Introduction: Deck of Cards in a Bottle (It's a Puzzle!)

Picture of Deck of Cards in a Bottle (It's a Puzzle!)

The purpose of this instructable and the spirit in which it was written is to encourage readers to engage in a bit of experiential learning: to learn by doing.

This is done by showing a conceptual puzzle, and challenging the reader to duplicate it without directly spelling out how to do so.

I admit this is a fairly unorthodox instructable and it demands a lot from the reader, but I hope many people will appreciate the thought and effort that went into it.

- - - - -

I have a puzzle for you:

Can you put a full deck of cards into a completely unmodified glass bottle?

Obviously a wide-mouthed bottle provides no challenge . . . nor does using a tiny pack of cards.

The trick here is to take a standard boxed deck of playing cards and put the whole thing (box and cards) into a glass bottle whose mouth is far too small for such a thing.

Are you up for the challenge? Read on!

Step 1: Impossible Bottles

Picture of Impossible Bottles

This is what people call an "impossible bottle," but in essence it's just a really cool one-time puzzle.

The complete object is a work of art similar to model ships in bottles.

Harry Eng is credited as the modern pioneer of the style, and there are several people that now practice the art form (a couple of good sites worth checking out: link, link). They make some amazing things, and I've become fascinated with the concept.

The idea is basic enough: Put objects into completely uncut, unmodified glass bottles, where the mouths of the bottles are seemingly too small for the stuff to fit in.

The completed bottles are visual puzzles / conversation pieces / art, that are simply intended to make observers think.

This instructable is here to get you to take the next logical step: do!

Step 2: A Little Background

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A while back I made an instructable called Golf balls in a Coke bottle where I show how to put four golf balls into a glass Coke bottle. This was absolutely not an impossible bottle, since I "broke" the number one rule of impossible bottles.

It was an interesting project to me for the creative challenges it provided, but I came away with the strong desire to make a legitimate impossible bottle.

The most simple impossible bottles contain decks of cards, so I figured this was a good starting point to get my feet wet. I bought a few decks of cards and gathered up various styles of glass bottles.

Then I sat down and stared at them for a while.

Eventually I worked out a way to put a deck of cards inside one of the bottles. Then I did it again and again, and each time I got faster and figured out new techniques. Whether my methods are the same as other bottle artists, I really don't know.

But when viewed as puzzles, these bottles present a terrific exercise in critical thinking and mechanical problem solving. I think everyone should sit down and try to figure these out.

Read on to see what you need to get started.

Step 3: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

Here's what you need:

  • suitable bottle (small mouth with a wide enough body)
  • deck of cards (like these)

There are several types of bottles that will work for this. Here are a few options that work great:

  • carafes (I got a few at a thrift store)
  • 32 oz. glass juice bottles (the style in far right of photo). These are common across several brands.
  • Calypso brand juice drink bottles (a pretty tight fit, but my favorite option)
  • Heinz vinegar glass bottles
  • various wine and liquor bottles

Step 4: Now What?

Picture of Now What?

Putting a deck of cards in a bottle requires you to think critically and be willing to test your ideas.

If needed, I've shared some hints to get you going in the following steps.

Step 5: Hint #1

Picture of Hint #1

Okay, here's a hint:

You may need (to make?) some tools.

Some of the things shown in this photo will be helpful.

Many of the things shown in this photo will not be!

Here are some things you could consider using as well:

  • blowtorch
  • very cold freezer
  • dish soap
  • table saw or band saw or chain saw or an industrial wood chipper
  • several heavy weights
  • hair dryer
  • lots of clamps
  • hammer
  • shrinking machine
  • enlarging machine
  • transmogrifier
  • particle accelerator and/or soldering iron

Step 6: Hint #2

Picture of Hint #2

You will probably need to open the box and remove the deck of cards.

Step 7: Hint #3

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Stare at the empty box as well as the empty glass bottle.


Make a plan.

Act on it!

Step 8: Hint #4

Picture of Hint #4

Put the box in first.

Step 9: Hint #5

Picture of Hint #5

Stare at the stack of cards.

If needed, play a game of solitaire to distract your mind for a while.

Step 10: Hint #6

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Put the cards in the box. Bonus points if you put them in their original order.

Step 11: Hint #7

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Close the box and recap the bottle.

Step 12: Did You Do It?

Picture of Did You Do It?

If you successfully put a deck of cards in a bottle, I'd love to see the results. Please share a photo in the comments.

If you're up for another challenge, try to put some tennis balls into a bottle. I've got full instructions on how I do it here, if you get stuck: Tennis Balls in a Bottle (How-to!).

