Popular Mechanics Press: The Boy Mechanic Books 1-4
©1999 Algrove Publishing, Originally published 1913-1925 Popular Mechanics Co.
Hardbound, approx 475 pages each volume
The Boy Mechanic
Image from Magicref


Comments: These books were originally published by Popular Mechanics Magazine from 1913 through 1924. Apparently they are collected extracts from those years of Popular Mechanics Magazine of actual things to build and tips for the amateur mechanic. Algrove Publishing has reprinted all four volumes, which are available from Lee Valley Tools (Canada). Also, Popular Mechanics Press has published a subset of the books as "The Boy Mechanic; 200 Classic Things to Build", and Dover Publishing has a version called "The Boy Mechanic; Best Projects from the Classic Series", though I don't know how much magic content is in either of these two editions. Finally, Volume 1 of "The Boy Mechanic" series is available from Project Gutenberg in the public domain.

Note some dangers were taken very lightly back then. For example, an article on making "spirit" photographs has you dipping the photo in a solution of mercury, and then "washing your hands because mercury is toxic". I'd stay completely away from that one!

Contents: I have not attempted to list the entire contents of the books for this listing, but only list here the magic tricks and puzzles that are included in the Algrove Publications versions. Book 4 especially seems to have several repeats from the earlier volumes.

Book 1 1913

2 Magic Spirit Hand: wax hand raps answers
7 Magic Box Escape: from the Sphinx
40 How to Bind Magazines (not magic)
52 A Miniature "Pepper's Ghost" Illusion: stage/light illusion
56 How to Bind Magazines (another)
63 Mechanical Trick With Cards: special tapered deck
69 An Optical Top: toy
70 Card Trick With a Tapered Deck: making a stripper deck
74 Optical Illusions: circles appear to spin
90 Parlor Magic for Winter Evenings (C.H. Claudy): spirit happenings
99 An Optical Illusion
99 New Method of Lifting a Table: gimmick for spirit work
100 Peculiar Properties of Ice: science
116 A Skiddoo Skidee Trick: toy propeller
130 An Optical Illusion
133 How to Hang Your Hat on a Lead Pencil
135 An Electric Illusion Box: empty aquarium is instantly filled with fish
162 Scientific Explanation of a Toy: follow up to Skiddoo Skidee toy
167 Old Time Magic: Trick With a Coin in a Wine Glass (removing dime without touching it); Untying a Knot Trick (handkerchief)
175 Old Time Magic Part II: Removing Scissors From a Cord (a puzzle); Coin and Card on the First Finger (flip a card out from under a coin balanced on the finger)
176 Old Time Magic Part III: Disappearing Coin (sleeving); Sticking a Coin Against the Wall (stunt)
179 Old Time Magic Part IV: Cutting a thread inside of a glass bottle ((sunny day); Removing a key from a double string (puzzle)
181 Finger Mathematics (Charles C. Bradley): math
186 The Principles of the Stereograph (science)
189 A Checker Puzzle: a puzzle using 7 checkers and a board
193 Old Time Magic Part V: The Disappearing Coin (from can to nest of boxes)
196 A Handy Calculator: using the hand for the days of the months
197 The Rolling Marble: a sensory illusion for the fingertips
198 Old Time Magic Part VI: A Handkerchief Mended After Being Cut and Torn; The Magic Knot (handkerchief)
202 Boomerangs and How to Make them (two non-curved)
206 Optical Illusion
214 Moving a Coin Under a Glass: challenge puzzle
224 How to Make a Child's Rolling Toy (toy)
226 Cardboard Spiral Turned by Heat: science
231 Dropping Coins in a Glass Full of Water: challenge
233 A Checker Board Puzzle: a different one
234 Old Time Magic: Changing a Button into a Coin (sleeving); Buttonhole Trick (removing the stick of wood and string from buttonhole)
239 Illusion for Window Attraction (Fish and Birds in one container illusion)
244 Old Time Magic: The Growing Flower (in vase); Water and Wine Trick (chemical)
250 Playing Baseball with a Pocket Knife (game)
251 Old Time Magic: A Sack Trick (escape); The Invisible Light (light from one candle invisibly transfers to other)
255 A Miniature War Dance: Indians dance on kettle (game)
256 Old Time Magic: Removing 36 Cannon Balls From a Handbag; A Rising Card Trick (in the hands)
267 Making Coins Stick to Wood By Vacuum (stunt)
295 Making Spirits Play a Violin
300 Balloon Ascension Illusion (C.W. Nieman): nighttime illusion
313 The Mystifying Watch Trick: watch passes to tumbler that was filled with bran
319 Vanishing Handkerchief Trick: with apparatus
331 The Diving Bottle (Science) Cartesian
348 Another Optical Illusion
361 Rolling Uphill Illusion
378 Coin And Tumbler Trick
378 Simply Made Wire Puzzle
427 Old Time Magic: balancing forks on a pinhead; The buttoned cord (puzzle)
429 How to Make a Toy Flier (toy)
434 Experiments with a Mirror: science
459 Levitation: a modern stage trick

