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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magical Accessories » » Review: Yigal Mesika's Spider Pen Pro (10 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Ekuth
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As promised, after a few days of playing around (and fixing) the SPP, here is my untarnished review:

The SPP arrives 'clamshelled' with the accompanying DVD.
Gently slide the DVD out of the paper case and the pen will reveal itself.
The pen itself is contained in a smaller bubble packaging with "Made in PRC" clearly stamped on the bottom.
You may have to unfold the bottom edge of the packaging to see this... deliberate or not? Only the Shadow knows...

DO NOT UNWRAP OR PLAY WITH THE SPP AT THIS TIME. WATCH THE DVD FIRST.

The DVD:

The dvd comes in standard clamshell, with an accompanying booklet that I took at first to be a user-manual. It was without much surprise that I discovered it was in fact a catalog, advertising Yigal's other products.

The DVD itself played without problem in my Blueray player, and seems to be region free for universal compatibility.
The DVD is professionally made, but without the commonality of screaming rock music and flashy graphics that speed by at the rate of Blip-Verts (kudos if you can identify the reference) so common to today's DVD releases. But I digress.
The menu is simple, with three choices: Play, Chapters, and in the bottom right corner, an option marked "P.K.".

The DVD itself is again, well made. The introductory sequence goes over the history of the ITR in general, giving credit to the originators. I was pleased to see this. As noted in another review, the ITR was explained graphically and clearly in a History Channel style manner. Very nice, and an unexpected touch of class.

The following teaching session(s) are well done, but I found the background lighting to be a tad too strong and the audio from Yigal's lapel mike to be inconsistent. Frankly, it had the feel of being shot with an expensive camera in a flat somewhere in Europe around midnight.

Yigal was impeccably dressed as always, and provided a (mostly) adequate description of the SPP's various parts. I felt strongly that more time could have been spent going over the various parts and how they figure into the function of the pen.

The strongest "glossover" I noticed was the very brief time spent on explaining how to ensure the battery compartment has a snug fit. For such an important piece of operating knowledge, I was amazed so little time was spent covering this. In short, Yigal recommends slightly squeezing the sides of teh "collet" together to ensure a tight fit. As it later turned out, this is far more important than it seems.

The remainder of the DVD gives standard handling tips, how to change the spool(s) and to apply the (optional) black accessories package. Again, this seemed more like an infomercial than instructive technique.

The effects we're all familiar with from the demo video are explained in detail, and offer some surprising and innovative thinking, especially the "Zero Gravity Bill". The remainer of the effects and handling were all explained on he DVD accompanying the Tarantula, so if you bought one, you're already ahead of the game. In essential, little has changed between the two products; but what HAS changed has made all the difference in the world.

The "P.K" bonus section of the menu describles little more than the fact that you can use the SPP to produce "ghost touches" for seance/mentalism type routines- but not how to actually perform the routines or what handling(s) to use. It is assumed you are familiar with this area of IT work, apparently.

The PEN:

First impression is that this is a very solid, elegant pen that you would find in any better stationery store. The wax end took some finding, mine was attached to the top of the pen clip and proved to be nearly invisible. I'm glad I searched for it, or I likewise would have broken the thread scraping about for it.

The pen breaks down into several subsections:

The cap
The spool
The penclip and retainer ring
The barrel of the pen, which contains the electronics and the motor
The "point" of the pen, which consists of two parts:
A metal 'collet' which connects to the barrel through a pressure fitting (see above) and contains the (+) battery terminal connection.
The actual writing portion of the pen, which is just what is seems to be, a very small cut off portion of ink resevoir fit into a plastic connection that will extend or retract the pen point as needed to write.

All the pieces and connections are of aluminium (I assume) with the exception of the cap, spool and most importantly, the threading on the inside of the very tip of the writing portion of the pen where it attaches to the 'collet'. Why on earth the threading was done in plastic instead of metal like the rest is beyond me, and resulted in a weak/tenous connection that threatened to wobble or fall off if not tightened snugly. The trouble was, tightening it merely served to verge on stripping the plastic threading. Seeking to avoid this, I took a small piece of plumber's thread tape (cellophane would also work) and wrapped it once around the metal collet connection. This tightened the pen tip connection and solved that problem. If you were not going to use the pen to write, I suppose you could just glue it shut.

Eagerly anticipating playing with my new pen, I inserted the battery correctly and... nothing. Double checking everything and re-tightening the connections proved futile. My $100 pen was DOA? This... shall... not... pass.

I went into more detail on how to fix this on anothe thread but I will summarize here:

Remove the cap and spool. Separate the lower 'point' connection with the upper barrell/collet connection. If this is tight, twist gently and pull.

