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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » All tied up! » » Baker's Challenge Belt is in hand! (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Harry Murphy
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The Steve Baker Challenge Belt #2 is in my hot little hands right now! I’m just going to give some initial impressions on construction, craftsmanship, and the like. Performance critique (belt under fire, so to speak) will come later when I’ve taken the proper time to work with the prop and to perform it.

Right out of the shipping box there is a big difference compared to other props I have purchased. This baby has it’s own custom, padded case! The case is like a computer or camera case, and has my initials riveted right on it. Hey, the belt does not really need this kind of protection (it is fairly indestructible!) but it sure is a classy way to carry it.

There is room in the case for several other small props. Locks, handcuffs some tools, and even 50 feet of rope can share the case with the belt. The zippered compartments at either end of the case are padded enough to carry a cell phone safely. Ok, enough about the case, but it does speak to the thought and care Mr. Baker puts into his products. It also cuts into the profit margin of the prop. I know others who would have left it out just to make a few more bucks. Thanks for being thoughtful Mr. Baker!

On to the belt! My first impression holding it is that it looks cruel and wicked! The prop looks like it would hurt anyone being restrained in it! Just the kind of image I want in an act!

The craftsmanship and attention to detail is clearly evident. If I didn’t know that this belt was entirely hand cut, with every hole and slot hand punched, and every rivet hand hammered, I would say this was a mass produced machine job. The spacing of loopholes and belt holes is precise. Edging detail is clean and crisp. Even the decorative detail that outlines the leather edges is even and crisply incised and is hand done! The metal work (grommets, buckles, and rivets) is stainless steel.

I opted for Smith & Wesson 100’s as my cuff of choice. Mr. Baker cut them apart and added the short length of chain necessary to make them be where they need to be to work with the belt. This chain length is one of the little custom details (do you want two links, three or maybe six?).

There is a crotch strap that has a “floating” piece so that it can be padlocked centered to the waist belt in the rear. Mr. Baker has made the crotch strap removable and has included a tool to remove it. Again, it is just a little detail.

There is no comparison of this prop with any other. It does look a little like and a Tom Horn Belt. But it is so much more than a simple Tom Horn belt. It does seem somewhat similar in use to the cuff and waist chain, convict transport belt used by the U.S. Marshal service and most jails and prisons in the USA. Yet, it is not as simple in concept (or construction) as a cuff and chain transport belt (which by the way is fairly easy to escape from!). It even seems similar in some sense to the Posey “belly loop” straightjacket, yet is not as simple or as “easy” to get out of as the Posey (and we all know how difficult it is to get out of a belt loop Posey!).

This prop is an example where the total is more than the sum of its parts. I think that this prop can easily replace all three.

The stainless steel catches the light beautifully, the handcuffs ratchet down loudly and tightly, and the wing nuts spin down tightening the arm straps cruelly. This prop is going to show well on stage.

Let me say that I purchased a Tom Horn belt in the recent past. Until I saw the workmanship of the Steve Baker Challenge Belt, I thought the Tom Horn was well made! The Tom Horn belt used only about half the number of rivets used in constructing the Challenge Belt and it was constructed with “pop-rivets”. You know, the kind that leaves a projection. I have to tell you that I scratched myself more than once practicing with that dang belt. Well, Mr. Baker uses “real” flush mount rivets. NOTHING protrudes to cause you any harm. It is these little details that show quality in construction.

Frankly, there are too many little details to enumerate them all (and some would tip stuff I don’t want to tip!).

Overall this is a high quality, well made, and wicked looking prop. Good job Mr. Baker!


