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Rough and Smooth

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Rough and Smooth is a principle in magic in which cards coated with roughing fluid cause them either temporarily stick together or slicker then the others.

The use of roughing fluid on playing cards may be one of the greatest innovations for self working card magic.

Used first by gamblers for the quick location of the Aces and known in a gambler's supply house catalogs as "Slick Aces" for making cards slippery than the other cards in the deck.[1] Applications of using a slick card for cheating appear in Chapter Eleven of the 1680 book "The Complete Gamester" by Charles Cotton, Esq. (1630-1687).[2]

Applying this principle to card magic was create by Ralph W. Hull. Howard P. Albright stated "The outstanding importance has been Hull's 'Nu-Idea Discovery' — a basic principle opening up an entirely new range of perplexing problems heretofore impossible." [3]

In Hugard's Encyclopedia of Card Tricks a chapter is devoted to the use of diachylon for making cards stick together so they can be handled as one. It states that the first use of diachylon for this is credited to Hofzinser. Although this has been refuted by Magic Christian in his book Non-Plus Utra Volume 2, stating that Hofzinser did use diachylon for a trick, but it was not in a diluted form suitable for rough/smooth applications.

Diachylon is a hard wax which when rubbed on the back or face of a card will cause the card to adhere to another when pressed. This was first disclosed in print in an article in the Magazine of Magic, vol. 1, no. 6, March 1915, page 174 by Prof. Hoffmann entitled A Novel Expedient in Card Conjuring (but he doesn't mention Hofzinser). Hull combined this adhesive principle with the "Slick Ace." The pack of cards could be handled freely without fear of the pairs coming apart; but the cards could easily be separated when this was desired. Thus the rough and smooth principle was born. [4]

Joe Berg also created many Mechanical Decks using this principle.



  • THE ROUGH AND SMOOTH PRINCIPLE in Greater Magic (1938)
  • Rough Stuff by Joe Berg (1956)
  • Rough and Smooth Possibilities By Tan Hock Chuan (1948)
  • Roughingly Yours By Aldini (1969)


  1. Rough Stuff by Joe Berg (1956)
  2. Researches Into The History Of Playing Cards by Samuel Weller Singer (1816)
  3. The Testament of Ralph W. Hull By Trevor H. Hall, 1945
  4. The Rough & Smooth Principle By His Honor Judge Wethered, O.B.E., M.I.M.C in Linking Ring 1-2-3-4, March to June 1948