The collect (+) battery attachment must be scraped on the inside where the battery connects. During manufacturing it was likely covered with an anti-oxidizer and this must first be removed. An exacto or small piece of rolled sandpaper will suffice.

Inside the barrel of the pen is a spring; the (-) battery attachment point. Using a pair of tweezers or hemostats, GENLTY stretch this slightly.

Now re-insert your battery and you should hear the motor spin merrily for approximately 10 seconds or so. If not, repeat the above steps.

Once the motor is working, make note of if the collet and the point are staying together or if the spring is pushing the two apart. If it's pushing, here is where you must adjust the collet (or spring stretch - I prefer the collet). Yigal recommends using your fingers to gently squeeze the collet together, but I was unable to budge it and used a pair of slip-joint pliers and a washcloth to protect the finish.

NOTE: INSERT A AAA BATTERY BEFORE SQUEEZING. This will ensure you don't oversqueeze the tube shut. GENTLY squeeze until you have obtained a good friction fit between the pieces. You want them to stay together, but to pull apart with a slight effort.

So much for the fixes. Now on to the pen operation:

I bought the Tarantula and was extremely disappointed. Good engineering idea, poor execution.
The SPP takes the basic Tarantula concept and expands on it. Gone is the awkward sa***a gimmick in favor of an elegant pen.
Gone is the incredibly short battery life.
Gone are the button cell batteries, in place: ONE AAA.
Gone is the incredibly weak motor.

Retained are the spool and cap design. In fact, these are interchangeable, so if you already own a Tarantual, you have a spare spool and cap (albeit flesh colored) in case you lose these parts.

YOU WILL NEED EXTRA SPOOLS.

Sadly, this was the one area I was hoping would be addressed. The spools are TINY and virtually impossible to re-wind. It CAN be done, but it is very tedious and time consuming. A better, more robust spool design that takes advantage of the cross hatching (the locking mechanism) on the bottom of the spool would have increased pull force and led to less tangles. The top of the spool is angled and comes to a VERY small connection, leading to over-lapping of the thread and causing tangles. Sticking to a more standard sewing thread spool design would have eliminated this and led to a greater spool capacity (which is nothing to sneeze at with a 20'+ range, but still).

I have tried the SPP with the thread it comes with (unidentified), Vectra, WN and Kevlar. By far, the Vectra and Kevlar appear to work best with the SPP. Much to my surprise, the SPP will take WN, despite its fragility; the motor will compensate for it.

If using Kevlar or especially Vectra, use a hard wax such as Fearson's Master Wax. Otherwise, the motor will pull the thread right out of the wax.

The Motor:

Impressive. Really darn impressive, actually. This is probably what saved the SPP, in my opinion. At least easily twice the strength of the Tarantulas' motor, this puppy has some lifting power. I haven't fully tested the limits yet, but bills, cards and coins up to quarter size are a cinch. Also, rings (using the lockout technique to limit thread length, which is covered in the DVD).

The tensioning is smooth, silky and extremely even, even when loaded with IT. For those who have been reporting 'jerking' of while stepping away, there are several things that will help alleviate this:

After threading or replacing the spool, pull out nearly all the lenght and let it smoothly retract while guiding it through your fingers. This will re-tension the spool and was first mentioned on one of the other threads- DO THIS.

Second, contrary to what your instinct tells you, it is actually better to step back QUICKLY rather than slowly. Keep the object as NEAR the anchor point as you can, this also helps.

Third, pay close attention to where the access hole in the cap is located. It should be pointing as directly at your anchor point as possible to ensure no rubbing or snagging. Play with the position of the pen clip and use that as a guide. You will also notice a small arrow mark on top of the cap that will aid you in aligning this. Decide whether you are going to clip the pen "inside" or "outside" the shirt/pocket. "Inside" keeps the pen against your body, "outside" means the audience can see the pen- but it also can swing a bit as the thread maintains tension. I recommend "inside". Move the pen clip and cap hole direction to compensate.

Timing:

The motor is set with a 30 second on/off mode. To keep this from kicking in, either move forward or backward slightly to re-engange. If you wait too long, the thread will momentarily 'release' which will cause some bounce or make you think the thread has broken. To correct, back up a step or two and it will re-tension.

LEARN THE 'Z' GRIP. Those who work extensively with ITR's will know what I'm talking about, and why.

Battery life:

Yigal states a year. Well, mine has used the same AAA for three days now with now perceptible drop in power, which is a far cry over the Tarantula, which ate batteries like M&M's. A year? We'll see.

Verdict:

So, is it worth it? In my opinon, YES.

