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Topic: Sponge ball size
Message: Posted by: MikeHolbrook (Jul 11, 2011 01:48PM)
I have never worked with sponge balls. What size should I start with?

Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (Jul 11, 2011 02:11PM)
Message: Posted by: Dr_J_Ayala (Jul 11, 2011 02:11PM)
Most sponge workers seem to use the 2 inch balls, but I think the 1.5 inch ball would be a good start. It is still visible from a distance (especially the Goshman red sponges) and the size will give you a close enough approximation in feel/handling as if you were using the larger sponge balls, should you ever decide to go up to the next size. I use both sizes myself, but you also have to take into consideration your hand size. Yes, even with sponges, this matters.

The other thing to take into consideration is Regular vs. Super Soft. They both have their positives and negatives, and every performer has their preference. Here are the main attributes of each:

Regular sponge balls are a bit stiffer, though you can still get them to compact quite small. They have a bit of a different feel/texture to them, and for some people that allows for easier handling. They also retain their shape very well, even after having been compressed for a short amount of time.

Super Soft sponge balls are exactly that, and they can be compressed to a much smaller size. They also tend to lose their shape over time, which can easily be corrected by wetting them down, wringing them out thoroughly and allowing them to dry. They have a different texture/feel (almost slippery) compared to regular sponge balls. They also hold creases when compressed for a period of time, say, in a pocket. That can also happen to the regular sponges, but not as easily. In my experience, these types of sponges also have a little more spring in them; by that I mean that if you compress them between your fingers and open rapidly, the ball pretty much immediately springs back to full size.

In my opinion, all sponges should be pre-treated after you purchase them. Get some warm or hot soapy water and soak the sponges for a couple of hours or overnight. Rinse them well and wring them out, gently enough, and allow them to dry. This makes both types a little more workable, it gives them a little more 'give' (especially the regular sponges) and also helps bring back their original shape and gets rid of any creases that may have formed from storage/use.

If you have the ability to play around with both types at a local magic shop before you buy them, that is best as you will pretty much immediately be able to tell which type you like better. If you cannot, order one of the two types to start, and if you do not like that type, then get a set of the other. Afterall, they are not really that expensive.

I hope this information is useful to you, and that it is not too confusing. If you need further clarification, please let me know and I will be glad to help.
Message: Posted by: Rainboguy (Jul 12, 2011 09:43PM)
What Pete Biro said.....

Just be sure to moisten your 2 inch supersoft Goshman sponge balls in water and squeeze 'em hard to get 99.9% of the moisture out prior to performing....they expand more this way.
Message: Posted by: Pokie-Poke (Jul 13, 2011 10:23PM)
2" unless you have very small hands.
I have med. size hands and use both 2" and 3" with out problems
Message: Posted by: MikeHolbrook (Jul 14, 2011 04:14AM)
Thanks for all the advice. When I can get by the magic shop, I will check out 1.5 inch and 2 inch balls.

Message: Posted by: Father Photius (Jul 14, 2011 10:03PM)
As others have said, use the 2 inch. I use 1.5 only with smaller children's hands when teaching them. Adults , regardless of size should have no trouble with 2 inch. They do compress.
Message: Posted by: snowpuppy (Jul 14, 2011 10:32PM)
I have small hands,...I use 2 inch Balls with no difficulty.Mike
Message: Posted by: ade (Jul 15, 2011 01:57AM)
I have SMALL hands. By small, I mean asian small + female. I still use 2" spongeballs, but I'm way more comfortable with 1.5". Comfortably to start out with, I'd go with 1.5", still big enough to see, not that big to be a problem.
Message: Posted by: atinczor (Jul 19, 2011 08:39AM)
2" works for me better than 1.5".. A little misdirection solves any problems you might have if you have small hands...
Message: Posted by: steve j (Jul 21, 2011 12:23AM)
I use 2" however I have used as large as 3", I feel that you're methods of making them vanish should to an extent determine the size of the sponge ball you use. There are many methods, I suggest you find references on a few, the magic shop I worked at when individuals came in interested in sponge ball magic I would guide them in the right direction to start but as you get more advanced you can go larger which can increase the impact of the magic in certain venues.
Message: Posted by: CardC (Jul 21, 2011 12:28AM)
I agree with the rest 2-inch seems to be a great size. I was also wondering about the soft vs. more firm set. I guess it is just a matter of preference however the super soft ones feel so comfortable, and I feel might feel more ambiguous (undefined) in the hands of a spectator.
Message: Posted by: David French (Jul 21, 2011 07:43AM)
I prefer the two inch regular goshman. I started with them in 1979 and never switched. I use them for close up and stage and they can be seen.

Message: Posted by: curtgunz (Sep 15, 2011 09:46PM)
On 2011-07-11 15:11, Dr_J_Ayala wrote:
Most sponge workers ....I will be glad to help.

That was a great, detailed post. Thank you.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 16, 2011 04:42AM)
If you want to really understand how spoiled we have all become, see if you can find a set of sponge balls from the 1950's. The sponge was rubber instead of polyfoam. It was much stiffer in consistency. And it didn't keep its flexibility.
Message: Posted by: Dr_J_Ayala (Sep 16, 2011 10:25AM)
On 2011-09-16 05:42, Bill Palmer wrote:
If you want to really understand how spoiled we have all become, see if you can find a set of sponge balls from the 1950's. The sponge was rubber instead of polyfoam. It was much stiffer in consistency. And it didn't keep its flexibility.

