Die Cutting/Creasing Former, Press Machine & Card Holding Jig – The Playing Cards Walking Stick – Part 2

In the last video I introduced the characters that make up part of a family mythology. Linking myself to a place I’ve never actually been too – a small village called Komi Kebir in what is now Northern Cyprus. The main protagonist, and to whom the stories entangle is a blacksmith called Kyriacos, and I am to believe my great-grandfather. From the loss of his father as a young child, a struggle ensued which was left to his knife wielding mother to ensure he could be sent away to receive an apprenticeship, which was pivotal to the life he eventually led but also broke him away from the tradition of following in his father’s footsteps as a farmer.     These and other stories only reached my attention because of the accounts and recollection of my grandmother Ekatarina, who as a young child spent much of her time helping her father in his workshop – making nails and operating the bellows. She was a matriarchal Wikipedia of recipes, birthdays, and family feuds, but also the conduit to many stories about her father. Including that of the subject of this video, a walking stick made from playing cards. Which I am attempting to make, beginning with the method of preparing the cards and producing a small sample.   I decided to start this new old work with an old new tool – and this is what I’ll be using to cut and fold the playing cards. A manual operating die cutting or clicker press machine which I bought from CPL. It’s very heavy, weighing around 33kg with a press plate size of around 260 by 160mm. And it should apply about a ton of downwards force, and I manged to get this for a reasonable £240.   The machine came with a plastic polypropylene cutting mat, a large spanner for adjusting the gantry height, and some screws which I think are for fixing a sacrificial surface to the underside of the press plate. To use this machine, I will need to create a wood-forme cutter and after asking CPL to recommend some companies – I went with one called Barkby Knives.   To make the original walking stick, I folded the cards in half along the longest length, and then into thirds to form a ‘Z’ shape. Afterwards I punched an opening so the hole would be aligned through all the layers, but I had to do this through 6 sections of card which despite the tool I had made was difficult and involved me putting my body weight onto the handle. I could now soak them in water, and skewer card by card onto a metal bar – with the wetting process making the paper more malleable in case I decided to use a thicker metal rod than the hole size I had made.   This time, with the accuracy provided by vector drawings, I design a former to align all the holes based on the playing card size I’d selected. I drew this all up in Vcarve Pro – trying to imagine translating the original process for this new old machine. I also included crease lines to help me with folding and this new former should allow me to cut and crease at the same time. In addition to the six holes, I included an expansion cross around each opening so I could thread them onto thicker diameter bar if needed.   Annoyingly, since working on this I’ve already realised how to redesign this in a different way, but seeing as this former cost me £170 I want to try recoup some of my costs before getting a new design made.   So I’ve received the wood form die cutter from Berkeley knives and this is what I got. And I’ll try and expand a little bit about what’s on this piece of laser cut material. You got this criss-cross shape, which are for creasing the playing card into six sections. These spongy neoprene circles are designed to slightly protect me from the sharp edges of the cutters underneath, which are 6mm circles with a couple extra bits crossing so that when I do punch the cards out, I can skewer them on to a slightly thicker diameter bar if I need to.These are location pins, and the plan was to use these with either some kind of draw pins to align the paper in a jig that will also make, or… something like this. These are roll pins. They’ve got a few different names, and they have a split in them where you can hammer these in and they’ll push outwards against the moon threaded in a diameter of the hole.And that could then also be used to align the jig. I was also sent some of these which are location pins, and I wish I knew a bit more about these because it could have sizes up.  I should have sized these openings up and had them already placed into position, but I wasn’t exactly sure how they worked. Instead, I did this myself, on a CNC machine by screwing some scrap MDF onto the wasteboard, and cutting the outer diameter of the jig with filits in the corner to ensure the pieces would be cradled tightly in a position where I could run a second job to align the new opening exactly what I’ll need.   I’m really happy with this apart from one thing which his making my life feel like an episode of Seinfeld, and that’s the unfortunately similarities of the symbols at the back…   Although some are pointing in the direction of the Hindu symbol the others are in the direction of something very punch-able in the face. While this is an unfortunate coincidence, it does also allow me to briefly mention that there is another story, which involved a German spy operating in Cyprus, some time before the start of the second world war.   