Admittedly, there are a few bugs that need working out, and some quality control issues, but nothing that anyone with some rudimentary DIY knowledge can't fix. That said:

THIS IS NOT A BEGINNER'S ITR. THIS IS AN ADVANCED TOOL for professionals seeking to take their IT work to the next level. There are some truly remarkable possibilities opened up by the "soul" technology (the constant tensioning) that should provide some exciting and revolutionary effects from those with fertile and creative minds.

So if you're just looking for the latest toy to make you an instant IT worker, THIS ISN'T IT. You wouldn't put a student driver behind the wheel of a Mazarati, would you? Of course not. But, as with all magical devices, the real worth is in what the magician DOES with the tool.

The SPP is a fantastic tool, but only if you're willing to put a little something back in return; care and maintenance.

If you are not familiar with IT, IT work, or ITR's, I highly recommend you start with a product like the UFO card, LeClair Animator, or the Fearson Master Floatation system.

If you're a professional thread head looking to up your game and produce some truly jaw-dropping effects, and are willing to do a little maintenance, then the SPP is well worth your while.

Price ($ - $$$$$): $$$$
Value for your buck (1 to 10): 8.5
Ease of Use (1 being easy, 10 difficult): 8.0

Overall verdict:

A vast improvement over Yigal's previous products, the SPP solves the durability and battery issues of its predecessors, but suffers from some unfortunate (but easily correctible) quality control issues. Poor spool design leads to un-necessary tangles. Stong motor, reliable and smooth tensioning, long battery life.

Recommended for the experienced IT worker.
"All you need is in Fitzkee."
mickym
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Hi Ekuth,
It sems that I am the first one to comment on your detailed SPP review. I have read it from the beginning to the end and I take off my hat (is this a correct expression in english?) as a sign of appreciation to your so nice, organized and perfectly done review and explanations.
Micky
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Only a very kind soul would take that much time, with all he has going on in is life, to share how he did trouble shooting to make this pen work. Your dedication to the art and to helping others is amazing.

Thank you, brother!
Mysterious Mike
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Thank you for the taking the time to write this most excellent review.
The performance is what really makes it all worth while.
Ekuth
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Just trying to pay it forward to those who have helped me here. You run across too few reviews who actually *review* the product and just don't focus on the hype surrounding it.

You're quite welcome!

*tips hat*
"All you need is in Fitzkee."
Burf
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I agree with your review, this is a great product.
The only improvement I would have liked to see is an ability to vary the motor speed.
Chessmann
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There are very few people in this world who can take a POS and turn it into something that can be a golden egg - kudos to you! A good number of purchasers will feel much better about their investment, and be able to use it, to boot.

I tip my hat back to you.
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bowers
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Thanks for the great informative review ekuth.
todd
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Ekuth, this item was not on my radar, yet I read your review in its entirety. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to research and write this informative piece. I'm still not in the market for a tool like this, but I will definitely be looking for your next review...you are objective, informative, and entertaining. Thank you.
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Kipp Sherry
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Ekuth, your review pushed me over the edge. I have been using a Spider Pen since they first came out back 1993. This amazing device has got me booked for so many gigs that I have lost count. It has paid for itself 10 fold. And I have not had the traditional problems with it that many others claim to have. In 9 years I have only replaced the pen 1 time. So I wasn't sure that I wanted to invest 3 times the money for basically the same thing. But your review convinced me it would once again be a good investment.

I didn't even have any of the problems you stated you had. I just put in the battery and everything worked fine. I didn't even need the fine adjustment.

With the old pen, I will admit that I was self conscience about the battery life and many times the battery would go out before I would break a thread. This new improvement alone is going to remove so many of the unnecessary moves I had to make before to preserve the battery. I do wish the new version had a way to store away a second replacement thread ready to go. Smile

I'm sure the pen will pay for itself again if only by the money I save on batteries. Smile No matter, I'm glad I stepped it up, and I thank you for pushing me there.

Until we appear again,
Kipp Sherry
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Chessmann
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I wonder if Yigal is (or, has?) making some of these corrections on his unshipped stock so that pens going out now are a bit more 'right out of the box' friendly than at first?

Possible, I suppose.
My ex-cat was named "Muffin". "Vomit" would be a better name for her. AKA "The Evil Ball of Fur".
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A beautiful and perfect Review. Thank you very much for that. Smile
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Ekuth
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Quite welcome, gentlemen.

I'm not quite done with my tweaks to the SPP... I am NOT satisfied with the spool and am currently exploring alternatives that I believe will solve many of the tangling problems and increase thread capacity.

@Chessman: It does make one wonder, doesn't it? Also the dead lack of any official response regarding the issues... Ah well.
"All you need is in Fitzkee."
Chris128
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Thanks for the review, I was going to purchase it but as you've stated its not really for beginners I think I'll spend a bit more time with my existing IT toys first Smile
atinczor
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Thank you for taking time to write and post this review, Ekuth.