Book 2

29 Mind Reading Effect With Cards
32 A Mystic Fortune Teller
41 Card and Coin Trick: flicking a card out from under a coin (repeat!)
56 A Finger-Ring Trick: a gag, but might spark ideas
67 Changing a Pip on a Card:: mechanical
100 How to Make a Flutter Ring: prank when opening envelope
101 A Lightning Calculation Trick: how to automatically multiply two numbers that look really hard to calculate
109 Paper Glider That Loops the Loop: toy
132 A Catapult: toy
133 A Magic Change Card: mechanical
141 The Die and Box Trick: detailed plans!
152 A Mysterious Revolving Wheel: science puzzle
165 A Magic String: specially treated string burns in an unusual fashion
188 A Paper Drinking Cup: paper fold
191 A Novelty Chain: from paper clips
227 Trick with Knives and Glasses: stunt
236 A Puzzle Purse: how to make
263 Trick of Taking Dollar Bill From Apple: with knife
267 A Trunk Mystery: stage illusion
272 A Dissolving Coin Mystery: with watch crystal
273 String and Ball Trick: ball stops wherever you want
278 A Chinese Pagoda: paper toy
280 A Swinging Pendulum Trick
281 Tricks Performed With Thumbs Tied Together
282 Hot to Make a Blowgun
284 Rubber Band Change Trick
289 A Puzzle with Figures: number puzzle
300 A Ring Trick: magician places ring on fingers, even though hands tied behind back
302 An Interesting Experiment: newspaper stronger than fist challenge
308 The Hindoo Sand Trick
317 Large Hole in a Small Piece of Paper: walking through an index card
335 Corks In a Box Trick: pill box
345 An Optical Illusion: toothpick travels through wire
346 How to Make a Paper Drinking Cup
347 Reading the Date of a Worn Coin
351 Spirit Photographs
360 The Q Trick
392 Writing Name Reversed on Paper Placed on Forehead: stunt
392 How to Make Falling Blocks: Jacob's Ladder
402 A Mystery Coin Box: Okito style box
446 A Spool and Ball Puzzle
460 Trick Bottles and Glasses (George W. Catlin)

Book 3 1919

2 The Mystic Climbing Ring: ring climbs up wand
69 Tossing A Card at a Mark Accurately: card throwing
84 A Ring and Egg Trick: wedding ring vanishes and found in egg
127 A Vanishing Cuff Parlor Trick: cuff vanishes from hat and reappears on arm
138 A Perpetual Motion Puzzle: wood and magnet project
144 Disappearing Coin Trick: vanishes in glass of water
157 A Mystery Sounding Glass: making a glass "ring"
168 A Simple Card Deception: card is found by cutting to it
170 A Model Paper Monoplane that Can be Steered: paper airplane
194 The Enchanted Card Frame: card trick
222 The Magic of Numbers (James L. Lanyon): Magic Squares
224 A Simple Cipher Code (Capt WH Waldron)
230 A Match Box Trick: puzzle
276 Die in a Bottle: game idea
319 A One Piece Bracelet Cut from a Calling Card: walking thru a card
342 The Glass and Hat Trick: glass passes through borrowed hat
345 A Magic Cabinet: objects removed from cabinet that was shown empty
347 The Magic Clock Hand: clock hand points out number named
355 Magic Candles Explained (Clifford Wayne): color of candle hid in tube is instantly known by magician
377 A Finger Trap Trick: paper fold for a finger trap
393 Magic Paper Fortune Telling: chemical trick
396 A Diminishing Card Trick: mechanical card
412 A Feather as an X-Ray Lens
444 Moth Ball Puzzle as Window Advertising Novelty: ball raises and lowers in clear liquid

Book 4 1925

26 Thought Transference With Dice: mathematical trick
31 Two Effective Card Tricks: Four Kings change to four Aces then blank - then two cards transpose (gimmicked cards)
76 A Ring a Peg Puzzle: and how to solve it
148 The Knight's Tour: chess puzzle
163 The X-Ray Pack of Cards
177 The Magic Pill Box: coin trick (with photo)
190 An Advertising Novelty: balloon self inflates over light bulb
191 A Trick Letter: makes noise when opened
192 Indoor Baseball with a Penknife
197 Lifting a Bottle With a Straw
202 The Magic Candle and Flag
248 Feather Airplane Dart: toy
283 A Simple Geometrical Trick: two curves look different sizes
322 A Simple Paper Puzzle: with paper, string, and buttons
327 The Magic Handkerchief: changes color with Cobalt Chloride
336 Frying Eggs Over an Unheated Table: using electromagnets! How healthy is that?
368 Second Sight Mystery: magician can tell object held before him while blindfolded (telegraph key)
370 The Magic Thumb Tie: using a clever gimmick
380 Mystifying Transformation of Water into Ink and Wine: a chemical trick
384 Jumping Toys from Magazine Pictures: perhaps a cute ending to a card trick?
386 Paper cubes that Blow Up: a paper balloon of sorts
387 Making Bubbles Carry Paper Figures: with glycerin
398 Paper Clips Make Magician's Card Holder
405 Relative Absorption of Heat by Colors: science experiment
433 Bewitched Cube Puzzle: puzzle made with paper "dice"
445 The Wooden Key and Ring Puzzle: wooden puzzles


Previous