Twisting Balloons 101
Let's twist again like we did last summer...
Twisting Balloons 102
- Chubby Checker
Note: The symbols used in the above table are not part of any
standardized system. They are simply a suggested set of clear
pictures to be incorporated into drawings of balloons. Expect these
symbols to change and become more abstracted as we work toward a
standard set of symbols.
Also, some twists have multiple names and many of us use terms that
are accurate only part of the time. This may be make it difficult
for beginners and ESLers (English as a second language ers).
David Graves has provided a suite of drawings of basic
twists. These are very well done, and he's offering them for
your use, free of charge, in any and all future publications. These images can be found in the Balloon HQ photograph database If you are thinking of
writing a book, a
web page, etc, that has basic instructions, you probably ought to have a look
at these and send David feedback on them. They can be found in the
under: Drawings of Balloons. Additionally, there are also animated balloon drawings for the following twists: Apple twist, Bird Twist,
Ear Twist, Fold Twist, Meatball Twist, and Pop Twist. Check them
Basic pinch and twist
Locking twists and the basic four-legged animal
- If three bubbles are made using the method described above, the
second two can be twisted and locked together. The hardest part of
this is learning to use all of your fingers to hold bubbles that
you've made until they get "locked".
______________ ____ ____ ____
1 a 2 b 3 c
- In the above picture, the numbers refer to the twists, the letters
refer to the bubbles. To secure all of these bubbles, fold the
balloon at twist 2 so that "a" and "b" sit alongside each other.
Now form another twist combining 1 and 2. This is already the basic
head of an animal. "a" and "b" are ears. "c" is a nose.
- This same process can be repeated two more times to complete a basic
dog (or whatever you wish to call it). That is, immediately below
the head make three more bubbles and twist the second two together.
This forms a neck and two legs. Now, the same way, form a body and
two more legs. If the balloon were held end to end with all of the
twists in it, it would look like the figure below.
___ ___ ____ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
tail leg leg body leg leg ^ ear ear nose
\ ____ (__)
Bird body or 3 bubble roll through
Fold twist or large (elephant) large ear twist
- You simply make a long bubble, then bend it and twist the two ends
of the bubble together so that it forms a circle, of sorts. This is
good for making quick (but ugly) animal legs when the line gets
long. It is also handy for making large elephant ears and the
saucer on the Starship Enterprise. It's the same principle as an
ear twist, except an ear twist is usually done with a 1 inch bubble
and an elephant ear is done with a much longer bubble.
Ear (Pinch) (Bean) twist
- This twist works well to make ears, a pig nose, hands, elbows, hips,
eyes, lips, the center of a wheel, a cycle light, motorcycle engine,
birds feet, rooster comb, snake rattles, an owls beak, and those
little mechanical helpers that give us angles where we need them.
To make one, take a bubble and twist the two ends of it together.
before: __ ____ __ after: ___
__)(____)(__ ( v ) <-- formed with single bubble
/ ^ \
Or, described another way,
( )( )( )( )-------
- Form a bubble and then twist its own ends together. i.e.: points "a"
and "b" are twisted together "folding" over the bubble inside. The
size of the bubble determines what the use is for.
Often, as when making a bear or cat, a one inch bubble is used, by
having the edge that looks like the ear canal pointing forward on
the head it looks like a cat, pointing to the sides of the head it
looks more like a bear. At least that's what they say. I always make
them point forward, it looks more charming to me that way.
- I killed a lot of balloons before I learned how to do that ear
twist. The best way to avoid breakage is to make the bubble "soft".
You do this by letting out just a little air just before you twist
the ear the first time. A tight or hard bubble has a greater chance
of breaking. Especialy if you are doing ear twist next to each
other. This is hard to learn (making the bubble soft) but once you
get it you will wonder why it was so hard to begin with. Practice
practice practice. :-)
- You can make a specific bubble (any bubble, not just ear
twists) take more abuse by giving it more rubber. Twist the bubble
larger than you need then untwist just enough to squeeze some air
out of the bubble. The idea is to get the same size bubble with
- You might try softening the bubble before doing the pinch twist. If the
balloon is fairly tight I squeeze it, just before doing the twist, then I
have no problems with splitting the bubble. If the bubble is tight to begin
with it is very hard to split, and quite often it pops. I have no idea how
long mine lasts, but I have seen them in one of the restaurants the next
day, still looking good. All it takes is practice.
- I do pretty good pinch twist
but I can't seem to fold that twist into 2
smaller bubbles - like the claws on a T-rex or something - and I
really don't know why. All the books say this will hold the pinch
twist better - but mine last about 10 minutes and snap. Any help?
- Well, when I do a pinch twist. I take the ear twist and push it against
it's pinch twisted point and THEN twist the little bubbles a couple quick
times (in unison)... it makes my pinch twists VERY strong.
- When they "snap" do they come apart or pop? In other words, do they
come loose and leak or does the bubble burst?
- How to split an ear twist...
you have a 3 or 4" bubble then the ear twist and
the rest of the balloon. I turn the balloon over so I can see the spot
where the ear twist pulls the two pieces together (still with me) now push
the ear twist up and pull the two longer pieces down and together forcing
the ear twist into two equal parts. The ear twist now looks like a U, grab
both sides of the U as you pull up and twist into two seperate pieces.
Twist about 3 times and then it will stay much better. If you want even
more insurance repeat the process by going back through the already split
twist and giving it a few more twists.
Now to give credit where credit is due, Michael
Decker taught this to me and I have used it a lot.
- I used to have the same problem with my pinch twists coming undone on the
bear. The trick I've found is to make the bubbles on either side of the
pinch twist a bit tight, in other words don't squeeze any air out before
you twist. You want them tighter and they'll hold the pinch twist.
- To begin with, you have a little ~1 inch bubble you plan on
pinch twisting. Grab this bubble between a finger and a thumb.
Fold down the bubbles/remainder of balloon on either side and pull a
little bit. This stretches the not-yet-pinch-twisted bubble and
gives you better access to the twists on either side for the next
step. At that point, you want to slide the fingers holding the
bubble to be pinch twisted down to the two twists on either side of the
bubble and squeeze them together, then twist the pinch twist around
a few times.
Here's my description of a pinch twist.
To practice, inflate a 260 q and leave some tail. Twist a bubble of
any lenghth, then a small 1 inch bubble.
( )( )( )=====
Now take both larger bubbles in one hand , and hold one next to the other.
The small bubble now sticks out in front.
Grab the small bubble and twist is so that both ends of that bubble
are twisted together. You now have something that looks like an
ear. This is the pinch twist. Well done. See, I knew you could do
- When I first started twisting, I used to break a lot of pinch
twists too. I found it was because the way I was doing it, the
bubble of the pinch twist was rubbing too hard against the next
section of balloon. What worked for me was to pull on the pinch
twist ever-so-slightly as I was making it so that the bubble clears
the rest of the balloon and you don't get that friction.
- This can be done with any type or size of balloon. But if use a
small, round balloon you can actually form something that looks like
an apple. (This can be great for a William Tell routine.) Blow up
the small balloon part way and tie it off. Push the nozzle end into
the balloon with one finger until it is inside the tail of the
balloon. With the other hand grab the tail far enough in to grab
the nozzle also and give it a few twists. This should stay on its
own. You should now have something that basically forms the shape
of an apple with a stem sticking up.
- The apple twist, often called a tulip twist, goes like this:
- It's helpful when tying the balloon to put the nozzle of the balloon
through the knot twice to make it a bit large and easier to grab.
Use your index finger to push the knot into the balloon and grab the
knot, through the balloon, with the fingers of your other hand.
Remove your index finger from the balloon without releasing your
grip on the knot. If need be, push air back up above the knot, then
twist at the knot several times. I like to push the knot up into
the apple/tulip a little bit before releasing the twist. This
avoids those occasional spontaneous untwisting apples.
- This twist has a lot of uses aside from just making apples. In any
long thin balloon, you can push the nozzle in and form a bubble
with the nozzle being further into the balloon than the twist. When
you release this, it should stay in the balloon without any other
- I put a worm in an apple by including about 3" of FBNI (full
but not inflated) 160 in the apple twist, so the "worm" sticks out beside
the stem. I put a little Sharpie smile and eyes. Great finishing touch!
(Someone also once placed a black plastic spider on a my bunch of bananas.)
- I still have trouble getting my tulip twists to stay, any words
of wisdom? Try rolling the knot back up inside the bubble after you
pull your finger out and twist it. You can even make it more stable
by poking the knot out the top, (where your finger first went in,)
and giving it a couple of twists there, then rolling the knot back
into the middle of the bubble.
Advanced apple twists:
Yo-yo twist (split Apple twist)
- This idea is the fishing reel found in "Dewey's Zany
Balloons." Dewey takes a bee body, inflates it half full, and
does a basic apple. He then twists the apple in half horizontally.
This gives the reel for the rod, and the "apple stem" sticks out to
be the crank for the reel. I sure that the rod needs no
explanation. I've used this often for fishermen with great
- It looks like two toruses (donuts) side by side, connected only
at the centers. Like a yo-yo. If you pinch the donuts together on
one side, it spreads open on the other side like a spring
clothespin. You can then clip it on to a nose, ear, or whatever;
it holds on by friction. For the earrings, add a few dangling
260's with 1-inch bubbles in the end (like poodle tails).
- I have done this with both 260's and 350's, but I like the
effect better with the 350. It turned out to be rather simple:
- Make a 3-inch bubble. The actual length is best determined by
experimentation, and depends on what the final use will be. Tie a
knot. At this point, I prefer to trim off the nozzle close to the
knot so the knot is smaller.
- Make an apple. This is done by making an apple twist (see above)
all the way down and about 1/4" - 1/2" into the uninflated
part. Grab the knot through the uninflated part, extract your finger
(or other apple-twist tool) and twist a few times.
- Trim off the uninflated balloon after the twists you just made,
but keep hold of the twist itself -- it won't stay twisted by itself
(yet). Push the twist you are holding back into the balloon, as if
you were making an apple twist in the opposite direction as you just
did. Once the twist is fully inside, it will stay twisted by itself.
Push it back in far enough so the knot is more than halfway back
toward the side where it started.
- You should now have an oblong bubble with a thread of uninflated
balloon running through it from end to end. Give this bubble a
simple twist in the center, making two back-to-back apple twists.
The friction should hold the twists in place. You're done!
| | | |
| | | |
| |=| |
| | | |
| | | |
(Side View, and Top View)
- Pinch one side of this, and the other side opens up like a
clothes-pin. Clip this on to whatever body part(s) you desire.
- Instructions were also printed in Balloon Magic the Magazine but
here it is in simple form. Inflate a balloon to form a 1 or 1 1/2
inch bubble and tie it. Tie another knot about an inch beyond the
end of the bubble. This forms a soft bubble. Now, do a simple
apple twist or tulip twist - whichever you call it. Tuck the knots
all the way inside the bubble. Next, twist the apple twist in half
to form the "yo yo." Squeeze the bottom and the top opens. It will
grip on most anything that is thin. It works best as an ear ring -
if you wear a hoop or dangly earring and attach the balloon to that.
- After inflating the small 1.5 inch bubble and tying at both ends
to create a soft bubble, reach all the way through to create the
tulip twist. Cut off the remaining portion of tail and pull both
knots to the center. Twist the balloon in half to create the
"gripper." As you said, if you squeeze one side, the other opens
and will attach itself on almost anything. Earrings, nose bobs,
hair decorations etc.
- Clown Nose
- Animal Nose
- Earring (add baubles and dangly bits)
- Hair Bow (thanks to my wife for this one!)
- Game: get the "nose" off only be scrunching your face muscles
- Vehicle Wheels (makes a terrific Indy Race Car)
- Toys (see below)
- Inflate a 6-inch heart and wrap the nozzle between the two yo-yo
bubbles. You know have a heart that will stick on a shoulder, on a
Teddy Bear's ear, on a finger, a glass or a napkin holder (actually
almost anything that is sized for the yo-yo.)
- If you put the feet of a balloon animal on one side of the
yo-yo, you can use the other side to grip a glass or clothing or
whatever. Now the twister creation can be conveniently placed
almost anywhere. The balloon friction works to delightful
advantage. Unlike glue, however, you can remove it whenever you
wish. I've used this technique as a business card holder and as a
card holder for magic. Works great!
- Once you've made one of these from a 350, you'll see that you
have *two* suction cups right next to each other! Imagine the
possibilities for attaching things! Take a yo-yo and suction cup it
to a table. Now look at it. Looks like a light piece of fluff
sitting on a table. Ask some poor sucker to pick it up. Or have
them flick it off the table (maybe cover their desk with them, like
mushrooms). Because of the suction, they act a lot heavier than
they look. Rather startling, really.
Tips and variations
- Sometimes I leave the uninflated part on and
"countersink" it into the opposite end of the tulip
twisted knots (i.e. push the knots all the way through the tulip
twist and grip the end of the tail. Pull the tail end and the knots
to the center of the bubble and twist in half. -- like making a
basket except the basket is twisted in half) Now you have an
earring with a loop. Lots of possibilities to hanging, hooking and
creating including "bull with a nose ring", ear chains, baskets with
flowers and on and on and on.
- When you cut off the uninflated part, save it! I can get three
"noses" from one balloon by re-inflating. It's also good for popped
balloons that still have a few good inches in them.
- You can make easy, fast, long apple twists by using a smooth
dowel instead of your finger. I started using a chopstick I have
that is very smooth from many years of use, though this could be
done with fine grit sandpaper.
- Put two "noses" together by springing them open and pushing the
openings into each other, crosswise. Carefully push/roll the bubbles
past each other. The bubbles will form a very interesting
tetrahedron of apple twists.
- If you make the original bubble long enough, you can make more
than two bubbles in the last step. Note that they don't seem to hold
together as well, but they could be useful as parts in other
- I put 2 superballs (T. Myers 3/4") into a 350 before
inflating. (Tom's "Balls 'n Balloons" book gives good
techniques for this.) When I did the final twist, I made sure there
was one in each "chamber." This thing rattled and spun and bounced
and did all sorts of crazy things! Putting two of these together
into a tetrahedron was even crazier!
- Mark writes: I independently discovered this twisted apple-twist
(yo-yo) this spring, after George Sands' book got me critically
thinking about apple and hook twists. They're slick, aren't they?
I had never seen them anywhere before twisting my first one, and
remember proclaiming to several friends (and a professor) "I
have just revolutionized balloon twisting!" :-) The biggest
let-down of my twisting career came when I proudly showed Marvin
Hardy one of them at IBAC. He said something like "Oh, that
old thing" as he promptly made one and clipped it on my ear.
- A tulip/apple twist forms a suction cup. As much as I would
like to claim the balloon suction cup effect, I seem to recall
reading about it years ago in one of the older balloon books (Chuck
Leech?) where it was described as an effect, without (at that time)
any apparent use.
- Put a tulip twist in both ends of a 350, bend the balloon around
into a horizontal "U" shape and suction cup both ends to a window to
create a "basket-ball hoop."
