When I was around 12 or 13, my parents gave me a magic kit and a deck of Marshall Brodien’s TV Magic Cards (basically a rebranded “Svengali deck”) one Christmas. The TV Magic Cards were heavily advertised on TV in the late 1960s and I had learned the entire routine from the commercial by heart (“TV Magic Cards, the magical deck that works ALL by itself…once YOU know the secret”).
The family joke was that, once I got the deck and tried to recite the commercial while actually demonstrating the tricks, I was all thumbs and flubbed timing. My family and friends dubbed me Master Boodini. But I didn’t care. I was fascinated by the cards, the wonder that the tricks would generate, and I loved the sense of pride I would feel whenever I got everything about a trick right and was successful in generating that wonder in my audience. For a shy, nerdy kid who didn’t have great social skills, magic tricks were a great way of breaking the ice and starting conversations, even if I lived up to my Boodini moniker.
Mark Frauenfelder (former Make: editor-in-chief, Boing Boing co-founder, and currently, Cool Tools and Wink Books co-editor) brings out the Boodini in me again with his very wonderfully presented Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Astounding Magic ebook. Make:‘s founder, Dale Dougherty, likes to describe makers as fundamentally enthusiasts and there is no better description of Mark Frauenfelder than that. Mark is driven by his curiosity and his passions, which he details on the aforementioned sites and in books like Made by Hand and Maker Dad. One of Mark’s ongoing interests has always been magic tricks, and now, we get to see him sharing some of what he’s learned of this art in a lovely new ebook. In 77 print-equivalent pages, Mark shows how you can easily alter standard playing cards to be able to do some really impressive and puzzling card tricks.
Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Astounding Magic details six different trick decks and how you can make them. The deck hacks are classics: Marked Deck, Stripper Deck, Invisible Deck, Brain Wave Deck, Oil and Water Deck, and Nightmare Card. To give you an idea of the book’s contents, here are some excerpts from the Stripper Deck chapter, along with two brief videos.
Secretly pull a spectator’s selected card from the center of a deck
A stripper deck consists of cards that have been slightly tapered so that one short edge is narrower than the other. In other words, the deck is shaped like a wedge rather than a rectangle, as shown in Figure 1. (I cut this card with an extreme taper so you can get an idea of the shape. A real stripper deck has a much less obvious taper.) With a stripper deck you can easily remove any card, or cards, that have been placed into the deck in the opposite direction of the orientation of the wedge. Simply use your thumb and fingers to pull (or “strip”) the cards, which have protruding ends, out of the deck in one smooth motion.
• A deck of cards
• Fiskars 6-inch Photo Bypass Trimmer ($10 on Amazon)
• Optional: Sun-Star Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter ($13 on Amazon)
• Pad of Post-It Notes
Less simple version:
• 6 Neodymium Disc Magnets, ½ inch diameter x ¼ inch thick ($9 for 10 pieces on Amazon)
• Flat Corner Brace, 1.5 inch ($3 for 4 pieces on Amazon)
How to Make a Stripper Deck
[Ed note: In the book, Mark shows you, step-by-step, how to set up the trimmer, how to properly shave the cards, and how to operate the resulting deck. But you can figure out most of what you need to know by looking at this video.]
Using the Stripper Deck
[Ed note: Mark explains some of the basic tricks you can do with a stripper deck in the book. In this video, he shows you how do a red/black card deck separation trick.]
Trick Decks is available in the Kindle store for $2.99. Mark also has created an excellent companion site for the book, with information on tools materials used, videos of the tricks, a card tricks blog, and more.
This book may have inspired the Master Boodini to rise again. Where is my old cape and top hat? The roar of the greasepaint, it calls to me. “Booo! Boooo!” Listen, I think they’re calling my name.