I was planning to purchase the SPP, however, after reading your post I decided not to. I am not an experienced IT worker. This would be a dead-investment for me and your review helped me realize this. There is no doubt that this is an amazing tool for the right person; just not for me, yet. I guess I will have to work on and improve my IT skills before I can put my hands on this beauty.

Best,

Atinc ZOR
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Well Ekuth, THANK YOU...i couldn't have read a better review than the one you gave us here. I was just asking my friend who owns the local magic shop what his thoughts were on this as it had come to my attention before that the other models had many problems. He gave it good review based on a customer that he has that lives and breaths IT effects. He did say though that with the hours and hours of practice you can exspect to change the batteries, but in regular usage you will be more than happy with there life spand, and also as you mentioned to buy extra spools.
BUT...I was still not sure if I wanted to update my IT working into the new age with just this one review so I decided to check here. Now very pleased with your review,,i think I will be ordering myself one, Based on the fact that I'm very handy though and that I come up with compatibility solutions very well.
Many THANKS MY FRIEND!
Grew up near one of the greatest minds in magic the late Stewart James, in a town called Wallaceburg just 15 mins from Courtright where James could be found, time and time again he would inspire me to always be creative and just love all magic.
Ekuth
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Glad I could help, gentlemen.

On the spool issue... two words:

Pencil Erasers.
"All you need is in Fitzkee."
MagicPro17
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I just want to acknowledge Ekuth's excellent detailed review for it's accuracy and clear communication. I really enjoyed reading it and seeing what others thought. Just thought I would also share my experience with the Spider Pen Pro.

So far I am EXTREMELY happy with mine! I have had zero issues with it so far and have been having a blast practicing the Zero Gravity Bill with it. I did not even need to squeeze the "collet" to get it to work, I assume most of the units on the market are like mine. So far I have performed my sloppy handling of the zero gravity bill (and like Ekuth mentioned the method is genius) for a few close friends and ALL OF THEM were astounded. I seriously couldn't believe the reactions that I have been getting even though I thought my performance was lacking...

The pen is really fun to practice with and use, I think once I have mastered this versatile tool it will be terrific for stage and close-up situations! I felt that the DVD was extremely clear and pretty well organized. The production quality has definitely set a new standard for Yigal's work, the information I felt was fantastic, and my expectations were surpassed with the 3D animations!

Overall I have been 150% satisfied because my expectations were exceeded. On top of the quality of the product itself, I also thought that the packaging was innovative and cool!

Definitely a very successful product in my opinion and a great purchase for any thread worker 10/10
devilrabbit
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Thanks for your perfect review Ekuth! I was pretty confused with another thread of releasing the spp, because of all these issues with the spp, but after read your review and compare to my original spider pen's performance, I regained the confidence of the SPP. And I have owned the SPP and play with it for three weeks, it came with perfect status and did not have any issue up to now. The only effort I prepared it is to slightly bending the collet and trim the overbended layer a little bit.
As you concluded, this is a awesome device for the IT pros, I only break the thread three times when I trying to get used to the SPP and trying the limitation of the strangth. After that, the device acts stable and can accomplish all the effects Yigal showed in the DVD once I know the limitations.
Thanks again for your decent and great review!
devilrabbit
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Ekuth, I totally agree with your oppinion that SPP has a poor spool.
In fact, the first time I took my original SP's spool out and compare with the one came with the SPP, I found out that they acturally looks a little bit different and obviously the original SP came with a much better quality spool than SPP does which seems perform a better traction of the thread.

And I found when I use the spool came with the SPP and peel the the wax off the anchor spot letting the SPP retract the thread back by itself, some times you will find that the thread is rolling around the lower side of spool but not the area where the thread supposed to go. Which will cause a tension when you pull the thread out again.
Do you have any suggestions on that?
And I'm currently looking for a thread to make my own spare spool with it. I'm currently thinking of the Vectra, but considering I have never saw this kinda thread and some review in the magic Café saying it's super shining like a Christmas tree, I'm quite hesitate to approach that. Do you or anybody here have any idea about it, and does it stronger and more invisible comparing to the original spider thread?
Quote:
On 2012-08-03 00:03, Ekuth wrote:
Quite welcome, gentlemen.

I'm not quite done with my tweaks to the SPP... I am NOT satisfied with the spool and am currently exploring alternatives that I believe will solve many of the tangling problems and increase thread capacity.

@Chessman: It does make one wonder, doesn't it? Also the dead lack of any official response regarding the issues... Ah well.
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