- I've used it for a table mount variation on the ray gun. ("keep 'em
covered while I make the next balloon...").
- The interesting thing about using 350's for the suction cup effect,
is that you get a stronger suction than with the 260's (due to wider
cross section?) and the 350's are structurally stronger.
- Suction hint: If you are having trouble making the tulip twist
stick, try this: After you make the tulip, work the twist (what
would be the stem knot in an apple), back toward the end where you
first stuck your finger in. As though you were trying to turn an
"innie" into an "outie". When you get that end "flat", moisten it,
press it against the glass and, while holding the tulip with one
hand, gently pull on the body of the balloon with the other hand
(pulling the twist partway back through the tulip.) Ta Da, Maximum
suction cup effect.
- I've been suction-cupping balloons to things all over the place. A
few days ago I made a person that definitely needed a hat. The head
was made out of a couple heart balloons. I suction cupped an apple
balloon to the top of the head to form the hat.
- A marriage twist is just an apple twist that joins two balloons.
This twist is a way to attach one balloon to the next, as with a
black balloon to a 3-inch white balloon so that the black bubble
ends up laying in the tulip twist "funnel" area. The
marriage knot is a second knot placed on the black balloon, in order
to make a longer nozzle. The knots are approximately 3/4 inch
apart. The first knot is what is tulip twisted (or apple twisted)
into the white balloon, along with the white nozzle. The first knot
helps anchor the tulip twist.
- To attach e.g. a 260, you can use a tulip twist (also called apple
twist, and I believe, "marriage twist" by some). This however can
untwist and come loose. Another possibility is to make two or three
small pinch twists on the end of the 260, and attach a "raisin" twist
- I recently bought "Dewey's Celebrity Balloons" and he
has a GREAT way to make shoes on cartoon animals like Mickey Mouse,
etc. - by apple twisting 6-inch hearts and connecting them to the
legs! (Tie the knots together and push the knot into one lobe and
apple twist) Even high heels by adding a short 260 bubble opposite
the leg! So, what I want to know is: who out there has ever apple
twisted a heart balloon? Be honest, now...
- Stack 3 or 4 decreasing size apple twists together on the tail
end of a 260 and you have a rattle-snake tail. If you pour a little
uncooked rice or sugar in the 260 before you inflate the balloon,
then divide it into each apple twist as you make the tail, it will
really rattle. It's AWESOME!!! (and easy because sugar packets are
- Method 1:
- Push the knotted nozzle a few inches into the balloon (like a hook
twist), but don't twist and close it off - just hold the knot
through the balloon wall so that air can pass by. With your other
hand, twist soft apples of increasing size. The last apple will
hold the knot in place, and because the apples are soft, they will
hold against each other pretty well and not unravel (unless you give
it to a kid...) Make sure you push the knot up into the last apple.
These are true stem-to-bottom-of-core apples, because they are
really just one apple twist twisted into smaller apples. I just
made a 4-apple (no end bubble possible with this method) tail as I
wrote this, so it does work.
- The beauty of this method is that if you don't size all the apples
perfectly the first time through, you can almost untwist one apple
at a time until they just start to leak, and then pass air back and
forth between neighboring apples to adjust the sizes. A way to cap
off this tail and make it look finished is to add a single small
bubble from the end of a second balloon, tied off, but with enough
uninflated balloon (1-2") still attached after the knot. As you
make the deep apple, stuff the uninflated part into it, and complete
in the regular way.
- Note: In Texas Style Balloons, Bobby Cordell makes a rattlesnake
tail by making a long, soft (squeeze some air out) hook twist (very
long apple twist). Then, since it is soft, he twists it into 4 or
so individual bubbles.
- Method 2:
- In George Sands' book Encyclopedic Balloon Modeling he presents the
"Center Apple Twist" technique which enables you to put an
apple in the center of a balloon, or literally anywhere you put a
twist first. For the knotted nozzle, you substitute tiny bits of
broken balloon held against the wall of the balloon and push them
and the balloon wall into the balloon to make one apple twist after
another. It takes a few trys to find out just where to place the
balloon bit and how to push it in so that the result looks good, but
it's a very useful trick. Sands recommends using an apple twist
followed by a few Center Apple Twists stacked together for the
rattlesnake tail. Here is Mark Balzer's better-looking version that
explains the details of the Center Apple Twist technique:
- Twist a small bubble at the end of the balloon. That is the last
- Take a small piece of broken balloon and place it on the snake
body bubble, about 1/2 inches away from the twist you just made.
Poke it into the balloon with your finger and grab it through the
balloon wall with your other hand. Complete as if making an apple
twist. That is the second to last rattle.
- Repeat 2) as required.
- The trick is to make that 1/2" distance as absolutely small as
you can... like 1/4" or less. If it is too big, you will
get... an ugly mess. These "apple" twists are not really perfect
stem-to-bottom-of-core; but rather like apples connected *near*
their stems to the bottoms of the cores. Because of this, they
want to form a little lop-sided. Keep that 1/2" number to a
minimum and twist each apple enough times so that it snugs up
tightly against its neighbors. That minimizes the lop-sidedness and
allows them all to help hold each other in shape. If you have
lop-sided apples, rotate them so that they cancel each other out and
still form a straight rattle. You need good inter-bubble friction
to hold it all together, so talc on the outsides of the balloons is
a no-no. I just made a 4-apple + end bubble tail as I wrote this, so
it does work, though it is harder and slower than Method 1.
- Method 3:
- Method 1 ends in an apple, unless you add a second balloon. Here's
method to add the bubble at the end with one balloon. Twist a small
bubble at the end of the balloon. That is the last rattle. Twist
all the air out of the next two inches of balloon by continuing to
twist the balloon into a thread. Take a small piece of broken
balloon and wrap it around the center of the thread you just made.
Push the thread and balloon bit deep into the balloon (like a hook
twist), but don't twist and close it off - just hold the knot
through the balloon wall so that air can pass by.
- Now, with your other hand, twist soft apples of increasing size.
The last apple will hold the knot in place, and because the apples
are soft, they will hold against each other pretty well and not
unravel (unless you give it to a kid...) Make sure you push the knot
up into the last apple. These are true stem-to-bottom-of-core
apples, because they are really just one apple twist twisted into
smaller apples. I just made a 3-apple + end bubble tail as I wrote
this, so it does work. Isn't topology wonderful?
- Method 4:
- A variation on the first part of method 3: leave an un-inflated
tail at the end of your balloon. Then, take the ring of nipple
(saved from a discarded balloon), roll it up the nozzle-end to where
the inflated and uninflated sections meet. Then, make a poodle tail
at the end of the balloon. Trap the thickened, added ring of latex
with the end of your finger and use it to secure a hook twist.
Please note: if you leave the uninflated section of the poodle tail
too long, you will have an awkward space between the end apple and
your rounded rattle. Not cool for tight looking tails, very cools
for space-alien feelers/ antennae.
- I was doing some balloon torturing last night and figured out a
fairly easy way to do linked apple twists. Start with a half
inflated balloon, make an apple twist on the end. Next make two soft
bubble (about 1/4" to 3/8" dia.). Take the second bubble and stuff it
into the balloon and twist it in place ala apple twist. Repeat. You
can go on forever with this twist. Larry has suggested a rattle
snake tail or a beaded necklace. I make my unicorn horn with a
short one of these - only about 5 bubbles. Is this different than
what Bingo and Buster use for the butterfly body? David Graves
makes the butterfly this way and I believe there is a photo of
- This is the "hook twist" that Dewey describes. He uses it
lot of neat animals: dogs, snakes, squirrels, frogs, etc. This
twist is basically a variation on the apple twist. Instead of
pushing the nozzle into the balloon only about an inch, push it in
as far as you can reach with one finger. If you bend the balloon a
bit you can reach further along the wall of the balloon. Now grab
the nozzle through the wall of the balloon and twist the way you
would make an apple twist. Then carefully work your finger out of
the balloon. I use the thumb and middle finger of the same hand
that has the index finger inside the balloon. These two fingers
kind of push the sides of the bubble back a bit while I retract my
index finger. If you can do an apple twist you already know how to
take your finger out. It's just a bit harder now since there's more
finger inside the balloon. Practice making apple twists of
increasing size. I suppose a bit of powder on your finger couldn't
hurt to reduce friction, but I've never tried it. When you take
your finger out of the balloon, the bit of balloon inside the bubble
that goes from the nozzle to the end of the bubble will go straight
from the twist to the end of the bubble. If the bubble is bent (or
hooked) as described above, that inner piece of balloon will hold it
in that position.
,' V \
-------------. ,----------'_,.-' |
\ / _,.-'' '
A @)(,.--'~~ /
/ \ /
- The key to getting that shape is really to get the nozzle further
into the balloon than your finger could reach if the balloon was
straight. I scrunch up the bubble to really reach in there far.
Note that no matter how far you reach in, the same length of balloon
will be inside since you're only putting inside the balloon what
covers your finger, so the further you can get the nozzle in, the
greater the hook in the bubble.
- My technique is modified just a bit from that in "Dewey's Bubble
Buddies" pp 12-14.
- Inflate and tie a 260 leaving a few inches uninflated.
- Put your index finger on the knot and press the knot into the
balloon as for an apple twist. Rather than keeping your finger
centered in the balloon, it should go in toward one side so that the
palm side of the finger is along one edge and the inflated part of
the balloon is on the back (dorsal) side of the finger.
- Insert the finger into the balloon as far as you can. Then use
your other hand to push another 3 or 4 inches of the inflated
balloon onto the finger so that the inflated balloon bunches up on
the dorsal side.
- With the other (right) hand, pinch through the inflated part of
the balloon to grasp the knot between your thumb and index finger.
Twist the balloon to lock the knot in the twist as you would do for
an apple twist.
- You now have a long apple twist that's curved and bunched up on
the convex side of your curved index finger. I use my right forearm
and elbow to hold the remainder of the inflated balloon against my
side to prevent the apple twist from coming loose during the next
- When all but an inch of your index finger has been freed from
the twist, tip your finger up so that the back side of the finger is
along the outside (convex side) of the twist. This will allow the
other end of the twist to hook as you remove the tip of your finger.
- The twist should have a reasonable approximation of a tight "S"
shape. You can move the main body of the twist toward or away from
either end to accentuate or reduce the curvature at that end.
- Do you know a tulip twist ? A hook twist is an eccentric, deep tulip twist.
There is a good explanation on it on the BHQ website, and if you happen to have
access to the booklets written by Ralph Dewey, he has some extremely good
instructions for it, although it does not compare to seeing him do it. He makes
it look extremely easy, but it takes some practice.
- Inflate the balloon, and at the knot end, push in your index finger all the
way until the balloon curls up a bit. Through the outer hull of the balloon,
hold the knot end and start pulling out your finger by pushing on the lower end
of the balloon with your thumb and middle finger.
- When your index finger is almost out, turn is upward and when it comes out,
twist the balloon at the knot end, so the knot is held tightly. After
practicing this for about 100 times, you should end up with an S-shaped tulip
- The idea for the hippo is to twist the front of this S, and then twist this
bubble in half. This results in two little bubbles on top of the larger bubble,
being the nostrils on his snout. At the back of the head (the hook twist), you
can either make a pinch twist or twist the back part of the hook twist itself.
This will keep the head in the correct position.
Apple Twists and Deep Hook Twists: How NOT to
Get Your Finger Stuck
- Peel the balloon down off your finger rather than pull the
- Don't try to pull your finger out of the twist! It won't work.
Instead, use the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand to
grasp along the curvature of the twist and gradually roll it off the
entrapped left index finger. The knot end of the twist will bend
into a hook as you do this.
- Use your other fingers to push the balloon off of your finger,
rather than pulling your finger out of the twist with "brute force."
This eliminates the friction which pops the balloon. It is hard and
a little awkward at first, because your first instinct is to pull
your finger out of the balloon.
- I push most of the air out of the twist before removing my
finger. Then I just reach around to the uninflated end and squeeze
the air back in before giving it the anchoring twists.
- I find that if you push the air up to the top of the balloon to
create a lot of pressure, you'll have no problems getting your
finger out of the balloon.
- The biggest problem I had with the hook was extraction of the
finger while TRYING to hold the knot. My solution was to tie at
least 2 knots & leave an extra inch or so of nozzle, so that when I
inserted my finger there would something more substantial to grasp
with my free hand. Also, I crook my insertion finger into the shape
of a hook so that, for a shallow hook twist, I only allow the
balloon to collect into the first joint of that finger. For a deeper
hook twist, I may go to the second joint. Not going so deep makes it
much easier to extract my finger.
- Wear gloves.
- Besides wearing gloves, you can cover your finger with a thin
cloth - I used to use a juggling scarf - and it makes pulling out
your finger very easy. I only use it on deep hook twists.
- Using baby powder or gloves works, but I find it hard to work
in full gloves, because the cloth gets caught in the twists. I tried
baby powder for a while, but it is messy.
- I saw Pat-in-the-Hat utilize a round, very smooth chopstick to
make deep hook twists. I'm sure that anything thin, round, smooth
and fairly sturdy can be used as a stuffing tool. If you go the
chop-stick/thin wooden dowel route, don't use the cheap ones you get
for free at restaurants. (too many splinters, pointy parts are bad
for the balloon!) You can also use a balloon straw.
- Be sure your finger is very dry and possibly use a fine baby
powder, that is what they use inside the balloons anyway.
- Any slight moisture will tend to make your finger stick, either
very wet or very dry will do the trick. Try Cornstarch. It works. I
tried it, and I don't think it will cake on your hands as much as
baby powder has a tendency to do.
- A trick for making apple twists is to lick your finger before
pushing the balloon in. This makes it MUCH easier to get your
- A trick for making bubbles inside a balloon and also for making
apple twists is to: *lick your finger* before pushing the bubble in.
This makes it MUCH easier to get your finger out without pulling the
bubble out, losing a lot of air, or whatever. Of course, you can
have as much fun hamming it up with this as you like.
- I was able to stop popping the balloons by wetting my finger
before I did the twist. Then it pulled out without popping the
balloon. Not too tasty, but it works. I find this most often
happens to me when my finger nails are too long, or aren't trimmed
- It's really hard to pull off a hook twist without popping a
balloon after applying a relatively fresh coat of nail polish - some
sort of weird friction thing goes on.
- The S-twist and a six-petal flower, twisting the whole kit 'n
kaboodle in one move - it's been discussed here before, but I didn't
understand the advantage of doing it that way until it was
demonstrated by a pro.
(The S-twist lets you create two bear-ears at the same time with a
better chance of having them turn out the same size - and if they
don't it's easy to adjust them. You just fold the balloon back and
forth in a "S" pattern, then twist the S in the center. If one
bubble is bigger than the other, you can un-twist them, pass the air
back and forth between them until they match, then twist them
together again. It works great for someone like me who doesn't twist
enough to be able to do it blindfolded, like the stars on this
Additionally, he was making lots of red, white and blue jester hats,
and did something I've never seen before... after creating a poodle
tail, he secures a knot in the length of balloon below it... as a
purist, I wouldn't do this for "competition pieces," but it's a new
child-proofing trick on me, and really isn't super-noticable from a
distance. Shawn Wake sure knows how to twist for kids!