The spy who pretended he couldn’t speak Greek, only reviled his Germanic roots, while after being the blacksmiths apprentice and having been invited to dinner endured an argument between Kyriacos and his second wife, Fotini as to whether they could feed him pork and whether he would know about it. The German, exhausted by the argument finally broke his cover, shouting over the dinner table “I eat pork I eat pork!”   I’ve just cut the holes out. I made a jig to line everything up, so they should be pretty centred. And I’ve done it quite tight so I can drop these in and I’ll need to apply a bit of force from the top.   There are many layers to these stories, but I’ll save then for another time and prepare congruent the evil, by gluing a piece of MDF onto the rear of the wood former, for a future generation to deal with.   So I’ve cut a piece of MDF out and I’m going to hide the evil for future generation to do with. I’ve got my wood goo. I’ve got a special glue spreader here. This was the first attempt that I’ve done using this type of method, and it costs a fair bit. It was 130 plus VAT, so you’re looking at about 170 UK currency. While that’s drying or set up a router table with this tool and I’ll use it to the through. So while that’s drying, I set up a router with this tool here which will follow the template with the ball bearing and cut the MDF down to size so it looks a bit neater.   Once I had finished trimming the MDF backing to size against the former, I turned my attention to the press. I want to ensure the upper pressing plate is parallel to the base plate, so when it is used consistent pressure is applied.   Got a couple of these engineering blocks, and I can take a humongous spanner that came with this tool. Loosen these up a little. I can raise the gantry section, so that I get these underneath. Just need to make sure everything is tighten up. Could also use… I don’t know if this works.   A digital bevel box – which can compare the angle of one plane to another. I then cut out a prototype jig to hold three playing cards in alignment with the wood former. I used some scrap valchromat board – which once area cleared seems quite soft and should not damage the cutting or crease rules. But it is not really designed for this use, like a cutting mat.   So this is the template to hold the playing cards. I’ve already used it to try it out, and just to describe what’s here.I have a recess, which the playing cards fit into. I have these little notches cut out which are so the crease bars can extend a bit further out than the playing cards. And if I use a different type of brand, which may be slightly different size, I can still expand that and use those in a different jig – if I cut that out. Then I have the notches here which line up with the pegs, so this will sit like that. I can drop that and see…   I intended to press three cards at one time, and you can see me attempting this. But the process seems to crease the top end of the cards a lot more deeply. I later realised it was a lot easier to feed the jig into the press from its narrowest end and make three less strenuous presses.   I could now fold the cards, first along their longest length and then into thirds to for a ‘Z’ shape. The holes all align which allows me to skewer each square segment onto a 6mm piece of round bar. I have to admit I like the look of just the cards skewered as they are, and this could be the basis of some pieces of sculpture, but I still want to make a walking stick.   So this is about 80 cards and uncompressed it’s about 17 centimetres, 170 millimetres or however many inches that is. I’m starting to feel that this bit of velchromat is kind of starting to wear out quite a bit. It’s 8mm, and I cut 3mm deep. And I’m wondering if I can replace a bit of cutting mat. The mat is about 2.7, so 3mm deep. If I can find a thicker a bit of velchromat, cut down 6mm instead of 3, aand then machine out a few bits of cutting mat that I can slot in, I think that should last a lot longer.   These are the vector files for the card cradling side of the cutting jig – I will inlay cutting mats, which I’ve offset and cut 0.25mm smaller of the pocket area clear in the valchromat. This should help the die cutter last a lot longer.   If you have ever played cards with a pensioner, you might notice that they tend to lick their finger to pick up or place cards. At one point, most playing cards came without a plastic finish to them which would have made soaking them into a papier-mâché kebab walking stick, a little more easier.   So that’s the die cutter, the cutting/creasing former and the playing cards alignment jig. All of which make a boring little task, a bit quicker to perform, and something that can be done in small stages between the inescapable responsibilities, most of us must perform in our lives. In the next video I will look for the playing card that fell onto the floor.   If you found this video interesting or fun, sacrifice a thumb, and leave a comment down below – it’ll keep the algorithm gods happy, coz I think they hate me now.