2 sheets of 8” x 10” polycarbonate @ 0.093” thick ($4.24 ea). Acrylic would have been cheaper, but that was the only stuff available in the size I needed at that hardware store.
1/4” nuts & bolts:
- 2 x 3/4” bolts
- 2 x 3” bolts
I aim to have enough room to display five cards, but with larger sheets I can fit in more cards (a joker, a double backer, etc.). In order to display the tuck, I bolt on a smaller, tuck-sized sheet at one corner of the larger sheets:
The larger display with tuck was sized so that I could get two displays out of a single sheet of 20” x 32” 0.093” thick acrylic ($15). The display as photographed, however, had 1/8” thick large sheets and 1/16” tuck sheet. (See below for the shop’s “inability to follow directions.”)
- 2 sheets of 14” x 10” acrylic (or 13” x 11.5” for something that’ll fit in a medium flat-rate USPS box)
- 1 sheet of 4” x 5” acrylic
- 2 x 3/4” bolts (the upper corners)
- 3 x 1-1/2” bolts (all corners of the tuck, except for the bottom, outside corner)
- 1 x 3” bolt (“foot” opposite the tuck)
- 1 x 4” bolt (“foot” at the corner of the tuck)
The bolts are from the hardware store bulk bins, but I got some nylon washers and nuts so that there’ll be less marring of the acrylic. (Ebay, ~$9 for 100 of each, shipped.) Not that it would likely make a difference, since the bolt/nut is going to cover any scrapes they make when the display is assembled. When buying the bolts, especially if it’s from a bin, check to see if the threads are marred. Trying to screw a nylon nut over non-aligned threads is a pain. Going over it with a metal nut, or sheer brute force, will often straighten the threads out, but save yourself the trouble in the first place. It’s extra annoying on the long bolts if the threads near the head of the bolt are screwy and you don’t discover it until you’ve already spent forever spinning the nut.
Given that the prevailing stereotype of collectors is to never even take decks out of the cello, I assume that this purported majority will have no interest in this display. Anyone who’s willing to open up a deck can weigh the risks of damage/exposure himself. The most risk I see is in the holding of the tuck. With some cards removed, there’s potential that over-tightening will distort the tuck, especially at the corners. I probably wouldn’t use this display on super rare decks, but there’s really nothing in my personal collection that I wouldn’t just open up and play with the cards.
- You may be able to find fabricators who can do the job for you for a reasonable price. Despite my pride at being pretty handy/crafty, I ended up going this route because (1) it’s shedding season and there’s two long-haired and one short-haired cat in the house, (2) the largest flat surface available has a curved edge, making it less suitable for snapping the plastic once scored, and (3) the ratty old drill I have is not really good for getting perpendicular holes.
- The quotes from fabricators to cut and drill the display varied enormously, and few of them addressed all the information I asked for (est. price for 1, 3, 10 units, and est. shipping to my zip code). It ranged from $80 to $15 per display, but most were in the $45 range. (Not including shipping.)
- When requesting quotes, I noticed some pretty frustratingly high shipping prices. I re-designed the dimensions so that the display sheets can be loaded in to a medium flat-rate USPS box (box: 13-5/8” x 11-7/8” x 3-3/8”). The modified dimensions only affect the large sheets: 13” x 11-1/2”, rather than 14” x 10”.
- Be aware of the price/quality balance if you opt for outsourcing the fabrication. I went with a local shop that had low prices, along with a marked inability to follow directions. They managed to completely screw up the project on their first attempt: got the orientation of the tuck sideways, the tuck sheet was half the thickness it needed to be (if anything, one of the large sheets could have been 1/16” but not the small sheet!), they made a single unit when I requested two units, and the holes were drilled too big. But then again, with a rate so much lower than any of the other quotes, I went into it expecting less-than-stellar quality. If I went with quantities of 10+, the laser cutting shop would have been in a similar price range, but it would have been about double the price at the lower quantities. At least I was given a 30% discount on the screwed up display: I can use it to display a horizontal tuck. (But I don’t have one worth displaying yet.)
- Acrylic brand names include: Lucite, Perspex, and Plexiglas (single “s”). They’re all the same thing: polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).
- Extruded plastic is much cheaper than cast plastic. For my purposes, extruded was fine.
- Anti-glare and UV-resistant coatings greatly increase the price of the plastic. I opted not to go for them. The next step up, if I wanted to go fancier, would be using specialty plastics for the front and tuck panels, skimping on the back panel.
- Acrylic is great to cut with a laser cutter (bonus: beautiful edges without routing/sanding/polishing), but polycarbonate is best cut with a water jet. CNC/saws work fine on either.
- Plastic sheets (both acrylic and polycarbonate) cut fairly easily. A plastic cutter ($4-7) simply scores a groove, and then you snap it along the groove. The most difficult parts are maintaining a straight score, and not accidentally scraping something you shouldn’t. It’s much easier and forgiving than cutting glass, but very similar principles apply. (Though the plastic is not going to separate along the full length of the score all at once like glass will when you use a grozer.)
- The stuff also sands easily. 300 grit sandpaper and a bit of elbow grease will smooth out jagged edges/sharp corners.
