Making an Inexpensive Card Trimmer

Copyright 2011 by James P. Riser

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Magicians are often seeking a card trimmer for making gimmicked card decks or individual cards. The real card trimmer tools are very expensive antiques and fairly difficult to find. I offer the following as a solution for those wanting to make limited numbers of trimmed playing cards. Too often beginning and creative magicians are limited by the lack of access to specialized tooling to make their creations come to life. Hopefully this web page will be of help to such individuals. I have attempted to make everything as simple and easy as possible so that effort might be spent on magic creation rather than tool building. You will need to invest around $20. If this is too expensive for you, try scissors.

The trimmer itself is a small photo trimmer made by Fiskars. I ran across it in a craft store and felt that with minimal modifications it could become a workable playing card trimmer.

This is the trimmer as found in the craft store.


The first thing I wanted to do was to see if it could trim a playing card.


The ability to delicately shave off the edges of the playing cards was necessary.


This little trimmer can do the job nicely.

As seen in the pictures, there is a thin plastic pressure guard which will securely hold the card down without buckling during the cutting process. In addition, this guard keeps fingerprints off of the cards. This is a nice feature of this trimmer.

Holding the cards in the required position is critical for making the required cuts. To temporarily test this trimmer I utilized neo-magnets for the task. Two workable positions for the magnets are shown below. I doubled up the magnets for extra holding strength. (I have a huge assortment of such magnets available for other items that I manufacture - so I thought I would use a few.)

Additional magnets underneath the cutter base hold the top magnets in position.

Magicians are concerned with making both straight and angled cuts to the card edges.

The ruled lines on the trimmer base

clearly show how the playing card

is held in a slightly angled position.

This will give a taper to the edge

being trimmed.

Very little edge is trimmed.



Below can be seen that the right corner will not be trimmed at all while the left corner will be slightly trimmed off with a nice smooth taper the full length of the card. This is how regular stripper decks are made - a quick and simple task with this trimmer.

Now, it is possible to control the length of this tapered cut so that the cut is made only to the midpoint of the card edge. The card is then flipped end for end and the other half of the same edge is trimmed. This leaves a concave cut on the card edge. Both ends are wider than the card center. Both edges of the card are trimmed like this to create the concave edges required. This concave cut may be seen in the pictures below. The picture on the left is a view along this trimmed edge. The picture on the right shows this trimmed edge next the straight edge of an untrimmed playing card. The gap seen is caused by the concave edge. The depth of the concave cut is dictated by the performer's skill and requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to experiment to get the cuts as desired. This is true on even the most expensive trimmers.

There is another nicer way to control the angle of cut. You will need to buy a steel angle piece from your local hardware store. I bought mine at ACE Hardware.

I first sheared off the end of one arm of the angle for clearance.


The angle steel is held in position by 3 sets of neo-magnets under the base.

This works beautifully.

Below I explain how to control the length of cut for making such negative strippers.

The first thing needed is a 3" long by 1/4" - 20 brass machine screw, nuts, and washers.


A 1/4" hole is drilled through the trimmer handle and the brass screw is installed.

This brass screw acts as an adjustable stop for the cutter.

The trimmer now looks like this.

In use, the trimmer must be placed on a smooth hard surface so that the stop will be consistent.

Here is the completed playing card trimmer ready to go to work.

This trimmer may also be setup to trim the ends of the cards. As with all card trimmers, careful adjustments are necessary.

If you do not know what to do with the trimmed cards, perhaps you do not need a card trimmer.

Note: If this info was useful to you, please let me know. No feedback means no more such web pages.