Buenos-diddly-ding-dong you fuckers,
After a much deserved break (not really), I’ve decided once again to grace you turds with with my presence and knowledge. Count your lucky stars I didn’t just post a photo of my last bowel movement and call it a day.
As with my previous posts, I’m extremely overdue on a lot of promised content for a lot of people (Sorry Eoin!), so I’ll be working through the good, the bad and the bullshit-amazing now that I have acquired funding and some spare time for this hellish lifestyle that is being a fucking world-class magician/piece of shit on the internet.
Today, we’ll be looking at the beautifully hand-crafted Stripper jig, available from Eoin O’Hare at theperfectshuffle.com. Before we get into the review, a bit of background to how I came to find out about the jig.
Last year, I wake up to a text telling me to check out this new book, “A New Angle” by Ryan Plunkett & Michael Feldman, dedicated to new (and actually good) material with the stripper deck. I was a bit skeptical at first; stripper decks in recent times have achieved the joke status of being the “Hot-Rod” equivalent in card magic. Everyone seemed to own them, but no one seemed to do anything noteworthy with them or bring them out for a show or a session.
Luckily, I was swinging through San Francisco and Chicago for a trip and had the good fortune to meet up with both of them to see the material first hand and be absolutely fucking floored by it all. Every single thing they showed me from the book (and some not in the book) were just beautiful examples of how stripper decks can and should be used. If you haven’t already bought this book, be quick since it’s OOP I believe.
The first thing I noticed with both Michael and Ryan was that they both used the same brass and stainless steel contraption to make their decks, kept in a tidy green box, beautifully lined with pip motifs and green felt, closed neatly with a green ribbon.
I first sat through GGG with Michael, watching him trim cards one at a time, almost on autopilot. After seeing the good shit that he and Ryan had come up with, I decided then and there I had to get one for myself and see what else was possible with it.
Eoin’s stripper jig really is a thing of beauty. Historically, a lot of machined stripper jigs were quite large and cumbersome and not something you would imagine being able to easily transport or modify. Seeing some of the more traditional jigs/cutters, they were constructed like paper guillotines used in stationary stores/printers and generally hard to come by based on the stigma of card cheating. Some were fairly basic in construction while other versions had means to adjust or tweak the “work” put in.
For Eoin’s jig, it’s a compact, handheld and very versatile approach to the traditional jig. His design allows it to be adjustable to a wide variety of different combinations, allowing you to adjust it to different kinds of orientations/variations very easily for either the short edge or long edge of a playing card. He also points out that the symmetrical design, aside from being very aesthetically pleasing, was also intentional as it means a left or right handed person can pick it up and use it exactly the same way, no alterations needed. The mix of stainless steel with tidy brass features makes it very visually appealing without coming across as unnecessary dressings to tart it up; it looks as good as it feels to use. Solid and considered.
On Instagram, you can see how Eoin approaches the R&D phase for his different utility items, prototyping the parts using a 3d printer issues before machining and hand crafting the final product. The design and construction shows how he has considered numerous checks and measures that allow his Stripper jig to really be useful in configuring it and using it correctly. If you flick through some of his posts, you can find some different prototype designs he tried out before deciding on this one. The alignment marks, placement of the stops and notched gauges all play a carefully studied and integral part in helping you know exactly where you’re at when setting it up/using it.
So, why would anyone want to buy this when you can just buy a stripper deck from a store for a few bucks extra?
Well, first off, that’s just fuckin’ lazy.
Second, resorting to buying stripper decks has a lot of caveats and limitations; cost and availability are the first two points which come to mind.
Relying on buying stripper decks regularly can be a costly pain in the ass and you’re limited to whatever is commercially available, mostly Red or Blue Bicycle rider backs. Thinking further into it, there’s no way to check or know the quality or consistency of the “work” in the deck before you buy it with the mass-produced options. And if your usual store is out of stock, doesn’t have the colour or deck you want, you’re shit out of luck.
With this jig, you can make your own on the fly extremely easily and quickly and it’s much easier to travel with this rather than the traditional jigs. By making your own, the cards are much more expendable and accessible, so you can use them more often without having to worry about it or have a stripper deck with only very light work as your everyday deck.
