Instructables
Picture of Letter Opener from a Used Club Card
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I open up a lot of mail at the office!  Normally when a new package comes in, I'll break out the box cutters and cut what I need to get it open.  When it's all said and done, I've occasionally cut what's inside the box.  This isn't an option I want when I'm opening up unknown things.

I've seen letter openers in stores for years, but I never felt like dropping the money to get one.  When I recently came into possession of some extra stock of Duane Reade club cards, I knew I had my chance!

 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
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Club card, credit card, gift card, or other no longer useful plastic card.
Laser Cutter, X-Acto knife or Scissors.
X-Acto blade
Tape
Pliers
A few minutes to spare.

Step 2: Template

Designing this is very simple.  If you look up some images of letter openers, there are two predominant styles.  The mini sword/knife and the plastic card.  Since the plastic card style works so well with our plastic card, I'm going to use that one.

One thing I learned while making these, having a long skinny edge doesn't work. I find that a short, thin at the end point, works best - see pictures for more details.

Draw a template on your card, or in whatever program you plan to use to laser cut with.

If you're using the laser cutter, I'd recommend creating a template for the card that you can use to ensure you have it situated in the correct space when you laser etch.  You can use cardboard or some scrap acrylic for this purpose.

Step 3: Cut

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Cut out your template with an X-Acto blade or laser cutter.

Step 4: Prep X-Acto Blade

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First: PUT ON EYE PROTECTION!  Should accidents happen you don't want exposed eyes with X-Acto blades flying about.

  • Grab the X-Acto blade firmly between two pairs of pliers.
  • Slowly bend the X-Acto blade in half.
  • You should have half of the X-Acto blade in each pair of pliers when it snaps (it doesn't take much bend to snap it).
lemonie4 years ago
Will it do those tough plastic straps you get on boxes of paper (I forget what they're called and am not going to look them up right now)?

L
StumpChunkman (author)  lemonie4 years ago
I haven't tried that, as I don't get many boxes with those straps.  I'd have to agree with valhallas_end though, and I don't think I'm ever going to actually try.
The look is pretty much exactly like purpose-built strap-cutters, I only asked because of that and the questionable sturdiness.

L
If you flip those straps over and find the spot where they are joined, there will be a little bit of the end of the underside strap sticking up. If you grab that tab and pull it back, the layers separate and the strap comes undone. No tools needed.
Yea, that's what I said a bit further down the page. Did you see the response to that? It seems some people make these extra-hard to open.

L
Whatever those are called, they destroy razors' and box cutters' blades, so I can't imagine an X-Acto surviving very long - the fibers in the plastic dull and pit the blade quickly.  The straps that bind rugs and large furniture boxes are even worse (generally sharp yellow plastic glued together with an epoxy to rival a weld).  For all of the plastic straps, I'd suggest having a second design with an open blade or one that can slice across the plastic, not cut through it - parting the strap is a lot easier with repeated slices than a straight cut.

I have also wrecked steak knives on those straps...they can catch and bend serrated edges.
The easy way is to simply pull apart the thermal join. It's super strong in tension, but rather weak to that kind of shear. Like peeling off tape.

L
Very true, but most of the packages I receive have the join stepped inside the box and the holes taped over or sealed (I guess it's a security system my local distributors insist on?  I can see some merit - far harder to open the package without leaving some telltale from the tape).  It's a bit harder to access to pry apart.  Luckily, I have a trail knife designed for cutting fibrous bamboo and vines which works very well.
That is being careful... these are valuable consignments?

L
Some are valuable - I've been trying my hand at creating audio equipment (starting with guitar amplifiers, speaker cabinets, and electric guitars), and some pieces must be bought in bulk for fully custom builds.  They have to be wrapped as tight as possible, so these straps are ideal around the inner cardboard box.  Believe me, you do not want a "DOA" shipment of mahogany.
I have noticed some paper boxes my local Staples receives have this system too, and for their office furniture.  I know my local warehouses have a severe theft problem, so maybe its a modification added in situ.
loppy964 years ago
why does everyone have these dwuane read cards
Duane Reade is doing an advertising program with instructables (read canida's comment).

I guess they're east coast only, though - I'm in CA and never heard of 'em.  
Huh, I've lived in NY all my life and never heard of this Duane Reade...
This is a nice solution though - I tend to ignore my box cutter in favor of a trail knife, but have sliced into books before.  Maybe this would help...
Doctor What4 years ago
 I've seen these in buses too!  They're used to cut seatbelts during emergencies.