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Do-It-Yourself Magic

[Fundamental Tricks]  [Card Tricks]  [Tricks With Coins]  [Mind-Reading Tricks]  [Rope, String and Ribbon Tricks]  [Impromptu Tricks]  [After-Dinner Tricks]  [Odd Tricks]  [Advanced Tricks]  [Do-It-Yourself Magic]  [More Magic Tricks] 

Many of you will find that you not only enjoy doing tricks, but have other interests as well, such as building things in your home shop. The tricks in this chapter are easy to make yourself. You will probably have as much fun making the apparatus as you will in performing the tricks themselves. Some of these tricks don't even require tools, and none require elaborate building.


A slate is first carefully cleaned on both sides, wrapped in a sheet of newspaper, and when unwrapped you find the magical appearance of a "message from the dead:"

In a dime store buy a school slate about 7 by 9 inches with a narrow wooden frame around it. Take a piece of cardboard and cut it to fit the slate inside the frame. Paint one side of the cardboard with dead-black, or blackboard paint and on its other side paste a sheet of newspaper. The "flap," as magicians call it, should fit snugly enough inside the frame so that it will not move about when you clean the slate, and loosely enough so that it will drop out when the slate is turned upside down.

On one side of the slate print a message like, "Merry Christmas," "Happy Easter," or "Greetings!" Place the flap over the message, with the black side of the flap out, so the slate looks ordinary. Or, instead of a message you could print the name of a card that you intend to force (page 10) and then reveal it on the slate after the card is selected (a two-in-one trick).

Show the slate, holding it by its edges, your thumb on one side and fingers on the other to hold the flap in place. Clean the slate on both sides. Wrap it in a sheet of newspaper, flap side down, and lay it on the table. Now call on the "spirits" to write a message. Unwrap the slate, leaving the flap on the newspaper. The flap will not show on the newspaper, because of the paper pasted on its back. Hold the slate up and reveal the message the spirits have written.


Three cards are selected by members of the audience and replaced in the deck. The deck is shuffled by a spectator, and you place it in a glass goblet. The cards rise one at a time from the goblet!

For this trick you will need a deck of cards, ten or more extra cards, a glass goblet large enough to hold the deck, and a length of black thread.

The goblet is unprepared and so is the deck. Take one of the extra cards (they must be from another deck, as their duplicates must be in the regular deck you use) and make a slit at the top center of the card about half an inch long. Slip one end of a length of strong black thread through the slit. Tie a knot in the thread at the front of the card, and pull it tight against the card. Put another card in front of the threaded one so that the thread will not show from the front. Take another extra card, a duplicate of one that you are going to force, and put it behind this threaded card, so that the thread runs under the force card.

Place still another extra card behind this and bring the thread up and over the top of this card. Place the next force card on top of the thread so that the thread runs under it. Place still one more card with the thread over its top, and then the last force card with the thread under it.

Place the rest of the extra cards behind this with the thread over their tops. Now you can see that if the thread is pulled gently, the force cards will rise one at a time from the packet. The free end of the thread is attached to a small nail driven in the back of your table, or tied to a book or other heavy object. Now, if the packet is placed in the goblet, and the goblet pulled forward, the thread will become tight and the cards will rise. Place the packet of cards face-down on the table next to the goblet.

You already know how to force cards (page 10). This is how you use the first force taught you-the one in which the spectator cuts the cards. To force all three cards, place two of the force cards on the bottom of the deck, and the third one on the top. (These cards must match the cards in the special packet you have prepared.) Have a spectator make the cut as in the force. Have him look at the bottom card of the top packet (the card that you would normally have him look at when forcing only one card). After he has looked at the force card, have him remove it from the deck, and show the person next to him the next card from the bottom. Now go to another person and have him look at the top card of the LOWER portion-the portion that the first spectator held. (This will be the third force card that you placed on the top of the deck at the beginning.)

Now that the three cards have been forced, ask the spectators to remember their cards, and have them replace them in the deck. Give the deck to someone to shuffle. Take the deck and go to your table. Lay the deck face-down on the table, right on top of the prepared packet. As you do this, lift up the goblet in your other hand, and show that it is quite unprepared. Place the goblet on the table towards the rear, and put the deck, along with the prepared packet, into the goblet, card faces towards the audience.