Thanks for reading.


wmanning833 (author)2016-08-20

I love this approach as some of the best teachers I had gave us general ideas of approaches but we had to learn how to figure out solutions to the problems. I learned so much more that way.

For me the cards are the easier part. Whether they appear bent or not is irrelevant as the top of the box will be closed with the cards providing weight to the box when someone is handling the bottle. Ok, I'm a bit of a slob around the house, too. :)

The challenge for me is getting the box into the bottle in pristine condition. Looking at the pictures of the tools I'm thinking the long forceps, tweezers, and an xacto knife would come into play in this case. I'm still thinking about it. I'm inspired from the tennis ball project which got me thinking that carefully placed cuts could help get the box in without damage.

Thanks so much for this brain teaser.

!KnexMaster! (author)wmanning8332016-11-06

Working around magicians constantly, I know the exact secret to how this is done. I just wanted to read this Instructable because the teaching and hints made me laugh.

If you're very careful, you can use a lighter or X-Acto Knife to break the glue seal at the bottom of the box. Then, once you have a flat box, you carefully roll it into a cylinder and plop it inside. After that, it's a matter of refolding seams and applying a little bit of glue.

tmspro (author)2016-08-16

Thanks for the instructable. It's an interesting and enjoyable change of pace from what I usually see here, and a wonderful challenge.

For those struggling with this: I thought, unless there is a glaring error of fact, or a blatant safety concern, if an instructable did not appeal to me, for whatever reason, I should just move on, no comment required. Many instructables assume skill sets, tools, facilities, training or interests I do not have. Despite that, I find some of these are still worth reading.

davidqxo (author)tmspro2016-08-16

Such a nice, useful way to take in life in general. Thank you for the uplifting, practical comment, Tmspro.

harkejuice (author)2016-08-16

This is a really great puzzle, I've seen a few of these at oddity museums and kitschy restaurants on walls but always wondered how they were done. I'll definitely have to give this a shot. Its silly that some people get angry because they don't understand something, this isn't youtube use your brain. While this isn't a traditional instructable per se, its neither obligated to cheapening what is a good physical riddle.

loridav (author)2016-08-16

it is an instructable. It's just not the kind you are used to. It requires patience and thought. So if you don't want to spend your time pondering then just move on. No need for mean comments. This person took time to do this.

DiyCoolStuff (author)2017-09-07

I love these kind of things. I was supposed to try one like two years ago but I never found the time to do it. It would be an awesome inspirational yet random item on my self.

LuiSousa made it! (author)2017-08-30

As minhas cartas já tentei ...

Ace Gambit (author)2017-08-03

I saw this in a museum once and I always wondered how they got the cards in there... Im gonna have to try this.

MrThomas303 made it! (author)2016-09-16

I made these about a year ago and now they just sit on my shelf, great gifts as well

ohbejoyful (author)2016-09-07

I love your innovative approach to making an Instructable!

lxx_33 (author)2016-08-16

I like it. Also liked Harry Eng. Did not like that his wife exposed some of its secrets, because i believe it's more like an art. I also made a bottle with a rubiks cube, a sealed deck of cards and a lock :). Nice that you did not give away all the secrets :)

KiaW2 (author)lxx_332016-08-28


lxx_33 (author)KiaW22016-08-29

tnx. was a real brain breaker hahaha, but in the end it was well worth it. Watch dozens of youtube knot video's to made this monkey fist knot with paracord.

Glad you like it.

KiaW2 (author)lxx_332016-08-30

I think I'd just have to find an etsy store and buy one! LOL I can't imagine trying to figure out how to get those in a bottle.

I'm tempted to try but GOSH!! color me baffled! Also I'm loving that your deck of cards is SEALED!!!

lxx_33 (author)KiaW22016-08-30

Where you from KiaW2. I don't know where they sell them, but can always check for you. I'm from Amsterdam The Netherlands.

KiaW2 (author)lxx_332016-08-30

I'm in Pennsylvania, USA. it's a little far of a commute from Amsterdam. LOL

MattM272 (author)lxx_332016-08-27

That one you made is so awesome!

lxx_33 (author)MattM2722016-08-29

tnx. I'm also very happy with the result :).

seamster (author)lxx_332016-08-16

Thank you! I agree, it is absolutely an art.

I tried to delicately toe the line in my presentation to maintain the spirit of the art form, but still expose it to a wider audience and encourage people to explore it.

And of course . . . to THINK :)

I have yet to attempt a sealed deck, but it's on my to-do list!

KiaW2 (author)2016-08-28

I think I've got it! I have a plan! Now i just need cards! ...and a bottle!... and the tools!

