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#1
Old 08-13-2008, 12:01 AM
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How do you know that you are ready to juggle live chainsaws?

I've really been wondering this for quite some time, but given the recent thread that Runs With Scissors posted, it seems like a good time to ask.

So, how in the hell does a juggler know that he has practiced enough to toss those things around? I can imagine that one must practice on inactive chainsaws at first, but seriously, how do they know when it is ok to start those things running?

Last edited by unstrung; 08-13-2008 at 12:01 AM.
#2
Old 08-13-2008, 12:07 AM
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I'd say when they can perform very, very consistently on one that doesn't have a chain on it; that's when things get really scary.
#3
Old 08-13-2008, 12:13 AM
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Chainsaws used for juggling don't have teeth on the chain and the motor, while running, isn't actually driving the chain (or just remove the chain altogether). Very loud and smokey but not really dangerous.

So what you're juggling is a set of very heavy clubs. I used to juggle bowling balls and odd-shaped/heavy objects (toilet plungers were the worst, all the weight is at the head so the handle tends to bop you in the face until you adjust to the balance). It takes a lot of strength and practice but when you're strong enough to handle the weight, you're ready to do them with the motors running.

Similarly, machetes and other blades don't have a sharp edge on them (so you don't accidentally cut something off). Flaming torches aren't that bad even if you do accidentally hit yourself with the lit end - practice a few times to get used to the feel (they are intentionally balanced the same as regular juggling clubs) and then light 'em up.

Last edited by Valgard; 08-13-2008 at 12:13 AM.
#4
Old 08-13-2008, 12:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Santo Rugger
I'd say when they can perform very, very consistently on one that doesn't have a chain on it; that's when things get really scary.
I think he wants to quantify the 'very, very' in that sentence. If you've done one thousand exchanges in a row without a mistake, is that enough? Or, given the horrific consequences of an error, would five thousand be a wiser target?

(As an amateur juggler, my answer would be 'eleventy trillion'. But I'm pretty addicted to referring to my hands in the plural, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valgard
Chainsaws used for juggling don't have teeth on the chain and the motor, while running, isn't actually driving the chain (or just remove the chain altogether). ... Similarly, machetes and other blades don't have a sharp edge on them (so you don't accidentally cut something off).
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Last edited by SCSimmons; 08-13-2008 at 12:17 AM.
#5
Old 08-13-2008, 12:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unstrung
So, how in the hell does a juggler know that he has practiced enough to toss those things around? I can imagine that one must practice on inactive chainsaws at first, but seriously, how do they know when it is ok to start those things running?
When he has trained himself out of the habit to try to make saving grabs. Once your instinct is to step back, you can start using chainsaws.
#6
Old 08-13-2008, 12:48 AM
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IANAJ, but one of the hardest things to juggle has to be what Penn and Teller do in one of their shows - they take a number of different size and shape bottles, and then break them, and juggle what remains on the neck. They are all balanced differently, and they have jagged edges - not something I would want to play with.
#7
Old 08-13-2008, 07:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beowulff
IANAJ, but one of the hardest things to juggle has to be what Penn and Teller do in one of their shows - they take a number of different size and shape bottles, and then break them, and juggle what remains on the neck. They are all balanced differently, and they have jagged edges - not something I would want to play with.
Penn does this, Teller doesn't. It's a solo Penn bit.
#8
Old 08-13-2008, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Valgard
Similarly, machetes and other blades don't have a sharp edge on them (so you don't accidentally cut something off). Flaming torches aren't that bad even if you do accidentally hit yourself with the lit end - practice a few times to get used to the feel (they are intentionally balanced the same as regular juggling clubs) and then light 'em up.
I think I was watching "America's Got Talent" or one of the 10 other talent shows running now and they had a juggler that showed he was using a genuine bowling ball by cutting a carrot with it.
#9
Old 08-13-2008, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
they had a juggler that showed he was using a genuine bowling ball by cutting a carrot with it.
Forget juggling. Using a bowling ball as a cutting utensil is way more talented.
#10
Old 08-13-2008, 11:18 AM
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No, the most impressive was when the Flying Karamozov Brothers juggled 1) a pair of shoes tied together, 2) a cardboad tube with a freely moving weight inside, and 3) a half gallon of vanilla ice cream (without the carton).

They deserved their standing ovation for that one.
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#11
Old 08-13-2008, 12:15 PM
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That had to have been part of their challenge round. Some audiences come up with amazingly difficult challenge objects.

One day, before I die, I will see the Flying Karamozov Brothers live.
#12
Old 08-13-2008, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
IANAJ, but one of the hardest things to juggle has to be what Penn and Teller do in one of their shows - they take a number of different size and shape bottles, and then break them, and juggle what remains on the neck. They are all balanced differently, and they have jagged edges - not something I would want to play with.
Remember, Penn and Teller are (and I mean no offense by this) professional liars. Just because that's what it looks like they're doing, doesn't mean it is. If I had to guess, I'd say that the bottles are probably pre-scored to break in a particular way, such that even though they all started off different, they all end up with the same balance qualities (center of mass and moment of inertia) as each other, and that Penn has already practiced with similarly-balanced objects.