Pick up the goblet, and move it slowly towards the audience. As the thread tightens, the first card will rise from the deck. After it has risen, remove it and show it to the audience, and ask if it was one of the selected cards. Repeat this with the other two cards.


You show a small picture frame which contains no picture, only a black background. You cover the frame with a pocket handkerchief, then show about a dozen small cards, each bearing the name of a famous movie star. The cards are placed in a small bag and shaken up. A spectator selects one card from the bag and reads off the name of his selection. You remove the handkerchief from the frame, and it now holds a picture of the selected movie star.

You will need to make a small cloth bag, about 6 or 7 inches square. It is made with a cloth partition which runs the length of the bag, dividing it into two sections or compartments.

You will also need an easel picture frame with a piece of black cloth glued to the inside of the back, so that the frame has a black background when empty. Cut a piece of black cloth, the same width as the inner edge of the frame but about three inches longer, out of the same material as the background.

Now, cut a picture of a famous movie star out of a magazine, so that it will fit in the frame. Take twenty-four pieces of cardboard and print the name of this movie star on thirteen of them. On the remaining eleven cards print the names of eleven different movie stars.

Before you start the trick, place the eleven different name cards, plus one of the thirteen duplicate cards, in one side of the bag. Place the twelve duplicates in the other compartment.

Arrange the frame like this, starting from the front: first the glass, then the piece of black cloth, then the picture, and finally the background. The cloth will stick out of the top of the frame, and hang down the back.

To begin, reach into the bag and pull out the cards that bear the different names. Have a spectator look at them. While he is doing this, show the audience that the frame is empty. Place it standing up, on your table, and cover it with a thick pocket handkerchief. Have the person who looked at the cards drop them into the bag. (Make sure they go into the empty side.) Shake the bag to mix the cards, then hold the bag open and ask the spectator to reach into it and remove one of the cards. Make sure to hold open the side with the duplicate cards. Ask him to read the name aloud on the card he has selected.

Pull the handkerchief off the frame, and as you do so, pull the black cloth out and off, hiding it in the folds of the handkerchief. You can feel the cloth through the handkerchief. Hold up the frame and show the picture. If you wish, you may take the frame apart and show that it is ordinary.

You don't have to use movie stars, for this trick. You might want to use presidents, or other historical persons. Instead of using a picture, you could force a card (page 10) and have a duplicate in the frame. You then would not need the bag. A bag is quite useful, however, as it can be used in other tricks. (see page 102).


You show a magic wand and a ping-pong ball. The wand is held horizontally in one hand and the ball is placed on the center of the wand by your other hand. The ball balances on the wand and rolls along its edge. First you must make a wand. Use a piece of wood dowel 12 inches long and '2 inch in diameter. Paint the wand black except for about 1 inch at each end. Paint these "tips" white to make the wand easier for the audience to see.

You will also use a ping-pong ball which is not prepared, and two straight pins or small brads, and a piece of strong black thread. Stick one of the pins into the wand about 1 inch from the end. Push the other pin about 1 inch from the other end of the wand. Now tie one end of the thread to one of the pins, and stretch it out taut and tie it to the other pin. Now if you hold up the wand, the thread won't show because the wand and thread are both black. Be sure not to push the pins into the wand too far, as the thread and the edge of the wand form a "track" for the ball to balance on.

Show the wand to the audience by waving it. Pick up the ball and bounce it so that the audience can see that it is unprepared. Hold the wand horizontally in one hand by its end with the pins and thread toward you. Carefully place the ball on the thread and wand so that it will balance. Sometimes it is best to rotate the wand so that the thread is slightly higher than the edge of the wand. This makes the balancing easier. If the ball won't stay balanced, you have pushed the pins in too far. It is best to let the ball fall a few times so that it will look as if the trick is a real feat of juggling. If you make it look too easy, people will think you have something attached to the ball.

After you have balanced the ball on the wand, hold the wand in both hands and tilt the wand slightly and allow the ball to roll back and forth along it. Reach up and take the ball off the wand and toss it to someone in the audience. Either place the wand on the table, or secretly pull out the pins and pass the wand around for examination.


