Dolt Yourself

In the i-vi e 1950's Do-It-Yourself, or DIY \s it is usually known, became fashionable in Britain. Home owners everywhere were encouraged to build their own shelves, repair their own guttering and turn themselves into master carpenters and plumbers, guided by a number of monthly magazines and drawing on a plethora of raw materials available from a growing number of DIY shops. David, not adverse to a little DIY himself (he had made numerous magical modifications to his Hat that got a lot of interest from the press) drew on the fad for inspiration and created several DIY themed routines.

In this one, first performed forty years ago, David asks for three volunteers from the audience who fancy themselves DIY enthusiasts. Each volunteer is stood behind a workbench, wearing a carpenter's apron they have been given, and await instructions. David hands one man a saw and a long plank of wood. The second man is given a hammer and a bag of six-inch nails along with a thick piece of wood. The third gets an electric drill and another thick chunk of wood. As you can imagine the three men look somewhat surprised by their transformation into amateur craftsmen but the lighthearted tone of the piece is set.

Having introduced the theme of DIY David tells the men that in a moment or two the band will play some music. As soon as the music starts the first man is to saw off any length (in inches) of wood he wishes. The plank is marked like a giant ruler to make the task a little easier.

The second man is to hammer as many nails as he likes into his piece of wood. I low many, one, five or ten, is up to him but as soon as the music stops he must lay the hammer down.

The third man is told to drill holes into his piece of wood while the music plays. Again he can drill as many or as few as he likes but when the music stops so must his drilling.

Do they understand everything? Yes. David is ready to tell the band to play when he suddenly remembers something. He picks up a box from behind one of the workbenches and places it prominently on view. As he turns the box around a red cross comes into view and the audience laughs realising it is a first-aid kit. "Just in ease," says David and sets it down near the three hapless volunteers.

"Ready?" asks David. The volunteers nod and David cues the band to play. The musicians rattle through some energetic tunc as the men work feverishly through their various tasks; one sawing his way through the plank, the second hammering nails and the third drilling for all he is worth. Eventually the music stops and so do the volunteers. All exccpt the man with the drill who can't hear above the noise of his own drilling. David taps him on the shoulder and brings the task to a belated halt.

David walks along the line of volunteers and examines their rough workmanship. The first volunteer is given a tape measure and asked to measure the length of plank he has sawn off. It measures 17-1/2 inches.

David walks up to the first-aid box and opens it. Inside is a single oblong piece of wood and nothing else. David asks the first volunteer to measure it with the tape measure. It is exactly 17 -1/2 inches long, the same length as the sawn plank. The audience applauds.

Then he asks the man with the hammer how many nails he knocked into his piece of wood. "Eleven," says the man. "Well, in my piece of wood, which is seventeen and a half inches long I also knocked in some nails. Look," says David as he gives the block of wood a quarter turn to reveal a row of nails, "count them."

The man does but instead of eleven nails he finds twelve. Surprised at the mistake David checks them. There are definitely twelve. "Oh well, only one out," says David, "not so bad." The audience agree and there is more applause even though it sounds a little halfhearted.

He turns to the third man and asks how many holes he has drilled. "Fifteen," the man says. David does a double-take. Fifteen? Surprised he gives the block another quarter-turn to

reveal a new side, this one covered in a line of drill holes. "Well in this piece of wood, which is seventeen and a half inches long and has twelve nails - not eleven - I also drilled some holes. Count how many there are." The man does but finds only twelve and not the expected fifteen. Another mistake?

"That's three short," David says, "Its your fault, you had actually drilled twelve holes when the music stopped but you went on. Let's see if we can get out of trouble."

"I don't mind being one out on the nails but to be three holes short really isn't good." He hands the block of wood to the man who did the drilling. The man examines the block briefly and then David says. "However, if you just pull the nails you'll find they are all firmly embedded...except for one."

The man tugs at all the nails and to his surprise just one, as David had said, comes out easilv. David continues, "So we're now correct with the nails because where we had twelve

12 NAILS (1 LOOSE) = 11


3E> <£> c£ ^5 35 db nails there are now eleven. And where you pulled the nail out you've created another hole, so that gives us not twelve but thirteen holes. And if you look at that piece of wood you'll find that it's drilled right through, which gives us two more holes, one either end. Adding those we now have a piece of wood which is seventeen and a half inches long with eleven nails and fifteen holes!"

And with a musical fanfare to finish Dav id's prediction is now completely correct and rewarded with the proper amount of applause.

Revelations: Magicians often think of mentalism as being slow and ponderous but as this presentation shows it can be well paced, humorous, entertaining and still mystifying when dressed with an appropriate theme and some novelty. This routine was originally created for performance on radio, the noises of sawing, hammering and drilling together with the music made it ideal for the medium. Later David worked it equally successfully on television and as a special item for some of his stage performances where the humour and production value of the routine made it a welcome novelty. The piece lasted about six or seven minutes.

The prediction block is exactly 17-1/2 inches long and fits neatly within the First-Aid box. it has twelve nails partially hammered into one side, one of them loose so that it can be pulled out easily. On a second side are twelve drill holes, spaced so that they can be easily counted. Finally, the block is drilled through its entire length giving an extra hole at each end.

The prediction is unalterable so David needs to force the various choices on the volunteers. He always does this before the show begins and out of sight of the rest of the audience. It is important that any pre-shovv work appears to be a legitimate part of the performance. Any preparation he makes appears to be for the benefit of the volunteers or the producers or the show itself. As if he was taking care to make their roles in the show easier.

