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Chop Cup

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A gaffed cup with a built-in magnet in the base (or bottom), allowing the retention of magnetic balls or other loads. Used alone or as part of a cups and balls set.

The premise of this concept was described in French in Récréations mathématiques et physiques by Jacques Ozanam in the revised edition of 1723 done by a so-called Grandin. There is wax or mutton suet on the balls or in one Cup.

It was popularized by Al Wheatley, a professional magician who performed under the name Chop Chop. His original Chop Cup, created in the mid 1950's and presented in 1955 Santa Barbara Convention, was made out of a section of hollow bamboo and marketed as Chop Chop's One Cup & Ball Routine. By 1957, Wheatley's company, Excato Magic, was advertising a modified aluminum Chop Cup in magic magazines.

The Chop Cup became a popular magician's tool in part due to the celebrity of Don Alan, who made it a staple of his act. Don Alan performed his Chop Cup routine on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in 1960.

Wheatley saw Larry Jennings perform his Chop Cup routine at The Magic Castle shortly after it opened in 1963. It was noted for its loading of a big ball and the use of a silk handkerchief and a shot glass. He was so impressed that he asked Jennings to please not reveal his method or routine in print until after his death. Larry kept his promise, and did not publish his routine until a year after Wheatley's death. It was published in Genii Magazine, Volume 29, Number 7, in March of 1965. Don Alan used a version of the Chop Cup on his national TV show and popularized it with magicians everywhere.

The trick has spawned many variations, leading to elaborate routines developed by Larry Jennings, Ron Wilson, Earl Nelson, Alan Wakeling, John Mendoza, Danny Tong, and Jim Swain. The Nelson and Wakeling routines eventually appeared in The Chop Cup Book (1979). Ron Wilson's Uncanny Chop Cup saw print in The Uncanny Scot: Ron Wilson(1987)


Chop cup routines in print:

  • Tea Cups and a Ball by Ajit Krishna Basu, in The Magician Monthly, november 1932. Vol. 28, no. 12, p. 144. It's not a Chop Cup routine but a transposition between a ball and a liquid in two tea cups but it seems to be the first use of a magnetized ball.
  • Combination Larry Jennings' One-Cup Three-Ball & Chop Cup Routine by Fred Kaps in Fred Kaps Lecture Book. London, 1973.
  • The Chop Cone Routine by Rick Johnsson in The Linking Ring, April 1976. Vol. 56, no. 4, p. 73.
  • The 'How To' Book of the Chop Cup by Merlyn T. Shute. Morrissey Magic Ltd. Montreal, Canada, 1980. p 45.
  • New Look Climax to Cups and Balls...Colombini in Magigram, Feb 1982. Vol. 14, no. 6, p. 383.


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