OK, I was wrong. Looked it up and here are the instructions. It is really a matter of the aparatus, according to this explanation and practice, practice, practice to get the hand positions just right. Wish we could watch this in slow mo.
THE TEN ICHI THUMB TIE. Don't read on if you don't want to spoil the magic.
This is one of the most popular tricks on the stage. It was first performed by a Japanese troupe, who created quite a sensation throughout America and Europe. They had many more tricks, but the Ten Ichi Thumb Tie was the most startling.
THE TRICK. The two thumbs of the performer are crossed and, in this position, tied together with cords by a committee, one member usually being an assistant or confederate, as he is termed in the art of magic. The two sides of the cord are then brought together by another cord, which crosses at right angles to the first, and this cord is also tied. The ends of the cords are then tied together--an end of one to an end of the other.
A cane is held perpendicularly, one hand at each end, by one of the committee. The tied hands of the performer are thrust at the cane, which passes between them, and the hands are shown at the other side of the cane, still tied. The same effect is produced with a bicycle rim, when thrown through the air and caught on the performer's arms or on the arm of one of the committee, who, interlocking his fingers, makes a ring of his arms.
Two members of the committee, each with interlocked fingers, stand side by side. The performer first thrusts his hands around the arm of one man; then withdraws them and immediately repeats the effect with the other man and finally withdraws his hands. Before and after each move the thumbs are submitted for examination and found to be securely tied. At the finish the assistant unties the cords.
THE CORDS. Two are used. The first should be about seventeen inches long and a quarter of an inch in diameter at its center, tapering to points at both ends. The second about thirteen inches long, an eighth of an inch in diameter at its center, also tapering. To make them, cut any strong, coarse tissue paper, better Japanese rice tissue paper, the long way, into strips an inch in width. Beginning at one end, twist the paper at an angle (as in making an old-fashioned lamplighter). Each turn should lap over the former, half its width. When within three inches of the end of the first strip, take a fresh strip, moisten its end, lay it under the end of the former and continue twisting.
When the cords are the lengths given above, break off the strip of paper, take a fresh strip and recommence twisting, but in the other direction, beginning at the end just finished and finishing at the other. Use enough layers to secure the lengths and diameters as given above. When finished, the cords should be stiff and so strong that a strong man could not break them between his hands.
THE TIE. With all fingers pressed together, spread both thumbs away from the hands until they form the letter L with the line of the forefinger. Lay the right thumb across the left and at right angles to it. (Fig. 80, 1 and 2.) The thumbs cross at their base--the large knuckle-bone of one lying directly over that of the other.
Fig. 80 Pix 1 below
The larger cord is laid, at its middle, directly over the point of juncture; both ends brought down, crossed under the thumbs, brought up again and tied in two knots on top of the right thumb. (See Fig. 81.)
Fig. 81 Pix 2 below
Right here is where all the trick lies.
Just as the tie is being made, pull the left thumb until its smallest diameter (midway between the points) reaches the cord, and pull down with the left hand. Push the right thumb so that its fleshy part goes as far into the cords as possible. Insist upon the tie being tightly made.
THE SECOND AND SMALLER CORD. The second and smaller cord is laid at its middle, below the right and on top of the left thumb and against the first cord. Both ends are carried around the first cord, crossed, brought back and tied twice. When this is being done, reverse the pushing and pulling as above explained, pushing in the left and pulling out the right. Get all the slack on the left thumb the right being pushed into the cords at its smallest diameter; the second cord being tied high up, as near the right thumb as possible and very tightly drawn.
Remember, if this second knot is not tight it will give trouble later.
THE RELEASE. Bring the tips of all fingers together. Carry the thumbs down into the palms. If the ties, as just described, have been correctly made, using the fingertips as a hinge to mask the movement, there will be no difficulty in withdrawing the left thumb. The peculiar nature of the cord causes the loop from which the thumb has just been withdrawn to remain open and rigid, like wire, and if the last tie was tightly made, the second cord will not slip down to close the loop.
In approaching the cane, or the arms of the committee with the joined hands, touch the article to be passed with the fingertips and withdraw them, leaning backward three or four times. As you draw back the last time before passing it, withdraw the left thumb from its loop, make a lunge forward and upward, open the fingertips, pass the object, close the fingertips, open the palms, push left thumb back in the loop, close the palms, strain on both thumbs and show the tie. In passing the cane, hoop or arm, press both thumbs well into the palms so that the tips will not strike in passing, bringing them up again in exhibiting their tied condition.
Always exhibit the tie from the back of the hands and with the palms outspread before and after passing any object
If there is any difficulty in drawing out or in replacing the left thumb in its loop, it is because the ties and positions have not been made in careful conformance with the above descriptions. Practice until the proper method is obtained will prove that the foregoing is a very easy as well as a very strong and effective trick.
From Ten Ichi Thumb Tie