- I’d like to mill off a lot of the threading on the longer bolts. I found it tedious to spin the darn nut all the way up/down a long bolt when I only need the top inch or so threaded
- I’d personally prefer to use standoffs rather than bolts, though, if the cost weren’t astronomically higher. The bolts do emphasize the DIY nature of these displays, and I’m proud of that, but the minimalist nature of the displays would look much slicker with steel/aluminum standoffs. (Also awesomer with a cable suspension display.)
- Perhaps using significantly thicker plastic would allow more interesting routing of the edges. A pronounced bevel may look good. But that also means the edges need to be much cleaner, and I don’t have a blowtorch here but I don’t want to pay the extra for flame-polishing.
- Plastic sheets often come with a paper or film covering.
- When bolting everything together, I had to remove the coverings on the inside faces. All faces that I could still access from the outside I left protected until the unit was fully assembled. I did peel up the corner under the tuck, but only enough to clear the tuck: I left the rest of that film on until final clean up. The film was easy enough to stretch, so once everything was bolted together, I started peeling the film off. When I reached a bolt, I gently loosened it and stretched the plastic film over the head, re-tightened the bolt, and continued peeling.
- Removing the paper/film will often create a ton of static electricity. This’ll attract dust/fur. It also makes the cards stick to the surface of the plastic when laying them out. On the smaller polycarbonate display (which I assembled in winter), the cards practically leaped out of my hands and on to the sheet due to the static. I had opted to skip the “get in the bathroom and run the shower for a few minutes to de-dust and de-static the room” method. I have enough problems with the cards warping in the ambient humidity.
- Anti-static guns exist.
- Anti-static guns are expensive.
- Oh. That weird brush with radioactivity warnings on the box I found in the library storeroom years ago was an anti-static brush. Too bad I didn’t keep it. The ones without polonium don’t work very well.
- Theoretically, the bolts don’t need to be too tight, since there’s so much surface area in contact between all the layers. Unfortunately the larger sheets may bow, making it harder to maintain enough pressure on the cards (especially towards the center) to keep them in place if moved around/jostled. If left on a shelf, it should be fine, though. The smaller display has shown no signs of letting the cards shift.
- I wonder if introducing a slightly concave bow to the larger sheets of acrylic will make it hold the cards more securely at the center.
- Are there other ways to introduce a little extra pressure/holding power?
- Would more precise cutting of sheets/holes reduce/eliminate the issue? (I.e., how much of the gap was exacerbated/created by the less-than-accurate fabrication?)
- I haven’t quite come up with a good solution yet, but making sure the bolts are not loose, especially the one on the tuck closest to the center of the display, can help.
- This means that the small sheet of plastic needs to be pretty stiff. 1/16” will flex if the bolts are tightened. A small bit of flex, though, isn’t really noticeable.
- Maybe relocating the tuck to the center of the display (or, at least, centered along the bottom edge) would introduce enough bolting pressure at the middle of the larger sheets to maintain adequate pressure along all surfaces. I’m not sure I like that, though, since it introduces more holes and bolts. It might look too cluttered.
- In order to neatly arrange the cards, I made a template that I could print and lay under the display sheet. The template was made in CAD to ensure precise rotation, placement, spacing etc. I placed everything so that the template could be printed on standard letter sized paper, even though the display is bigger than 8.5” x 11”. In theory, if I aligned the printed template with the bottom left corner, all the cards would have their outlines visible, at least in part, on the template. Due to discrepancies in printer margins, though, I found that it took a bit of tweaking to get the sizing and placement right. All in all, this made it much easier to arrange the cards in a symmetrical/regular pattern than just eyeballing things. (Though I did wing it for the placement of the Ace/Joker, but even then it was centered to the display and at the same level as the tuck and double-backer.)
- Using a small weight to hold cards as I placed them in the right place helped prevent shifting what I’d already done. I had some small cubes of wood (1”, or so), a tube of chapstick, and an eraser employed to keep things in place as I went along. Even a (metal) nut or two did a good job stabilizing the cards. I placed the weights vertically where possible to minimize touching of the cards, and to make it easier to pick up the weights.
- If placed on a stable surface, the display will also stand upright without leaning on the bolts at all. It’s not precisely rock-solid when balanced like that, but in a house without pets/small children/earthquakes, it’ll probably stay up.
I’ve always loved the look of cable/rod suspension systems. It would be interesting to do a two-sided cable/rod suspension with multiple displays.
With more horizontal space, a checkerboard pattern might work to display more decks (two columns sharing one cable/rod between them). I’d have to figure out how to attach the displays to the cables/rods, though. The pre-fab hardware doesn’t look like it’ll integrate with the design as it stands, currently: it’ll be a problem near the tuck. If, however, I extend one (or both) of the larger sheets horizontally, then the hardware can be attached to the margins. It looks kind of cluttered, though, to have the bolts and the hardware attaching things to the cables. If the displays are light enough that a single pair of fasteners towards the top is sufficient, then the top two bolts could be reconfigured to be the points of attachment. If the cable is thin enough, I can just drill holes through the lower bolts to accommodate the cable.