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The Double Sawing is a version of the Sawing a Woman in Half illusion in which two people are both sawn in half, and then reassembled with their lower halves exchanged.


The creation of this version of the sawing illusion has usually been credited to magician Alan Wakeling, who devised it for fellow magician Channing Pollock to perform.[1] However, some sources state that Billy McComb was the first to perform the illusion, using a male and a female assistant, while Pollock was the first to use two female assistants, which is now considered to be the standard performance of the illusion.



Melinda - Double Sawing

The performance usually begins with the magician introducing a celebrity guest "apprentice", often the presenter or host of the show they are appearing on. The magician then promises to teach them how to do a magic trick. At this point, stagehands bring onto the stage a pair of Thin Model-style sawing boxes, each of which is painted a different color. In many performances, the boxes are red and blue, although some use gold and silver or red and white. Two female assistants are then introduced, each dressed to match one of the boxes. Sometimes these may be some of the magician's usual assistants while, in other performances, they may be other celebrities who have been "persuaded" to help out.

Having introduced the sawing boxes and assistants, the magician then asks the assistants to get into the boxes that match the color of their outfits. The assistants climb into the boxes and lay back in them. The magician then tells the celebrity guest "apprentice" to do exactly as he does. He then takes a set of foot stocks and uses them to secure the feet of the assistant in one of the boxes. Following the magician's lead, the celebrity guest "apprentice" also takes a matching foot stock and uses it to secure the feet of the assistant in the other box. The magician then uses a neck stock to secure the neck of the assistant in the first box, and the celebrity guest "apprentice" uses a similar stock to secure the neck of the assistant in the second box.

With the assistants secured within the boxes, the stagehands then bring out a large two-person cross-cut saw. The magician takes one end of this saw, while the celebrity guest "apprentice" takes hold of the other end. Using this saw, they cut through the middle of the first box, dividing the assistant within in two. Removing the saw, the magician then inserts the two divider blades to complete the division. Moving to the second box, they use the saw to cut through the second assistant, and the guest "apprentice" takes their turn to insert the divider blades into the middle of the box.

Two stagehands then join the magician and their "apprentice" on the stage. Having released the catches holding the box halves together, the magician and their "apprentice" take hold of the head end of their respective boxes, while the stagehands take hold of the foot ends. Each pulling backwards, they pull the box halves apart, separating the two assistants halves. The magician then opens the doors in the side of their box, and directs their "apprentice" to do the same on their box. This allows the audience to see the legs of the divided assistants within the lower halves of their respective boxes, while the doors in the upper halves allow them to extend their arms out of the box and reach around to feel the gap where their lower halves should be.

Having separated the assistant's halves, the magician, their "apprentice" and the stagehands then decide to "have a little fun", and begin wheeling the halves of the boxes around the stage. Having done that, the magician tells their "apprentice" that it is time to put the assistants back together. However, when the box halves are pushed back together, they are mixed up, either accidentally or deliberately, so that each box has a differently colored top and bottom half rather than being all the same color. With the mis-matched halves pushed together, the securing catches are locked to hold them together, and the side doors are closed. The magician and their "apprentice" then remove the divider blades and stocks, and then open the box lids to release the assistants. As the assistants stand up and climb out of the boxes, the audience can see that each now has the other's lower half, complete with costume matching the color of the other box. There then usually follows a moment of comic "shock" when each of the assistants realises that they now have each other's legs, before magician, "apprentice" and assistants all take their bows.


As with the other sawing illusions, some variation exists in how the division of the assistants is done. Some magicians replace the cross-cut saw with a pair of smaller saws, one each for the magician and their "apprentice". Some use a power saw of some description, while others omit the saw completely and simply insert the divider blades.

While most performances use two female assistants, some performances return to the original Billy McComb performance and use a male and a female assistant.

Some performances of the illusion, in addition to dressing the assistants differently, also use assistants of different racial types, for example Caucasian and Black.

When performing the illusion on the BBC TV series The Magicians, magician Chris Korn and "apprentice" Bruno Tonioli performed the Billy McComb version using boxes from the Les Arnold Crystal Sawing.

In September 2007, magician Stephen Mulhern premièred a new version of the Double Sawing called Doubly Impossible, which uses the clear boxes from Clearly Impossible in place of the opaque Thin Model-style boxes.

In the late 1990s, magician and illusion designer Franz Harary developed a seated version of the Double Sawing that he called Cross Culture. This name came from the fact that the two assistants used in the illusion were White and Hispanic.

In late 2011, magician Peter Loughran revealed a new standing version of the Double Sawing called Body Swap, in which the assistant's upper halves are never covered and remain in full view all through the performance. In his demonstration video, he used a male and a female assistant, although it can also be performed with two female assistants.[2]

Notable performances[]

Over the years, a number of celebrities have taken part in performances of the Double Sawing, either as the magician's "apprentice" or as the assistants being sawed in half.

  • On the première episode of Dick Cavett's hour-long summer variety show The Dick Cavett Show, Cavett assisted magician Doug Henning with performing the Double Sawing on actresses Leigh French and Liza Minnelli.
  • On his 1980 World of Magic special, Henning and his "apprentice", actor Bill Cosby, performed the Double Sawing on Barbi Benton and Melba Moore.
  • In 1982, Henning appeared on the Actor's Equity benefit show Night of 100 Stars, performing the Double Sawing on Florence Henderson and Priscilla Lopez.
  • Henning also performed the Double Sawing on sisters Judy and Audrey Landers.
  • In the early 1980s, future QVC presenter Jilly Halliday regularly took part in performances of the Double Sawing while working as a dancer in London.
  • During the 1986 Christmas show Barbara Mandrell's Christmas: A Family Reunion, Irene Mandrell performed the Double Sawing on her sisters, Barbara and Louise.
  • In 1990, performances of the Double Sawing at Kings Island theme park in Mason, Ohio featured future Baywatch actress Carmen Electra as one of the assistants being divided.
  • On the fourth episode of season 1 of his CITV magic show Tricky TV, Mulhern performed the Double Sawing on his special guests for that episode, The Cheeky Girls.
  • Before finding fame on Big Brother, twins Samantha and Amanda Marchant, better known as Samanda, took part in the press launch of a half-price travel card for students, during which they were both sawed in half in the Double Sawing.
  • In a February 2020 magazine interview, actress Jennifer Garner revealed that at one of eldest daughter Violet's birthday parties, a magician entertained the guests by performing the Double Sawing on Jennifer and her older sister Melissa.
  • In 1997, during some of his stage shows, David Copperfield performed the Double Sawing on his wife, Claudia Schiffer, and her fellow supermodel Cindy Crawford. On one occasion when Cindy was unavailable, her part in the performance was taken by another of Claudia's fellow supermodels, Naomi Campbell.


  1. Lawton, Joan (January 2005). "Web Extra: Alan Wakeling". Magic magazine. http://www.magicmagazine.com/january05/january05extra.html. Retrieved 2007-06-14 
  2. Peter Loughran's Body Swap Illusion (Demo video).