Since you provide your own cards, you’re not limited just to Bicycle rider backs, or to having inconsistent work put into the decks. Also, you can experiment with a number of different things with this jig, not just the traditional taper, and open up a fuckload of possibilities.
The How (and How Much)
One of the big things to consider with this kind of thing is going to be cost involved and your own circumstances/use of it. Currently, the jig is available for €459 (€359 when it’s on sale, if you’re lucky) or around $600 USD from Vanishing Inc, both including shipping to anywhere in the world from Ireland.
On face value, it sounds like a fair bit of money if you’re just a hobbyist planning to make the occasional deck or experiment with different shit. On the flip side, it’s peanuts if you’re planning to regularly use stripper decks, or require a specific cuts or setups for a routine or part of your set that may cost you $20-30+ each time you have to source and replace them. That being said, most other machined jigs are much more limited in availability and can run much higher cost-wise.
The second thing to consider is the difficulty/learning curve for using it. I personally fucked up at least 3-4 full decks while I was practicing and getting used to configuring and handling it, how to best hold the jig and cut the cards etc.
Any quality issue with the end result I had was purely user error as I was getting used to it. Just be mindful that it isn’t something you can just pick up and run with on the first day and expect a perfect end result. It will require careful and slow practice initially to understand how each different step Eoin has laid out is tried and tested. Once you understand and become confident in setting it up and using it correctly, it becomes almost effortless and you will see the difference in the end result. You’ll shit yourself at how fine you can taper a deck if you know what you’re doing.
Some tips/interesting things I’ve found that helped when using this are to always use a new deck, fresh out of the box; always cut the “fat” corner with the most border and finally, create “template” cards as you find a configuration that you like.
What do I mean by that?
When you’ve finished trimming a deck and the cut is exactly what you want to replicate, you could just sit and cut a bunch at once. But what happens if you wanted to try another configuration (i.e. heavier or lighter tapers) but don’t want to lose that perfect setting you just honed in on?
Here’s what you do: Grab one of the ad cards out of the deck and cut it as well, marking it down however you want and put it aside somewhere for safekeeping. When you want to come back to it, you can put this card back into the jig, re-do the stops around this “template” card, and you’re set to cut a fresh deck with the same cut you’ve done before.
Aside from the jig itself, you’ll also need a few other things, based on advice and insights from Ryan, Michael, Eoin and a number of other users. One of them is a necessity, while the others are optional but definitely recommended
Single-edged Razor Blades
You’ll need to source some decent single-edged razor blades to go with the jig once you work through and blunt the initial three you get. These can be cheaply sourced from hardware stores or eBay. Usually a blade can last for a few decks, depending on how good the quality of the blades are and how you use them. I found when I was getting started, I would blunt them much quicker due to how I was holding them and trimming the taper off.
After cutting the deck, traditionally you would use a whetstone or another cutter/jig to round the tapered corner but one of the most ingenious tools to supplement the jig is the Sunstar corner rounder. The 3mm slot rounds the corner to match the rest of the deck. They can be cheaply sourced from Amazon or eBay. I highly recommend getting one.
After cutting and rounding the deck, you might notice that the cut edge can be slightly smoother than the other edges, almost “glassy” feeling. To rectify this, you can use a whetstone, a nail buffer (a great tip from David Blaine) or even a cardboard drink coaster from a bar (A great tip from Christian Schenk) to buff out the other edges or roughen the smooth edge to match.
So, is it worth it?
Fuck yeah it is
This isn’t some secret, unseen device that will “revolutionise” the way you do magic, hiding what it actually does with some bullshit marketing ploy. This is a hand-crafted, quality piece of machinery from Eoin with no sneaky reservations or double talk about how or what it can be used for. If you enjoyed the kind of material in ‘A New Angle‘ or are interesting in experimenting with tapered decks, this is definitely worth investing in.
If you’re still on the fence about it, the user guides are freely available on his website, showing the construction of the jig, how to set and configure the stops for different types of cuts/tapers and also maintenance/cleaning if required.
Check out Eoin’s website and instagram (@theperfectshuffle) for more of his work and other utility tools he’s created. Having also purchased the Pegger (giggity) and Breather jig, I can hand-on-heart say that everything he has put out is fucking amazing
Until next time,