I knew a guy that had a set from when he was first starting in the 50s. Those things were horrible! Still, to any practiced sponge ball worker, they were still very much useable - but as Bill pointed out, nowhere near as nice as the modern versions.
Message: Posted by: kOnO (Sep 16, 2011 11:11AM)
1.5 or 2 inch?

I like the 2 inch

I might have small hands but I like my big balls(super soft)

Message: Posted by: Alan Munro (Sep 18, 2011 03:50PM)
I tend to use the 1 1/2", mostly because I perform for kids a great deal. The routine that I perform stand-up just begs for a smaller ball, when performing for kids. It would be impossible to do the routine, much of the time, with 2" super softs.
Message: Posted by: magicians (Sep 18, 2011 05:23PM)
While you are on the subject, I have a nice transition effect. Go from 3" to 2" to 1" to 1/2" and back to 2"
You can do routines by stopping at your favorite size. Super soft, matching dye lots.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 19, 2011 01:00PM)
Let me ask a parallel question.

What size shoes should I wear?

While MOST people can use 2 inch sponge balls without any problems, this is not true for everyone. If you have trouble with 2 inch sponge balls, get 1.5 inch balls.

BTW, they don't HAVE to be balls. Look at "And Then There Were Four" by Goshman.
Message: Posted by: Dr_J_Ayala (Sep 19, 2011 10:32PM)
On 2011-09-19 14:00, Bill Palmer wrote:
Let me ask a parallel question.

What size shoes should I wear?

While MOST people can use 2 inch sponge balls without any problems, this is not true for everyone. If you have trouble with 2 inch sponge balls, get 1.5 inch balls.

BTW, they don't HAVE to be balls. Look at "And Then There Were Four" by Goshman.

Thank you Bill! That is why I alway recommend starting with the 1.5 inch balls because as you pointed out, not everyone can use 2 inch balls without issues.

As far as non-ball solutions - anyone remember the classic Don Alan Benson Bowl routine? It used square sponges and I have heard that he even used them for other sponge ball work in place of actual balls. Like the Alan sponges, 'And Then There Were Four' are also squares, and they have the added bonus of not rolling all over the place, or off the table.

Sponge rabbits can also do the same things a sponge ball/square can do. For that matter (and to some it may be a little ridiculous) but the soft yellow or orange earplugs can even be a good substitution. Jay Sankey also marketed a routine using the earplugs.

And Bill: You should wear a 2" super soft shoe. :kermit: ;)
Message: Posted by: billappleton (Sep 21, 2011 04:52PM)
Steve Dacri talks about this issue on L & L world's greatest sponge ball magic.

Start with 2, then move to 2.5 for more impact or to play a larger room. But the sleights are more difficult.

There are benson bowl segments on this DVD with Johnny Thompson and Frank Garcia.
Message: Posted by: 8thking (Sep 28, 2011 02:44PM)
Know what? I have seen so many magicians using grotty balls that are old smelly and tired.

Instead of asking what size and color I would say make sure you wash them and always work with damp puffed up balls too.
Message: Posted by: Dr_J_Ayala (Sep 28, 2011 09:32PM)
Also be sure that once you have washed them and wrung them out thoroughly, you keep the colors separated because they are not color-fast, and the colors will rub off on one another.
Message: Posted by: Daz Buckley (Oct 3, 2011 12:20AM)
I regfularly perform a routine that has me loading first two and then three super soft 2" in kids hands. Whilst a little remains visible it is not obvious that there are too many sponges in their hand. So I would say that even 2" are ok for small hands.
Message: Posted by: MagiCol (Oct 10, 2011 12:04AM)
A couple of pointers for beginners. Buy two sets the same size and colour at a time on the basis that you are going to lose a few sponge balls along the way, and will need replacements. I use sponges just a little, and I've lost about 4 of them. The most common fault for me is after using them on the street and having them still in my pocket, I forget to take them out and store them in a plastic bag in my street bag. Left in my pocket and forgotten about for 1/4 or 1/2 hour, its so easy to have them jump or drop out or get pulled out by mistake. Hey, just this afternoon I was partway through rehearsing a sponge ball routine at home when I knocked off and went outside. Later in the day I put my hand into my pocket and found I had sponge balls there, and one was missing. I retraced my movements and found the missing red spongeball sitting on the grass where I had been sawing fire wood, wet from the rain. So, store your sponge balls away when you've finished losing them.

I have also read that it pays to get two sets of the same size and colour at a time, since the dye colour batches may vary from one batch to another, and replacement balls otherwise not be the same shade.
Message: Posted by: MagiCol (Oct 10, 2011 12:06AM)
Oh, a Freudian slip. I meant "store them away when you've finished USING them." It's me that does the losing of them!
Message: Posted by: Dougini (Oct 14, 2011 02:01PM)
Hey, thanks for this topic! I've decided 2" Supersofts from Goshman to be the choice. Great advice Pete, and much appreciated! The simplest effects are by far the best...Penguin, I see has the best price!