Putting An Object Inside A Balloon
- There are basically two ways to put something inside a balloon:
- Stretch the mouth/ nozzle open and shove the item inside.
- With an inflated balloon, push the item into the end, with the
forced-in section of balloon forming a skin around the item. Keep
pushing until the item is completely inside the outer balloon.
Break off the connection to the inner section of balloon, trying not
to lose too much air. The item is now inside the inflated balloon,
and is coated with the broken off section of balloon.
- With regards to the little bit of loose rubber left in the balloon
after you've inserted an object, and then stripped the rubber off the
object: I usually make sure I trap that little bit in the first
small bubble I make. It's a lot less obvious than leaving it in a
long bubble, where you can watch it rattle around as you tilt the
balloon. I've seen a twister manage to insert an object, manipulate
the rubber off the object,(his finger still in the balloon) and then
drag the little rubber bit out... all in one shot.
- METHOD for putting items inside a balloon without a skin.
- Blow up the balloon you want to put something into for a few inches... make
it soft.. I normally keep an inch uninflated at the knot end, and make a
- Then you fold up the nozzle, and put whatever item you want to put in the
balloon in at the nozzle end... While you do that, untwist that small bubble
to give the balloon some extra air... Carefully deflate the balloon and
remove the "outer skin". The inner skin that is left you blow up again. And
voila, the item is inside the balloon. Because you also put a large
uninflated balloon in the nozzle you have enough balloon left to work
with... if you inflate your balloon a bit, give the nozzle a bit of a pull,
that will pop it out correctly after that you can blow it up as far as you
want. That way you can put a balloon doggy inside a balloon doggy. Or make my
smelly bomb... put on of your socks inside a 350, and blow it up for a
- I posted some instructions a while back on how to put items inside a balloon
without a skin and without using any special stuffing tools. I've got
several reply's that my instructions were not clear enough...
My thanks go to Ralph Dewey who was kind enough to finetune the instructions
I rewrote to make it more clear to you.
So here goes:
- Inflate about 10 inches of a #260 pencil balloon, let out some air
to get it soft and tie off the balloon. At the nozzle end, push the air out
a little, so that the first inch is unflated and then twist off a small
- Further soften the big bubble by squeezing it. Roll up the tail and
push it inside the balloon. Now you can let go of the small bubble. This
makes the balloon even softer.
- Following the rolled up tail, at the tail end, also push the desired
object inside the balloon.
- Break the outer skin... and peal it off. What you have left is the
inner skin with both the uninflated tail (that was rolled up) inside it as
well as the object. Discard the broken outer skin.
- Because the balloon is now basicly inside out, and the tail has been
rolled and placed inside the balloon, the tail will not want to come out
"naturally" when the balloon is inflated. After you blow it up part way,
give the tail end a bit of a pull. This will help it to fill it out and
shape itself naturally again. Inflate it to the length that you need for
your desired animal.
- NOTE: Because you also placed the rolled up and uninflated nipple end
inside, you still have a long balloon to work with. You will lose a bit of
length, maybe 10-15 inches. but still you have enough balloon remaining to
- On http://www.mediaport.org/~hans/ballon1.gif there is a picture with above steps.
- The way I put a ball (opened pocket knife, cigarette and
matches, etc.) in a balloon: use your index finger to insert the
object you are working with into the knot area of the balloon and
continue to push it in till you have gone PAST the second knuckle
of that finger. With the thumb and index finger of the other hand,
grasp the area in between the first and second knuckle of the
finger in the balloon, holding tightly hook your insertion finger
slightly as you pull it out. The balloon should pop on the inside
just as the fingertip clears the circle of the grasping hand.
Squeeze tightly to make sure no air gets out. Then adjust and tie
as you normally would.
Done with practice, you can go through the entire sequence without anyone
noticing and hand them a "stuffed" balloon. Then you can amuse yourself
listening to their ideas of how it was accomplished. Of course, it is also
fun to allow them to watch you do it...but, personally, I get a much bigger
kick out of surprising them.
I once got a gig in a restaurant by inserting the owners VERY sharp little
pocket knife into a balloon and then making a long-dog out of it. What made
it so funny was, when I handed it to him (with LOTS of cautions and warnings
about how dangerous it was) the knife popped the balloon almost as soon as he
took it from me. No one was hurt due to the caution I displayed when
handling it and the warning I gave when I handed it to him.
Things to put inside balloons
- Put a quarter into a clear 9" balloon and then rotate the 9"
balloon to get the quarter racing around the inside of the balloon.
You won't believe how fast you can get the quarter going.
- I like leaving tips inside of balloon figures when I'm in a
- You can make a pinata out of a really huge balloon and fill it
full of treats, confetti, toys, whatever.
- Sometimes at trendy "eclectic" type toy stores, you can find a
variety of giveaway objects just about the right size to put into a
balloon that cost in the neighborhood of 3-5 cents/each....stuff
like plastic spiders, fuzzy worms, ants (maybe uncles), frogs,
miniature piggies, and so forth. My favorite was a plastic newborn
naked baby with his hands up and legs outstretched. It's about 3/4
to 1 inch long and I bought up all the ones they had for 5 cents
each. They must be inserted head first; the little plastic feet
(and the hands too, so you have to be careful) are hard plastic and
so little they easily pop a balloon. I use them in anything....
such as in a dinosaur tummy, for older kids, especially precocious
10-12 yr old boys who are rowdy. I tell them it's the dino that
ate Tucson... and if you don't behave you could end up just like
this kid! Another thing I do with the infants is insert them in a
clear balloon and then make an angel out of the balloon. I make the
angel's hands as though I was going to pop twist, but instead of
popping the middle bubble, the baby lays inside it on its
back... Gives the illusion the angel is carrying the baby. I use it
for mommies-to-be or on baby shower gifts. If you draw the angel's
eyes closed, it makes it look almost even sweeter. Little girls like
them cradled the same way in Teddy Bear hands.
- Here's a few Halloween ideas I had for putting things inside
balloons. Now, not all of these would be perfect for small kids so I
hope you can tell which is witch. :-) I got started with these
ideas on a visit to U.S. Toy in nearby Kansas City. They had all
their Halloween stock displayed and I was sucked in. Here are a few
- Spider rings (~ $1.00/gross). Looking back, I see this has been
mentioned already. Here again: A black plastic spider ring looks
pretty cool inside (say) a yellow dog. Be sure to push it in back
first so the legs don't pop the balloon. Any ideas on how to make a
spider web inside there? Without an actual spider, of course. (I
have a way to get a live spider inside, but I'd be sure to get
complaints from animal rights activists.)
- 1" Eyeballs (.28/each). If Cujo were a balloon animal... Also
placing two of them in a balloon dog. Put one in each "ear".
- With most multiple-bubble-head-type animals
(lion/monkey/poodle/etc.) you can place one of these eyeballs in the
"top of the head bubble" to make a Cyclops lion/monkey/poodle/etc.
Ok, you _could_ just draw it on but what fun is that?
- Introducing the 1002nd thing you can do with a thumb tip.
Insert a fake thumb (or finger). Be sure to draw teeth and add
highlights with a red marker. Hold the balloon creature carefully
in your right hand and point to it with your left, being sure to
curl your left thumb in so that it appears missing. "You have to be
careful of this one. He bites."
- I thought about trying to insert those plastic dracula teeth but
think they're a bit big for 260's. Maybe with a 350.
- A steak
knife. It wasn't the sharpest knife I ever saw, but it was sharp
enough to cut meat. I figured that if I placed it in point first I
would just puncture the balloon. If I put it in handle first and I
slipped, it would shoot out like an arrow. I chose the latter
approach and pointed it at the floor. It was a success, and it got
quite a few
Put the knife in blade first. If you put the tip of the knife on the
in the nozzle, it provides enough extra protection to prevent the
tip from popping the balloon. And if the knife slips, the handle
comes out first so you won't be cut. It works every time for me.
- I was thinking of things to put into balloons. How about a
watch into a dog producing . . . "a watch dog". I think you can buy
plastic watch look-a-likes in a toy store fairly inexpensively, you
know, the ones you get at carnivals at the duck races. Or hey, put
a Rolex in one and send it to me. Takes and licking and keeps on
- A friend and I came up with a couple stuffing ideas today: One
was an action figure twisted into the belly of a dinosaur. The
other was an anteater with plastic ants rattling about its belly
(these were wedged into the mouth of the balloon before inflating).
Flies in the belly of a frog or lizard might work well also. Oh,
almost forgot... push a computer chip into a balloon. "Intel
Inside." I've been putting Halloween whistles inside
balloons.."Look! Your dog/cat/whatever Just swallowed a
- I have used a balloon doggy for the final of a magic routine
using a spectators ring. At the end of the trick the ring vanishes
and I offer to make it up to the spectator by making them a balloon.
In the process of making the balloon I insert their ring. I twist
up a basic dog making certain the ring ends up in the stomach
portion. I give the balloon to the spectator and wait for the
onslaught. I inform them their ring is in a very safe place it is
being guarded by "mans best friend". They immediately dive for the
balloon. Try to use wedding bands or small class rings stay away
from anything with small stones as they tend to pop the balloon or
worse come loose from their setting. Another use is to borrow a
bill from a spectator. The higher the denomination the better.
Vanish it and make it appear inside a animal balloon. Another neat
trick I have played with is sticking a playing card inside a balloon
and twisting the balloon into a sword. Then you can do a neat
version of a card stab. Take a deck of cards force the duplicate on
the spectator. Palm out the card, toss the deck into the air lunge
at the deck with your balloon sword. You have told the audience you
impale the card on your sword. Much to your surprise and theirs the
card ends up inside the sword.
- Light stick jewelry. These things are plastic with an ampoule of
second chemical inside them. When you crack the ampoule, the
chemicals mix and it begins glow a neon green or yellow etc. The
necklaces are long skinny tubes that would wrap around your neck or
wrist. I was able to feed one into a 260 then break it and twist it
into a animal, heart, hat etc. It made sort of a electric neon
balloon. They looked really neat in the dark nightclub. It may be
something to consider for Halloween. I kept the bubbles with the
light sticks large enough to handle the glow sticks. The sticks were
maybe 10-12 inches in length. Hot dog dogs, Giraffes, Hearts all
were big enough to hold a glow stick. The hats seemed to be the most
popular item I made. Qualatex discusses this great trick in their
book "Design", and they also show it in some flyers I got for their
Halloween themed printed latex rounds. I'll bet they look awesome
in a 260! We use
them often in our decorating business to add excitement to dining
tables. Place the necklace under a dinner plate and the bracelet
around the napkin or under the coffee cup to add a glow.
- Look at the tiny, battery powered flashing LED ear-rings and
pins that they make now - These would look great in balloons.
- How about stuffing one of those music-box-in-a greeting card
circuits inside a balloon? You can buy them separately (i.e.,
without the card attached) at craft stores, and each one plays
several different songs.
- I think it is the 260Q Decorator Book where it is suggested that
you can braid Christmas tree lights in with 2, 3 and/or 4 balloon
- Fortune balloons - like fortune cookies- put pieces of paper
jokes on in my balloons (they'd include my contact details as well
- For Christmas Balloons, how about putting sleigh bells into
balloons before twisting? They still jingle when they are put
inside balloons. Put them in the antlers of an antler hat, inside
reindeer, or snowmen or any creation.
- Per request of a young boy, I put a little sword (toothpick
size, from an exotic drink) into a light, translucent 260 last
September. I then made a ballooni brother, leaving the sword in his
torso, and informed the family that it was a sword swallower that
went too far.
- Fourth of July twists? Anyone ever tried firecrackers or smoke
bombs inside of balloons? I think balloons pop enough on their own
w/o help. Besides, would you light the fuse BEFORE or AFTER you put
it in the balloon? Pop art now has a whole new meaning.
- I stuffed two wooden strike-anywhere matches into a clear 260,
and lit them off of each other. I wouldn't call the experiment a
success, as the flame instantly popped the balloon. A larger
balloon or a smaller flame / spark would be more successful.
- Don't put live bugs (such as fireflies) in balloons because,
aside from the whole idea of trapping a living creature inside a
teensy space... when the balloon pops, the bug will get trapped in
the now-deflated balloon, as well as get its eardrums messed-up.
- Tried putting a Hamster in a 350 once. She much prefers her
cage - a lot more room.
- John Travolta - he portrayed "the boy in the plastic bubble" in
the movie. They should have left John Travolta in a plastic bubble.
While cruel, it would have spared millions a couple more seasons of
- For an adult crowd...especially in a bar, How about "a Trojan
- "How To Stuff A Full Drinking Glass Into A Balloon, Without
Spilling A Drop" or "The Glass Wrap" Trick.
- 1 drinking glass, smooth (especially the rim), stiff (not soft
plastic, paper, etc. Diameter must be less than that of a inflated
350Q balloon. For a first try, 2" wide works well (I used one of
those little glasses that come with cheese spread inside. Smooth,
thick, free.) Caution: Wine glasses look cool, but don't use
anything too thin, that could shatter and cause injury.
- Enough fluid to fill the glass, to 1/2" of the rim. Try water
for practice (no stains), but have a carbonated soft drink available
- 1 - 350Q balloon (clean), clear or yellow preferred.
- scissors (balloon removal later)
- towels (just in case)
- 1 - drinking straw. (trust me)
- Fill the glass, to within 1/2" of the top. For a wider glass, use
slightly less liquid. Inflate the 350Q, leaving a 4" uninflated
tail. Let the air out, and re-inflate (this will make the balloon
slightly wider and easier to get over the glass). Squeeze the body
of the balloon to soften it. You should now have a 2" tail left.
With the glass resting on a solid surface, put the end of the
balloon with the tail into the rim of the glass, with the "tail"
hanging into the drink. The balloon will curve into the glass, to
the fluid level. If there is too much liquid in the glass, the
balloon will force some out, over the rim.
- Slowly press the balloon down onto the glass, working the balloon
around the sides of the glass. When you get to the bottom, keep
pushing, so the balloon wraps under the glass. Notice how the inner
wrap has skinned around the glass, trapping the liquid inside.
Notice also how the uninflated tail section is poking down into the
glass. At this point, when the balloon has covered the bottom of
the glass, you can very carefully turn/ rotate the glass inside the
balloon, closing the bottom, kind of like a tulip twist. If you are
brave, you can now set the balloon down (on end), and the weight of
the glass will keep the twist from unwinding. Ta - Dah !!!
- You now have several options:
- Keep going and put the glass further into the balloon, break the
"umbilical", re-knot the balloon and have a covered glass loose
inside closed balloon.
- Put glass inside balloon, work skin off of glass, and have
*open* glass inside balloon. Visually very impressive.
- Win bets by taking glass back out of balloon without breaking
balloon Carefully unwind the twist, and slowly ease the balloon up,
off the glass. Control of the balloon is critical for this move.