David always does his own warm-ups before a radio or television show. It gives him the opportunity to meet and make contact with the audience and in this instance openly approach three people and ask them whether they would be prepared to volunteer. In the case of this routine it doesn't matter who the volunteers are and the choice can be made randomly before the show. David explains to the audience that by choosing volunteers now it will save time later. He may ask the volunteers to sit in more convenient places in the studio so that they can make their way to the stage more easily when the time comes. He'll even tell them not to sit at the end of the aisle because that looks too obvious. The second seat from the end is better. This makes sense to the studio audience who appreciates being let in on the preparation but it in no way detracts from what they will see later on.

But this is not where the pre-shovv work ends. All the choices need to be forced before the volunteers set foot on stage and, if possible, out of sight of the audience. David has used a number of ruses over the years to take spectators out of the audience in order to make some kind of preparation. Popular ones include asking the volunteers to go to make-up so that they can be made to look their best under the studio lights. Another is to ask the volunteers to come and meet the director or producer so that he'll know who is going to assist you. He could even say that wardrobe needs to see them and that the reason will become clear later (when the aprons are brought out). All seem reasonable requests and allows David to take the volunteers away from the audience without raising suspicion.

It is very important that the volunteers are clear in their own minds as to why those choices are being made now and not later during the show. They need to be happy that what they are doing makes sense in the unfamiliar environment of radio or television studios.

David will begin by giving them some brief advice. He tells them not to worry about the cameras or the audience but to just pay attention to him when they are on stage. He explains that they will be tight for time and so he will tell them a little of what is going to happen so they aren't taken by surprise later.

He'll explain that the routine will use woodworking tools like a hammer, drill and saw. He'll ask if any of the men have an interest in DIY or have used these kind of tools before. If someone says he's used a drill then this is the perfect opportunity to nominate that man as the guy with the drill. The least experienced can wield the hammer.

I Ie explains that they will each be asked to think of a number on stage. Now it's very easy to get confused, what with the lights and the pressures of time, so it might be better if they think of a number now and stick to it. He doesn't want them to waste time by trying to think of numbers on the spot, when they are most under pressure.

He tells the man who is to handle the saw that he will be asked to think of a number between 1 inch and 30 inches. And as he says this he illustrates the point by taking out a number of tile cards, each marked with a different measurement. Why doesn't he just think of one of the numbers now and that will be the number he says later? David stresses that it's

important he doesn't tell anyone though. By this time David is forcing one of the cards (the one marked 17-1/2 inches) on the volunteer.

This must be done as casually as possible. The cards are apparently used to just illustrate the variety' of numbers, ranging from one inch to thirty inches and all the half-inches in between. Whether the card is classic forced or whether a gimmicked pack is used doesn't matter. What is important is that it does not look like a card trick. The preparation is carried out casually. When the number has been selected he asks the volunteer to memorise it. He does not allow the volunteer to retain the card, or piece of paper or any other evidence of the pre-show work.

The number of nails and number of holes are forced on the other two volunteers, using another set of numbered cards, a bag with counters or numbered balls (if the props look like something that could be found in a DIY shop then all the better). Again David does it as casually as possible placing all the emphasis on the fact that each volunteer now has a number committed to memory and therefore is far less likely to hold up the show later on. He even tells the man with the drill to just take his time when drilling because drills are dangerous and he doesn't want him to rush and have an accident. And in the course of this he makes clear that he is to continue drilling, no matter what happens, until he has drilled his chosen number of holes.

When the choices have been made David asks the volunteers whether they have any last questions. It all tits the pattern that he is there to help them do their best on stage. After this they are taken back to their seats.

The description at the beginning of this routine tells most of the story. The prediction, in the guise of the First-Aid box, is brought on and then each man hammers, saws or drills his way through a piece of wood as the band plays. The music not only helps give a sense of pace but it is a very cunning subtlety. Everyone is familiar with the game of musical chairs and this routine appears to be similar. The Final effect is not that the volunteers chose or thought of numbers but that they stopped their work when the music stopped. This is a very important point.

When the music stops (David uses a fast version of the William Tell Overture which lasts for about 30 to 40 seconds) two of the spectators will have finished their tasks. The third man will still be enthusiastically drilling away just as David had suggested to him before the show. David makes a pretence of the drill being terribly noisy and walks up to the man. He secretly counts the holes he has already drilled just to make sure that he is almost finished. As he drills the Fifteenth hole he taps him on the shoulder. The man stops drilling. The audience is led to believe that the man has gone on far too long. Later they will be convinced that there was no way that David could have known how many holes he would drill.

Now that everyone has finished David can begin finding out exactly what it is that each man has done. The wood is measured and the nails and holes counted. There's an extra laugh or two when counting up the number of holes in the third man's block of wood. It's apparent to everyone that lie went over his allotted time and David makes the most of the situation.

The various numbers are recapped and then David opens the Tirst-Aid box and takes out the contents. It is obvious that there is nothing else inside. The box is placed aside and the block is held so that the nails point towards David and away from the audience.

The rest of the handling is as per the earlier description with each prediction proving correct albeit with one or two humorous modifications along the way. It's a noisy, funny and energetic routine, something rare in mentalism, and with DIY enjoying a resurgence in popularity it is something that could work as well now as when David first created it in the 1950's.

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