A sheet of paper is formed into a tube, and a white silk is pushed through it. When it comes out the other end of the tube, it has changed color. This is repeated with two other white silks, and the tube is shown to be empty at the finish.

You will need three white silks, and three colored silks, all about 12 by 12 inches. Cut a piece of heavy "construction" paper to about 8 by 11 inches. Make a small screen out of cardboard. It should fold lengthwise down the center and should be about 14 inches across, before folding, and about 10 inches high. Decorate it any way you wish and make it heavy enough to stand up by itself. You will use this to display the silks, and also to hide the dye-tube.

The dye-tube is made from a piece of mailing tube 1'2 inches in diameter, and 4 inches long. It is never seen by the audience. A cloth tape is attached in the inside center of the tube by its ends so that the center fold of the tape will come flush to either end of the tube. You will also need a piece of sticky tape to hold the paper tube closed.

In one end of the dye-tube place the three colored silks, one at a time, and push them down into the tube as far as they will go. They will go on top of the tape and clear to the other end of the tube, but they won't fall out, because the cloth tape will stop them. Now, stand the screen up on your table, the fold towards the audience, and behind it stand the dye-tube. The end which has the tape showing and holds the silks in the tube should be next to the table. Drape the three white silks over the top of the screen so that they hang down in front more than they do at the back. Lay the sheet of construction paper beside the screen, along with the sticky tape.

To start the trick, pick up the construction paper and form it into a long tube, just a little larger in diameter than the dye-tube. Place the piece of sticky tape around the middle of the tube to hold it together and stand it behind the screen, right over the top of the dye-tube. The paper tube should stick out above the top of the screen. As you place the tube behind the screen, you should pick up one of the white silks from the screen, with your other hand to divert the audience's attention.

Display the silk to the audience and call attention to its color.

Pick up the paper tube from behind the screen, holding it near its bottom and squeezing it slightly so that the dye-tube comes right along with it. Push the silk into the paper tube and thus, into the dye-tube. You will be pushing the silk against the tape in the dye-tube, which will force the first colored silk out of the opposite end of the dye-tube and then into the paper tube. When the white silk is completely hidden in the tube, reach in the other end and remove the colored silk. Lay this silk over the screen where the first white one was. Repeat the same thing with the other two white silks, placing the colored ones on the screen. After you have "dyed" all three white silks, and placed them on the screen, hold the paper tube in one hand, and pick up the three colored silks in your other. As you are reaching over for the silks, the hand holding the tube should bring the lower end of the tube behind the screen for an instant. As you do this, release the pressure on the paper tube and let the dye-tube fall out behind the screen. It is best to have a box or container with a soft pad in its bottom behind the screen so that the dye-tube will not make a noise or roll off the table when it is dropped behind the screen.

Place the silks back on the screen and either tear up or unroll the paper tube to show it is empty. You should say something about the colors of the silks as you pick them up this last time, so as not to arouse suspicion.


You show a small square of paper. It is formed into a cone and a handkerchief is produced from it.

For this trick you will need to make a "gimmick" which is the magicians' word for a small piece of secret apparatus used to perform a trick, such as a pull. The gimmick is made of stiff paper, and is just large enough to hold a small silk. It will measure about 2'2 inches long, and is made in the shape of a small cone. It will be about 1', 2 inches across the mouth of the cone. The closed end of the cone should be snipped off so that the opening will be large enough for you to place you--second finger inside the cone.

Place a small silk in this gimmick and lay it on the table with the small hole towards you. Lay a sheet of heavy opaque paper, about 8 by 10 inches, over the gimmick to hide it.

Pick up the paper by one end in your right hand, slipping your fingers underneath it. Get your second finger in the cone and pick it up with the paper but keep it behind the paper. Now, as you bring up the paper, grasp it in your left hand, with your fingers in front. Your right thumb will be in the front of the paper. Bring your right forefinger to the front; swing your hand over, so that all your fingers, except your second one go to the front. Your thumb will now go to the back of the paper.

Slide your hands around the paper, so as to hold the paper, near the top, by the long edges. Handle the paper very casually. Grasp the bottom of the paper with your left hand and bring it up around the back of your hand, forming a cone, enclosing the gimmick. Remove your right finger from the cone, and hold the cone at the bottom to keep it from unrolling. Reach in the cone with your left hand and produce the silk. You may either remove the gimmick with your right finger, hiding it under the silk and showing the empty cone, or ball up the cone (and gimmick) and toss it aside.


