display | more...

"The Impossible Pencil Twirl" is an amazingly simple trick (once you know the secret) that you can use to frustrate total strangers and baffle your friends. I first learned this on a long flight. A guy across the aisle from me and about three rows up was sitting there with a pencil. He did this smooth and apparently basic little twisting motion with the pencil on one side of his hands, and wound up with it on the other. I watched him do this a couple of times, seemingly in deep thought about something else, just like some people twiddling a pencil, and then he went on writing.

I dragged out a pencil and proceeded to make a fool out of myself. I was so deep in thought trying to untangle my wrists and accomplish what should have been an easy trick, that I didn't see him walking back past me toward the bathroom until it was too late. He smirked at me and went on, dishing out the same wry twisted grin to each of the other half-dozen or so unlucky dolts who like me had fallen prey to his evil, premeditated plan! I determined to find out how he did it, and I finally discovered the trick - here it is:

Starting and ending positions
  • Place your hands in front of you, palms together and fingers vertical. Your two thumbs (and I hope you have two) will be angled toward you. Place a pencil horizontally in the webspace between the thumbs and index fingers. This is your starting position.
  • Now put your hands palms out in front of you. Angle the two thumbs up and away from your body. Place the sides of the index fingers and palms together so that the hands are touching side to side. Place the pencil horizontally in the groove formed by your two thumbs. This is the ending position.
Doing the twist

Now for the tricky part! Assuming you are right-handed, follow these instructions, otherwise, just switch the right and left. Here's how you do it:
  1. Put your hands and the pencil in the starting position as described above.
  2. Holding onto the pencil firmly, begin to turn the fingertips on your left hand toward you, and those on your right away.
  3. Here is the key to the whole thing: Let the right thumb move across into the webspace between your left thumb and index finger instead of following the rest of your fingers forward.
  4. As your hands continue to turn, your right thumb will sweep down the back of your left hand and across the back of your left thumb.
  5. When the fingers on your left hand are pointing at you, tilt the whole hand forward, and rotate it fingers-up into the ending position. While this is occuring, your right hand will complete the thumb sweep and move to it's ending position simultaneously.

When this process is complete, you will have the pencil in the ending position, and will have miraculously done the impossible twist to get it there. Do this casually, without seeming to draw attention to it, when around a group of other people, in study hall, at work, or wherever else you may be where others will notice what you are doing and attempt to emulate it. Sit back and enjoy the results, and whatever you do make them suffer before you tell them how to do it - if you ever do...

It took me weeks of torment and a lucky twist of fate, but I finally discovered the secret to this conundrum, and now, I have shared it with you, for free. You must only use your new-found powers to help others. Happy twisting!

  • Mortice points out there is a way to continue back around to the original position - this is true, but I didn't want to complicate the writeup. You know the secret now, you can figure the rest out without any difficulty!
  • MightyMooquack has created "a crappy drawing" of The impossible pencil twirl which you can see at