A Brief Overview of Card Trimming

Copyright 2003 by James P. Riser

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" card.

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 edge.

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 blade edge.

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 etc.

This is a close-up of a card that has been shortened and taper cut - with the corner rerounded.

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 below.

This card was tapered as shown above. The card was flipped end for end and another taper cut.

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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