It may have a tendency to spring upward, and then there can be a
suction effect on the surface of the liquid. Move slowly.
- Do the "Glass Cover" trick. With the balloon down around the
bottom of the glass, slowly let the air out of the rest of the
balloon. Cut away what was the outer, inflated balloon, leaving
just what was the inner wrap/ skin section.
- Here's the cool part: If you have used carbonated soda, holding the
balloon, where it covers the sides of the glass, gently shake the
glass. The resulting pressurization (fizz) should make the balloon
tail pop up, out of the top! Use the scissors to cut the very tip
off, insert the straw and hand the spill proof drink to a amazed
audience member, or drink it yourself, to thunderous applause.
- My kids loved this one. Caution: It's tempting to use the "glass
cover" like a baby bottle, and suck on the balloon, but again, we
don't want kids to think it's okay to put balloons in your mouth.
Use the straw.
- Hope you like the Glass Wrap. Have Fun!
- Have you seen those cool animal
sponges that are all dehydrated and look like a vitamin pill? They could
easily go into a 260.. add a little water.. do some quick twisting... before
you know it you could have a dino inside a dino... dog in a dog or any other
strange combination.. how about a dog inside a cat?? The beginnings of
Cat/dog maybe? LOL It would be a real stumper as well as to how it got in
there if you only showed the finished product.
- Now here's a variation. Do you think this would work? Add a
little water first (I've often done it with one of those palm pumps), stick the
capsule in, twist your animal and let the "baby" develop before their eyes. And
would this not be a cool thing to do for a kid who's mom is pregnant!
- Most of you probably put balls in balloons but if you push the
ball in just a little then twist (like doing a tulip - don't pop and
re-tie the balloon) you will have a balloon capable of lanching a
ball. All you need to do is untwist it . It is up to you to decide
when it is appropriate to make ( "you'll shoot your eye out kid" )
but it sure is fun.
- Put his movie ticket in a doggy last week.
- My son has quite a few of the Matell(sp) small cars and
trucks. I put these in a balloon and he has a great time playing with them.
- Put jingle bells inside the round balloons before you blow them
up. just don't blow them up all the way, or you'll pop 'em.
- I keep small erasers (I got 500 for $3 in Oriental Trader) for
these situations. I use them instead of a superball in balloon
toys. Some are shaped like food. "Look, your dog must have just
eaten an apple!"
- Candy canes were the favorite this year. I stuck jingle bells
in them I got wholesale for pennies a piece in 2 different sizes. I
used red/ white and green and spiraled 2 colors like the tmeyers
spear, milked it to hook like a shepards staff, and tied a
contrasting x-mas color 260 as ribbon. The kids loved the sound, but
I also used red & white 360's for the jumbo effect and used larger
- A balloon you can make is a Texas (or cowboy) mosquito which is
a humming bird and I always do a bubble inside and say the skeeters
in Texas are big enough to eat (butterball turkeys, baseballs, golf
balls, tumbleweeds, etc.) you insert what you want.
- I call a bubble placed inside the balloon a meatball.
- Twist a small bubble.
most of balloon )(__) - small bubble
- Push the small bubble as deep as you can into the big one with your
-- __) ____________
(__)__<- (_________ \_______
_________________) (___ your hand
- Make the meatball kinda small - about half the diameter of the
balloon. When you get into practice, you'll be able to make them as
wide as the balloon, but I've found a smaller ball is easier to
- When you twist the meatball, twist at least ten times. That
will give you more uninflated balloon to tear, and a better chance
for it to stay inflated inside the balloon.
- Lubricate your finger before sticking the meatball inside the
balloon. This can be as crude as shoving your finger into your
mouth or as dainty as dipping it into a finger bowl kept nearby for
just such an emergency. Avoid petroleum jelly, which will corrode
the balloon, but there are water-based lubricants that might work
well if this is where the problem lies (I refuse to say any more on
- When you grasp the balloon with your holding hand, don't
squeeze the meatball. Pressing the outside of the balloon against
the twisted part you're tearing, keeping the meatball behind the
two holding fingers. Hold it firmly, but don't pinch tightly until
you've broken off the meatball - if you hold the twist tightly, you
may end up with a scrap of balloon that connects the meatball to
the broken end.
2 Fingers-> | |
_________ |H H| ________________________________
___/_________\|o e|/__ \
Insert finger \__\|l r|/ \@ \__
_____________/|d e|\__/ /
- Rip off the meatball with a firm jerk - if you find yourself
tugging several times, you aren't angry enough. Use more force than
you think you have to, so that you get a clean break. Sometimes you
can help it tear by digging the nail of the inserting finger into
the side of the balloon just above the twist.
- Be ready to pinch the balloon closed with your holding fingers
just as soon as the meatball pops off. You want the meatball to
fall inside the balloon and not be pressed against the torn end by
the escaping air pressure (I usually tilt it away from the torn end
to make sure).
- Don't worry about the air that escapes, especially when you're
first learning. You need a certain amount of balloon to tie off,
anyway. Once you've been successful at creating a few meatballs,
you can adjust for maximum meatball size and air retention.
- Let enough air out of the balloon before tying so that you can
push the bubble in. The balloon has to have some room available to
do this, so don't fully inflate it. Draw a face on the ball and
make a lion and you have a man eating lion.
- For those with a graphical browser:
- Now there is a bubble and your finger inside the large bubble.
There is a second layer of latex around the small bubble. the outer
layer is still connected to the big bubble. With your free hand,
pinch the big bubble where the little one is inside of it and hold
that bubble in place. With the finger nail inside the balloon,
break that outer layer. (The outer layer to be broken is marked by
x's in the above picture). Breaking it just takes a bit of practice.
If you stretch the balloon that you want to break, by working the
bubble further inside the long bubble with your other hand you
should weaken it enough to help break it.
- While still pinching the large bubble, work the little one free.
finger will still be inside of the balloon.
- Since you're pinching the balloon, air shouldn't escape while you
get your finger out. Now just tie the balloon from the end where your
finger came out of.
- I make what I call the "puzzle toy," which is simply a meatball
put into fully inflated balloon, which I then loop into a pretzel
shape. The meatball can then float from one end to the other by turning
the balloon. A bubble inside the balloon doesn't always roll very
well, but a ball is heavy enough that it rolls through the whole
pretzel shaped balloon very easily.
- For pregnant animals, I was taught to push the little ball into the balloon with your
finger and then twist and twist and twist until you feel a good
tightness on the end of that finger. Then angle your finger and pop
with your fingernail. Works for me most everytime.
- A hint for tearing off a meatball inside a balloon, which I
discovered by watching Richard Levine here in Eugene:
- Make the bubble
- Poke it deep into the balloon with one finger
- Pull that finger out fast - the balloon will often pop due to
friction, and the "meatball" is free!
- If (3) fails, tear the end off with a *fast* motion, which is
easier than slow.
- Failing (4)... use scissors. Latex makes crummy dental floss!
- When you twist off the bubble that is going to be inserted, make it
fairly small and twist it 4 or 5 complete turns. The first hard
part is pushing the bubble into the main body of the balloon. Make
sure the bubble is smaller than the main body of the balloon. I
hold the main body of the balloon in my right hand right up close to
the twist. I then (slowly) push the bubble into the main body with
the index finger of my left hand. When you get it in, push it as
far into the main body as you can. With the thumb and index finger
of your right hand pinch the main body down onto the twist of the
bubble. Hold this tight in your right hand and start to pull your
left index finger out of the main body. The idea is to break off
the bubble at the twist with the fiction between the main body and
your left index finger. Sometimes if you move your left index
finger down a little at the first joint you can increase the
friction and insure that the twist
breaks. When the twist does break, clamp down with your right thumb
and index finger to seal the hole. Then retie and the bubble is
inside the main body.
- I push the bubble in almost all the length of my index finger, then
I grasp the little bubble with the other hand from the outside and
withdraw my pushing finger just enough so that I can pinch the
bubble right where it meets the rest of the balloon. This pinch
should be firm enough and should effectively cut-off any chance of
air escaping once you pop off the bubble. Now, give a twist your
finger that is still on the interior of the balloon; make sure you
give your finger a hook shape and sort-of scoop twist. Usually the
bubble will just pop free and you'll be left holding an unknotted
balloon. And you'll probably have about enough space left where
you're holding to simply knot it up, if you like. Try practicing
with a superball, it is a lot easier to insert and break off.
- I could not manage to get a bubble inside a balloon -- until this
last weekend! Yea! Two hints helped me get it to work:
- From the October Balloon Magic Magazine ("Magic" section): Push
the bubble back into the balloon by holding it with your thumb and
first two fingertips until it is back into the balloon, then use one
finger to push it the rest of the way in. I had a lot of trouble
pushing the bubble straight back with just my forefinger; it kept
slipping out before I could get it secured into the balloon.
- Make the bubble smaller than the diameter of the balloon itself.
I was definitely making the bubble too big before.
- I found T. Myers instructions on the balloon seed (bubble insertion)
to be the easiest to do consistently. After inserting the bubble,
twist another bubble on the end (it will look like a tulip twist)
and pull it off. It separates easier. Later you can use other
techniques to put one color inside another etc.
- When I'm breaking off a meatball, I twist the balloon tightly around
my finger inside the balloon to ensure that I pull it all back. It
makes it a little more difficult to break off the ball, but I find
it ensures a successful insertion. I leave a little tucked inside,
and the flash gets incorporated into the knot.
Peas In A Pod
- Make five or six meatballs, and then deflate
the balloon around them, leaving something that looks like a
pea-pod. The pea-pod can also be called a caterpillar. Then if you
make wings out of another balloon you've got a butterfly. [Note: A
chain of small bubbles, each pushed into the balloon body separately
can be used to create the same effect... after the outer balloon
shell is deflated.]
- When you are trying to do "peas in a pod" or a caterpillar
body, do you do several separate meatballs inside one balloon? Or do you do
a string of small bubbles and try to push them all inside the larger
balloon? If so, how? Mine keep untwisting..
- Up till Saturday, I did use a series of separate meatballs.
However, I got my hands on the insect edition of Balloon Magic, The Magazine,
and it explained a technique using a series of tulip twists:
Start with a tulip twist, and push it inside the balloon a few centimeters.
Grasp the tulip twist inside the balloon, and twist at the point before it. You
now have a second tulip twist outside the balloon. Push it in the same way, and
repeat the process until you have a sufficiently long string inside the
balloon. Now deflate the outer balloon. When I tried this, I couldn't believe
how easy it was, and how fast. It went a lot quicker than pushing a meatball
in, tearing off, reknotting, etc... plus you lose less balloon this way.
- When making a lot of little bubbles in one, make one bubble, push
it in extra deep and make a small tulip twist. Then push the tulip twist
in extra deep and repeat. Keep going untill you run out of balloon.
- Do one bubble at a time. Of course you have to hold on to the unit, but
make it easy on yourself and only try to shove 1 in at a time. Make sure
that the diameter of the bubble is smaller than the diameter of the balloon.
The smaller the easier.
- Here is the method for making a butterfly or
caterpillar body. Inflate a 260 (works with other sizes too)
about halfway. Twist a one inch bubble, then push it into
the inflated portion of the balloon, leaving enough balloon to
twist another one inch bubble. Twist a one inch bubble, then push
it into the inflated portion, and repeat until you have the
required number of bubbles in the balloon. Pop the outer balloon,
leaving bubbles with a membrane around them which keeps them from
- Glow sticks in balloons are awesome! My daughter and I couldn't
sell yo-yo balloons with glow sticks in the them fast enough last
4th of July. Adults and kids were constantly stopping us and we
couldn't restock quickly enough. Best of all, when all the lights
were out in preparation for the fireworks, glowing balls were
"bouncing" in the air all over the place! Loved it!
- There are a number of ways you can use "glow-sticks" in latex
balloons for a cool nighttime effect. Here are a few:
- You can preload the small glow-sticks inside round balloons
you plan to inflate with helium. On site, crack the lights to
activate them and inflate the balloons with helium. Be sure to test
ahead of time to make sure the:
- Balloons have enough lift to carry the lights for a
significant amount of time
- Balloon colors chosen are transparent enough that the
lights show up in the level of darkness you will have on site.
- which light colors show up best with which balloon
- You can do an "apple twist" with a glow-stick inside the
inside-out portion of the balloon.
- This can work with apple balloons, even better with bee body
balloons. For longer glow-sticks use #524 balloons. These
specialty balloons are traditionally fairly opaque, however, so test
before using them commercially.
- The apple twist concept can also work with the long, 22",
lights by using #260, #340, #344, #350, or #360 balloons.
Successful apple twist maneuvers can be made easier for such long
balloons by inserting clear plastic tubes first and then simply and
quickly sliding lights in when you have a crowd. It is still
important to test light, color, and opaqueness combinations.
- Lite-Sculptures(TM) offer a third possibility. They are
patented devices that allow glow-sticks to be inserted and removed
from inflated balloons at will. They also allow for easily adding
or removing gas from the balloons any time you like. Generally they
are too heavy to float in the air with helium. I originally
designed them for table decor, but they can be used like Japanese
lanterns for room decor, or in other forms for individual play.
These are not generally available, but we expect to
revive their availability over the next six months. We plan to
start showing these in the next couple of months on our web site:
Designs incorporating the internal structuring techniques I
developed for the Lite-Sculptures(TM) have won several international
design awards (including IBAC and NABA) and have been among
finalists for others. They have been published in Images, Balloons
and Parties Today, Flowers, and Balloon World magazines. They were
featured in what I believe is still the only one man, public art
gallery exhibit devoted exclusively to balloon sculpture.
Check with distributors of the glow-sticks for related
chemical light products that may not include balloons but which
might go well with outdoor, night vending.
The discussion about glow sticks in helium balloons reminded me of
the first Balloon Convention we attended. Unique Concepts Open House
in June 1986. At one of the evening events Chuck Guberman
entertained us with a magic act. Of course he was great. At the end
of the act they did a balloon release in the Ballroom. This ballroom
had a very high ceiling. I would guess somewhere over 25 feet high.
Anyway the Balloons had glowsticks in them and it was quite a sight
to see them rising in the ballroom. Then as the event approached
midnight the balloons began to slowly drift down. What a sight. I'll
never forget it. I'm not sure who was responsible for this effect,
but have a feeling that it involved Rocky Toomey, Jamie Jeffreis,
Don Cheeseman, Marie Mandoli, Chuck and Joyce Guberman, who were all
instructors at this event. I always wondered if the falling balloons
was planned or just a surprise to all involved.
