Jim's Devilstick Page

Quad day at the University of Illinois doing mills mess.

One of my favorite juggling props is the devilstick. I was first introduced to this prop when I was in college. I was at the University of Illinois and was in the Illini Juggling and Unicycling club. One of the members, Rob Peterson, let me borrow his devilstick over sping break. After practicing for the whole week I was hooked on it. I came back and could do almost every trick people had shown me, plus a few that I had come up with on my own. I continued learning a few new tricks over the next couple of years, but when I graduated from college I found little time to pick up the devilstick. I am now back at the University of Illinois working for NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications). Since I am back around campus I have picked up juggling again and have found a renewed interest in the devilstick.

Lately I have been creating alot of tricks, and am still always looking for new ones. I started trying to find information on the devilstick and different tricks people had come up with, but didn't find very much. This is what lead me to create Devilstick.org which I describe below. You can take a look there for some of the tricks I have come up with along with other information about the devilstick.

What type of devilstick I use

I first learned how to devilstick with one of the club members (Rob Peterson's) devilstick. This was a Todd Smith devilstick that was wrapped with a cloth tape. Since this is what I learned on, I went ahead and purchased my first devilstick from Todd Smith. This was back in the Spring of '86, and I can say that to this day I have not found a better devilstick. I still use that same one in practice and performances. I have had to rewrap the cloth tape on it, which I purchased from a local bicycle shop. I ended up with a little bit thicker cloth tape than was originally on it, and I like it much better.

I do have to mention that our jugling club purchased a devilstick from Todd Smith sometime in 1996. When I tried out that devilstick I was pretty dissappointed. This was because the devilstick was MUCH lighter than the one I had. I was so used to mine that it was very hard to do some of my tricks with the clubs devilstick. Most likely they started using a different type of wood for the stick since they were very close in size.

In the summer of '97 I purchased two Dube Trigon devilsticks. I wanted to get two devilsticks that were virtually identical in size and weight so that I could start working on two devilsticks. I also noticed that the Trigon devilstick were a bit heavier than the new Todd Smith ones, so I went with the Trigons. However, when I received the devilsticks they ended up being different weights! I mean the weight difference was considerable enough to make it pretty difficult to practice with two sticks. I ended up working on two devilsticks by using my Todd Smith and one of the Dube's that was closest in weight. I do like the Trigon sticks and will eventually rewrap them with cloth tape. I think that the silicon coated handsticks slip too much on the Trigon tape. I eventually bought another Trigon at a convention and was able to get the weight to match one of the other Trigons I owned.

I attended the 2001 IJA Convention in Madison, WI and had a chance to stop by the Dube booth to talk to them about my Trigon devilsticks. They had never noticed any differences in the weights of the sticks before, but were willing to give me a discount on a new stick. So I tried a few of the sticks on display and picked one up that matched the weight of one of my current Trigons. Since working on two devilsticks, and getting used to the Trigons, I have started using a Trigon when doing one devilstick tricks as well.

I have recently purchased four new Dube Trigon devilsticks and was able to specify what weight I wanted for the sticks. So now I have four devilsticks that are fairly similar in weight for working on two devilsticks (yes, I have been neglecting working on two devilsticks). I still think that the Trigons are a bit slick, but you can get used to them the more you use them.

Pictures of me with the devilstick

Here are a few pictures of me doing some devilstick tricks at some of the performances our club has done.

On Creativity

I have found the devilstick to be the one juggling prop where most of my creativity comes out. I have come up with numerous tricks that are either in progress or on the back burner to try. Most of the tricks I have come up with seem to stem from variations of tricks I have already learned. Whether they are juggling tricks, contact juggling tricks or any other type of tricks, I try to see if there might be some way to incorporate a move into a devilstick trick. One example of this is when I started working on mills mess with the devilstick. I got the idea from doing mills mess with three balls (no claim with coming up with the trick, just that I thought of the idea before I had ever seen it done), then incorporated the same moves into a devilstick trick.

Some tricks I have come up with are ideas that didn't seem to pan out. And in the process of trying the trick, a new trick came out of it. Or sometimes I'll try to break out of a paradigm that I might be in. One such instance was when I decided to start holding the handsticks in the middle for some tricks, rather than at the ends. I first started trying this when I read in Chris Dore's book Mastering Devilstick - part one about trying the saw with your knuckles down. Now I have both sides of the handstick to use in tricks. That's when I came up with tricks like the Egyptian Buzzsaw, the Figure 8, and the Butterfly.

Another great way to get some inspiration for creativity is to watch other jugglers. They don't necessarily have to be jugglers who do devilsticking, but they have to be creative and use the props and body motions in different and unique ways. I have been going through the IJA Convention videos, along with some other videos of jugglers, and there is alot of cool stuff on them. So far, of all the artists that I have seen, the two people who impress and inspire me the most are Michael Moschen and Michael Menes. These guys are fantastic! I can watch their routines over and over without ever getting bored (there's not many routines that I can say this about).

I also like listening to music when I practice. I will usually put on a style of music that tries to fit my mood and what I am working on. Which is usually something like Joe Satriani, King's X, Extreme, or something in that vein. Music definately loosens me up and I can really get into what I am working on. Once I have warmed up and am practicing with some music I sometimes get to a point where I can come up with new tricks. This is more out of relaxing and freeing my mind of the daily grind. This is when I start seeing new tricks or seeing extensions of tricks that I am already practicing on.

There hasn't been much in the way of reading that has really inspired creativity in me. I would be interested if any of you have found some things you have read to be inspiring in this fashion. I did like the Steven Ragatz piece in the JIS about creativity. I have read it a couple of times and there is some very good stuff in there.

About Devilstick.org (previously The Devilstick Page)

I noticed that around our juggling club not many people devilstick. Or once they can do it, they never pursue any further tricks beyond the first couple they learn. I love seeing and learning new tricks with the devilstick, that's why I am trying to find as many tricks as possible for the devilstick. I had never found a good resource for all of the tricks, so I decided to create this web page. I had been wanting to create a devilstick page for some time. So after a few posts to rec.juggling about devilsticks, and responding to peoples requests for tricks, I finally took the initiative to actually do it.

I created this page for my benefit as well as people trying to learn new tricks. Too many times I would stop working on a certain trick and then soon forget it. Then a year or so later somebody shows me a trick and I hit myself on the head because I used to do the trick but had forgotten about it. So it contains a list of some of the tricks I know and am practicing, as well as tricks other people have contributed. Hopefully I will be able to get most of the tricks I know on here.

Here is my page dedicated to the art of devilsticking. If you see any corrections, additions, or a trick just doesn't make sense, by all means email me so I can make things more clear. Have fun and enjoy!

Check out Devilstick.org

If you have a trick or other information that you want added to these pages then email me and I will be sure to credit you for the information.

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Please email jamesjbarlow@gmail.com with comments and corrections.