I’m a full-time magician and my passion is sleight of hand magic. I have spent way too many hours practicing in front of the mirror. What is sleight of hand?
Sleight of hand is manual dexterity of your hands, typically in performing cleverly crafted tricks. Sleight of hand is skillful deception. Even if you know what is being done, without putting in the time and energy, you cannot do it. Sleight of hand is well executed moves that are motivated and done for a reason during a trick. It takes coordination and practice to create and master sleight of hand.
Here are some simple sleight of hand tricks that are strong and easy to do and won’t require too much practice. I’ll walk you step by step through everything you need to know.
HOW TO VANISH A COIN
When I perform coin magic I generally use either half dollars or silver dollars. The bigger the coin, the easier it is for your audience to see. A quarter is perfect for close up performances for a few people and in more casual settings. I am right handed. If you are left handed just switch the hands.
FAKE TAKE VANISH
Display the coin on your palm up right hand at the base of your 2nd finger. Push the coin up with your right 2nd. Come in from above with your palm down left hand and mime taking the coin. It is a fake take and should look exactly the same as if you really picked up the coin. Spend a few minutes in the mirror practicing this.
LEFT HAND ACTION
Turn your left palm toward you and slowly close it as if you are holding the coin. Move your loosely closed fist up and draw attention to it. Wiggle your thumb and fingers a little as if you are holding something in your hand. This is a strong convincer.
RIGHT HAND ACTION
Rotate your hand palm down, curl your fingers naturally so they grip the coin, and relax your hand to your side. Hold the coin loosely and casually in this finger palm position. This is what’s called, “holding out.” It is when you have something secretly in your hand. This is a big part of sleight of hand.
Move your left hand up to about chin level and blow on it. Open your hand in one quick motion with your fingers pointing up and your open palm toward the audience showing the coin is gone. I like to make a whooshing sound as I open my hand. It adds a little to the vanish.
The fake take vanish is very easy to do and very normal and natural. Do it loosely and nonchalantly. Your audience will look where you look so focus your attention on the hand that is supposed to have the coin. Move your hand slowly before the vanish, let them believe you still have the coin. Don’t rush it.
This vanish is a tool, not a trick. It is a strong piece of sleight of hand that you can use in many different magic routines with any small object. You will use it in the following tricks.
ADVANCED TIP: When you relax your hand with the coin to your side, let your hand bounce a little before it comes to a stop. If you really took the coin that is what your hand would do naturally. Spend a few minutes in the mirror practicing this.
COIN TO ELBOW
NEED: A coin
Display the coin on your palm up right hand in position for the fake take vanish. Do the vanish as detailed above. Relax your hands at your side. Look at your audience and pause for 1 second. Produce the coin.
- Look toward your elbow
- Lift up your arm
- Reach behind your elbow
- With your thumb slide the coin from finger palm position to a display position between your thumb and 1st.
- Slowly bring the coin out and show it.
If you vanish a coin and show your hand empty most spectators, like a rubber band, will snap their attention to your other hand. You need to have a plan, a place to go with the coin or small object, some sort of production. Your elbow works well here because it is easily reachable. You can also pull the coin out of your pocket or…
COIN BEHIND YOUR EAR
This is definitely a great trick for kids. It is pretty much the same as Coin to Elbow. I recommend using a piece of candy. Display the candy on your palm up right hand in position for the Fake Take Vanish. Do the vanish, produce it from their ear, and give it to them. You could also have it in your hand without them knowing and just do the production.
- Look toward their ear
- Reach behind their ear
- With your thumb slide the candy from finger palm position to a display position between your thumb and 1st.
- Slowly bring the candy out and show it.
PRO TIP: When you reach behind someone’s ear do not touch the person. Just reach near their ear.
COIN AND PEN VANISH
If you want to make a coin disappear completely you need some motivation and some cover. You will use a magic wand. Actually you will use a pen that will act as a wand. Place a pen on the table in front of you on your right side. Display the coin. Look at the pen and realize you need to grab it with your right hand. To free up your right hand take the coin with your left hand (Do the vanish).
Pick up the pen and wave it over your palm up closed left hand. Open your hand showing the coin is gone. Since you are holding a pen (wand) your audience will not suspect you are “holding out.” Casually drop your hands to your sides. Put the pen away and dump the coin in your pocket as well. Try not to clink the coin against the pen.
NEED: 2 coins
Start with the coins on the table. Pick up one and display it on your palm up right hand in position for the Fake Take Vanish. Do the vanish and turn your closed left hand palm up. Pick up the other coin and display it between your right thumb and 1st. Massage your left thumb and fingers a little as if you are holding something in your hand. Open your left hand quickly and mime tossing the coin over to your right hand.
Drop the coin being displayed onto the other coin in your hand. It is very magical when they hear the coins clink. Open your hand and show the coins.
When I leave a coin on the table to pick up I make sure it is on my right side. Then it makes sense for me to take the coin with my left hand to free up my right hand. I’m not just picking up the coin to vanish it. My actions are always motivated. This is a very important point. Small finesses will make simple sleight of hand great. Smooth technique and motivated actions are the keys to sleight of hand.
You will need to practice a little bit. Some practice here will go a long way. This vanish is very practical and versatile and easy to do. If you put in the time and master the move, it will serve you well. There is a lot of subtleties here, not really any knuckle busting technique.