Deck Preparation for Faro Shuffles

While talking one day with Harry Riser, the topic of this book arose, and he related to me a fascinating Elmsley anecdote. One evening in 1959, when Mr. Elmsley was in the States for his first lecture tour, he and Mr. Riser met for dinner and, of course, to discuss magic. Mr. Riser asked if he had any tips on improving the accuracy of the faro weave. At this Mr. Elmsley just smiled and offered him his deck. Immediately comprehending the meaning behind the gesture, Mr, Riser gave the deck a faro shuffle. He was astonished when he felt the cards "practically weave themselves." What was the secret? Mr, Elmsley explained that he prepared the cards to weave more easily by sanding their corners to a rounded or wedge shape.

At the first opportunity I asked Mr. Elmsley about this, and he confirmed that he did sand the corners of his decks to prepare them for faroing. He did so because the edges and quality of British cards demanded this for dependable faro work. The edges are roughly cut at the factory and impede an even weave. To make matters worse, the center layer of pasteboard in British cards is softer and tends to compress and split when the cards are woven. Consequently, tiny troughs form along the corners, and these hinder the weave, as Figure 205 makes clear. Mr, Ehnsley sands the corners of each new deck to remove the roughness and to contour the edges slightly. The rounded edges of the cards slip neatly by one another, aiding in creating a perfect weave (Figure 206). The sanding is quickly and easily done:





Farrow Shuffle Photo

Tap the end of your deck perfectly square on the table and bevel it evenly in either direction, swaying the cards along one diagonal. Then run a piece of fine sandpaper or emery board over the upper edge of the beveled corner (Figure 207) until the corner is smooth. Now reverse the direction of the bevel (Figure 208) and sand the opposite side of this corner. Treat all four corners in the same way. Light sanding will both smooth the edges and round them slightly.

Playing cards in the United States have, in the past, been of better quality than British cards, and this prepar ation of the corners failed to improve the weaving of the cards as dramatically. However, with the quality of U.S. cards becoming increasingly undependable, this tip may be more valuable now than it was in the past. (Jerry Andrus, when he was a boy, also sanded the corners of his cards to facilitate the faro weave. In 1973 he passed on the idea in his book, Kurious Kards [pp. 9-10j. Mr. Andrus says that many years later he discovered that this tip was known to a very few other cardmen, who kept the secret very close.)

Mr. Elmsley mentioned one further prepar ation that he believes to be helpful to all faro shufflers, no matter what quality of cards they use. He finds that a light application of fanning powder to the corners of the cards makes weaving surer and easier. Those who regularly perform faro tricks will want to experiment with these two simple preparations.

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