The Juggling Props of Stu Raynolds

I’ve previously written a great deal about the history of juggling props, including articles about props made by Edward Van Wyck and Harry Lind. Many decades later, another round of innovation was achieved by Stu Raynolds.

Stu Raynolds

Stu Raynolds was born in 1927 in Chicago, Illinois (USA). He was a very strong technical juggler, and attended the first IJA Convention in 1948. He had befriended prop maker Harry Lind, and his interest in creating a better club dominated much of his adulthood. While he was a part-time performer, often with his mentor, Art Jennings, he also earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and became a research fellow at Du Pont. Raynolds applied his scientific knowledge and skills to create fiberglass clubs, which replaced wooden clubs as the primary prop for serious jugglers in the 1970s until plastic clubs were developed and refined. Raynolds served the IJA as president in the 1950s, and was a large financial supporter of the organization in its early days. Stu was recognized as an Honorary Life Member in 1979.

Stu Raynolds

Stu’s clubs and other props were popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s and during the early 1990s.  His clubs were often referred to as the Rolls Royce of juggling clubs. Let’s take a look at the props that he made.

Clubs

Stu Raynolds went into production in 1969 after almost two decades of experimentation with fiberglass. He originally made a set of clubs with wooden handles and fiberglass bodies. You can see these clubs in the following photo.

Stu took meticulous notes of his experiments and his notebooks are amazing to look through. Below is photo of one of the pages from his notebook followed by his entry from March 29th, 1968, showing his success at achieving the results he was searching for.

The result of all of Stu’s work was a lightweight but fairly durable club that looked incredible and was a vast improvement over the wooden clubs that came before them. Raynolds was not the first prop maker to use fiberglass to make clubs, as Ken Benge and Claude Crumley each preceded his clubs by a few years. However, Raynolds’ clubs were far superior, as the two other fiberglass club makers never were successful in getting a perfectly round handle and simply lacked Stu’s expertise.

Various fiberglass Stu Raynolds clubs on display in the Museum of Juggling History

Stu working on clubs in his workshop

Stu’s most famous clubs were his bottle clubs, which he originally made for Tommy Curtin.  You can see examples of these below, including one with the mold that was used to make it.

Tommy Curtin

Niels Duinker has recently worked with Tommy Curtin, Stu, and Stu’s family to recreate a plastic version of these clubs. They are now for sale. You can learn more about them by clicking here.

Other Props

Stu Raynolds also made fiberglass rolling hoops, such as the one used by Carter Brown show below.

Carter Brown’s Stu Raynolds hoop from the Museum of Juggling History

Stu also made some wooden clubs and sticks. He made a four-sided practice club and a juggling stick based on those that Massamiliano Truzzi used. You can see both of these below.

Below you can see both sides of Stu Raynolds’ prop catalog. If you want to see bigger versions, please click on the images and open them in a new window. You can see that Stu also made Gil Dova-model cigar boxes, plates, and wiffle ball clubs.

Stu is still alive and retired. I’ve visited his son, James, who still has most of Stu’s molds and many of his clubs. Cindy Marvell also owns some of the molds. I spoke to Stu last year and he was happy to hear that he has not been forgotten by the juggling community. Many of the top names in juggling history, such as Gil Dova, Albert Lucas, and Dick Franco, used or continue to use Stu Raynolds props. That alone should be a testament to their quality.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-four books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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