It's always a little odd watching trends come and go in magic. When I had my old blog there was a deluge of self-levitations and torn and restored card tricks. Then there was a haunted pack phase. And in the past couple years there have been a lot of "slide a card thru a dollar bill" tricks for whatever reason. Unlike trends in movies or music, magic trends have nothing to do with the audience and what they want, nor are they about a bunch of artists boldly following their muse. Instead it's just the insular and incestuous magician-centric creative process.
A recent trend comes in the form of pre-made force pads. A year or so ago, a professionally made pad came out that was universally praised. And it wasn't long before someone came out with something very similar, but quite a bit cheaper, cleverly called The Force Pad. Then, a little while after that, Alan Wong released The Svengali Notebook.
But this post isn't about which of these force pads is the best, this post is about if it's even necessary to buy a commercially available force pad in the first place. That's why I asked The Jerx On Your Side Consumer Action Squad to make one of these pads to evaluate the cost and feasibility of making one yourself.
What I wanted to determine is if a homemade pad was workable or if it would be too clumsy and finicky to use in the real world. So Chip, Tina S., Trent, Marsha, and Tina P. went out to see if they could make one of these pads.
First they went to Walmart and bought a 4-pack of notebooks (3 pictured).
Chip from the Jerx On Your Side team says, "Yes, you can buy notebooks at Walmart." That's a hot tip, Chip.
Then they went to a print shop and asked if they would use their guillotine chopper to cut a millimeter or so off the bottom of one of the notebooks (cut next to uncut).
Tina S. from the JOYS team tells us, "Yes, a print shop will cut a millimeter off the bottom of a notebook for you. They will ask you, 'What is this for?' You'll be like, 'Uhhh....' They'll say, 'You trying to fit it into a box or something?' You'll say, 'Sure, that's it.'"
Next they took a pair of pliers and bent up the end of the wire on both ends of the spiral from two notebooks (the cut one and a normal one) and twisted out the spiral.
Trent from the JOYS team astutely points out, "Yes, you can do this. That's how spirals and holes work. It's kind of fun."
Next they alternated sheets from the short notebook with sheets from the long notebook.
Marsha chimes in, "This just takes a few minutes, but it is the most time-consuming part of the process. And it is not fun like twirling around the spiral."
Then they took half the pile they just made, squared it up as best they could, added a back and front cover, reintroduced the spiral, bent in the ends of the spiral, and they had a force pad.
The JOYS team's Tina P. says, "There's not really anything for me to say. You just said it. It doesn't take five people to do this."
The edges of the pad looked fine. Essentially identical to an ungimmicked cheap pad.
In fact, maybe it was too good. Maybe the JOYS team didn't cut enough off.
I decided to test it with a scintillating trick I just came up with: forcing my favorite conjunction on someone from a book of conjunctions. What could be better than getting people to think of the word "and"?
I wasn't particularly confident as I held the notebook in my hands. Would it work?
Yeah, it worked completely fine.
The Jerx On Your Side Consumer Action Squad's Final Thoughts
Chip: "If you're performing professional shows, you may want to buy the commercially available pads, but these homemade ones work pretty much perfectly. As a bit of an amateur magician (with the ladies) I would be perfectly content to use the homemade version."
Tina S.: "Even the pros might be content with the homemade ones. Especially when you consider the commercially available ones are $25 a piece and you can make your own in about 12 minutes for, literally, 22 cents (the notebooks were sold in a 4-pack for 88 cents) plus whatever you want to give the print shop for chopping off the bottom of the pad. They don't generally have a set price for such a thing. The professionally made ones might be twice as good, but they're not an order of magnitude better."
Trent: "You might think the pages would shift around with the thin wire going through larger holes which would affect the riffling of the pages. But it doesn't. There's a lot of friction between pages. We tried to get the pages to shift around or to make the gimmick not work and we couldn't."
Marsha: "Here's what I would do differently next time. Walmart also sells notebooks that look like the ones below. These are 3 for 88 cents (a bloodsucking 8 cents more per pad than the others). But these have plastic covers which will hold up better to the bending and riffling. And they don't have curved bottoms (Like your girl Marsha do. Heyyyyy!!) so the bottom of all the pages would be two right angles which would further disguise the work. I would use those in the future."
Tina P.: "Dammit. You took all the good stuff to say! Why am I even on the team?"
After this hard-hitting investigation, I have to say I agree with Trent. If you have a big gig, and want to be extra cautious, I would go with one of the professionally made pads linked above. Otherwise, I don't really see a reason not to DIY even for someone as lazy as me. The notion that you could toss four of these on the table, have four people choose any notebook they want and flip open to any page they want, and you could tell them what word or picture they're looking at (you know which notebook is which by cover color), is a pretty nice effect to make for under a buck. At the very least you may want to put together a "rough draft" version of an effect with the homemade version before shelling out the big bucks.
This concludes the Jerx On Your Side Consumer Action Squad's investigation.