You show a strip of paper with some Chinese characters on it. It is torn up and folded and when the pieces are unfolded, the strip is restored, though a small bundle of paper falls to the floor. The audience believes these to be the torn pieces, but when the bundle is opened, they receive a surprise.

Cut two strips of paper 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. Letter the two strips with Chinese characters. Just make some characters that look oriental if you don't know where to find some real Chinese characters to copy. The characters on the two strips should match exactly. Yellow is a good color for the papers as it shows up well and looks oriental. Use black ink to print the letters. You will also need one strip of paper the same size as the two duplicates, with the words: "So Sorry, Please," printed on it. You will also need some paste, or rubber cement.

Lay the two duplicate papers back to back, with the writing on the outside, and paste them together at one small spot only. Make the spot of paste about an inch square, and about 3 inches from the top of the strips, right behind one of the characters.

Now, very carefully, fold one of the papers down from the top at the edge of the pasted area, and crease it. Fold it from the bottom up to the pasted area. Continue folding until you have the paper folded into a small bundle about the width of the pasted part. Then fold in the sides of the strip and tuck one end in the other so it won't unfold. If you now pick up the unfolded paper, you will find that the folded one will be behind it and will not show from the front. Roll the unfolded paper around the folded one.

Take the other paper with the "So Sorry, Please" written on it, and fold it into a. small packet about the same size as the paper on the back of the Chinese paper. Place this paper under your right armpit, before you start the trick, so it will fall to the floor when you want it to.

To start the trick, unroll the ticket and display it to the audience. Hold it in your right hand at the top (near the folded piece), and your left hand at the bottom, and straighten it out somewhat by stretching it between your hands. Tear the top portion crosswise below the folded paper. Place this piece behind the longer strip, and tear it once again, so you will have three pieces about the same size. Now, in your hands, you will hold from back to front: the folded piece, and the torn piece to which it is attached, and the other two torn pieces.

Begin to fold the torn pieces into a bundle the same size as the folded piece. Fold it good and tight, and place this bundle in your left hand and squeeze the pieces together. Turn over the bundle and be careful not to expose the torn pieces at the back of the whole piece as you unfold the whole piece. Unfold it completely, and show the spectators that it has been restored.

As you do so, raise your right arm slightly and let the third piece fall to the floor. Try to look very embarrassed, and then try to hide it by putting your foot over it. Put the piece you have just "restored" on your table, and be sure the pieces don't show. Now act as if you were "caught." The audience will tell you about the piece on the floor. Pick up the piece on the floor, and begin to unfold it as if you were very unhappy. When you unfold the paper, smile and let the audience have time to read the message. Now they see that the joke was on them!

Make up several sets of papers at one time, so that if you have to do a trick at a moment's notice, you will be prepared. Of course, you can use the "So Sorry" paper over and over again.


You borrow a hat from a spectator, and show a small block of wood and a small cardboard container just large enough to hold the wooden block. The block is placed in the container and can be seen through the large holes in the container. Both are placed on top of the hat. The block vanishes from the container, and is found under the hat.

You will need a block or cube of wood about 2.5 inches square. You may decorate this any way you like. You can use letters or numbers, like those on children's blocks, or spots, to represent a die.

Make a container out of cardboard just enough larger than the block so the block will slip in and out easily. The container is made with no top, and the sides have large circles cut in them, so the block will show clearly. It actually looks like a sort of frame. The bottom also has a hole like those on the sides, but inside the container you must paste a piece of paper to look like the block. Thus, if you painted the block red, the paper in the bottom of the container would also be red.

You will also need a sheet of newspaper, and a hat, which you will barrow from someone in the audience. Place the block inside the container and place it on the table, with the bottom down.

To start the trick, pick up the container and the block. By squeezing the container to keep the block from falling out, show all sides of it, including the bottom. Now turn the container upside down and allow the block to fall into your hand. Keep your hand over the bottom of the container so that the open side will not show. Place the block back into the container.