An hour later:
Unfortunately for me, my practice partner is away in Nags Head with family for the whole week! I won’t get to experiment a great deal for a whole week! I did manage to get the papergirl to belt me up (that will teach her to try to collect for the paper!). I wonder what her parents will think when she tells them the story? Well, she has strapped me in a straight jacket before and they have seen my act so…

Any way, she tightened the belt to the extent that I had difficult breathing, she ratcheted the cuffs down until my hands turned blue, and spun the wing nuts down so that I could not flex my arms. I didn’t even have to encourage her to make it tight!!! ! Maybe, I should have given her a more expensive Christmas tip! It took a few minutes to get out, but get out I did

I believe that this prop may very well replace the Straightjacket portion of the act.
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
CARNEGIE
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I posted this before but in case it got lost in the mix, Steve announced over the weekend his Challenge Belt Contest for those that own the challenge Belt. I know he is about to finish up belts 3&4 any day, so those folks will have theirs quite soon.

The Contest is for the most unique/original presentation with the belt. He has all the details on his website http://www.mrescape.com and the prize is one of the new ALL LEATHER Belts, which are not available yet. On Sunday Steve told me that 12 of the Escape Proof Challenge Belts were left and I'm assuming, unless a couple more sold, that there is still a chance to buy a belt.

Thanks Harry for posting your thoughts on the Belt!
Kondini
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A good posting Harry and very endorceble.

To follow on with my own observations.

At High Wycomb in a couple of weeks we will be giving the belt its 30th performance,,,I am still not happy with the presentation as I feel that more could be got from this restraint but the mechanics are now sorted and performance receiving good results.

Tip,,,if at all possible have the belt on full view throughout the day, making it`s performance the final stunt done,this ensures a good sized crowd and garners interest right up to performance time.
The actual presentation is still eluding me as just to get out and leave it at that seems to be flat, the build on stage must continue the interest up to a crescendo, different methods have shown that a very slow start (Doing nothing at all for at least two minuets,,,and on stage that`s a hell of a long stage wait)Seems to excite the speckies far more than an outright struggle,,,,working to a music backing with a change of tempo in line with movement getting faster is the way I am going at the moment.
The climax !!!!

Escape done,,,,,do you throw this restraint on the ground (I think not) Into the air,,,no.

To just stand there looking knackered is not the way either.

When I get it I will pass it on,,,,those of you with the belt will know the feeling.

NB With the belt on display and certain wording beneath it (More on this later cos it`s too good to pass on to you lot yet!!).
Most of the entertainment factor is met long before performance (This is unusual).Once more the look scores.

I know it`s a Challenge belt, but to use in this way only, will diminish it`s use and I feel that to do so will restrict it`s overall effect on an audience (They are gullible only to a certain extent).

More later (I have just locked myself in the office!).

Ken.
FLIM-FLAM
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I say if it's a real challenge belt, then let it stand as such. How about a reward to anyone that can escape the restraint? Now that will grab some attention!
Harry Murphy
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Flim-Flam, it is a "real" Challenge Belt. When you know the history (read it on Mr. Baker's web site) you will understand the name. However, it does not have to be used as a challenge belt per se. That is, have the "challenger" put into it and let him/her try to escape.

At some level every escape is a challenge. I got away from the challenge act a couple of decades ago! The focus is on the entertainment value, theatricality, and impossibility of the escape.

Like Kondini I am struggling with blocking a good piece of theatre with this prop. I have a great back-story that makes sense and is believable (especially when one knows my “daytime job”!). The wind up is good, the pitch is OK, but I’m not hitting it out of the park yet!

My version has me putting on an appropriate costume. More later because like Kondini I am not ready to give it all up yet.

This display angle is pure gold, thanks.

So far my ending has me out of the prop, it hanging from one hand, and arms up-stretched above my head in the traditional “ta-da” applause position. I don’t like throwing my props down and I’d hate to be hit with it if I tossed it into the air!

I agree with Kondini here, to play it as a Challenge will diminish its use. Mr. Baker may call it a Challenge Belt and for good reason, I just choose to play it differently.

However, come the day when its original purpose is needed then I’ve got it.