Note that I am not a magician, and have no inside knowledge of how they actually do it, and so am under no ethical obligation not to tell.
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#13
Old 08-13-2008, 12:31 PM
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While it's not exactly the same thing, I do and teach beginner poi, or fire chain spinning. My rule of thumb for my students is this: when you can spin for 15 minutes without bonking yourself or getting your chains tangled, you can try lighting up.

This is because a burn only lasts 5-7 minutes, but it feels much, much longer. Also because fire moves oddly, and while lit chains are not technically measureably heavier than unlit, they feel as if they are far heavier (convection currents, maybe? I started a thread on it once, but no one had a definitive answer) and they tire you out more quickly on fire.

So my general rule of thumb for dangerous stuff: when you can do a very similar, less dangerous version for twice as long without making a mistake.

But it sounds like chainsaw juggling isn't as dangerous as it looks; still, that's a heavy weight to come down on a head or shoulder should you miss-throw.
#14
Old 08-13-2008, 12:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
While it's not exactly the same thing, I do and teach beginner poi, or fire chain spinning.
My admiration for you seems to grow every time you post...good grief.
#15
Old 08-13-2008, 12:54 PM
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Let's not forget kitten juggling. That would be much harder than anything else, except maybe the tube with the freely moving weight inside, because kittens will try to get away. Also, no one cares about the chainsaw if you drop it, but give a little kitten an owie and the booing starts right away.
#16
Old 08-13-2008, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asimovian
My admiration for you seems to grow every time you post...good grief.
Emphasis on beginner. I couldn't begin to do something like this! But I have about 6 moves I can work into a 7 minute routine, and I can teach you the basics of keeping the chains moving and looking cool...er, hot...at it.
#17
Old 08-13-2008, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
While it's not exactly the same thing, I do and teach beginner poi, or fire chain spinning. My rule of thumb for my students is this: when you can spin for 15 minutes without bonking yourself or getting your chains tangled, you can try lighting up.
You should come teach our local group. At the last event I went to, one of the gals lost her hula hoop into the crowd. It was quite entertaining. (Note that the whole show was entertaining, and I'm not saying I thought any less of them for a small, yet entertaining, mistake)
Quote:
This is because a burn only lasts 5-7 minutes, but it feels much, much longer. Also because fire moves oddly, and while lit chains are not technically measureably heavier than unlit, they feel as if they are far heavier (convection currents, maybe? I started a thread on it once, but no one had a definitive answer) and they tire you out more quickly on fire.
I'm pretty sure the answer would be increased drag due to a larger boundary layer (the layer of air that "sticks" to the object as it moves through the air). Do they feel heavier when you're holding them, or just feel like they have more inertia when you're swinging them?


Do those juggling chainsaws ever tie the throttle down? It seems like the extra angular momentum from a saw running at high RPMs would be very tough to control.

Last edited by Santo Rugger; 08-13-2008 at 12:57 PM.
#18
Old 08-13-2008, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goodie
Let's not forget kitten juggling. That would be much harder than anything else, except maybe the tube with the freely moving weight inside, because kittens will try to get away. Also, no one cares about the chainsaw if you drop it, but give a little kitten an owie and the booing starts right away.
I watched the Flying Karamazov Brothers juggle live cats once. The cats were obviously quite sedated - no cat is that mellow. They weren't exactly being flung through the air (it was closer to watching someone do a 3 Card Monte on a table) but the deed got done.
#19
Old 08-13-2008, 02:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Santo Rugger
Do they feel heavier when you're holding them, or just feel like they have more inertia when you're swinging them?
They feel "heavier" when you swing them, but not if you just hold them still. If you swing wild when lit, it takes an extra second or two and some more muscle exertion to move them back into the proper path than when unlit, so yeah, I guess inertia is the right word.
#20
Old 08-13-2008, 03:03 PM
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Would a spinning chain (sharp or not) affect how the chainsaw flips in the air? (I'm not sure if "gyroscopic force" is the term that I'm looking for.)
#21
Old 08-13-2008, 03:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
They feel "heavier" when you swing them, but not if you just hold them still. If you swing wild when lit, it takes an extra second or two and some more muscle exertion to move them back into the proper path than when unlit, so yeah, I guess inertia is the right word.
Yep, it's due to the increased boundary layer. When it's lit, you're effectively doubling the cross sectional surface area exposed to the air. I'm looking for the thread, but you know how the search function goes. I'm interested to see what other people had to say, and why boundary layer wasn't the decided upon answer.
#22
Old 08-13-2008, 03:17 PM
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How many beginning fire chain spinning students are there in your area?
#23
Old 08-13-2008, 03:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zebra
How many beginning fire chain spinning students are there in your area?
Quite a few, and even more people who are way more advanced than I am. If you're in town (Chicago), check out the firespinning at Foster Street Beach at the full moons. You might find me there.

Although, I'm saddened to say, firespinning seems to be losing popularity as glow-thing spinning is rising. Stupid ravers.