Wrap the sheet of newspaper around the two, forming a tube with open ends. Turn over the tube so that the open top of the container is down, but hold the block in the container with the pressure of your thumb and fingers on the outside of the paper. Pick up the hat with your other hand, and swing it from left to right as you show it is empty. The hat will naturally swing under the tube, and when it does, relax the pressure on the container, so that the block, and not the container, falls into the hat unnoticed.

The hat, with the block inside it, is placed mouth down on your table. Now dip the end of the tube slightly so that the audience gets a glimpse of the fake end of the container, and they will think the block is still there. Place the tube on top of the hat, and let the container slide down the tube so that it rests on top of the hat. (Be sure the container lands with the open side up.) Unwrap the container and show that it is empty. Now, very slowly lift the hat and reveal the block. The audience can see that the container is empty, but you must lift the hat slowly so that they don't think you slipped the block under the hat. Pick up the block, drop it into the container, and return the hat to its owner.


You show a band of cloth which is in the form of a circle, and tear it into several bands while telling a story about a circus. You will make two bands first, then one large band, and finally two bands, one linked within the other.

Place a strip of plain cotton or muslin cloth (6 inches wide and 24 inches long) on a flat surface. Make three slits 232 inches long: one of them 1 inch from one edge, one at the center of the band, and the third 1 inch from the other edge. Make these slits at each end of your strip, lengthwise.

Now form the strip into a circle, pasting the ends of the cloth together. Make a half-twist of strip "a" before pasting it permanently. With strip "d" make a full twist before pasting it. The two center parts are pasted without any twists. The cloth when torn down the center, and all the way around will form two circles. The circle with the half-twist will form one long continuous circle, while the other one, with the full twist, will form two circles, one linked within the other.

Your story goes like this: "The other day I went to the circus. First of all I went to the Side Show, and found the manager very upset. I asked him what the trouble was and he said, `I have no belt for the Fat-Lady, or for the Siamese Twins.' I asked him if he had a belt that no one was using. He said he had only this wide belt (Show the strip) which belonged to the Strong-Man. I told him I was a magician, and asked to borrow the belt. I tore the belt in two like this! (Tear the strip in two so that you have two strips.) `Now,' I said, `we have two belts.' `Yes,' he said, `but they are both too small to go around the Fat-Lady, and the Siamese Twins are joined together.' `Don't worry,' I said, and tore one of the belts in two again, like this: (Tear once again, using the strip with the half-twist), and we had a belt big enough for the Fat-Lady. I took the other belt and tore it like this: (Tear the remaining strip) and we had two belts that would fit the Siamese Twins. For you see, we had two belts linked together, one within the other."


You vanish a coin, after it has been marked, and it will be found inside a small bag, which is in an empty matchbox, which in turn, is inside another small box. Both boxes are circled with rubber bands, and the mouth of the bag is also sealed with a band.

You will need several items to do this trick. First, you need a matchbox. Then go to the drugstore and get a powder or capsule box large enough to hold the matchbox. Make a small cloth bag about 2 inches long, and 1'4 inches wide. Leave the top of the bag open.

Make a slide (a flat tube) out of metal or very stiff cardboard, 3 inches long, 1 inch wide, and about 'e inch thick. This slide must be big enough for a quarter to slide through easily.

Now place the slide in the mouth of the bag, and put a small rubber band around the top of the bag and the slide. Wind it securely around the bag so that it is tight. Place the bag and slide into the match box but let the slide stick out. Close the box as far as possible. Place a rubber band around the box, both ways. Put the match box in the powder box, and close this up with a rubber band or two, going around the box both ways. Of course the slide will stick out, but when you pull it out, the bag will close, and the boxes will also close tightly. Place this prepared package in one of your pockets.

Borrow a quarter and have it marked by the owner. Vanish it by any of the methods described in Chapter 3, "Tricks with Coins." Use any method you prefer, but be sure you end up with the coin in your hand so you can reach into your pocket easily, and secretly, and drop the coin in the slide. After the coin has been placed in the slide, pull it out of the box. Bring the box out of your pocket, leaving the slide in your pocket. Hand the box to the spectator who loaned you the coin. Ask him to open it and identify his coin.

One good way of vanishing the coin is by the trick, "The Dissolving Coin", page 34; or, the "Coin in the Paper," page 36.