|Mick Hanzlik Mirror Handcuff replica with keys
Recently on WILD ABOUT HARRY there has been quite a bit of interest in Houdini’s Mirror Handcuff Challenge in 1904, and the question I’d like to answer here, is “How many replica Mirror Cuffs have been made?”
Well, the best known replica is made of solid silver and is in the David Copperfield collection, along with the originals, in his private museum in Las Vegas. This replica was made by British silversmiths Hamilton & Co, and was presented to Houdini after he beat the challenge set by the Daily Illustrated Mirror newspaper.
There have been 3 people that I know of, who have built replica Mirror Cuffs, Ian McColl in Australia, Chris Gower from the UK, and also from the UK, myself, Master Locksmith Mick Hanzlik.
Chris built 2 versions of his cuff. One was cast from aluminium and used a small cabinet type key, and the other was made from heavier cast bronze, and used a Yale type key and locking mechanism. Sizing the cuffs has always been difficult, and the 3 of us have approached this in different ways. Chris used a picture made by a friend of his who drew around the original cuffs when he had the opportunity to examine them.
I’ll mention the other 2 methods later.
|Chris Gower replicas with cylinder key (left) and cabinet key (right).
Ian made 3 variants of his cuff, all made of nickel plated brass. One used a long thin key to reach the locking mechanism at the end of the barrel. His second version was similar, but used a long Bramah (UK) key to operate a Bramah mechanism also at the end of the barrel. His third version used a shorter key, very similar in looks to the original keys, with a custom built locking mechanism at the keyhole end of the barrel. Ian sized his cuff by enlarging a picture of the cuffs from one of his Houdini books, and estimating the size of the opening for the wrists.
|Ian McColl's new replica (top left), non-Bramah replica (top right),
and Bramah lock replica (bottom).
Now on to my replicas. I originally made the key, using the few photographs that exist. Recognising the end of the key in the photographs was identical to a Bramah key, and as the cuffs were made in the UK, it was a pretty sure bet that part of a Bramah lock was modified to fit inside the barrel, I was able to determine that the tip of the key would have had the same diameter as the Bramah one – 6.5mm. I then enlarged the photograph of the key so that the tip measured 6.5mm. I then had a photo of an actual size key, that I then made in brass and steel, and then had nickel plated.
|Mick Hanzlik's replica under construction.
Having made the key, I decided to try to build a set of cuffs to match. I found a photograph on the Internet, which showed a perfect side-on view of the Mirror Cuffs. I enlarged the picture using the key that I made, and ended up with what I think is an actual size set of Mirror Cuffs.
It is uncertain to know exactly if I have the size correct, as I have been unable to get any information from David Copperfield’s museum.
I then designed the individual parts and got the flat pieces laser cut and then I riveted them together. The barrel was welded to the rest of the cuffs and the long process of smoothing the surfaces began. The cuffs were then sent to Ian McColl in Australia, who built the locking bolt which operated with my replica key, using a lock mechanism given to me by Jeremy Bramah. Eventually I built the secondary locking system, which can be seen when looking into the keyhole.
|Mick Hanzlik's cuff lock mechanism.
The whole thing was then nickel plated.
So there exists 6 different replica Mirror Cuffs at this moment.
If anyone has any further information, please share it.
|The completed Mick Hanzlik Mirror Handcuff replica.
Thank you Mick.
UPDATE: Here is a terrific video of Mick Hanzlik's replica Houdini Mirror Handcuffs in action.