This is my group. We're about as organized as a herd of housecats, though, so the website is barely bare bones. I was not, I assure you, responsible for the "y" thing.
#24
Old 08-13-2008, 07:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rucksinator
Would a spinning chain (sharp or not) affect how the chainsaw flips in the air? (I'm not sure if "gyroscopic force" is the term that I'm looking for.)
I'm thinking the engine would impart more torque than the saw chain. Maybe not. The chain on most saws stops if you aren't pulling on the throttle. Even with all the safety features, I suppose there are still sawyers called Stubby or Lefty.
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#25
Old 08-13-2008, 08:20 PM
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There used to be a guy at Venice Beach (for you non-So. Californians, Venice is a magnet for bizarre street performers) who would juggle a running chain saw, an apple, and a peanut M&M. He would even wow the crowd by taking random bites out of the apple during his act. Funny thing was, his arms were full of long horrible looking scars....I presumed from the chain saw, but I'm not sure. Anyway, to answer the OP's question, I don't think any sane person is ever ready to start juggling running chain saws.
#26
Old 08-13-2008, 08:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Enola Gay
Funny thing was, his arms were full of long horrible looking scars....I presumed from the chain saw, but I'm not sure.
I'd vote "stage makeup." What better way to ramp up the suspense than providing "evidence" that accidents have happened--and if it happened once or twice or a dozen times...

Last edited by Q.E.D.; 08-13-2008 at 08:28 PM.
#27
Old 08-13-2008, 08:47 PM
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I think the best way to learn is just to jump in and give it a try
#28
Old 08-13-2008, 10:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Remember, Penn and Teller are (and I mean no offense by this) professional liars. Just because that's what it looks like they're doing, doesn't mean it is. If I had to guess, I'd say that the bottles are probably pre-scored to break in a particular way, such that even though they all started off different, they all end up with the same balance qualities (center of mass and moment of inertia) as each other, and that Penn has already practiced with similarly-balanced objects.
I've seen it, and I don't think it's faked. It's just not that hard. And before he was half of P&T, Penn was a comedy juggler, and juggled knives and axes and other dangerous objects.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yllaria
One day, before I die, I will see the Flying Karamozov Brothers live.
You must! They're terrific! My best challenge object was an unwrapped copy of the Sunday Washington Post. (He took advantage of the modification clause to wrap it in tape, but still couldn't juggle it.)
#29
Old 08-13-2008, 11:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yllaria
That had to have been part of their challenge round. Some audiences come up with amazingly difficult challenge objects.

One day, before I die, I will see the Flying Karamozov Brothers live.
They used to live in my hometown (at least some of them) and they still come back to visit when they are on the Chatauqua. They've replaced some of their original member with young guys.
#30
Old 08-14-2008, 12:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scylla
I think the best way to learn is just to jump in and give it a try
Heh. I can't believe this didn't pop into my head before.

Calvin: "Mom, where do we keep our chainsaws?"
Mom: "We don't have any chainsaws, Calvin."
Calvin: "Then how am I going to learn to juggle?"

Bill Watterson is a genius.
#31
Old 08-14-2008, 02:03 AM
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Thinking of mismatched items of different weight, I saw a guy years ago at Pier 31 (or 39?) by fisherman's wharf in San Franscisco juggle an egg, a lit torch and a cast iron skillet. He ended by breaking the egg in the skillet and waving the torch under it asking if anybody wanted an omlette.
#32
Old 08-16-2008, 08:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Remember, Penn and Teller are (and I mean no offense by this) professional liars. Just because that's what it looks like they're doing, doesn't mean it is. If I had to guess, I'd say that the bottles are probably pre-scored to break in a particular way, such that even though they all started off different, they all end up with the same balance qualities (center of mass and moment of inertia) as each other, and that Penn has already practiced with similarly-balanced objects.
I quite agree that (a) this is reasonable speculation and (b) there are many things in magic and in juggling that look more dangerous than they really are. However, in this particular case, it's pretty much unfaked. They are real glass bottles. Penn doesn't know or care much how they are going to break. He can (and often does) end up with 'bottles' that are barely more than the neck and a nasty shard of glass. He sometimes really does have to cope with the fact that the 'bottles' he is juggling have different weights and may have very eccentric shapes. He can do this, and - to be perfectly fair - so can many other jugglers who have learned their skills and their trade on the streets.

The only 'fakery' involved is that it's just not quite as dangerous as common intuition suggests. If you are doing this kind of juggling, with broken glass, the risk of actually sustaining a serious cut or gash is actually much lower than you might think. A competent three-ball juggler should be able, with a little practise, to make sure he only ever catches the solid neck of the bottle. If his hand does happen to touch the other parts of one of the bottles, where there is an exposed sharp edge, in 95% of cases the timing and the angle is going to be such that he's risking nothing more than a scratch. A jagged piece of glass is really only dangerous when it is applied in a slicing or cutting motion with pressure behind it.

With all that having been said, there still is a slight but real risk of a serious cut, and Penn has to be a darned good juggler to perform the feat night after night.
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