Ann Arbor Juggling Arts Club
Bruce's Club-Buying Advice

There are two main types of juggling clubs: single-piece and composite:

  • single-piece: these are molded out of a single piece of plastic. Dube Airflites are an example. These tend to be cheaper (between 10 and 20 dollars a piece?) and they last longer, but they can be a little tough on the hands.
  • composite: These are made of plastic and rubber bits stuck around a wooden dowel. Dube's custom Europeans are an example of this kind of club. They cost more ($20 to $32 a piece), but they feel better because the handles are softer, and maybe they tend to be balanced a little bit better as well, since the more complicated construction gives the manufacturers more leeway to adjust the balance. The more complicated construction also makes these clubs less durable---eventually the dowel will break, or plastic bits will start to come detached. But if you keep good care of them they should still last for several years.

The choice between single-piece and composite clubs is the occasional subject of holy wars on rec.juggling, so rest assured that either choice has its proponents.

Once you've decided what type of club you want, there are a few choices left to make:

  • shape: "European" clubs usually have a slimmer bulb (the bulb is the bulging part, the part you don't catch), whereas "American" clubs have fatter bulbs. I think Europeans are what most of the people in our club have. Some people prefer the larger Americans for performing since they're more visible. The shape also tends to affect the way the clubs spin; you really need to try both kinds to figure out which you prefer. There are also some more unconventional shapes, such as Beard's radical fish.
  • decorations: For a few extra bucks you can get your clubs decorated with shiny metallic mylar stuff. It gets kind of ragged eventually, but most manufacturers will sell replacement decorations, so you can change them after a few years if you want.
  • weight and length: Lighter seems to be the fashion. Heavier clubs might perform a little better outside when there's wind, though. I think they tend to rotate a little slower if they're longer. Don't ask me. The renegade people have a page explaining the importance of length and weight.
This isn't the end. There are glow-in-the-dark clubs, soft squishy clubs you can safely hit people over the head with, and we haven't even broached the matter of rubber chickens, flaming torches, or knives....

I don't know of any local retailers that carry clubs; mail-order is the way to go, and every club manufacturer I know of has a catalog on the web. Here are the big ones:

  • Todd Smith: Bill and I have Todd Smith Thumpers. Noah likes his Todd Smith American 1-piece clubs (read what Noah has to say about them). Be forewarned that Todd Smith's web pages are not kept well up-to-date, so you should check all prices over the phone before you place your order.
  • Dube: They make a very light european composite club and allow you to choose from a wide variety of decoration styles. They also make some good 1-piece clubs. Spiffy catalog. I've got a dead-tree version of the catalog, too, if anyone would like to take a look at it. Fantasy Attic Costumes ((305 S Main St, (734) 665-2680) carries Dube Airflites, which are pretty good 1-piece Europeans, for $14 a club. That, unfortunately, is about the cheapest you can get a decent club for. (Jugglebugs are cheaper, and also available from Fantasy Attic Costumes, but the ones I had when I was a kid were terrible.)
  • Renegade: Among other products, they make nice, reasonably priced (about $25 each?) composite clubs. I used to have a set, till I lost them. Mark, Josh, Fred, and Noah all have renegades; they'd probably be happy to let you try out their clubs if you asked.
  • Beard: A British manufacturer. I'm not too familiar with their stuff, except that they make these bizarrely shaped clubs called radical fish that I've always been a little curious about. Serious Juggling is an American retailer that carries some of their clubs.
  • Henry's: A German company; again, I apologize for my ignorance here, and refer you to Serious Juggling or Jireh (see below) as an American source for their clubs.
  • Jireh Distributing Company: A Michigan retailer which carries a wide selection of clubs from the above manufacturers and others. Larry reports that they're helpful and quite fast. Call them at (616) 754-3487, or email them at 777stuff@pathwaynet.com. You're also likely to run into these folks if you attend a local juggling festival.

The best way to figure out what you want is probably to come to club meetings, try out other peoples' clubs, and ask them where they got them.

If you want more information about the construction of composite juggling clubs, there's a nice article on the subject in Charley Dancey's "Compendium of Club Juggling"; just ask me if you'd like to see it.

Further Electronic Resources

As usual, the Juggling Information Service is the first place to look. In particular, see the articles on buying clubs (very out of date, last time I checked), and the Juggler's Mall, which lists lots of club makers and retailers. (All the club-seller's links above came from the "Juggler's Mall" pages.) Finally, you might want to search the rec.juggling archives for opinions.
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