisfying 'whoompf' yet there would never be any excess fuel to fly off.
If you'd asked me the same question a few years ago I'm sure there would've been quite few more points, but I haven't done those gigs for a long time now, and the frustrations are becoming more distant in my memory.
I think one of our key design criteria was that *everything* should be available as a spare part, and serviceable by the performer.
I can't remember what your opinion was about wicks (other than they need to be BIG) but personally I don't like the wrapped wicks which are secured with woodscrews that go through a bit of aluminium and into a piece of dowelling.
Mainly because wicks are effectively a consumable, and over the lifetime of the torch I would expect to have to replace the wick - hopefully several times (but partly because I had a hot screw burn my hand on a wrong-end catch once)
You could probably get around this problem to some extent by using the type of wick which is folded over in a square form on the end of the torch, secured with a machine screw through the wick and into a machined/threaded steel insert in the end of the torch. Square block wicks also hold a lot more fuel for their surface area than wrapped wicks, which can only be a good thing :)
The only other point I can remember is that while the centre of balance should be as club-like as possible (to make them pleasant to juggle) the widest part of the body should be quite a way forward, and should be wide enough that when they're lying on the ground, the wick is off the ground (ie the torch rests with the wide-bit and the knob in contact with the floor)
I think we had some ideas about the centre bulge part being a cage like construction, but that may have been another conversation with someone else.
I can't remember any other points though
My torches are Babache and I think they meet all of your listed requirements (you might need to add some wick!). Mind, I've never used them enough to thoroughly test their durability.
Passe Passe sell some that look pretty similar if you're in the amrket for some cheapo badly mad rip-offs ;o)
The NHS is great, I love the NHS dearly - but I don't like it enough to make full use of their burns unit by buying passe passe torches
Pardon my ignorance as I have only had dealings with them once, are passe passe known for cheapo badly made rip-offs?
If so that would explain my hats. They were advertised as Nils Polls' but I'm fairly sure they're not.
As I understand it, Chris' background is as an artist not an engineer (which may explain the quality) and has been reputed to have a rather... erm... "loose" approach to the ownership of design ideas.
I'm not sure who makes the "Nills Poll" hats that Passe Passe sell, but last time I saw any (years and years ago, back before Chris disgraced himself at a BJC) but they certainly didn't have an Andersen & Berner tag in them like the originals did at that time (I assume A&B are still making them? It's been almost 10 years since I bought one)
They were also made from a coarser felt, and they seemed to be 2 ply rather than the 3ply I was expecting - and they were *significantly* cheaper than anyone else was selling them for.
However, also at that time Passe Passe were working with Nills Poll on his hat manipulation DVD so I can only assume the hats they were selling under his name were officially sanctioned by Nills, even if they hadn't been made by his previous milliner A&B.
Ah that's a good point, I did get the DVD with them. This was back in ... 2007 (god bless gmail's search). The only reason I could easily tell the difference was that they were to replace the 'genuine' one I had, that accidentally got left in the pub. As you say, no label.
Oh my word. I've just clicked that link. Wow.
Somewhen around 1996, I accidentally left an almost brand new Dube top hat (which cost me about £50 I seem to remember) in a curry house in Birmingham. I think I'd only had it about a week.
It's heartbreaking when that happens. Assuming you didn't manage to get it back? The hat I left in the pub was also left with ALL of my kit - when I returned the next day they had my kit bag behind the bar waiting for me, but the hat was sadly gone forever.
I suppose I should really post something relevant to the original thread - my first clubs were / are beard circus specials, which I am still using.
It can't have been long before closing time when I left it there, but i was there at opening time the next day and the hat was gone :(
Mind you, it serves me right for going out on the lash and then to a curry house wearing a top hat.
I'm just so hipster 15years ahead of the hipsters
Handmade from cork, ramin dowel, turned wooden knobs, layered handles made from wrapped webbing tape, and a super spangly thermal shrink-wrap plastic finish.
I originally had four but the bloody dog ate one :-/
I have a similar story to Luke Wilson.
I'd borrowed a set of the old heavy Spotlight Europeans to learn with. So I bought some. Only there was a new model out by then, a little lighter. Purple dot, long handled, oil-slick decorations. They were really nice. Eventually I got bored, and moved on to.... errr, can't remember the order, but it might have been Renegades, Radical Fish or Henry's Europeans. Like Luke though, I have returned to the true path. For the last 6 years I've used Renegade95s, long handle, light weight, unwrapped handles. Proper clubs.
I had those before the current Renegades. They were the closest thing I could get to a Renegade (in terms of how they felt/span/juggled) in Britain for a nice cheap price at the time. Mine had custom handle wraps though, I didn't like their standard unwrapped ones. I've still got some of them in my workshop kit, but I donated a bunch to the Bristol Uni Circus Soc a few years ago.
Meanwhile, I just read Tom Renegade's comment on that Luke Wilson article. Interesting stuff.
