It was 1989 when I invented the Slush Powder Wand
inside my Jeffersonville Indiana magic shop. It was a dark and smokey establishment located in the old Army Quartermaster Depot which was home to hundreds of mom and pop startups after the war. My place catered to professional magicians, hobbyist, and fans of magic. I ran the business during the day and worked my act at night usually in restaurants or bars. If I wasn’t performing or selling magic, you could find me in the workshop trying to create magic props that other magicians would want. Some would go on the shelves and some would never make it that far. If it was good magic, I could sell it.
A popular prop at the time was Slush Powder. You can still buy a two-ounce bottle for $5.00 and do some great tricks with this magical white powder. One could turn water into a solid gel almost instantly. A great way to make water disappear inside of an empty styrofoam cup. Over the years there have been many great comedy magic routines created because of Slush Powder.
I Was Fooled
Greg Stevens, one of my regulars stopped by the shop to show me his updated Slush Powder routine. The trick was good but what blew me away was how he secretly loaded the slush powder into the cup before the trick. Greg was an auto mechanic and had shown me how he took a hollow pushrod from a car engine and loaded some Slush Powder inside. (Yes, he cleaned it up first). Using the pushrod as a magic wand, he would just lightly tap the inside bottom of the cup and the powder would instantly and secretly transfer from the wand to the cup. Magicians love to be fooled, and I was fooled badly. I knew what to look for but still didn’t see it coming.
The Light Bulb Went Off
I smelled an opportunity, and with Greg’s blessing, I went to work to create a magic wand that would release the slush powder on demand. There also had to be a way to do it keep the powder secure and until you were ready to secretly load it. I took some old wands from my shop and tried to fabricate a prototype without any luck. I called Steve Bender from Ickle Pickle Magic to get his advice. I told him what I was trying to build and he offered to make a demo for me. In a couple of weeks, it arrived in the mail. His demo was cool as he used a spring-loaded chamber that you operated with your thumb. As much as I liked prop there were two major problems. Number one, it would be too expensive to produce. The second problem was that it didn’t work right. It couldn’t load enough powder.
I went back to the drawing board and came up with a couple of different methods. In the end, I decided on a loop and plug gimmick to hold the powder in the wand. I worked out the handling to make the secret move invisible. Now it was time to see if it would sell. I purchased clear tubing in 8′ lengths from a large plastic company. I cut them to the size and wrapped them with black and white adhesive shelf paper. I used a 1/2 inch piece of wood dowel rod to plug the ends. On one end the plug is glued in permanently but the other end is removable, I had a 4” loop of a fishing line connected to this plug. You couldn’t see the loop unless you were looking for it. When you were ready to do the trick just slide the loop over your thumb and take the wand into your other hand. The loop and plug are off so the powder will come out. The wand was now ready to tap the bottom of a cup to transfer the powder. To load the wand just push the open end of the wand into the bottle of powder and press to compact the powder into the tip of the wand. Test and see how much was captured. Reload and you should know how much you’re going to capture each time.
I sent samples to wholesalers and magic shops. The first month I sold 300 units and then averaged 4-6 dozen sales a month. My material cost were $2.00 per wand and it took me roughly 15 minutes to make each one. The distributors who carried it were D. Robbins Co., Abbott’s, Hank Lee, Daytona Magic, Ickle Pickle & Caufield’s. Ickle Pickle also had manufacturing rights because of his assistance with the first prototype.
My family was growing and I had just purchased 4 small houses and a 4-unit apartment building in Louisville. I had worked hard to acquire my real estate and auctioneers license and was a busy man. I was still doing some shows and speaking gigs but the magic manufacturing was getting seriously behind. I no longer had time to make the wands so I reached out to Steve at Ickle Pickle and ask him to fill the back orders for me. He agreed to continue production and I was out of the magic mail order business.
Ten years went by and I ordered one online not knowing who made it. I opened the package and immediately noticed that they cut a few corners to get the production cost down. Strangely, I was glad that someone could cut raw cost and labor out of it. I was unsuccessful every time I tried. This wand was a little thinner and made from PVC tubing. It was spray painted instead of wrapped but still worked well when I tested it. After a little digging, I found out that it was Abbott’s was now making them. It was in their huge catalog, and if they had somebody wanting it and nobody to buy it from, they have every right to make it themselves.
15 More Years
Two weeks ago I did a google search for Slush Wand & Slush Powder Wand. Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and hundreds of others will send you a Slush Powder Wand. Bazar De Magia in Bueno’s Aires Argentina is manufacturing it and selling it cheap. I ordered one through Penguin Magic for $7.00. This time a few more corners cut and more money saved. My guess is that the production cost of this one is roughly 25% of what it cost me to make mine. The plug doesn’t fit flush and it’s 30% thinner which takes away “load” space. It worked fine during testing and there’s not much that can go wrong. The Bazar model is basically a modified $2.00 wand and you can get it for $10. If you’re going to buy the trick try Abbott’s first.
Well, I’m glad my invention is still alive but just like a lot of magic props, the quality seems to go down with each generational run. I’ll never know how many of these have been sold over the years but my guess is a few thousand. Congrats to anyone who has made a buck off this trick. You earned it! If you perform with this prop or just own one, I would love to hear your comments.
Video from Abbott’s Magic Company