Check out the following company. The sticks are $32.50/Tube of
50... And all are 22" long. They also have super jumbo at 20%
thicker size for $42.50/Tube. And for those of you interested in
novelties, giftware, electronics and party supplies, this company
has over 500 products (similar to Oriental but much much more!) for
really great prices. Ask for a catalog. It's free! Rhode Island
Novelty (in Johnston, Rhode Island) Tel 1800 528 5599 or 401 274
1818 fax 1 800 448 1775
- At the Euro Jam there was a guy from Belgium that was making
some GREAT eye balls! He was using glow sticks. Glow sticks are well known
by the Millitary people. They are these plastic sticks
that are filled with a chemical and they glow when you bend them. They do
not get warm so you can use them in balloons with very few problems. They
come in several sizes and colors too and can glow for several hours! You can
get these glow sticks at fishing accessories stores.
Anyway the eyeballs.... Get one of these small sticks glowing, put inside
an uninflated clear 260. Blow up a small bubble, just big enough to hold the
small glow stick. Tie off and cut off the rest. Now blow up a white 260. I
cut off the end just above the knot so that I have less of a bulge later.
Push the clear 260 into the white one, just enough so that it looks like the
white of the eye around the clear (or in our case the glowing part). Now let
the air out of white by putting a small hole in the tail end of it. The white
will now sit tight on the clear 260. Then you can do the same again with a
3rd color that will match the color of your figure, or any color that you
would like to use. These eyes are extra cool and look great! The glow sticks
can be used in all kinds of ways, not just for eyes. I can't wait for my next
night job where I can put them in hats!
- A boy asked me if I could make his sword into a light saber.
He had a small glow stick that I inserted into the end of a 260
then twisted closed leaving the glow stick hanging from the end. The entire
shaft of the sword lit up. I bet I made 30 more of them before the night
was done. The lighter colored balloons worked best and the shaft had to
be shorter than normal or it got top heavy.
- If you are looking for Glow product call 1-800-367-4569 Chicago, IL. They
are a big outfit and have it all wholesale.
- You might want to check your local fishing store. They have small glow sticks
that fit on top of bobbers for night fishing. I have not tried to put them in
a balloon but they are definitely small enough
- Go to a fishing shop, normally they sell little fluorescent things that
you can put in a 260
- The name of the Glow light company is:
595 NORTH LAKEVIEW PKWY
VERNON HILLS,IL. 60061
I have done business with them for a long time and they are excellent.
They carry all sorts of Glow light to stuff balloons, drop in drink glasses,
or wear as whatever. They just sent me samples of their newest stuff: tiny
lights that can stuff into a balloon and push the button and the thing comes
on and blinks. We vend the glow product as well.
- Recently I have done many weddings and special events and found
a company I thought you all might find useful. Q-Light Inc. is
based out of Colorado and has tons of glowsticks which I have found
beneficial. They carry lots of colors and even sticks for high
intensity effects and industrial ones that last 8-12 hours. I am
doing a "Crystal Ball" function this weekend and am using them
inside clear over white 3' balloons to look like real crystal balls.
Their web address is http://www.glowlight.com
- LightenUps, flashing lights that fit INSIDE balloons, come in red, yellow,
green flashing LED's that are individual units - will float with 16" balloons
(best with Hi-float) and can be used in smaller balloons for sculptures,
arches, walls, balloon drops, etc., float them on water, any type of nighttime
use. They flash continuously for 36-60 hours, operated by watch type
batteries - and don't have to be used strictly with balloons - use them with
LightenUps are about 1" diameter plastic encasements with a flashing LED
sticking out - they come in yellow, green and red. You activated them with a
little "button" on the back which can actually be used like a paper clip too.
They can also be deactivated.
The lights flash continuously for 36-60 hours. They float in 16" balloons (at
Denver altitude which may mean they will float in smaller balloons at lower
elevations). They are for NIGHT use and are quite dim during the day.
When used inside smaller balloons for sculptures, etc, a little hi float in
the neck helps to lubricate them to insert them easier. This is great for
BALLOON DROPS! The yellow ones were used in final night centerpieces at IBAC,
placed in a handful of irridescent shred under a glass block - it was pretty
neat! Some clowns are using them for under their shirts! Also, this is a
great way to create FLOATING centerpieces!
The price is 95 cents each and are shipped from Longmont Colorado by mail or
UPS. There is no minimum to order, but I would prefer to ship a dozen at a
time at least, you pick the colors.
I can't take credit cards but for small orders I will ship and invoice, due on
3633 Sunflower Cir
Longmont CO 80503
Insert ball. Inflate balloon but don't tie it. Bounce it on the
floor. Watch the fun.
- Superballs are high-bounce balls. They are available at most toy
stores and come in various sizes and colors. The smaller ones go
nicely into balloons.
- Ball-in-balloon toys are super-popular items. I got
superballs through Tom Myers, and in the end each one costs the same
as a single balloon. So, cost isn't really a factor -- it's just
like doing multi-balloon figures. However, these things are more
like kinetic toys than figures. Some things I've been making with
superballs in them: fill a balloon all the way, put a ball in, and
tie the balloon into a big, loose knot. Overhand and figure eights
work great. You can twist 1" bubbles in each end then connect those
together if you want. A simple but stunning balloon/ball "maze"!
Another toy: fill two balloons of different colors; put a ball in
each. Make a long double-helix (see below), and you have a spiral
- The superballs sold by Tom Myers fluoresce under a black light! I
discovered this when I used two of them as eyeballs in "googly eyes"
(inside of a clear 260Q bubble) while twisting near the bandstand in
a bar. Since the bandstand is lit up with "black" lights, the
superballs looked like they were ready to jump right out and grab
you - like a cat's eyes in your headlights! Very cool!
- My favorite thing I picked up from T. Myers was using two small
super balls in a clear heart or clear 260Q to make googley eyes.
When you stuff anything inside a balloon with the meatball method,
you end up with a layer that surrounds what you put inside. After
working at putting things inside balloons, I can now even
controllably unwrap the layer of balloon from the object (ball,
etc.) I stuff in the balloon before I withdraw my finger. Google
eyes with inserted superballs (or balloon balls) look best if you
unwrap the clear cocoon from them after insertion. When I put
something inside that I want to unwrap, I try not to break the
cocooned object off completely. Instead I try to leave a little
latex attaching the cocooned object to the rest of the balloon. My
finger stays inside the balloon to plug the hole so the air doesn't
escape. Then I use that remaining bit of latex as a handle for my
inserted finger, in conjunction with my outside hand, to peel the
cocoon from the object. It can still be done even if the object is
completely broken free, though it is not quite as fast. In either
case, don't leave the cocoon floating around inside the balloon with
the object. It is distracting. Just remove it when you pull your
- Use a hi bounce ball to hold an inflated heart through a Geo.
I was making swans, hearts and Geo sculptures and wanted a way to
make the heart stand in the Geo. Stretch the knot through the Geo,
place a ball against the stretched neck of the heart and the
interior of the Geo. Let it all go and "Presto!." The ball
snuggles up into the Geo and holds the neck of the heart against the
interior of the Geo. It also works with frogs on lily pads,
dinasaurs on rocks, flowers in vases and, and, and. I twisted swans,
poodles, dinasaurs etc. around the heart/Geo to make lots of fun stuff.
For the bouncing balloon use a 1" ball in a 350 or a 340. The floor
needs to be hard and dropping works better than tossing. I think
that that bit is from an old balloon book called Blow By Blow.
- I put two racquet balls inside a 350. The resulting balloon was
only about 20 or 24 inches long. It was a lot of fun for tossing up
in the air and it bounced kind of strange. A friend picked it up and
threw it across the room. The balloon went sailing straight through
the air! It flew like a missile, you've got to be careful how hard
you throw it!
- I took an orange balloon and made two balls inside of it, then I
shot them out and stuffed them into a clear Geo blossom. I put the
Geo onto a flower hat and the balls jump around like popcorn every time
you move your head. Even little boys want a flower hat like this one.
- Use the ball to hold an inflated heart through a Geo. I was
making swans, hearts and Geo sculptures and wanted a way to make the
heart stand in the Geo. Stretch the knot through the Geo, place a
ball against the stretched neck of the heart and the interior of the
Geo. Let it all go and "Walla!". The ball snuggles up into the
Geo and holds the neck of the heart against the interior of the
Geo. A heavy heart! It also works with frogs on lily pads,
dinasaurs on rocks, flowers in vases and, and, and. I twisted
swans, poodles, dinasaurs etc. around the heart/Geo to make lots of
fun stuff. Used a BB twist to connect some bug food to the Geo for
the frog sitting on the flower. Fun.
Things NOT To Put Inside Balloons
- You can put Hershey Kisses or other candy inside balloons, but
there are a few things to consider:
- Having to break the balloon to get the candy out means little
kids may put the balloon (or the broken pieces) into their mouths.
I doubt this is a problem for us big kids though :-)
- You probably only want to put food in balloons you pump up, not
balloons filled with warm moist air from your lungs (those pesky
- The talc on the inside of the balloon will get all over the candy.
- When giving children candy, I follow the Halloween rule: If it's
not wrapped, would I want my child to take that piece of candy from
- I bought some gumballs (Machine refills) and have been putting them inside
balloons. Just like making a bubble in a balloon, I push the gumball inside.
Be careful to remove the rubber coating on the gumball. Kids seem to like
the idea of a gumball inside the balloon.
- I personally would be very cautious of doing this for a couple of reasons.
First when they pop the balloon to get the gumball it can still leave balloon
on the gumball. Also, the inside of the balloons have powder on them. This
powder may get on the gumball. I would hate to see any reaction from that for
any of the kids. A child you are giving the gumball to in a balloon more than
likely will not be aware that they may be ingesting powder along with their gumball.
- I would be horrified to see a child decide to try to eat the balls I
have put into the balloons (the ones from TMeyers) as they had previously
seen another put gumballs inside of them instead of bouncy balls.
- A gum ball is a perfect size but we try to educate kids
NOT to put balloons near/in their mouths and this might send a mixed message.
You're putting something that could be edible inside a NON edible balloon.
- As for mouth blowers, your breath combined with a gumball they are going to
stick in their mouth would not be the smartest thing.
- Candy inside a balloon is a nice idea indeed, and most kids like it. The powder
inside a balloon is talc. It's harmless unless you're allergic. Personally, I
always use wrapped candy. It's cleaner and safer, and lots of candies have
colourful wrappers. I remember doing balloons for football fan friends of mine
(all you Brits and Yanks out there would call it "soccer"). I made balloon
persons in the team colors and put in wrapped gumballs that looked like soccer
balls. Everybody loved it.
- I can quote no studies or statistics, but from my general experience
as a balloon twister and worrier, and for the balloon coating around the gumball,
I consider putting a gumball in a
balloon to be an accident waiting to happen. From a child's perspective, if you
show him something made to be put in the mouth, most won't know or care
there's a balloon coating on it. I've had children break twisted balloons to
get at the small rubber ball inside. The idea of doing that with a gumball
scares the life out of me.
- The impetus for putting a gumball in a balloon is simple: it fits. It's
a fun, colorful thing that fits in there, by golly.
But in order to get to it, the sculpture has to be ruined, or the child
has to wait a week, at which point the white gunk in the balloon will be
a permanent attachment to its sweet, sticky exterior.
Other fun, colorful things to put in there might include Tetracycline,
Tylenol, and a host of illegal products. But we don't just put things in
there because they fit, we put things in there because it enhances the
sculpture or makes it more fun.
That's why balls in the balloon make perfect sense. They make a fun
boingy thing while the balloon is alive, then they can be removed and
played with afterward (by children over three). T's ball putter is a
cool gizmo, the balls are cheap (no more than the cost of gum, I don't
think) and nobody eats talc or gets a latex allergy in their throat.
If you must put candy inside the sculpture, then use wrapped candy.
Better still, give the sculpture hands and let it _hold_ the candy. Use
a model that incorporates the candy and its wrapper into the design so
they won't be too quick to take it off. I haven't tried it, but there's
probably an opportunity to put a wrapped hard candy in the feet of an
acrobat, for example, or anything that you want to stand up by weighting
- When I was in first grade (during the Pleistocene, as I recall), I was
given a Christmas stocking in the shape of a gingerbread man with a
cookie for a face. He was my buddy for the rest of the day, going
everywhere I went, down to the dirt hill, through the Bluebonnets, under
my bed, etc. That cookie wasn't good eats by the end of the day, and it
wasn't a good face, either. I was a kid, and I didn't really understand
the rules for how I was supposed to play with things; but then, I was a
kid, and there aren't supposed to be rules for how I played with things.
- Gumballs are interesting. If they are lighter then bouncy balls they would
be great for googly eyes for figures for display. They wouldn't make figures
so top-heavy. And the color selection is interesting. But I would definitely
not use them for handouts. Just wrapped candy.
- I do like the idea of using colored gumballs for eyeballs. Since they are
less heavy, the figures would become less topheavy. I mostly use balloon
meatballs for eyes just because of this topheaviness.
- I would strongly discourage the use of ANYTHING edible combined
with balloons. We stress to the children and the parents to keep
balloons away from their mouths. It would be confusing to a
toddler when you give them a balloon; tell them to keep it out of
their mouth and let them see a gum ball inside.
- The very notion of putting anything edible into a balloon
strikes me as an incredibly bad idea. There are health concerns
(sanitation, latex reactions, choking on a fragment of balloon).
There's the fact that the child will have to pop the balloon to chew
the gum, or wait until the item is deflated, exposing the gum to
more of whatever is in there. If you're using a ball putter, you'll
have to puncture the wrapper around the gum to insert it, so that
doesn't sound like a solution to me.
- If you must give away gum, you could make figures holding a wrapped
piece of gum, or use gum as the weights in the feet of acrobats.
- Putting a ball into a sculpture is great, because it adds an
element of fun, and gives the kid something to play with long after
the sculpture's gone. Giving a gumball introduces a number of
negative possibilities when at best it just gives a kid something to
chew on for fifteen minutes and spit out. I really wouldn't
recommend doing anything the associates balloons with putting
something stretchy and rubbery into one's mouth.
Where To Get Stuff To Put In Balloons
- Accent Annex, 1-800-322-2368.
- Loftus Novelty, 1-800-453-4879 has a whole novelty catalog.
- Oriental Merchandise Co., 1-800-535-7335. Order their wholesale
- Oriental Trading is either 1-800-828-9898 (a Dallas number) or
1-800-228-2269 (a Omaha number)
- Slam Bam in Brooklyn, NY, 800-451-7481.
- Source Book, published by Paper and Party Retailer Magazine,
(203)845-8020. A good all around source for many items.
- I get my glow sticks at Martin Industries in Ontario, CA. You
can call directory assistance for the 909 area code for their
number. The owner is Gary Martin. They supply Disneyland and
Knott's, and their stuff is always fresh, which is important.
- There's a place called Oriental Trading Company in Omaha,
Nebraska, that has all sort of teensy toys, superballs, et al. for
WAY CHEAP. Their number is 1-800-228-0475. Their prices are good
but the shipping will kill you unless you order a large quantity.
Call and have them send you a catalog.
