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Watercooler
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England
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Hi all,

I have recently been trawling through Andrew Maynes 'Illusion Book'. There's some very nice ideas in there but I could do with some pointers when it comes to the best materials to use. What are the most popular for box illusions?

Thank you,
- Ben
M-Illusion
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Most quality builders like to use birch. It's a good material that lasts quite a long time. A lot of today's more cutting edge modern builders are getting into fiberglass or aluminum. A lot just depends on what you're building.
rtgreen
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Portland, Oregon
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Here's a follow up question:

What thickness of wood is generally used for large box illusions? 1/2" plywood seems to be a good size to use, but can be very heavy. I have tried 1/16" plywood and framed it with good results, but the props are then pretty fragile.

Richard
Cliffg37
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Long Beach, CA
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If you are going to build out of wood, you have to make a choice. You can use thincker wood to gain strength, you can use thinner wood to use mobility, or you can use thinner wood with a thinker frams to get a combination in the middle. If you want the illusion to look like an old shipping crate, that will do you fine as that is how it will look.

I think many illusion builders are getting away from wood due to its' weight/strength limitations.

There are plastic resin products that can be purchased froma plastics dealer (yelow pages) that can be cut sanded and painted like wood, but weigh less while preserving the strength you need. The downside here is price. these are not cheep.

Good luck.
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
alexkrey
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ONLY fiberglass and aluminum!!!
Alex Krey
---------------------------
http://www.alexkrey.com
rtgreen
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Do you buy the fiberglass in sheets and cut it to size, or do you have it pre-cut?
Cliffg37
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If you are planning to cut or sand your own fiberglass make sure you have a good breathing filter, and one that is rated for fiberglss. That stuff can be nasty. Best to let it be cut by pros into the sizes you need.
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
Michael Berends
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Most of the Illusions that I have built are made from 1/2" or 3/8" birch plywood. These aren't cheap but well worth the price because they are very strong and finish very easily. Also, the more laminations the wood has the better. I always search for cabinet grade ply which has more layers. I usually by this at a Wood specific store rather then Home Depot....etc.

Please stay away from, your typical run of the mill plywood. I have seen magicians build stuff out of this and it always looks horrible. You see all the grain and imperfections through the paint. I've even recently seen an ad for a prop built with this in a magic magazine. Trusts me... when the light reflects off of it. All you see is the bad texture underneath the paint.

Besides paint you can also finish in Formica or laminate if you have the tools and the knowledge.

Aluminum extrusions work great for trim and things such as legs. The best and cheapest place to buy Aluminum is at a Metal shop, or better yet. Look up glass companies that deal in Commercial glass. That's where I get mine and it costs about 1/3 of what it costs at Home Depot.

Hope this helps?

Michael Berends
www.michaelberends.com
"IMPOSSIBLE HAS JUST BECOME AN OPINION"
King Of Pop
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Oak if you prefer wood, otherwise use aluminium and fiberglass Smile
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Starrpower
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I have always used 1/2" birch ply for larger props. I have heard the rumors of 3/8", but I have looked and looked and can never actually find the elusive beast!

What do you guys use for smaller props, like die boxes and such? I have a hard time finding reasonable thin ply that's flat, smooth, and has a good surface.
Scruffy the Clown
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I like 1/4" masonite sheeting. It's smooth, very stable, and pretty light. It also takes paint very well and has no grain to it.
rtgreen
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How well does it handle changes in humidity? I would think it would warp easily.
magicreza
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I agree with Alex on the fiberglass and aluminum.
If cost isn't an issue, and you have an excellent welder, go with aluminum. Otherwise, Steel is much cheaper and easier to weld...but it's H E A V Y!

Reza
reedrc
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Reza, why no photo's of your show on your site? Any way we could see your work? Thx...
Kind Regards

Ryan C. Reed
Founder, Illusion Entertainment

designer, director, theatrical consultant, digital wizard, magic impresario, wonder aficionado, Illusioneer & dream architect.

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Dave Dorsett
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Five foot square sheets of 3/8" Baltic birch 7-ply makes some of the best material to work with. If you are going to paint (only automotive enamel gives you the options you need) the outer surface is tight and very smooth prior to sanding. Laminate (Formica is the best known brand) can offer excellent finishes.
Sheets of fiberglas material can be used but your first several attempts are likely to be rough and, as stated previously, breathing this stuff can shave years off your life!
Dave Dorsett
Douglas~Wayne Illusioneering
Bill Palmer
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It all depends on what you are building and the stresses that it is going to have to take. Also, the availability of materials is an important factor. Oak, while good for certain things -- large, bulky illusions -- is very heavy and has an open grain which can be difficult to seal.

Aluminum is good for certain things, but if you use it for long legs on cage illusions, unless the gauge is quite heavy, it will bend and/or break. Some people prefer, in these cases, to use steel angle iron with an aluminum overlay.

Laminates have a lot of advantages if you can find the types of supplies you need. It helps to have a fundamental knowledge of what you are doing, though. You can waste a lot of valuable and expensive material by making false starts.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Chezaday
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Baltic Birch ... that's the best stuff out there. It's usually found in 5' X 5' sheets. We use 3/8" for most applications .. it's strong yet lighter than 1/2". Birch paints really well .. it hides the grain .. but it also stains nice too. Good luck ..

Steve
Jack Murray
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I love to use aluminum when possible. It cuts easiy with a carbide blade, and I do my own mig welding as with my Fire Cage and the new Quicksilver prodction chamber. Both are mostly aluminum. The legs on the Fire Cage are heavy gage extruded square tubing, and nearly impossible to bend or break, and much lighter than steel. I alwaye look at the weight factor in my fabrications because extra weight costs to ship, and haul around. Build it strong but light as possible. Aluminum sheeting and tubing of course aren't vlunernable to moisture, warping, and delaminating like wood.

Jack
Bill Palmer
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Square aluminum tubing is an excellent choice, especially if you use a thick enough wall to do the job. Just watch out for saltwater when you use aluminum.

I've used a lot of Baltic birch plywood in building certain items. The last set of uprights and the board for my Harbin suspension were made of 1/4" Baltic birch.

One thing I've noticed on convention shows, with homemade illusions is a tendency for people to use the wrong paint. A lot of guys who don't know any better are failing to seal the wood properly, and then they use gloss paints on them. This is not good. Your wood grain prints through and it looks like the illusions were built in the basement by a six-year-old. Seal and sand.

For most of the illusions I did at the Texas Renaissance Festival, I used exterior grade house paint. It's water resistant (NOTHING is waterproof -- even marine spar varnish!) and there is no distracting glare. The illusions looked great under floods and spots, as well.

There is another finishing trick that I'll pass on to you guys. Use a cloth overlay. It's an old set designer's trick. Spread a layer of glue or varnish over the surface of the wood and lay a layer of cloth on top of that. Canvas works very well.

If you wish, you can put another coat of varnish on top of that, but it won't be necessary.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Starrpower
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In the Olsen book "Illusion Builder to Fu Manchu" it mentions the use of cloth over wood. I never tried it, but it seems to make sense: fewer abrasions due to nicsk and scratches, easy to touch up, less glare.
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