Introduction: Playing Card Chest

The idea

During our Christmas Holidays at my fiancées family I got a idea for a birthday present for her mother. The latter is into playing card games and owns many of them. She's got even a card shuffler, but she didn’t have a proper way to store all of the items. So I planned a chest to solve the problem.

For planning I considered these criteria:

  • Drawers for six card games
  • Space for the card shuffler
  • A clipboard for notes
  • Space for pens and other gaming material

After many tries and ideas I got a nice solution featuring six narrow and a wide drawer, a high top and a double bottom in the centre.

Total sizes

The measurements would be width x depth x height by direct viewing.

The closed chest has: 372 x 272 x 171 mm.

When opened it would be: 372 x 542 x 130 mm.

Because it is made of poplar it weights about 2 kg when empty.

Step 1: Plans and Material

Please notice

I use the metric system. All measurements are in millimetre. Please check all measurements before using them in case of typos.

Metal parts

The screws and latches are made of stainless steel. The piano hinge is nickel-plated and cut out of a 3500 mm piece.

  • 4 round gliders 8 x 20 mm
  • 1 piano hinge 20 x 300 mm
  • 2 latches with hooks 20 x 40 mm
  • 20 screws 2,2 x 6,5 mm
  • 4 screws 2,8 x 6,5 mm

Wood

For the chest I used poplar plywood and a bar made of spruce. Sizes and quantity of the smaller parts are in the drawings in this step. The bigger pieces are all simple rectangles, so i just made this part list:

piece               material   depth  length   width     quantity
-----               --------   -----  ------   -----     --------
bottom/top plate    plywood    6 mm   360 mm   250 mm    2
side piece top      plywood    6 mm   262 mm   163 mm    2
back piece top      plywood    6 mm   360 mm   83 mm     1
front piece top     plywood    6 mm   360 mm   52 mm     1
back piece chest    plywood    6 mm   360 mm   80 mm     1
front piece chest   plywood    6 mm   360 mm   111 mm    1
back piece corpus   plywood    3 mm   250 mm   117 mm    2
double bottom       plywood    6 mm   249 mm   177 mm    1
holder (bar)        spruce     15mm   56 mm    (round)   2
dowel (bar)         beech      6 mm   20 mm    (round)   2
lid outer parts     plywood    6 mm   4 mm     80 mm     2
lid inner part      plywood    6 mm   4 mm     162 mm    1
latch background    spruce     2 mm   20 mm    25 mm     2

I also used wood glue to get it together.

Additional material

For this project I needed some extra material, too:

  • clipboard with a cord latch
  • some self-adhesive velcro
  • staples 6 mm high
  • paper 80g/m²
  • universal thinner

Step 2: Starting the Project

Planning

I didn’t have much time for failures, so I decided to use butt joints to build drawers and chest. The glue is strong enough for the little plywood parts, so I don't expect any stability problems.

There were enough try-outs on this project anyway. I had never build drawers before. For the lettering I decided to use a toner transfer method I had to find out how it works. I used furniture wax for finishing the first time, too.

Sizing

I got the basic measurement for the drawers from the card shuffler. I chose 45 mm as height to fit a card game with about 100 cards in it. I had to add some space in length and width for a better usability and to get German playing cards into it. I also wanted do add finger holes to the bottom to get better access to the cards and a finger hole into the front as alternative for the handle. To get the final measurements I made cardboard boxes to try it out. After a few tries I got the perfect size.

After that I was able to define the final sizes for the chest itself. The basic measurements of the chest are based on my own clipboard for DIN A4 paper. According to earlier ideas I arranged the card shuffler into the centre and the drawers to the left and the right. The final depth of the chest are the width of the two drawers plus the material for the corpus. The final width is the size of the two corpus plus the card shuffler with attached crank lever.

The right order

The next issue was the dimension of the corpus. I didn't know how to get the dimension for sliding the drawers in and out easily. For this reason I started with building the drawers and corpuses first. With the first corpus and the first two drawers I was able to test the functionality before continuing and building the remaining chest around of them. Unfortunately this method caused more scrap wood but I think I can use it on my next project.