Tools for Putting and Object Inside a Balloon
- The ball putter was invented because putting a ball into a 260 is
something that takes a knack. The balls 'n balloons toys can
require you to put a ball in every 2nd or 3rd balloon. After a day
of this my finger hurts. The ball putter makes it fast and easy, but
you are carrying around another tool. If you can get the ball into
a 260 quick and easy and it doesn't hurt your finger, you don't need
a ball putter. T. Myer's "Ball Putter" is one of the greatest
things I've ever seen. I was not really sure about it when I ordered
it. Now, I wouldn't give it up!
- I've been using the T. Myer's Ball Putter to put superballs in
balloons, and I love it. I say my sharp wit pops the bubbles. It's
so fast I can usually do it before the recipient (child or adult)
sees what I'm doing, and they go gonzo (that's a technical term)
when they see the ball bouncing around inside the figure. T Myers
ball putter is great for super balls but won't work with bubbles.
- At IBAC, Marvin recommended that for stuffing you first go to your
local Farm Supply store and buy a "Banding Pliers" - a pliers used
for stretching rubber bands when castrating animals. With a simple
squeeze you can stretch and hold open a balloon nozzle while you
fill it with confetti or whatever.
- Marvin invented the Jiffy Tube system specifically for inserting
items into the 260's. It works great. There are 3 tubes which will
allow you to insert things into 260's, 5", and 9" balloons. We use
the "banding pliers" to easily fit the neck of the 260 over the end
of the tube.
- To put a business card into a balloon you need to start with a jewel
tone color (yellow, orange, etc.) You will need to inflate the
balloon leaving enough to do the insert, pop and the twists for a
small animal. Roll the card around a pencil or pen and insert, pop
and tie off. Then strip the rubber off of the card. I don't bother
to get this piece out as it shortens the balloon but you can if you
want to be mysterious about how the card got in there. Twist the
nose, ears and neck and gently unroll the card (it will have to stay
somewhat curled) then finish the animal. Practice, practice.
- The ball putter has saved my life. I am not very coordinated, and I keep
my fingernails very short for twisting. The ball putter rescued me. In fact,
one day I forgot it, and someone knew I put balls in balloons. I tried it
without it, and couldn't do it. I will sometime spend the time to be able to
do it without the putter, but for now, I rely on it. For older kids
(especially boys) who think they are "too cool" for balloons, I put the ball
in a clear, blow up another darker color (I like blue or purple) and twist
the two together, all the way up the balloons. It makes a toy-like balloon.
The kids love turning it one way and then the other to watch the ball swirl
- When putting objects in balloons you can use an Elastrator from your
local farm supply store. It is normally used to remove tails from lambs
or castrate calves. It stretches a very small, very strong elastic which
is then placed over the offending part and released. (Gentlemen, wince here!)
Anyway the point is that the elastic is similar to the ring of the
nozzle of a balloon and some objects can be placed in regular balloons.
- The ball putter impales the ball. If you can already put a car
in a balloon you probably won't need a ball putter.
- The ball putter is a tool to help you learn how to put your
first ball inside a balloon. In rough terms the ball putter is a 1"
diameter, 4" long wooden dowel with a pointed metal spike sticking
out one end. You impale the ball on the spike, then stick the ball
into the end of the balloon. Here comes the nearly impossible part.
You slip the ball off the spike, then stretch the balloon a bit to
give you some working room, then you pop the inside of the balloon,
the part next to the ball. (If you are real real real lucky, the
ball will be in the balloon and you won't pop the outside balloon
too, and you won't release too much air in the balloon.
- When the ball on the putter is pushed into the balloon, the
ball should lean against one side of the balloon before you hold
the ball and pull the putter out of the ball. This leaves plenty of
space for the putter to break the latex around the ball without
touching the outer skin. If the ball is grabbed in the center of
the balloon you have a good chance of breaking the balloon. It's a
small thing but it makes all the difference.
- My daughter could not put anything inside a balloon before the ball putter.
She used it for one week and has never used it since. Now she can put nearly
anything into a balloon. (FOR SALE: barely used ball putter for cheap)
- I put a small screw-eye on the end of my ballputter and have
it hanging from my keychain.
- If you want a quick and easy way to put balls in balloons then the ball
putter is recommended. I got it along with T's book on this topic. It has
ideas for various balloon sculptures and how balls and balloons can make
neat toys for kids. It takes a bit getting used to but is worth it.
- It is often desirable to get more limbs on an animal than there are
ends on the balloon. The basic dog works out OK, but legs need to
be grouped in twos. The pop twist will allow two legs or arms to be
separated. When you are at a point where you want to make a Pop
Twist, twist two medium bubbles, three small bubbles, then another
medium bubble. Lock twist the medium bubbles so nothing
untwists. Ear twist the first one.
\ \ / /
\ V /
_( )_ <--- 1 medium bubble (ear twist and tuck between
( )^( ) <--- 2 medium bubbles (become separate legs)
(c) <--- 3 small bubbles (a, b, c)
- Ear twist bubbles a and b. Twist them about 5 times each
(completely around). Now pop c. The air should not come out of any
of the other bubbles which now represent paws or hands..
O______)(________) side view with end view _(_)_
((_) perspective attempted (_) (_)
oo o o
- A balloon only has two ends. A pop twist is used if you need
an extra end of balloon while using the same balloon. Here is an
example. Partly inflate a 260. Make a two inch bubble, now make
another one, followed by three 1 inch bubbles and another two inch
bubble. lock twist this 2 inch bubble to the second one. Now ear
twist the first and third ear twist, and twist at least five or six
times. While holding these two twists, pop the center bubble. You
now have a 2 inch "head" with two "horns" sticking up. Position them
differently and you have a cross etc.
- Pop twists - good for pop-apart arms and legs on beasts, but the
twists can easily come undone. Usually I try to put animals and
other creations with this kind of pre-popped balloon twist on hats
or leashes so they're more likely to "live" longer.
- A "pinch and pop series" is a 5 bubble series. Bubbles 1 and
5 are the same size and bubbles 2 and 4 are the same size. The
series is twist locked to form and loop (almost diamond shaped).
To pinch bubbles 2 and 4 you take one bubble and bring its own ends
together by pulling on it's middle and pinching the ends together.
Twist it at least 5 times if you're going to pop bubble number 3.
Do this to both bubbles. This is exactly how you would make the
outer part of a Teddy Bear head. I believe some books call this a
bean or ear twist. Be sure to support the pinched bubbles while
popping bubble no. 3 so they do not untwist. Hint - if you twist
the pinch in 2 it makes good claws for your T-Rex or Eagle.
- Pop twists -- I find that by pulling the two ear twists apart
really hard (sometimes hard enough to burst the middle bubble
without manually popping it) the bases of the ear twists become
really knotted and are less likely to come undone.
- If I make something that will not use up most of the balloon, instead
of a three bubble pop-twist series, I make five bubbles. I ear twist the
two staying bubbles a few times, leaving three in the middle untwisted.
Out of those three, the middle one is the popping bubble - I usually make
it only about a 1/2 inch bubble. The bubbles on either side of the
popping bubble are usually about an inch. I make sure the staying bubble
ear twists are secure, or split, then twisted in opposite directions.
When I pop the popping bubble, the two longer bubbles deflate leaving
small, uninflated ends. I wrap the ends into the staying ear twists
several times, or if there's enough scrap, I pull and tie it.
- Someone else wraps a tiny balloon scrap from a pocket around the
staying ear twists before popping the middle bubble to keep the ends from
deflating. It seemed like more work, but when I saw it, it was done so
quickly, I hardly noticed.
- Although it may pose some problems, I still think
the pop twist is one of the best techniques I ever learned, and
many of my balloon creations would not exist if I hadn't.
I practice pop twists by inflating a 260 about halfway and seeing how many
times I can do the technique, making as many smaller balloons as possible.
If you do it with pinch pop twists you end up with a bunch of fat dog bones.
If you do a 1 1/2 ' bubble, then a pinch pop, then a bubble. then a tearoff.
Then a bubble, pinch pop... you end up with a bunch of fat minnows.
Pop Twists: The Alternate Method!
- I'm not sure what anyone else calls this one so for now I'll call it
a toe twist since that's what I like using it for. Make an ear
twist, with only a little air in it. The softer the better. Twist
the bubble in half now to form two toes.
twist along this line
(_v_) existing ear twist
/ ^ \
/ / \ \
- The Dewey method for pop-twists requires toe-twisting each
ear-twist in the pop twist series.
- Mike Decker a has new technique. After you make the 2 ear twists,
and before you try splitting them in half with your fingers, try moving
the ear from on top to under, then pushing the ear up, causing the
ear to be split by the balloon (2 chambers next to it) creating 2
little bubbles from the ear. Now twist these little bubbles around a
time or 2 and your ear-twist is set. Repeat w/ other ear and pop. I
lose almost no pops this way and can't remember the last time a kid
came back for repairs.
- There is definitely a difference in the two methods of pop twisting.
In the Dewey method, you twist the existing ear twist in half. In
the Mike Decker method, you squeeze the two bubbles on either side
of the ear twist towards each other, then push the ear twist up
through the bubbles, using the bottom half of the bubble to split
it into two halves. then you twist the two halves around. When I was
first starting out, I had a terrible time twisting the bubble in
half and broke a lot of bubbles learning the technique. I saw Mike
Decker's Video, and his technique is easier for a beginner. I could
use his method immediately with little or no poppage. There is less
control of the size bubbles with Mike's method. Now, I can do
either, and really don't know which is better. Hope this helps
- pop twist - the easiest way I found comes from one of John Holmes
videos. First you do an ear twist, that is where after you make a
bubble, you fold the bubble over and twist the two ends together so
the are joined at the same spot. Next hold your hands on both sides
of the ear twist so your thumbs are on the rounded side of the ear
twist. Now push the rounded end through the point where the
original twist was joined. This will split the ear in half. Once
you have pushed this all the way through then twist the whole unit
in a circle. Next make a small bubble (the one to be popped) then
make another split ear bubble unit (sounds professional). After you
finish the rest of the sculpture, pop the balloon in the middle. If
you are making an extremely difficult sculpture, you might want to
pop the bubble earlier so you don't do a lot of work only to have
the pop fail.
- Here is the most valuable piece of advice I can give you about
the teddy bear problem. When I was a novice, Joe St. Marie (Sweet
Pea the Clown) taught me this one.
When you do a pop twist series for the arms and hands many people
are taught to do the ear twist and twist it about 8 or nine times,
then the middle bubble that gets popped, then the next ear twist
twisted 8 or 9 times. This is where you get into trouble! I used
to do it this way and I too would lose an arm 1/2 of the time.
Instead try it this way. When you do the first ear twist, split it
in half with a split twist. After
the split twist, you do not have to twist it 8-9 times. 2 or 3 will
suffice. Then do your middle bubble (to be popped) and proceed to
the next ear twist and split that one.
I promise if you use this method you will never again lose another
arm. Besides, the split twists make the bubbles look more like hands
- I'm having a problem with the pop twist going bad and the feet
going pifffttt and letting all the air out. What am I doing wrong
here? There are two possible solutions:
- Twist the pinch twists at least about 7 or 8 times, and hold
them as you pop the middle bubble. Then let go of the pinch twists.
- Twist the pinch twists in half. This takes a bit of practice, and
a bit of time.
- When I have enough time, and the figure allows it , I use
method 2 because it gives the sturdiest results.
- My recommendation to you is that you contact Bruce Kalver at
NOSTALGIA1@aol.com. He has a fantastic video that deals with that
problem. I do a lot of the popping the middle bubble too and I had
never seen it done the way Bruce does it. Before I saw his method I did
the ear twist and then divided the ear twist and twisted them again.
- When I first learned this, it was called the CLAW TWIST. Keep
the word claw in mind when you do it. You have 3 bubbles in a row
that have been twisted at least 4 times around. Do an ear twist
with the left bubble. Now thinking of the bubble as a claw, push
it against the twist. The twist divides the claw in two and now
twist the two bubbles. Do the same thing to the right bubble. Now
you can pop the middle bubble safely.
- At a clown convention in Williamsburg, VA, one time, someone
showed me how to roll the bubbles on either side of the one to be
popped so they would actually tie themselves. It was not another
twist of the bubbles that are originally ear twisted, but somehow
rolling those bubbles into the balloon again. The gentleman told
me it actually tied them off somehow, and they would not lose their
air. This is all done before popping the middle one.
- I have one problem - when I first do them my pop twists are ok,
but in a few minutes they will start poping or the air will start to
leak out. What am I doing wrong?
- Sometimes it's really hard to get those pop twists to stay.
It's a practice thing. I have a couple of suggestions, and one that
someone else (wish I could remember who so to credit) showed me works
well. What I usually do is make my pop twist series. I ear twist the two
bubbles that I want to stay (the "staying" bubbles), leaving the one to
pop between them. Before I pop the middle one, though, I twist the
staying bubble ear twists in half, twisting the half-bubbles in opposite
directions about 3-4 times. This works really well for me. Then I pop the
middle, "popping" bubble.
- in a pinch pop series I split the pinch twist into a toe twist... it
holds much better.
- The pop twists need to be twisted more times... first of all, twist the basic
bubble at least four times before doing the ear-twists, then each ear-twist
several times. Some twisters find it helpful to also split each ear-twist
in half, and then twist each of the halves separately a couple of times.
- Bruce Kalver's "Airnimations 2" describes a technique for the pop twist
that is much more durable than the method most often described in books. The
video also has a bunch of good character animals on it. Buy one and fear the
pop twist no more.
- There is a way: make an extra bubble to each end of the pop twist, deflate
this, and use the deflated end to tie off eartwists at the ends. Then twist the
eartwist in half. This will use up more balloon, but even when the eartwists at
the end untwist, the balloon will not deflate. Another way is to forego the pop
twist altogether, and use an bit of separate balloon twisted in to make the
extra ends. This may not have the almost magical effect a poptwist sometimes
has, but provides for sturdier creations.
- There are two techniques that I use to make the pop-twist more child
resistant: First of all, I use a technique that I learned from several
John Holmes videos, which John usually credits to Mike Decker. First make
the two ear twists on either side of the "pop" bubble. Then, in order to
split this twist, press the "ear" bubble into the twist itself. Let the
twisted part do the splitting. With practice, this will also help you make
the split bubbles more even. Once you have split the ear, twist the new
pair of bubbles several times. I've had this particular twist hold up for
at least two weeks, if the sculpture is not "played with" too roughly.
- The second technique is part of the patter. I use the pinch-n-pop for
making Mermaids, Gorillas, 'Zillas,... *Many* of my more popular designs.
Before I hand the child the balloon, I warn them that this critter is very
ticklish! Don't play around with the claws/toes/fingers... or the balloon
critter will laugh so hard that it will fall to pieces.
I *rarely* need to repair a deflated critter due to a failed pop twist.
- Here are 2 simple remedies depending on the creation.
Airplane: make sure you twist the pinch twists AT
LEAST 5-7 times. After you pop the middle bubble,
untwist each pinch twist and tie a knot like you did
after blowing up the balloon. Voila! No more lost wings.
