A Brief Overview of Card Trimming
Copyright 2003 by James
The best way to trim playing cards is with a set of
card cutters. You will see cards cut at print shops without correctly
rerounding the corners. You will hear stories about how the cards
should be sanded with a belt sander. The idea is to modify playings
cards so that the modifications are indetectable. Shown here are
the two separate specially made precision cutters required to
do this task. My set of cutters was made by M&H and are true
collectables. They are most likely well over 50 years old.
This is the main
cutter for trimming playing cards with all of its angle adjusters.
This is the corner rounder for recutting the corners
flattened by the main cutter.
Making a "short card".
A "short card" is an extremely powerful tool
in the hands of an expert card worker. The idea to to very lightly
trim off the end of one card in the deck. It is then possible
to cut to this card by feel or sound. It serves as a "key"
The angles of the
trimmer are set to 90 degrees and the card is placed into position
on the base.
The card can be shifted a desired amount by the calibrated
angle piece. This is with the card end even with the blade edge.
This reading is
after the card has been advanced the desired amount over the blade
Here can be seen
the card overhanging the blade edge.
The card trimmer
was designed to be used at the edge of a table.
The end is trimmed
making a "short card".
Notice the flattened
end of the top card. The corners are no loonger smoothly rounded.
This flattened end is the effect you get when a print
shop cuts the deck. This is also seen on cheaper Svengali decks.
The corners really do need to be restored to make the modifications
to the card indetectable.
The card is placed
on the base of the corrner cutter.
Here is a close
up of this cutter.
This is the way
a well cut "short card" should look - just like the
original; but slightly shorter.
Cutting a taper.
In this example the card will be cut to a slight taper.
This is what is done to create a "Stripper Deck".
The card is placed
on the trimmer base to line up the edge to be trimmed with the
Notice the beveled
piece on the cutter in the center of the image. It is calibrated
on this bevel.
This is a close
up of these markings.
The knob in the top of this image adjusts the angle
of the taper. The angle of the taper is measured by the above
graduations on the bevel.
Notice how the beveled piece is pivoted away from the
top section of the cutter.
This will indicate the taper to be cut.
Here the taper
is being cut onto the edge of the card.
On a cheap "stripper deck", this is where
the cutting will end. A better deck will be tapered on both edges.
In any case the corner needs to be recut.
The flattened corner
is shown on the left.
It needs to be
recut with the corner cutter.
Below is shown an extremely useful "short card"
to be used as a "key card" for locating selected cards
This is a close-up
of a card that has been shortened and taper cut - with the corner
Here can be seen
the shortened end and the full length taper.
This tapered "short card" will allow the
performer to locate the "key card" by metely running
the thumb along the edge of the deck. This is very deceptive and
can be held up to the ear and heard as the short card slaps into
position - or just done by touch. This particular "short/key
card" can be used as a regular "short card" or
by the more deceptive tapered method.
Making "Belly Strippers".
One of the most powerful tools in the arsenel of the
old card cheats was the "Belly Stripper". Selected cards
(say the four tens) are cut double tapered on both edges as shown
This card was tapered
as shown above. The card was flipped end for end and another taper
Both edges are trimmed in this manner. This leaves
the selected cards narrow at the ends and very slightly wider
in their centers. This is termed a "belly".
All four corners
of each trimmed card are recut to make them appear ungimmicked.
The card on the
left is a "belly". It is shown next to a regular card.
Notice the very slight double taper.
After the selected cards are all "belly cut",
the rest of the deck is all trimmed to the narrower width of the
ends of the "belly" cards. All four corners of these
cards are recut. Once all of this labor is completed, the selected
cards may be "stripped" out of the deck at any time
with no difficulty.
The above is a very brief overview of some of the possibilities
of card trimming. It hope it is useful.
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