Custom Commissions

In the world of playing cards, the term "custom" is often used, usually meaning that a deck has been changed from the traditional, century-old design but is still mass-produced. Sometimes, "custom" can mean more than that, and in this case for our first Custom Commission we created a hand made, completely customized deck experience for a special client.

When I was at the 52PlusJoker convention in Vegas, I talked with a serious collector that was looking for something unique. Along with a wide variety of other decks, he had a particular passion to collect items with a camel motif on them and after seeing my Aurum decks and the Deco Personal Edition he wondered if we could design something special for him.

After a few discussions, we arrived at a design that I felt was possible to produce and he commissioned me to make about 40 decks for him. We picked a few custom paper colors for the tucks and decided that the Bee Diamond Back was a great choice for the interior. The Bee has a simple pattern that would make the die cut pop, and came in two colors to nicely contrast with the boxes and provide the option for a "poker set". While I don't think these decks will get played with, it was a nice little design option to include.

To produce these, I started with some camel clipart and redrew it completely, simplifying the curves and arriving at a form that was possible to cut out. Even with the simplifications it proved to be a great challenge to produce cleanly. At the size of a tuck box, almost any details become quite small. My cutting machine struggled a bit until I came across the perfect combination of settings, and while I did have a high percentage of rejects the final decks came out wonderfully.

The production process is actually quite involved. I first had to create the art and lay that out on my existing cutting template for the USPCC standard tuck box (seen above). This was printed through my laser printer, including special alignment marks that the cutter's optical scanner would use to align the cuts.

After mounting this print to the cutting board, I first ran a pass that cut all the score lines for the tuck and made a preliminary pass through the artwork. With this cut complete, I realigned everything, changed cutting heads and performed the actual cut. This was done in two passes to ensure as much as possible that it properly got all the way through the thick tuck papers. This was the dangerous phase, as the small details in the camel quite easily tore.

With the tuck properly cut, I then hand-folded the box carefully on the score lines and glued it together. The cards were inserted and then I used my cellophane sealer to do the final wrap.

As you can see, there are a lot of steps and it took a lot of trial and error to arrive at the best solutions. This project was an excellent chance to refine the entire customized deck process and as with most things, it got much easier with practice and each iteration. With my particular setup I now have the option to do fully printed designs and even foil, though that obviously adds even more steps. (Experimental holographic foil signatures are quite pretty though, aren't they?)

I love pursuing new ideas and this particular one is quite special I think. The possibilities are limited only by imagination and time and who knows what might be possible down the road.