When you get yours play it your way and let us know how it works for you.
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
The Donster
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How or What will be Needed to get it. to be able to be Hit it out of the Ball Park. there are many Possible Ways to Present it. but Trial And Error Might be Needed Here. Don,
Viano
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I was patiently waiting for mine until I read these posts. Now want mine NOW! Steve, enough with the sugar-free cake. MAKE MY BELT!
Rich

PS I wish I could be there to share the cake with you.
FLIM-FLAM
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Hi Harry, I'll pass on getting one of those belts. A little to expensive for my pockets. I'll be interested to see though, how many of those who get the belt hold it up to a real challenge. I think it would be a great attention getter if not used as just another stage prop.
Steve Baker - Mr.Escape
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Flim-Flam,

You sure have a lot of opinions for someone who posts with the name Flim-Flam

How about this,since the belt is to expensive for your pockets,and since it's
a challenge belt.... Here is a REAL CHALLENGE: IF YOU CAN ESCAPE THE BELT I
PLACE ON YOU(after a complete search) THE BELT IS YOURS!!!

The ball is in your court Flim-Flam ????

Steve Baker
FLIM-FLAM
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Mr. Baker, Thanks for the offer, but I'm afraid I'm a little to old to be playing the escape game these days. I guess the best way to respond to your post is just to say everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do have a question for you though. What are you doing these days?
Harry Murphy
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Flim-Flam. The belt is a good prop that can easily replace the straight jacket in an act. It can be put on any spectator to allow them to attempt to escape. It can be put on another experienced escape artist to allow them to attempt to escape.

My routine presently has me putting it on a spectator (last night it was placed on a police officer), giving the keys, and letting them try to get out as I go on and do a couple of other quick routines. Then I take him out and let him put me in. I get out.

So far, it has cause a lot of interest from the audience for what I say it is. I don’t call it a Challenge Belt. I do say that it is escape proof. The challenge to me is implied.

It takes a good sense of theatre to make any escape exciting and entertaining. Sadly, most escapes are presented as challenges and are not all that exciting or entertaining! Read Mark Tripp’s posts on this very topic. I tend to agree with Mark.

As to expense of the prop. Well, when the regular Tom Horn Belt costs about $150.00 and a Straightjacket can run over $250.00 then the Challenge Belt doesn’t seem all that much. I have replaced both in my act with the CB.

Further in a day of $300 to $500 cups for cups and balls, $500.00 tables, and $200.00 one-trick watches, the CB seems even less costly for the quality prop you get.

However, if you don’t perform or use the prop then $10.00 would be too costly. I have a house full of props/tricks that range in cost from $5.00 to $50.00 that I don’t use (some I never used!). They are expensive! I actually bought the CB with money I raised selling off good quality props (and some were very expensive).

So far, the CB has found a home in a routine. The routine is not perfected yet but I can say the prop is being used, and getting good audience reactions for me.

I’m an old phart (billed in one venue as "The Worlds Oldest (still) Living Excapologist!") and I gave up doing a challenge act almost three decades ago! Frankly, I don’t think they really work anymore. But then I could be wrong.
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
FLIM-FLAM
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Harry,

How would you compare the craftsmanship to the Tom Horn Belt?
DavidEscapes
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Hi Flim-Flam

Harry already compared the quality of the two belts in his first post. I hope you don't mind me quoting you here Mr Murphy.

Quote:
On 2005-07-18 19:42, Harry Murphy wrote:

Let me say that I purchased a Tom Horn belt in the recent past. Until I saw the workmanship of the Steve Baker Challenge Belt, I thought the Tom Horn was well made! The Tom Horn belt used only about half the number of rivets used in constructing the Challenge Belt and it was constructed with “pop-rivets”. You know, the kind that leaves a projection. I have to tell you that I scratched myself more than once practicing with that dang belt. Well, Mr. Baker uses “real” flush mount rivets. NOTHING protrudes to cause you any harm. It is these little details that show quality in construction.


Cheers

David
David Victor - The artist formally (and still occasionally) known as David Straitjacket.

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FLIM-FLAM
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Thanks David! I missed that one. Sounds like a very well made restraint.

Jim
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