The Three Card Monte - an Origami Wallet




About: Oschene is Philip Chapman-Bell, a human resources drudge living in western Massachusetts. I probably should mention my deep and abiding enthusiasm for Open Source Origami. Clever catchphrase du jour: It is...

[This instructable appears here under the Terms of Service. It also appears here under my terms of service. Mine say that this content is free as in speech and free as in beer. If you paid to see this content, you've been imposed upon. Ask for your money back and buy yourself a beer.]

a) The Three Card Monte is a wallet made of letter paper. When made from paper with a card design printed on it, it has the trompe l'oeil effect of being three playing cards in a spread, the ones commonly used in a street hustle called, three card monte.

b) When open, the wallet gives easy access to three credit or identification cards and a finite amount of cash.

c) When closed, the model fits nicely into the breast pocket of your shirt.

Step 1: The Crease Pattern

Download a crease pattern and print it out. There are two to choose from, depending on where you live. If you live in the United States, choose the American letter paper version; if you live in another part of the world, one afflicted with Napoleonic era scientism, you'll want the A4 version. (Both are below, for your convenience.)

a) In the printer dialog for Reader or kpdf or whatever your flavor is, please note that Page Scaling should be set for none. You want the lines to go all the way to the printable margins.

b) Note that mountain folds are signified with dash-dotted lines, valley folds by dashed lines. (For those unclear on the distinction).

Step 2: Mountain Fold the Top and Bottom of the Sheet

a) Fold the top of the paper away from you, using the mountain fold as a guide.

(Yes, the rightmost part of this is marked a valley fold -- you may safely ignore this. We'll be reversing it shortly.)

b) Rotate your paper 180 degrees and mountain fold again.

Origami is all about symmetry and repetition. So am i. (I am so.)

Step 3: Mountain Fold the Sides of the Sheet

Mountain fold the leftmost and rightmost vertical crease marks.

Step 4: Making Pockets and Flaps

a) Now the model looks like this: a 3 by 2 x sqrt(3) rectangle.

b) Flip it over, front to back.

c) Unfold the left flap.

d) Unfold the top flap.

e) Valley fold the left flap back. This will reverse a part of a crease. That's okay.

f) Valley fold the top flap back. This will reverse another part of a crease. Likewise, okay.

g) Like this. Now, rotate the model 180 degrees and repeat c-f on the diagonally opposite corner.

h) You have pockets and flaps! Flip the model over, back to front.

Step 5: Precreasing

a) Mountain fold along the vertical lines through all layers and unfold again, so that you still have this rectangle in front of you.

b) Valley fold along the diagonal lines through all layers and unfold again, so that you still have this rectangle in front of you.

Step 6: Forming the Wallet

a) Mountain fold the bottom edge behind to meet the top edge.

b) Like this.

c) Insert one of the flaps into the corresponding pocket.

d) It locks in, loosely. When the model is flattened, this will be a more secure lock. Repeat c on the other side.

Step 7: Let's Do the Twist!

a) Ready? Twist the top of the left end towards you while twisting the top of the right side away from you.

b) Thusly. (That's right, I said, thusly. I have a Masters in English, so it's perfectly legal. That doesn't mean you should try it at home.)

c) Note that as you twist, the model flattens into a beautiful hexagonal shape.

d) The finished model.

Step 8: Putting Your Card in the Three Card Monte

a) This is how your cards fit into the pockets. The fit should be snug, but not tight. If the cards don't want to go in, consult step 1 again and make sure you printed your crease pattern out without scaling it down.

b) Did I mention how nicely this wallet fits into your breast pocket?

Why not try this again with the trompe l'oeil patterns? If you're in the USA, you'll want the American letter paper version; if you're in a country that uses a nonhumanistic measuring system, you'll want the A4 version.(See below.)

Step 9: The Small Print

The origami design for the Three Card Monte is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license. That means you can teach this model freely, modify it to your own uses, copy and distribute the diagrams and crease patterns and a lot of other things we haven't thought of yet. It's called Open Origami and it's the up-and-coming thing. What you can't do it make money off of it (without permission) or copyright derivative works.

The artwork on the trompe l'oeil patterns is adapted from the work of David Bellot and is under his Lesser GNU Public License. The use of it in this work appears to me to be consistent with the language and the intent of this license. If you wish to use the patterns elsewhere, consult the license first.

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96 Discussions

I made it! My camera on this computer is broken so I can't take a picture but it took me 3 tries. Still very good though!

(I use exclamation marks way too much!!!!!)


4 years ago

For the sake of pedantry, I would consider a measurement system designed by adherents to Napoleonic-era scientism to be inherently humanistic, rather than the reverse. (I know, necro-post, but I just stumbled across this and was inspired by your wit and mad origami skills.)

On the subject of metric vs. imperial (English/American alliance of uneasiness), my opinion has always been that the metric system lacked inspired names. I always enjoyed the concept of measuring mass in slugs. (Slimy!)

As to the large numbers of conversions to remember in the imperial system, it's not really any more than in metric, it's just that the metric system was designed to disguise the fact that all units of measurement are arbitrary and don't always relate well to each other. I consider this to be a strength of the imperial system, because it grew haphazardly as new units were needed and makes no attempt to disguise the warts inherent in arbitrarily established systems.

And so the rant endeth thusly: (I'm not so well credentialed in my English skills, but language usage is a hobby, so I will try it at home, with proper safety equipment, of course.)

This discussion reminded me of a joke that's an old favorite. It goes thusly: (!) Measurements for problems will always be given in the most inconvenient units possible. As such, velocity will always be given as furlongs per fortnight.

Thanks for an enjoyable read.


5 years ago

Would it be possible to construct this out of actual playing cards???


7 years ago on Introduction

do you have the proportions between the lines? i'd love to scale this up on bigger paper to fit cash.


7 years ago on Step 8

I love this! Best origami project/ instructable EVER! You gave really clear, detailed & easy to follow directions. I did it first w/ just plain lined paper (from your pattern) then printed out the card design & it went really easy the 2nd time. I painted on a lite coat of modge podge (like a decoupage finish) to make it more durable but it takes a while to cure so I'm not sure just yet. I sprayed fixative on it first so the ink wouldn't smear.
Thank you!


7 years ago on Step 7

Great idea i made it from images and just guessed the scale so is a bit mis-shapen will print off the template and do another.

Thanks :)


11 years ago on Step 7

I can't twist it..grr it's so hard..I already did it for 4 times.. comment back pls..

4 replies

Reply 11 years ago on Step 7

Look at the pictures of the different stages of the twist -- are all you creases going in the right direction?


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

It's not really a twist, so much as a "fold in multiple places at the same time, causing a twist-like illusion" thing.


8 years ago on Introduction

Though this is old this is a very neat wallet. I just designed a simple Coca Cola themed one using photo shop can't wait to print it out and see if it was laid out correctly!


8 years ago on Step 9

Very nice. Thank you for sharing this with us.


LOVE THE WALLET! sadly tho, cash barely fits in it, so its kinda hard to use... but still a SICK wallet (ended off making it ut of cardstock to make it stronger)


9 years ago on Step 8

You should have won the paper wallet contest. Yours was the most original (yet still very useful)that I have seen and I can't believe the one that looks the most like a normal wallet won. Your card print-out made it look gorgeous.

2 replies