Step 3: Drawers and Chest Interior

Drawers

When cutting the pieces on my table saw and drilling the finger holes with a 25 mm drill on the big drill press it came in handy to print out the sketches in the right size. Thus it was very easy to check and sort the 71 pieces for drawers and corpuses.

For gluing I made a jig which is a simple board with two slats screwed on it. I used it for gluing the pieces in the back and side pieces in a right angle. Then I clamped them onto a scrap piece so I got the right height to attach the front piece. The bottom strips aren't complicated, but the bottom piece itself, which I had to attach properly to the front.

Corpuses

Next came attaching the dividers to their tops to get corpuses. For the divider in the centre I used two drawers and some old bonus cards to get them exactly placed. I finished the four drawer spaces first before attaching the upper to their lower ones. Then it was possible to attach the front and back pieces.

Double bottom

The double bottom was the last piece glued together, when the chest was finished and I was able to check the measurements a last time. To get the bars holding the card shuffler on their places I drilled 6mm holes into the bars and the bottom and attached them with the help of two 6mm dowels. To keep them straight while gluing I used my drill bit jigs.

Step 4: Chest

Planning

After building the corpuses I was able to take the final measurements and make the final parts.

I decided to lower the pivot point of the hinge into the middle of the chest, so the top would lay on the table when the chest is opened and the hinge wouldn't be worn out by holding the heavy top.

I also lowered the front piece of the chest for about 10 mm below the edge of the corpuses. I didn't want to get it even for the case it would get a little bit too high or too low. As downside I had to bevel the front edges of the corpuses and the inner side of the top a little bit or the chest wouldn't open any more.

A little mishap

I began with the lower half of the chest. The cuboid shape of the corpuses helped a lot to get it straight. The top was harder to assemble. You have to make sure to get the right angles by yourself.

The first fitting revealed it didn't work well: The top recessed a little bit against the bottom instead of closing accurately to it. Thus I made a lid from a 6 x 4 mm plywood strip with two spruce pieces as spacer for the latches. The lid covers the ledge very well and it is now easier to open the chest. I think I can call it a successful kludge.

First assembly

Before I made the kludge I mounted a piano hinge. Thereby I was able to fit the top perfectly to the chest. I made the top a little bit too narrow. I had to sand down the sides of the bottom a little bit so it would close smoothly.

After adding the lid I installed the latches. At this point it was possible to make pencil marks and I could check if it is all working before I made the finishing. When I was sure that everything would work on the final assembly I removed the metal parts to make the finish.

Step 5: Preparation

First sanding

Before cutting I sanded all boards with 240 paper as first preparation. I didn't want to overdo it because I had to sand down overlapping pieces and smother the edges after gluing. But I wanted them smooth so the final sanding would be easier.

After gluing I flattened the sides by laying a 80 paper onto the table and moving the parts over it. It worked with the drawers, but for the bigger pieces I fixated the sand paper onto an old board to hold it in place.

Getting it smooth

Before the final sanding I took some water and a sponge to moist all the wooden parts. That caused all the fibres to stand upright and I could sand them away. Theoretically you can also sand after applying the first layer of linseed oil, but when the parts are coloured it would be very unhandy when the surfaces would get rough.

I did the final sanding with 320 paper. For the bigger surfaces I had a usual sanding block, for the insides of the drawers I made a smaller one.

Step 6: Decoration

Drawers

To get the drawers distinct from each other I decided to add a logo to each front. So I chose some symbols out of the utf8 table:

  • BLACK SPADE SUIT (♠)
  • BLACK CLUB SUIT (♣)
  • BLACK HEART SUIT (♥)
  • BLACK DIAMOND SUIT (♦)
  • BLACK DIAMOND MINUS WHITE X (❖)
  • BLACK FLORETTE (✿)
  • EIGHT POINTED RECTILINEAR BLACK STAR (✷)

Inkscape got me the best symbols with Courier new. I coloured the card symbols according to German suit colours. The other symbols were inspired by the swizz suit, although it is a little abstract now. For colouring I just allotted the missing colours of the chromatic circle.

