This article is adapted from the bestselling new book The Maker Magician’s Handbook, available at and other booksellers.

The Effect

The magician has a spectator select a random playing card. Then they have the spectator place the card back in the deck, and have the spectator mix up the deck. The magician places the cards into a contraption called a Card Machine. A card mysteriously rises, but it’s the wrong card. Within a flash the wrong card instantly changes into … the selected card!

Note: This project is an adaptation of “Rising Card From Envelope” by Bill Severn and Pete Biro, Tarbell Course in Magic Vol. 7, page 121.

The Build


  • 2 packs of the same playing cards 
  • Envelope I used a 35/8″×6½” envelope.
  • A bunch of rubber bands 


  • Pencil
  • Markers or crayons
  • Scissors

Prep the Envelope

1. Seal your empty envelope.

Figure A

2. Line up a playing card along the side of the envelope, for sizing, and cut the envelope about ½” past the card (Figure A).

Figure B

3. Turn the envelope so the open end faces up. About ¾” below the open end, cut or tear small half circles on either side (Figure B). This is so a pencil can slide through, but size-wise the hole should be wide enough to fit two pencils.

Figure C

4. Outline both sides of your envelope with a dark color (Figure C).

Figure D
Figure E

Now, make it your own! Create the look of your Card Machine! I chose to draw gears on one side, with images of a 9V battery, wires, buttons, and switches (Figure D). You can do something similar or make the design completely your own. On the other side of the envelope I wrote “Card Machine” (Figure E). Get creative! Think about how you want your Card Machine to look, and think also of the overall look of your show. Your props should all look like they belong with each other. They don’t need to “match” exactly, but they should complement each other: battery and wires, or stars and planets, or birds and flowers, or whatever. This helps create a cohesive theme to your show.

Hack the Pencil

Figure F

1. It’s gimmick time! Take a few rubber bands and twist and wrap them onto the middle of your pencil. You’ll need to add enough rubber bands to create about ¼” of rubber banding all around (Figure F). I have three or four wide rubber bands on my pencil.

Figure G

2. Slide your pencil carefully through the two holes you created in the envelope, so that the rubber banded area is now hidden inside the envelope (Figure G).

The Performance

Now, how do we know which card is selected? How do we perform the trick? The secret is that we need to do something called forcing a card. That means that we’ll actually make the spectator choose the card we want them to choose.

We need two of the same exact card. That’s why this trick requires us to have two matching decks of cards! Make sure the pattern on the backs of the cards is exactly the same. The first step is to choose which card you want the audience to pick for the trick. I chose the jack of hearts, for example.

Figure H

1. Take one jack of hearts from one pack and slide it into the Card Machine, so that the back of the card is against the back wall of the inside of the envelope, and the face of the jack is against the rubber bands (Figure H).

Figure I

2. We don’t want the audience to ever see this extra card. When the Card Machine is resting on your table, always make sure the opening of the envelope is facing you. When you pick up the Card Machine for your performance, you’ll want to pinch both the jack of hearts and the envelope together (Figure I).

Figure J

3. The second jack of hearts goes on top of the deck of cards that you will be using in the routine (Figure J). That will be your force card.

So, you have the jack of hearts on top of the deck. You have your Card Machine resting on your performance table with the opening facing you. And the second jack of hearts is hiding in the envelope. You’re ready to go!

Figure K

4. Hold the cards facedown in a dealer’s grip, as shown in Figure K

Remember, the jack of hearts should be on top, facing down.

5. Have a spectator pick up a small portion of cards from the top of the deck, flip them over, so they are now faceup, and put them back on top of the deck, still faceup (Figure L).

6. Say, “This is a random card!” pointing to the one on top. 

Figure M

And say, “Now, pick up a bigger pile of cards, flip them over, and put them on top again” (Figure M).

“This is another random card!”

Figure N

7. Slowly spread the deck faceup, showing the audience that the cards are all mixed up, some faceup, some facedown (Figure N).

Figure O

8. When you reach the first facedown card, stop, and have your spectator memorize that card and show the rest of the audience, while you avert your eyes (Figure O).

That will be the jack of hearts, and your audience will not suspect that the selected card was not random. You’ve officially forced a card! Try it out yourself!

Note: This method of forcing a card comes from “The Cut Deeper Force” by Ed Balducci and Ken Krenzal; Hugard’s Magic Monthly Vol. 14, No. 6, page 502; November 1956.

9. After the audience has seen the card and the spectator has memorized it, give someone else the pack of cards, ask them to fix the cards and shuffle the selected card in, making sure it is not on the top or the bottom of the deck, but mixed somewhere within. When everything is shuffled, take the cards back, and explain that you have no idea what card they picked nor where it is in the deck!

10. Now, pick up the Card Machine, pinching the second jack of hearts and envelope.

Figure P

11. Take a pack of around 15 cards from the top of the deck, and insert them in the Card Machine, on the opposite side of the pencil from where the jack of hearts is hiding. Make sure the cards face the same way as the jack of hearts (Figure P).

Figure Q

12. Turn the envelope around, without showing the inside, and hold the Card Machine by the pencil on each side (Figure Q).

Figure R

13. Ask your spectator to name their card aloud! After they do so, count, “One, two, three,” as you move your arms, down to up, with each number. On the third movement, twist the pencil toward yourself (Figure R). The wrong card will rise! 

Tip: Magicians often pretend to fail, so that when the magic finally does happen, the surprise is even greater!

14. Ask, “Is this your card?” Obviously, they will say no.

Figure S

15. Keep that card in the Card Machine, risen about three-quarters up. Move your arms up and down again, as you count to three again. This time, swiftly twist the pencil away from you, and two things will happen simultaneously … the wrong card will spin down into the envelope, and the correct card will rise up (Figure S) — the jack of hearts!

As always, practice this move in front of a mirror. When you coordinate your movements well and twist the pencil with the right amount of speed, it really does look like magic! Experiment with how many cards to put in your Card Machine and how many rubber bands to wrap around your pencil to find the perfect combination to create the level of pressure and grip needed to successfully perform this move.

Alternate Version

Essentially, we’ve created a gear with the rubber bands around the pencil. Hack it, tinker with it, think of new ideas! Create a routine of your own!

Figure T
Figure U
Figure V
Figure W

Maybe you want the right card to rise right away! If that’s the case, place a chunk of cards right behind the jack of hearts. Experiment with this: Instead of twisting the pencil with your fingers, hold onto the pencil with one hand, and flick the envelope with your other fingers, so it spins around the pencil. If you spin the envelope with the right force, and in the right direction, by the time the envelope makes its full revolution, the jack of hearts will be sticking out (Figures T, U, V, and W)! Centrifugal force keeps the cards in place upside down. The spinning causes the “gear” to push the selected card out.