The Bow Saw or Bow Sawing is a highly portable version of the Sawing a Woman in Half illusion.


The illusion was developed in the 1960s by magician Robert Harbin, who wanted a portable version of the Sawing in Half illusion that he could use at smaller cabaret-style venues unsuitable for large-scale illusions.


Alex on TV's The Best of Magic04:47

Alex on TV's The Best of Magic

Magician Geoffrey Durham performs the Bow Saw on an audience volunteer on ITV's The Best of Magic.

The performance usually begins with the magician selecting a volunteer from the audience to be his assistant. He then shows the audience volunteer either a pair of chairs and a wooden board, or a low table around six feet long. He then asks the volunteer to sit down on the board or table, and then introduces a wooden frame. This frame has a large arched hole in it, designed to fit over the volunteer's waist, and a flat board that passes below their waist. The magician detaches the flat board and places it behind the audience volunteer before asking them to lay down over it. He then places the arched section over the volunteer's waist and locks it in place. The magician then presents a bow saw and proceeds to saw through the volunteer assistant, with the blade guided within the frame. As the magician cuts through the volunteer, the audience can clearly see the saw descending through the frame and cutting through the volunteer's waist. Once the blade has passed all the way through the assistant the frame is released and removed. It is then revealed that the assistant is encircled by the handle and blade of the bow saw.

Notable performances

As the magician can perform the illusion on any audience volunteer without any prior preparation, it has become a favorite choice for magicians to use with celebrity assistants.

  • While presenting one of her entertainment news reports, Kristin Adams was bow-sawed by a magician when she reported on his show.
  • In July 2010, at a magic show she'd taken her two young daughters to see, actress Jennifer Affleck was invited on stage by the magician and sawed in half in his Bow Saw illusion.
  • On the ITV game show Talking Telephone Numbers, magician Geoffrey Durham performed his Bow Sawing on show host Emma Forbes.
  • When he appeared on Channel 4 show Richard & Judy, Durham also performed his Bow Sawing on TV chef Nigella Lawson.
  • Actress Mariette Hartley was bow-sawed by magician Harry Blackstone Jr.
  • Blackstone Jr also performed the Bow Sawing on actress Suzanne Summers.
  • While she was still presenting Blue Peter, TV presenter Katy Hill was sawed in half by a magician using his Bow Sawing.
  • Also on Blue Peter, magician Chris Dugdale performed the Bow Sawing on presenter Yvette Fielding.

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