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




About: 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 Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

Step 7: Hint #3

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


Make a plan.

Act on it!

Step 8: Hint #4

Put the box in first.

Step 9: 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

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

Step 11: Hint #7

Close the box and recap the bottle.

Step 12: 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.

4 People Made This Project!


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129 Discussions


2 years ago

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.

2 replies

Reply 2 years ago

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.


Reply 1 year ago

I thought of that, but wouldn't the box look terribly abused afterwards?


2 years ago

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.

6 replies

Reply 2 years ago

This one is a true brain "bender". Really had to think "out of the box". Had to think about it on card at a time.


Reply 2 years ago

I know. Pitiful isn't it, how awful people have become? I thought the "hints" pretty much spelled it out, anyway!


Reply 2 years ago

i feel like very few actually appreciate the time and effort someone put into this. This was a very creative idea, and people should realize just how much effort people put into these instructibles. All you have to do is think about it. You dont have to comment, just move on.


2 years ago

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.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

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


2 years ago

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.


2 months ago

Mynquestion is how to do this with the cellophane and not ruining the sticker seal.


Reply 1 year ago

She probably wants to put something of yours in a bottle.


2 years ago

"Bonus points if you put them in their original order."

But how will you check? Gotcha!

Meanwhile, can I find a transmogrifier on Amazon or should I try Craig's List first?

2 replies

Reply 1 year ago

Obviously he's going on the honor system, but if not, throwing money at the problem will probably solve it. I imagine that it's possible to figure out what the order is with a CAT scan, MRI, etc.


Reply 2 years ago


I think I saw instructions for a DIY transmogrifier online somewhere. Going to have to look that up!