My first set of clubs bought circa 1991 were 3 Spotlight European red spot (i.e. the heaviest ones). I like them, they are great for outdoor work and they were pretty tough but eventually the plastic started to crack around the top so I had to stop using them. I still have them in the garage. When I moved to practicing 4 and 5 clubs and passing I moved on to Henry's Pirouettes. These are nowhere near as durable and I replace on average two a year and currently have about 25 around the house and garage (decorated ones for cabaret work, single colours with matching handles for normal jobs, practice ones, ones to pass with my wife, some for my boys who are just getting in to club juggling.
I have other clubs but these are the only two clubs that I have juggled for any length of time.
My first set were a set of Pro Shots (a company who made garish plastic toys for kids) bought for me from a toy shop shortly after I learnt to juggle balls. I learnt to juggle with them but they were too small, too light & too bendy & I managed to snap all 3 of them in half within a couple of weeks of getting them through normal use.
I then bought a set of Henry's Pirouettes from Oddballs in Brighton which were absolutely lovely. When they gave out (I split the body of one, cracked a dowel in another & had a sheared screw in another, I made a working set of 3 out of my 5 & gave them to a beginner) after about 4 years I went through a phase of buying a set of Beard convention specials every 2 or 3 years which were a serviceable 'commodity' club. In 2006 I bought some PX3s & this year I bought some more. I think they are great.
The best clubs I had were the Pirouettes, but I just feel that I can be much more reckless with my PX3s which suits me much better!
I went to the wonderful Boggle juggling shop in Bath and asked Faye's advice.
She said either buy the cheapest in the shop, or buy the most expensive I could afford, because if I didn't buy expensive ones I'd be back in 3 months to upgrade, and so I shouldn't waste money on middle of the road ones.
I took her advice and bought the cheapest in the shop (Beard Beach clubs). They were awful, but good enough for me to learn with.
3 months later I was back in her shop buying the most expensive she had (Henry's Pirouettes). I seem to remember I got a very good price because the assistant serving me (a friend through the local juggling club) had just got off the phone with Donald and he was in a good mood. He said it was a 'Donald Grant' discount. Cheers Donald!
I still have them about 20 years later, and they're still my favourite clubs.
I completely agree with Faye's advice, but I'm just curious: did they stock any mid range clubs? :)
My first set were sticks of bamboo with tape wrapped around one end. I made these in 1992 and learnt to juggle with them. I don't know what happened to them.
I bought a set of 4 proper clubs in 1993, each of a different colour. I don't know what they were but they lasted a very long time. I think I bought them from More Balls Than Most when they had a shop in Horsham. Years later I gave them away so I can't find out what they were.
After that I went through several sets of Beard circus and Beard medium air (bought at Oddballs in London) before settling on the Henry's Delphin.
My mother in law used to run the florist a couple of doors down from the Horsham branch of MBTM. That whole section of the shopping centre is now a Wilkinsons.
Not funny or interesting, just true.
Yes, they remodelled that whole area of Swan Walk. I used to hang juggling in and around the shop every Saturday afternoon with a few others. Do you know what happened to the two guys who ran the shop and the Horsham juggling shop? Dave and Steve I think their names were.
No idea what happened to the guys from that shop, they're probably accountants now or something!
Dave Law might know, could be worth asking around at the Crawley fest?
God I love it when I post a question and it generates these pig conversations.
sometimes I'm not even in them or understand some of it but I like reading them and seeing how everyone speaks to each other.
I was thinking earlier, I'd like to hear your answer (or an answer from anyone who didn't learn to juggle on the dark ages)
I learned with Circus clubs. (Unsure of the maker.) They're really crappy clubs. Then I got Dube European clubs which I used for 7 years. Now I have Px3 Sirius clubs but I'm looking to sell them because clubs really aren't my thing.
I payed $105 ($35 ea.) plus $18.50 shipping. I'm prepared to let them go for $90 including shipping.
They are solid white Px3 Sirius with white wrapped handles. I've only used them twice. They're in new condition.
Oh boy, Well my first set (and only set of clubs) weren't from any actual juggling equipment manufacturers. Perhaps everyone here is familiar with the posters that say "keep calm and carry on"? Well that's where mine came from.
They are called Ridley's circus fantastic juggling clubs. You can find them on amazon for around twenty US dollars. (13.44 pounds for the English) They came in a box of three in red blue and yellow with silver wrapped handles. They are composite clubs with wooden dowels but they are extremely light and are the shortest I've seen coming in at 19 inches. All the dowels have snapped, the wrapping came off the yellow one, the knob flew off the red, the blue is still intact in spite of the chipped dowel inside. I've made repairs on all of them with duck tape and gorilla glue. (I have a degree in redneck engineering) They are by no means bad clubs in my opinion. I think I've gotten much more use and value out of them for what I paid. Plus I can pass them on to the next person that wants to learn.
The dowel is probably not "repairable" but it's probably replaceable.
Although you might want to compare the cost of the dowel and the cost of the clubs before deciding if you can be bothered :)
noo no these aren't like plays or things like that. no parts for sale.
I just need to get some new ones.
I just did an interesting search for 'Horsham' in the rec.juggling archives. I didn't think it would come up with much because I know rec.juggling hadn't existed for long. However, it turns out that the shop was actually Absolute Balls Ltd, not MBTM. However, my memory of the names of the two owners was correct. No mention of their full names here though.