- For arms, etc. (I got this idea from Bananas "Carol
Fields" in Kansas City) BEFORE popping the middle
bubble, twist each pinch twist in half, twisting one
of the new tiny bubbles several times, then twist the
pair several more times to secure. Do this to each
original pinch twist, THEN pop the middle bubble. I
have yet to have one of these come undone. When you
split each pop-twist you can make one larger than the
other so that you have a hand and wrist, so to speak, on each arm.
Popping the center bubble
- The easiest way to pop an inflated unwanted balloon is to pinch the
balloon between your thumb and middle finger and simply snap your
fingers. If you can snap your fingers normally you should be able
to do this easily. I've even used this technique to make the fully
inflated 260 "disappear" instantly. The kids like it and always ask
how I did it, I tell them it was "magic." That's the way I do it
too (though I'd mention that my thumb NAIL and middle finger NAIL
pop the balloon with a scissor-like action when I snap. I never
tried just snapping the fleshy parts of my fingers to pop a balloon
though I expect that would work if you pushed hard enough and your
hands were clean and dry). Makes pop-twists extra impressive.
- When I twist I prefer to exude effortless ease
and smoothness. I use my fingernails to pop the center bubble
of pop twists, pop extra lengths of balloon, put old, sick and
unclaimed balloon animals to sleep, strike round balloon sculptures,
etc. However when I do so it appears to the uninitiated that all I
do is touch the balloon or bubble and it disappears with a bang.
I use a modified "finger snap" action to dispatch rogue bubbles
"first time, every time." In preparation to snap normally, the
palm-side skin of my thumb would be pressed against the palm-side
skin of my middle finger. However, here I curl my thumb and finger
a bit more and press the end (edge) of my thumbnail against the end
(edge) of my middle finger's nail. The nails cross each other at
approximately a right angle (90 degrees). Keeping them pressed
together, I "snap" my fingers, flicking my thumb away from my palm
and middle finger toward my palm, while minimizing their overshoot.
(As you get better at it, all you need do is rub the ends of the
Now with a pencil or spaghetti balloon, I do as follows. First I
reach for the unwanted bubble and begin to put my fingers around it
they way I would normally hold it for twisting. However, as I start
to close my hand around it I instead pinch the bubble between my
nails as described above and snap. If it is a soft bubble I pinch
it in the middle to develop the most pressure possible in the
bubble. If it is a hard bubble or a large balloon (heart, round,
350, etc - not a 1xx or 2xx balloon) I pinch it off-center or close
to an edge. As I deftly snap, the scissoring action of the
fingernails makes a tiny tear in the balloon. In response the
vanquished bubble gives out a mortal yell and vanishes in a cloud of
talcum powder. Cough-cough.
This can be hammed-up by completing a sculpture then holding it up
by only the hard middle bubble of a pop twist. Snap your fingers
and have the sculpture fall into the waiting hands of a child.
How does this work? Well, think of cracking a raw egg. First you
create a crack by hitting the egg against an edge, then you grow
the crack by prying the two halves apart. When the crack growing CW
meets the crack growing CCW, you have two eggshell halves. With a balloon what
you are really doing is creating a tiny tear and then getting the stress
in the balloon to help you crack the bubble in two using fracture mechanics.
- Though elastic, latex has low fracture toughness (cracks
- When a flaw/tear/hole in a balloon is larger than a certain
"critical" size, a crack will propagate in the balloon wall.
This critical size depends on the stress in the balloon wall.
- The greater the pressure in the bubble (the harder it is), the
more stress there is in the balloon wall.
- The greater the stress is in the balloon wall, the smaller the
critical size becomes (the smaller the hole need be to grow a
So, the pinching action increases the pressure in the bubble, thus
raising the stress in the balloon wall which in turn decreases the
critical crack size. The small flaws/tears/holes introduced are now
larger than the critical size needed to propagate a crack around the
bubble, so it happens.
When popping large or soft balloons which don't respond to the
pinching by firming up, the critical crack size will be larger.
Scraping the fingernails together a little harder during the snap
creates a larger flaw/tear/hole and still allows the method to work.
If the balloon is old and very soft, the critical crack size will be
so large that this modified snap method can only puncture the
balloon and let the air slowly leak out.
- I realize everyone does whatever he's comfortable with. I snap/tear
the balloon with my fingers. I've done it for so long I don't even think
about it anymore. The reason I started doing it was because I watched
others "bite the balloon bullit" and thought it looked very tacky and
unprofessional... Not necessarily unsanitary. There just doesn't seem to
be a graceful way to do it... faces contort, eyes squint, whatever. Many
times when I am twisting, I'm doing it in a clown costume, and don't want
to run the risk of messing up makeup, either.
- Practice with an untwisted balloon blown up all the way. Take the balloon in
both hands with thumbs close together. Press both thumbs into the balloon
(-><-). If you are right handed your right thumb will press much further
into the balloon and if you are left handed your left thumb will press much
further into the balloon. Then push this thumb with a quick motion.
Sometimes projecting in your mind that your hands will be about 3 feet away
diagonally, will help. Of course, your hands will break the balloon within
- I've found that the best way to pop a balloon is to try twisting it
into an animal shape right after telling a friend, "Let me show you
this new design I've come up with."
- Poppin' pop twists - Here's a couple more ideas:
- Make the middle bubble a bit larger. More rubber to be grabbed
by the pinch twists.
- Make the pinched bubbles softer (before pinching). Will
actually create more friction.
- Hold the two pinch twists as you do the pop.
- When you pop the middle balloon hold onto the two bubbles that will
separate. Sometimes the action of separating them causes them to untwist.
If you hold onto them, they will not deflate.
- Hold on to the eartwists when popping the center bubbles. I used to have
a lot of pop twists deflate, but I discovered holding on to the bubbles
while popping made all the difference.
- Maybe a final piece of advice I have not read yet: wait until your
balloon is finished before popping the center bubbles in all pop twisted
parts. This may provide the surprise effect described above, and you can
give all your attention to the careful popping and positioning process.
- I construct lots of multiple designs using 160s and am always trimming the
balloons. I do cut them apart and trim off the excess with a child size pair
of scissors that is attached to my balloon bucket with a 160.
People are amazed when you take scissors to a balloon - but of course
only in the uninflated section or the knot.
- I have found that by keeping the sacrifice bubble tight (the one in the
middle) I can pop it easily with the capped end of my marker. Mike Decker
uses his thumbnail in a sort of pinch motion.
Implements of Destruction
- I have a pocket knife with a 7 cm blade. I take it out and sometimes say
things about a sacrifice. Usually I talk to the balloon and say "We have
ways to make you talk."
The people will notice the knife and some will cover their ears.
One kid said "Don't pop it, it's for me."
Then I say: "Say pop!" and pop the middle bubble. It works nicely.
- I have one of those mini-Swiss Army knives that my wife gave me as a gift
once, that has several blades, including a little pair of scissors. I carry
this knife with me always (in clown or out-of-clown) and find it very handy
for popping or cutting off excess pieces of balloon. It's not as quick as
Marvin Hardy's belt cutter, but it is always handy never gets in the way.
- Marvin Hardy's Magic Cutter.
You can see a drawing of Marvin's cutter at
It is convenient but others, such as Bruce Kalver, use the cutter separately.
You can also keep it on a string (elastic or balloon, too) or retractable line.
It is an alternative to using scissors.
- If you are having trouble with tearing apart a pencil balloon,
Balloon Magic (Marvin Hardy) sells a neat little belt-hook-mounted
razor-blade holder that protects the blade but allows you to slide a
balloon twist down into the holder to slice it in half, cut nozzles
off, etc. It's called a Magic Cutter. When you get comfortable
using this tool, it is incredibly slick, and you don't even have to
look down at it to use it. One note: You do need to be careful when
using it though - the plastic razor blade holder (actually one of
those plastic letter openers with a tiny, protected razor blade set
in at an angle) has a pointed end which sticks up. Though it's to be
used for popping bubbles, the point is easy to forget about and easy to
scrape your arm against (which I promptly did - Ouch!). I think I
am going to shorten the pointy part on mine, and wear it closer to
my belt buckle than to my right side so I don't injure myself again.
The Magic Cutter costs $15 and has a lifetime guarantee.
- Marvin uses it so smoothly that it definitely
adds to his professional appearance on stage. But I'm a concerned about
the pointy part. It scares me to think about wearing it in the
middle of a crowd of kids. Has anyone worked with one of these when
kids were pressing in?
- Yes, I too was impressed with how smoothly Marvin uses it, so I bought one
several years ago. I wore it a few times but stopped wearing it because
of all the blood... No matter where on my belt I wore the thing, I
scratched my arm or cut my arm open on it. So I turned the cutter
pointy-side down, only to find that I now stuck my arm into it on the
upswing instead of on the downswing. I believe that I would have
eventually gotten used to it, but I decided that it simply wasn't worth
the pain. I firmly believe the things are downright dangerous to the wearer.
In my opinion, the Magic Cutter is a product liability lawsuit
waiting to happen. It is the duty of a manufacturer to make a safe
product, give adequate warning of any danger and publish instructions as
to its use. As far as I know, the thing doesn't even come in a box. Its
design is clearly deficient from a safety standpoint... it is
"unreasonably dangerous." It straps a non-retractable sharp point to
one's beltline, and comes without a customary safety holster to protect
the wearer from injury when not in use.
- I tried using it in a restaurant on two different occasions,
but one of the servers got too close and was scratched pretty good.
I took it off, and decided right then that I wouldn't use it unless I
have plenty of room. I think it will work great when not in a crowded
restaurant. "Remember what was said about liability." I have been trying to
think of how to put a cover over it which could be moved aside easily.
- BE CAREFUL around the cutter's pointy part.
I have ripped a shirt and I have cut my wrist on it!
Then the pointy tip of my cutter broke off one day
just above the blade part. Since then, I have not had any more problems.
Though I don't have the pointy part to pop the balloons, it is still rough
enough to pop them. When I need to replace it I might break the tip off the
- Royal once tried Marvin's balloon cutter years ago and yes, the pointy end
did injure his arm. He had a lovely gash about 5 inches long down his
forearm. His remedy was to file down the pointy tip and give it a rounded
edge. Although Marvin uses that point to pop unneeded bits of balloons,
Royal thought the risk outweighed the need because he could easily break
off the balloon with his hands.
- I cut the sharp point off of mine and filed it round. Since
it is just a letter opener, you can have a rounded one for close quarters and
a sharp one for when you need to pop some balloons or parts.
Also remember that in the holder you can have it pointed up (toward the sky)
or down (toward the ground). If you try the other direction, you may have
- I use my balloon cutter by applying some velcro. It sticks perfectly on
my pogo pump along the top edge with the point hanging down. I've just made
it a habit to leave it there and pull it off, use it, and stick it back on.
Doesn't get in the way and avoids stabbing someone.
- I think the convenience of using one of those letter openers is
slicker than, slick but that sharp point on Marvin's has scared me
and the price of the holder turned me off. I found the same type
of letter opener but it has the shape of a ruler and is about seven
inches long and the point is set back just a little bit from the
end. Also, what makes it safer I believe is that the point and the
main body are less than 3/16ths of an inch apart. Only enough room
for a letter or a, well, 260 balloon to fit in. Your finger
couldn't get cut on the blade if you tried and because they are so
close together it would be extremely difficult to poke yourself or
another by hitting the point seperately. With a hole drilled
through the other end and an uninflated 260 tied through the hole
it can safely and loosely dangle from your waist and you can pull
it up when you need it. It's not quite as quick and smooth as
Marvin's holder though it still is much easier than plucking one of
those kid-ka-bobs off of the tip of your cutter while trying to
keep your patter going. Mine is one of those cheap office supply
advertising pieces that have some company logo imprinted on it and
is given away. Those companies that print your name on ball point
pens would be my first source to check out and next I would be
knocking on the door of STAPLES OFFICE SUPPLY.
- Warning: Do not place any body parts that you hope to use in
the future near the sharp blades. If a child should become impaled
on your letter opener try and work it into your patter.
- T Myers writes: watching Marvin use his cutter is wonderful.
He uses it with a minimum of motion that gives him an air of
efficiency and grace in performance. If you have ever seen Marvin
work he appears to be in complete control of every motion he makes
or is about to make. He came up with the perfect tool for his
style. Most of the people I've talked to who use the tool have
modified it to fit their style, but not until after they have poked
It was mentioned that I have Marvin's Cutters for sale. Well,
that's true but I don't list it anywhere. The reason I don't list
it is that I think it is dangerous. I don't want to sell it to
someone who thinks they can just clip it on and forget about it.
If you forget about it, chances are that you will be using your
hands to talk, get excited, gesture wildly, stab yourself and need
stitches in your clothes or your skin. So, if you want one of these
cutters, you have to ask and you have to listen to me tell you it
is dangerous and you need to write me a note saying you understand
it is dangerous and you will not hold me responsible for any damage
caused by the cutter.
- I like this cutter and use it all the time. It's much quicker and easier than
scissors. I did poke myself with it and even ripped a shirt once, but nothing
really bad. I solved the problem by mounting it on my suitcase instead of on
myself. Now, I can still use the cutter, but the the harm is a bit further away.
- I cut off the sharp point since I don't need it really. I glued the cutter to
my electric pump which is in a small camera bag (I have the pump and battery
in seperate bags), and because the "pump is in the way" I never hit it
anymore by accident. Whenever I need something really sharp, I have a safety
pin hanging on the side of my pump.
- At T"Jam I bought Marvin's cutter. I thought it was the
greatest thing to come along since flippers changed to legs. I only
used it a couple times. The last time I used it I got excited,
while having a stimulating conversation with a customer, and there
went my shirt (and a 3 inch gash on my forearm.) I could have cut
the end off, like everyone said to do, but I just went back to
breaking them off with my fingers.
- I used to use a letter opener. (the ones with the razor blade) It
worked great until I cut my finger when the blade came lose. People
weren't thrilled getting balloons from a man with a bloody hand. I now
carry band-aids with me.
- I've been using a letter opener to cut balloons (just like Marvin) for a
long time now. The only difference is that I bought one with a recessed point.
That means that I don't accidently gash my arm and bleed all over my audience.
I don't know why anyone would use a cutter with a point jutting out.
It would fit in Marvin's holster without the element of danger,
however I drilled a little hole in the plastic end of the letter
opener and attached a key ring to it. I hooked the ring onto a little spiral
keychain, just as Royal and Jimmy Leo did.
- My friend Howie Marmer took one of those envelope openers (the same device
found in Marvin's cutter) and cut away most of the plastic, leaving only the
functional parts and enough room to make a slot for wearing on belt or
waistband. It's very small, then, so it's both visually inconspicuous, less
dangerous, and has more options for exact placement.
- I have a small pair of scissors in a little pocket on my apron. It beats
"gnawing" at a balloon.
- I took a pair of baby fingernail scissors and attached them to
my belt with a "badge reel." These are little round things with a cord
coming out - you pull, and the cord pulls out; let it go, and it sucks the
cord back in - so the scissors are hanging against your belt again. Kind of
like the big reels they have for keys but only about an inch across.
