Week 4- w.c. pelon

Posted: April 20, 2011 in w.c. pelon, Week 04

“Flower Sticks”

Flower Sticks: also known as devil, juggling, or inertia sticks.

I purchased my first pair of devil sticks in the summer of 1995.  My fellow geek and uber-cool brother-in-law Mike taught me how to juggle them.  By the following summer, I had used them so often I managed to break the center (or “flower”) stick in half.  I disassembled the set to repair them, and in doing so I realized I could reverse engineer them using common materials.  I picked up some poplar dowels, 20″ inner tube and electrical tape in a variety of colors and was on my way.  Now, 15 years later, I’m still building them.

Materials: wooden dowels, used bicycle inner tubes, electrical/vinyl repair tape, scissors

Each spring, I kick off the juggling season by constructing two pairs for personal use (in addition to the sticks I make for friends & for sale throughout the year); one lighter, more slender set for speed and a second, heavier set for increased resistance.  This set of flower sticks is the former, and aesthetically I’m quite proud of the way they turned out.

A closer view of the center (or "Flower") stick.

This year, I intend to experiment with new materials:  fabric tapes, skateboard grip tape, neoprene, aluminum rods instead of dowels, etc.  Since each set is handcrafted, no two are exactly alike, either in form or function.  As weight, size and shape affect rotational inertia, each unique set allows for different tricks.  As a rule, longer, heavier sticks make for the greatest illusion.

Control sticks (or hand sticks), used to manipulate the spinning stick.

Math and physics are certainly not my stronger points- I’m more a humanities kind of guy- which I think is precisely what makes juggling so beautiful.  I don’t need to fully comprehend  the science at play in order to enjoy juggling; the act itself is much more abstract,  which makes the sticks artistic both in their design and application.

  1. Mike Piper says:

    Bill, these rock!

  2. Robyn says:

    My brother, the juggling philosopher. I love not only the sticks, but also what you wrote. You’re creative AND eloquent– a double threat!

  3. Kevin Contreras says:

    Very cool! I’ve made a few sets of sticks myself. Try using a fiberglass rod, like they use to stake plants. They will not break so easily when you kick them! Also, padded electrical tape. And I had a set that you could light the ends on fire. Burned myself a bunch of times, but it looked so cool… I think it was a heavy woven material, cotton probably…dipped in lighter fluid. I like the frayed inner tube idea! I may have to steal that one…

    • w.c. pelon says:

      Good call on the fiberglass– I just found a kite supply website that will cut them down to custom lengths, so I’ll be trying it out soon…. still looking for padded electrical tape. I’ve always wanted to try firesticks, but I’d probably purchase those rather than build them just to be on the safe side. I read somewhere that paraffin oil is the best/safest fuel to use, and that if you add copper chloride to it you get a nice blue flame!

  4. Kevin Contreras says:

    The hippie at the Deadshow that I bought my first set from used a neoprene tube that slid over the dowels. He would not give up where he got it. It came in tons of bright colors. I found most of the supplies at Home Depot, but never that tubing.

    • w.c. pelon says:

      I’ve been looking for neoprene tubing for a few years now (that’s how Lunastix makes most of their sets), and I can’t find it either. I imagine it would be a bit tricky to slide over the dowels if one wanted it to be nice and snug.

      I also considered goint the Plastidip route- the liquid rubber they put on the handles of pliers- but again, I think it would be difficult to apply.

      I recently found some self fusing silicone repair tape, often used for plumbing repairs, in a variety of colors, so I’m going to give that a try.

  5. Michael Sean Piper says:

    Bill- I can build you a trough for dipping the dowels in Plastidip. We’ll talk.

  6. Robyn says:

    Bill- Here’s a link you should check out; you’d use heat to shrink it on the dowel, so it’d be snug. If you use clear, you could paint the dowels any color you like!


  7. Be says:

    was also thinking of the tubes you shrink on, you can get different colours

  8. gina marin says:

    these are bitchen!

  9. Dale Dearnley says:

    You do not need to memorize the laws of math and physics to know how to follow them.

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