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Juggling at Slab City

February 21st, 2010

Johnny juggling 3 balls

I’ve been juggling off and on since I was fourteen, but I never learned much more than a three ball cascade or two balls in one hand. Sure, I could juggle that way indefinitely, but it was kind of boring. This summer in Alaska, I had the good fortune to pick up a juggling book behind a second hand book store free of charge. Suddenly, there were lots of new things to try and a few tricks I had even forgotten about! Combine with lots of free time and stir well.

These days, I’m up to four balls in a fairly solid pattern. But my three ball juggling has gotten a lot more interesting… at least for me. I learned a handful of new patterns and techniques and then started mixing and matching them, which lead to a few things invented on the spot. I drop things a lot more, but at least I’m not bored!

  Make Your Own Fire Poi

The other day, we were in Wal-Mart and found a really nice, big super bouncy, brightly colored ball. It was a little bit light, but I thought, “Wow, this would look great!” A little hint, any time you’re looking for small, round, bouncy things and there’s only one on display… check under the shelves. Jenn grabbed a wiffle ball bat and rounded up another ten or twelve balls in a few minutes.

They’re a little bit light and a little big, but they are highly visible and have an incredible bounce. It took a few days, but now, they’re pretty comfortable to juggle.

Johnny juggling his homemade clubs

Ok, so I can juggle four balls and make 3 look fairly pretty… but what about torches and knives?! Fear not, I’m working on those next. The thing about torches and knives is, they’re balanced like juggling clubs. So, first I have to learn to juggle clubs before I go around setting myself on fire and sticking pointy bits in my head.

Professional quality juggling equipment is actually rather expensive. I just couldn’t see spending $60-120 on a set of clubs only to find out I couldn’t get the hang of it. Or for that matter, to learn at the cost of abusing some fairly expensive (for me) equipment. Luckily, I ran across the Green Club Project, which was designed to make a very cheap juggling club from primarily recycled materials. To top it off, they also juggle better than some commercial clubs.

Johnny's homemade juggling clubs

It took a few days of scavenging out here at the Slabs, but the cost to build a set of clubs was pretty minimal! I spent $5 on dowel rods and I had a couple of spare tennis balls that I had not yet turned into Russian balls. I wasn’t able to find any furniture tips that were the right size, but my neighbor suggested golf balls, which have worked out pretty well other than a few bruises.

I spent an afternoon putting these clubs together and I think they’re working out pretty well. I’ve spent a few days now abusing them and am starting to get the hang of three clubs. I think it’ll be at least a year before I feel ‘good’ with them, but Jenn already likes them more than balls since they’re even flashier. Once these are abused to death, I may even make a new set rather than buy commercial equipment. They really do juggle pretty well and it’s nice to be able to pick up ‘garbage’ and turn it into something functional.

Yes… I have plans for homemade torches. I think it’ll be a while before I’m feeling comfortable enough with the clubs to move up though.

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8 Responses to “Juggling at Slab City”

  1. Those small plungers, little plumber’s helpers, make pretty good clubs. Without spending a lot you get some clubs with some interest.

    I remain a three ball juggler after a great many years. I now have a bucket full of balls so that I don’t have to pick them up. Getting older makes picking up dropped balls a bit unpleasant, and so I use a lot of them and a grabbing tool to pick up the lot once I am down to two in hand and an empty bucket.

    Great exercise, fun, and it looks cool!

    Have you tried contact juggling? It lends another dimension, and is also a lot of fun.


    • johnny says:

      Hey Mike,

      Great tip on the plungers! I’ll have to give those a try once I get a bit better with clubs. I can see how they’d add a lot of comedy to an otherwise run of the mill act. I’ve heard a lot of complaining about single piece clubs being rough on the hands, so I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to practice with those for hours on end. The 2 liter bottle wrapping seems to help a lot with impact on the palms, but that’s offset by the golf balls that bruise knuckles!

      I’ve just started looking at contact juggling and it looks like fun. Even some of the simpler moves could really spice up a routine and I plan to start practicing a bit. Do you find that smooth rubber balls work okay, or do you really need the fancy acrylics to get good control?

  2. Eduardo says:

    I am going to try this. I knew you can code but juggling was a surprise.

    • johnny says:

      Ahh, juggling is a very good way to just ‘be’. Nothing but you, gravity, time and some random objects to manipulate. There’s no competition except against yourself and once you get it ‘down’, then it’s just art, exercise and getting rid of all your cares and worries while worrying about a ‘sudden gust of gravity’. By all means, give it a whirl!

      I’m a little disappointed I wasted nearly twenty years of improvement thinking I was as good as I’d ever get.

      The wonderful thing about this lifestyle is that people don’t even look at you funny if you step a few paces away and throw things in the air during a conversation. Or if they do, I’m too caught up in the moment to notice! 😉

    • Garry says:

      Come on, once you admin *nix juggling is easy 😉

  3. I have never used the acrylics except to test them. For contact juggling they really are the right thing, but very costly. I use pool balls (the diameter is too small but the weight and smoothness allows them to work). I have also used softballs and baseball hard balls. Anything round I pick up I usually manipulate a bit just to get a feel for the object. My wife hates that.

    Like spinners (the people who spin things) or balancers (ditto) a juggler can test anything they can pick up and toss from hand to hand. I once saw a man juggle two bowling balls and an egg. That one is a challenge, especially as he pointed out that “the bowling ball is the natural enemy of the egg.”

    I like your cobbled clubs.

    Then there is coin flipping and coin stacking and….

  4. OGT says:

    It was good meeting you all last weekend at the slabs, condolences for the family of Patricia. I’ll be there this weekend as I was asked to open at the range after a short jamb session at the Oasis. Maybe see yall there.

  5. Eduardo says:

    I have not hear from you…could you please email me your mobile phone number? Thanls.

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