The nice thing about the baby nail scissors is that they have round, blunt
tips. They aren't very sharp but still fine for going through balloons.
And they are only about a buck a pair!
- Inspired by Royal Sorell after seeing his cuting contraption two
years back, I came up with what best suited me. Like his, mine was on a
retractable chain that clipped directly onto my pants. On this I attached a
pair of safety scissors.
- I attach a spiral keychain to my standup pvc pump. Attached to it is a small
pair of fingernail clippers which I use to break bubbles when necessary or
to trim stray hangnails. I've also put a small screweye on the end of my
ballputter and have that hanging from my keychain as well.
- I use my scissors a lot and having them on a brightly colored balloon "string"
makes them esier to find.
- I also use scissors. I carry them in my fanny pack for easy access.
- I have a little pair of sharp pointed Fiskar scissors that I
use. My balloon apron has a little pocket made just the right size
to allow the handles to stick out enough to grab them.
- I use small children's scissors (good quality ones) which have
brightly colored handles. I slip one of these in my shirt pocket
and have it close at hand all the time. Works great. I use a
toenail clipper for popping and trimming.
- I use the small Fiskars brand scissors that are sold as kids'
scissors. The tips are not needle-sharp and they are small and
light. I use a coiled key chain cord and have had zero trouble with
- Unlike my friend Ken Stilman "Flash", I don't like wearing
gloves when twisting balloons. (They drive me nuts!) So when I
need to remove or shorten a piece of balloon I use scissors. The
drawbacks to scissors are:
- Size-weight-bulk, more to lug around
- Where to put them for quick access
- Not losing them. (I lost one pair leaving it behind at a table I
worked in a restaurant, and another I must have just dropped
- Not getting poked by the sharp end when you're moving fast,
reaching for other things.
- Some solutions I've found useful:
- To cut down on weight and bulk I switched to a small pair of
folding scissors. The first brand I bought (commonly sold at fabric
stores) worked, but after a while the "chrome" started wearing
through (looked bad) and peeling (cut fingers). My sister Barbara
(who performs as "Miss Bubba") had a set she got from Fuller Brush
Co. back east. They were great, but not available here in CA. There
is a brand sold with camping supplies at sporting goods stores,
stamped "made in USA" that are excellent.
- For easy balloon access I work wearing a multi-pocket/pouch
belt, but the little scissors tended to get lost in the pockets.
So, I use a key chain leash (a plastic coil like a phone cord with a
key ring at one end and a clip at the other) with the scissors on
the keyring and the clip attached to a "D" ring on my belt.
Normally I drop the scissors into a side pocket, but if I'm moving
fast I can just drop them and let them dangle from the belt. (And I
- These scissors come with needle sharp points that
can easily damage fingers & balloons (especially dangling from a
leash!) What I did was open the scissors and round off the point on
one side with a grinder, (you could use file if no grinder
available) and then ground the point on the other leg(?) shorter, at
an angle(NOT tapering the whole leg). So that it still has a point,
but when the scissors are closed, the leg with the point is hidden
behind the longer, rounded (safe) leg. The tension of the scissors
should hold them closed. This way, the scissors are handy, you don't
loose them, they are safe (rounded tip only, exposed), and you can
still open them to use the point if you need to pop a bubble. This
works well for me, and when I demonstrated it at a COAI convention
workshop it went over well.
P.S. I've made a few before, for friends, and they make great,
inexpensive, gifts for any other balloon twisters in your life.
- Someone suggested, and I bought, a couple of the OLFA
"Touch-Knife" model TK-1 cutters from a JoAnn Fabric store. These
are great tools... variety of colors, small, spring-loaded/locking
blade, and cheap ($1.69ea.).
- I use something called the: "Olfa Touch-Knife" What is it? It is a
small, spring-loaded razor knife in a brightly colored plastic case/handle.
(many colors available!) It is roughly a half-circle about 1.5" across,
with a sliding button to extend the blade. If you push this slide out all
the way, it will lock (o.k. click gently...) into place leaving about 3/8"
of blade exposed. If you stop pushing before the click, you will have less
than 1/4" of exposed blade. Release the button, and the entire blade
retracts into the plastic handle. It has a small hole opposite the blade
that is *designed* for a lanyard of some kind. (I use a 12" piece of elastic
With the blade retracted, you can juggle the things with *NO* possibility of
cutting yourself. (I have juggled them!) The spring is strong enough that
the blade won't extend accidently, but it is easy enough to do tricks with.
With minimal practice (say, 5 minutes or so...) you can use the tip of the
blade to pop the pop-twist at no risk to anything but your eardrums.
Cutting an uninflated balloon *is*, I must admit, a bit trickier. You will
need to stretch the uninflated balloon to get a clean cut.
The best part is that they are cheap enough and easy enough to find that if
I should loose one, I can ignore the loss. The last time I checked, they
were available at three different fabric Chain Stores in the Ft. Collins
area (Joann's, Hobby Lobby, and Hancock Fabrics) for an average price of
$.74 each. (That's right! 4 for 3 dollars!)
All that I can say as a final word is to check them out. They will cost you
less than a buck to test, and unless you are a total klutz (or a *roaring*
drunk!) you should not be able to hurt yourself.
Go to your local fabric store, and give one a try.
- I also use these and think they are great. I have also seen them at the super
market in the checkout line and at hardware stores.
- I get the Ardell touch knife at the super market for $1.19.
It is small, a little smaller than a silver dollar. The blade
is on a spring. It stays stored inside the case until you push up on the lever
to raise the blade. When you release the lever the blade goes back in. The
blade is also small enough that it is hard to cut your self! It hangs from a
string on my apron.
- I have used a hat pin that I had pinned on my shirt.
- I also carry a seam ripper for pop twists. Very handy!
- I was trying to decide what would be best to use, when I found a
coupon clipper in the food section at Pic-n-Save. It's off-white,
uses a razor blade to cut, BUT the passage is too small for even the
smallest fingers, though a balloon twist will fit nicely. It's
handle is a closed circle, so I'm able to tie ribbon to it and hook
it to my apron, or costume easily. The blade is also replaceable.
For only 69 cents it's a bargain and parents think it's a riot that
I use it. I'm trying to work out a coupon clipping routine to go
with it. There's GOT to be something funny there, I just KNOW IT.
- I use my hands and/or teeth.
- Besides the obvious discomfort you must feel at having to explain the biting
of the balloon, may I ask why you bite a balloon bubble at ALL? As easilly
as that fragment could go into a childs windpipe, biting a bubble could cause
a fragment to go into yours.
- I never bite the pop twist. I find it very easy to use the fingernail on
the thumb and pointer finger, squeeze, then give a light jerk, and that is
all it takes.
- I used to use my teeth, but I thought better of it when I saw a
child doing the exact same thing to a balloon after seeing me do it.
That's when I went to the small knife. I don't think we should set
an example of putting an inflated balloon in our mouth to do
anything to it.
- I have seen many others use the teeny scissors and it works well and
quickly. I did look at the wonderful tool that Marvin uses and knew
immediately that in my hands it would become a suicide weapon... or worse
yet, someone else would end up poked. If I didn't/couldn't snap them, I
would opt for the scissors. Whenever I see someone bite, it makes me
cringe and wish they were more professional about it.
Fear of Popping
- If your business is inflating balloons, you have to get past the fear.
- I'd suggest you take a bag of balloons and inflate each balloon until it
pops. You'd get a realistic feel for when they are going to pop.
- Maybe your mind and body will get tired of being afraid if you just keep
popping balloons until it bores you.
- When I first started ballooning, I was afraid of balloons popping on me. When I
was a kid, i was afraid of heights. I cured it by forcing myself to stand on
first chairs, then ladders, then high bridges and buildings. For balloons, I
used a similar technique. I just inflated a couple and squeezed them in my
hands until they popped. After doing this for the umpteenth time, I stopped
being startled by the sound, and fearing a popping balloon. Just build on it
slowly. If you keep the balloon away from your face so as to protect your eyes,
there's actually not a lot that can go wrong. You wont hurt your hands. Your
ears might ring a bit if it's a loud pop, but that's about the worst that can
happen. It's a matter of mind over fear. Start with your eyes closed. Work up
from there. You'll get over it !
I am NOT starting a debate over safety again. Yes, a popping
balloon can be dangerous. Yes, everybody should be careful. We must all wear
protective goggles and warn everybody about balloons. I'm just telling you how
I conquered my initial fear of balloons popping on me, which is not a practical
trait if you're a balloonist, but which can be conquered. 'Nuff said, I shall
now jump into a tank filled with Tarantulas to conquer my arachnaphobia.
Noisy Pop Twists
- I suffer from a rare form of balloon disease called
"I-Dont-Like-The-Pop-Twist-itis" and was wondering if anyone else here
suffered from it also. It is not that I can not do it, but i found that if
I do it for children at a party, or a show, I always get the same child
coming back with a parapalegic man, or an airplain with no wings just a few
minutes later. I know that there are alot of creatures out there to be made
with the Pop-twist, but I need a way to make it more durable vs. children.
- I never do pinch and pop series. I always add another balloon
or scrap of balloon to create the necessary section. I hate the
popping noise and do everything possible not to pop balloons in
front of my customers. I really do dislike the popping noise. So
many people of all sizes are sure you are going to make the balloon
go "pop" that they don't want to be anywhere near the balloon person.
- I too, strongly dislike the pop twist. I hate the noise and the
fact that the recipients love to untwist the bubbles and bring you
back something to fix. I never do pop twists. I would rather add
another balloon and create the part - hands and arms, feet and legs,
airplane landing gear, etc.
- Of course, there are occassions where a loud pop is no option (a
hospital, e.g.), or when you need a really a childproof balloon. In that
case, I mostly go for the extra-bit-of-balloon-option (quicker than
tying off the pinch twists). It also has the advantage of offering the
possibility to bring some extra color to the balloon figure.
- On my new video I show a claw twist
which is a variation of the pinch pop. My suggestion is to make 4
bubbles instead of 3 and cut on the twist in the middle
oOxOo <----cut on the x
This avoids the bang sound.
- I have a rather quiet series. What I do is:
Make a pinch and pop series and then I twist my ear twists in half.
Usually by forcing the center of the ear twist onto and around the
twist that holds it together. The center bubble is not loose, it is
rather taut. I touch the center bubble with as much of one finger
or so that I can to help muffle the noise and then I push a free
index finger into the bubble and if necessary give a good quick
twisting motion. This usually helps to muffle the noise. That and
NOT letting my center bubble get TOO large and/or too tight.
- A soft center bubble in a pop twist would certainly pop more
quietly, but I don't know that you'd get a consistent break. You
might frequently end up with a stringy piece of latex holding the
two outer bubbles together (which I suppose isn't a problem if you
don't mind having to pull out the scissors).
- While it is true that a pop-twist is a weak point in a balloon
creation, I find it to be a invaluable technique for me. I use it
often. The loud pop-sound it makes for me is an asset rather than a
default. When I pop the bubble, I get often get this reaction like
"heehee...he popped the bubble...heeheeheee..." and then, as I position
the bubbles of the poptwists, they see these ends of balloon appearing
were first there were none. The heehee-ers then realize I meant to pop
it. It gets very good reactions. When I make a balloon crocodile or
lizard, I wait until the very end to pop the legs. It is only at this
point the crocodile-slash-lizard shape is clear, and I often get these
responses. Plus, the loud pop attracts attention from passers-by and
such. The same for the handlebars on a one-balloon motorcycle.
- Does anybody know of a way to make the pop less noisy?
- Instead of doing a pop twist (ear twist, 1" bubble, ear twist)
you could also do 2 small .5 inch bubbles between the ear twists
and then cut the twisted part between the 2 small bubbles. You
don't pop any bubbles that way, and you still separate the balloon.
- Try making the bubble that you plan to pop very soft by squeezing a
lot of the air out of it before going on the next bubble. Less air, less
pressure therefore, less noise.
- You could make the area to be broken a twisted string of
balloon instead of a bubble. Then use some sort of cutter for a
silent pop twist.
- You get a twisted string of balloon after a bubble if you squeeze the air
down the balloon an inch or so and twist the now uninflated section.
- Try making one arm, then the pinch twist, then split the pinch twist. Then
instead of a bubble, squeeze the air down and make a string of twisted balloon an
inch long. Now make a split pinch twist and the arm. Then you can cut the
string without making a pop.
- Maybe you could learn to be quick at this, but I don't think it can be as
quick as popping a bubble.
- The banana twist is from my (Bruce Kalver) first video AIRNIMATIONS.
Blow up a balloon all the way and tie the ends together. Find the middle
and twist. Now find the middle again and twist in half. Tie together.
You now have what resembles a bunch of 4 bananas.
- Simple banana fold. It's when you make a bunch of four bananas
out of one 260 balloon. Inflate 5/6ths of the way. Connect the
ends of the 260 to make a circle. Make two smaller circles.
Intersect the circles and there you go; one bunch of bananas.
Attaching balloons with adhesive
- I'm not sure that any one brand is better or worse for
balloons. The kind that I use is Elmers. Before I brush any of
the cement on the balloons I take off the cap and let it sit for
about 10-15 minutes. Letting rubber cement sit for 15 minutes
helps to prevent the balloon popping; the "rubber" in rubber cement
is in a solvent. The drying process allows the solvent to
evaporate, leaving the rubber. This solvent can dissolve balloons.
Vaseline will dissolve a condom. Gasoline will dissolve a
Styrofoam cup. In short, petroleum based substances (gasoline, paint
thinner, kerosene, etc.) will often dissolve polymers (rubber,
balloons, Styrofoam, plastics).
- When applying the cement to the balloon, make sure you keep it
away from your fingers. It's difficult to handle the balloon when
it keeps sticking to your fingers. Use the brush that comes with
the bottle to apply the adhesive, but be careful not to POKE the
balloon. Also, only use a minimal amount to get the job done. Too
much makes the sculpture look messy, other things (dust, particles
etc.) can get stuck to it, and people can see where the glue has
- Wait a few seconds until the glue loses its clear look and
becomes white-ish. Now just connect the two balloons together. Make
sure the balloons to be connected touch in the right place, because
it's hard to take the balloons apart without breaking them.
- Oasis floral glue is the best balloon-glue made! Oasis floral
glue works unbelievably well on balloons. A small amount holds
well, a large amount will not pop the balloon (as rubber cement
will) and it stretches enough to take a lot of abuse. This is one
of my favorite tools when building large sculptures for event decor.
It doesn't need to be plugged in, you can't burn yourself on it and
it drys quickly.
- Now, what can we do with the use of rubber cement??
Instructions for making a rabbit, a three layered cake and a gumball
machine can be found in Steve
Hattan's Mon, 25 Apr 94 email entitled "Sculptures."
Cold Glue Guns
- For balloon sculptures, cold-glue guns are used. These are
similar to hot-glue guns, but they operate at a much lower
temperature and use an adhesive that does not dissolve latex as
rubber cement does.
Twisting Balloons 102
The second half of this chapter is called Twisting Balloons 102.