Searching companies with the name 'Absolute Balls Ltd' gave some results. A company with that name was registered in 1993 and dissolved in 1996. The first director was a David Macpherson Boag, described as a juggler/director. This must be him then.
I also found reference to several conventions happening in Horsham around the time that I started juggling that I knew nothing about (I lived in Horsham not far from the convention site)!
I seem to remember that Steve Kaos was an Absolute Baller. Still around, still performing. https://www.stevekaos.co.uk/juggler.html
Blimey! Ken Zetie! Now there's a name I'd almost forgotten.
Anyone know if he's still around/juggling?
Also nice to see a level of detail in the festival review we don't get very often any more, what makes it even more special is that appears to be one of the first times the Radical Fish club (and what I assume is the Beard DX ball) were seen in public.
Does anyone juggle radical fish any more?
I do. I totally understand why people dislike them, but must of the issues are resolved by catching the club slightly higher on the handle.
Agreed, it doesn't take much of an adjustment to technique to make them work. I've even had people tell me it's *impossible* to do scissor catches with fish until I show them that it's not.
You can do a nice scissor catch by catching the knob at the bulb end rather than the handle end of a Radical Fish.
I still can't stand them though.
To put my opinion of them in context, these are my first clubs. I got them about a year ago, and they were cosmetic seconds (although I've yet to find what is wrong with them) and cost something in the region of £3 each. For that price, I can't fault them.
I learnt to juggle clubs with some PX3s that belonged to our club, and if money was no object I would have chosen them over Radical Fish clubs.
Radical fish are like marmite, you either love them or hate them.
Personally I prefer them to px3s, which is a bit like saying I prefer being punched in the face to being punched in the knackers
My first clubs were radical fish which I bought off my housemate who didn't like them, they suited my style (or encouraged my bad habit) of juggling very low. I then got some beard circus clubs which were slightly better. Then moved to York where everyone (except Rob) juggled fish so I moved back to fish again to make passing simpler. But fish do wear your hands out and are not very robust (I have a box somewhere with 15 fish in various states of repair).
I finally got some decent clubs, Henrys Pirouettes which have been great. I did dabble with Albatross which I find make me juggle better and are easier for learning tricks with, but no one at my local clubs likes to pass with Albatross so I mostly juggle Pirouettes which have lasted very well (apart from being run over by a bus).
3 Rolled up 'Friday-Ad' newspapers, secured with duct tape.
Followed by some Hawkins Bazaar nastiness that resembled clubs, awful design, broke within minutes.
White Beard Circus Specials - 'til I smashed them in anger :( Treatment they did not deserve.
Black Beard Circus Specials - heads of all the knob screws sheared off, bodged repairs.
Second hand PX3 Vegas - same problem, improved bodging, the survivors were used until the handle wraps disintegrated.
Play Prima - Current main set. Are unlikely ever to have knob screws shear off :) Functional weight, shape and durability. Cheap.
Mine were Beard Beach clubs - a truly terrible set of clubs!
Following that I bought some Henry's Delphins and have been happily using them ever since. I have had a brief flirtation with Radical fish and an even more brief play with Renegades, but always come back to Delphins.
I bought my first and only set of clubs around 6 years ago. They are Star Candy clubs from Mr. Babache although I'd like to call them zebra clubs. Since I've been juggling them for over 6 years I really like the feel of them and I've heard from other people that they like them too. There are however, still people who say "Get some real clubs! Buy Henries!" which I'm considering now.
Unfortunalety my clubs are beginning to break and the tops aren't perfectly flat so you can't do the impossible 'bounce to vertical position' trick.
I got my first set of clubs in the mid 80s from Clown Ally which was based in the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. I've got no idea what the make was. They were cast one piece plastic and quite heavy, one was slightly bent when I got them. They had little air bubbles in the plastic from the casting. Other jugglers who went to the Clown Ally workshops were Sean Gandini and Steve Rawlings.
First clubs were Beard Beach - one of which exploded into its constituent parts while passing and arrived in three pieces. They're great for that first half hour when your hands are too soft to handle razor sharp plastic handles, after which they're soggy and generally annoying. Into the workshop box they went...
Next a set of Spotlight Europeans which I still have today - as they weigh loads I've used them for walkabout jugglng at particularly windswept Fenland locations. Everyone in Cambridge had something similar at the time so I just went with the flow.
I had quite a few Beard Circus Specials as they were so good for the price but eventually settled on Henrys Albatross which I've had ever since (for about a decade). Like most Henrys kit they're well built, don't generally break and feel solid and predictable in the hand.
I also have some Henrys Niteflite torches (unlike Jay I like them but then I've never done as much fire juggling) and some Freaks Unlimited knives which are absolutely marvellous and simply the best juggling knife I've handled, ever.
Fish: just weird, new or old type. Fatheads: I'm not a clown, sorry. PX3s: too plasticky. Renegades: I quite like my knuckles how they are, thanks. Passe Passe: wouldn't even give them the time of day.
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