Chest

I decided to write the name of the birthday child and "Kartentruhe" (literally "card chest") onto the chest. For better visualisation I took some fonts and printed them out and put them directly on the chest. I decided in favour of Top secret for the "Kartentruhe" and Birds of Paradise for the signature. At last I got a place for my personal logo underneath the double bottom.

Transfer

There are some methods for toner transfer. I made some tests (ok, I have nearly no scrap wood with logo now) and found out the most reliable method for my purposes.

First I printed out the writings mirror-inverted and with full colour activated (no economising here) on my laser printer. It is useful to get enough border around them, e.g. I made the borders for the card symbols matching to the drawer fronts so placing them was easier. I used my clamps to fixate the paper onto the surfaces. Then I took a spray can with universal thinner and a cloth and sprayed some thinner onto the paper and pressed it onto the surface with the cloth. The simple fixation allowed me to check the transfer without getting the paper out of position and to repeat it, when necessary.

Step 7: Finishing the Project

Coating

For this project I chose a layer of linseed oil and a layer of furniture wax on the drawer fronts and the outside of the chest.

I applied the linseed oil by brushing all parts with it and then waited 15 min to remove the excess with an old cloth. Because I use pure linseed oil I had to wait a week before I continued with the wax.

The furniture wax works like shoe cream. Just cast the parts in a thin, but even layer of wax. Now wait a few hours to let it dry, then you can use a brush or a cloth to polish it out. In this way I got a smooth, but not too glossy surface.

Final assembly

After that I was able to mount the metal parts and the velcro. Because I already had all the screw holes on the right place it wasn't very challenging to get it all together. As feet I used some furniture gliders. First I thought about nailable ones, but then I got some to screw on.

Next came the clipboard. I got some self-adhesive velcro which I first attached on the clipboard. First I tried to set the counterparts on the clipboard as well and press it altogether into the top, but this doesn't work on a freshly oiled surface. So I took a sheet of paper helping to position the counterparts and took a stapler to attach them.

Step 8: Ideas

Tips

I published the plans which I worked with in step 2. They should work and they should work better, if you consider these points:

  • The bottom part of the chest was a little bit too wide. I think it is better to build the top of the chest first, so you can check with the bottom part of the chest first and shorten it, when necessary. So you just have to correct three pieces instead of the entire sides.
  • The drawers fit into the corpus, but it's very narrow. You can add a millimetre to the depth (not the width, which has already a millimetre in space) to relax the situation.
  • The butt joints work well with one exception: The bottom parts of the drawers are too thin for this joint. It works when you clam them to the front thoroughly, but if you want them more sturdy you should make them a little bit longer and make a notch into the backside of the front.
  • I like to use pure linseed oil, but when the project should be finished in ten days it would be better to mix the linseed oil with turpentine oil. Especially when you want to store paper cards in your project.
  • When cutting the different heights of front, side and back pieces of the chest on your table saw you can do it like this: First cut a front piece, then a back piece, then the side pieces. The latter have the total height anyway. Now you can let the fence of your table saw in its position and cut the remaining parts by using the first two parts as spacer.

Adjusting

If you want to build a chest please consider the following points:

  • The drawers are optimized for German (55 x 100 mm) and French (60 x 90 mm) suits. The double bottom is optimized for a Amigo 5000 card shuffler. You should check the dimensions against your card shuffler and the card decks of your country and you usually use.
  • You may make the corpuses without a divider in the centre, so you can place the big drawer everywhere. You can save all dividers by adjusting front and back piece of the chest to the required height and attach the by adjusting the front and back pieces of the chest to a even height and attach the corpus tops directly on them.
  • You can use a router to get a better results when bevelling the corpuses at the front.
  • You may use different screws depending to the thickness of the material. I used 6,5 mm long screws everywhere, but especially the bottom part of the chest is 12 thick mm in the sector of the corpuses.

Feel free to build your own playing card chest. If there are any questions please ask them in the comments. I would be happy if you could make me a photo of your chest.

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Bio: I am a coder from the lake of constance and I love to do some woodworking.
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