OzzieM (author)2016-08-27

hey im stupid, I need more hints ive broken two bottles already trying to cut the bottoms off of the bottles

Lord SneezyC (author)2016-08-27

I haven't actually done it, but I figured it out before I read it. Do I still win?

rbr451 (author)2016-08-27

I cut the whole deck into tiny pieces. It worked, but reassembling with the glue I poured into the bottle didn't work out so well.

rbr451 (author)rbr4512016-08-27

What I should have done was vibrate the deck very fast, like the Flash, and push it through the side between the molecules. Or maybe vibrate both the bottle and the deck. That way, I'd only have to vibrate each half as fast.
It could work.

stringstretcher (author)2016-08-16

I put a bolt and nut through mine.

seamster (author)stringstretcher2016-08-16

Nice! I'm working on a couple with nuts and bolts. Also working on putting full planks of wood in bottles. Now that is fun!! :)

stringstretcher (author)seamster2016-08-25

I have also used fishing lures, coins, a slinky, poker chips (a favorite!) Love these things.

What? Your card deck or the bottle?

I Love Purple (author)2016-08-24


townsend1212 (author)2016-08-23

OK now seal the deck up.

seamster (author)townsend12122016-08-23

Need to buy a fresh deck next time I'm out, but I'm on it! ;)

John T MacF Mood (author)2016-08-23

BRILLIANT! I love the tennis ball one too!

Thanks John!

I've been enjoying puzzles for years, but bottle-based puzzles have really struck my interest lately. I appreciate the comment. Cheers!

steven123 (author)2016-08-23

I know how I would do it, if you look closely at the first picture you can see very faint fold mark in the first bottle about a half an inch from the top of the playing card, the second bottle also had marks which leads me to believe that this was folded in such a way that the marks are not easily visible from the outside. Perhaps the same way you could bend a poster board; you score it. After that you the put it in the bottle unfold it with tools, fold cards in unfold them and then put them into the box. With enough practice I'm sure you got a good looking batch. Good brain teaser took me about 12 minutes to figure out how I would do it, the tenis ball one was also fun, although it only took 13 seconds and yes I did time myself.

MatthewB212 (author)2016-08-22

This is one of the best instructibles I've seen in a long time. Brilliant work, keep it up!! :)

ThomasK19 (author)2016-08-15

I guess the key to the cards is patience xD Some Russian guy just showed how to put a Rubik's cube in a bottle. And the key to the tennis balls is probably "a lot of nothing". Similar to putting boiled eggs in a jar.

RobertP231 (author)ThomasK192016-08-17

I'd like to see the Rubik's cube solution. I dont see how it's possible without disassembling the cube, since its a rigid structure abd its volume can't be reduced in any other way.

ThomasK19 (author)RobertP2312016-08-17


RobertP231 (author)ThomasK192016-08-22

The first challenge was figuring out how to disassemble the cube without breaking it! 4 hours or 4 days, either way it's way too much work for my level of interest in it, but it's certainly interesting what people can do when they have time in their hands. I can barely find the time to do everything I absolutely HAVE to do! ;-)

ThomasK19 (author)RobertP2312016-08-17

It has been posted here recently. And yes, of course, it needs to be dis- and re-assembled. He needed 4 hours (I probably 4 days and a couple of explosions).

hey now I hadn't thought of that... a couple well placed shaped charges just might create the forces necessary to force an object through the neck of the bottle. I mean, ive seen a piece of hay straw sticking through a tree after a tornado before, so why not!!!??? lol

seamster (author)ThomasK192016-08-15

Patience is definitely a requirement on these! :)

laith mohamed (author)2016-08-22

I like it .

DocR (author)2016-08-16

I don't want to give it away to ewveryone so I'll just say one word, and you'll know I know the answer.


RobertP231 (author)DocR2016-08-17

I can guarantee you don't need water.

DocR (author)RobertP2312016-08-17

The weight of the water provides a cleaner break when you pop the bottom out,, so that when you crazy glue the bottom back on, the break is entirely invisible.

seamster (author)DocR2016-08-17

No water used here. I've heard of people busting out beer bottle bottoms with a water technique, but I've never tried that.

Everything here just went through the bottle mouth and was carefully manipulated once inside.

although I doubt that any water was used for this particular impossible bottle, I would guess that that is the 'solution' to getting a sealed deck inside a bottle.

super_me (author)seamster2016-08-19

yup, manipulated...slightly bent! I guess you could soak the cards in water, push it into the bottle while it is still flimsy, when it's dry, it should not have any bends! :D

About This Instructable




Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
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