One of the things that can get overlooked in a project like this is how the heck one is going to package it. The package is the first thing that the proud new parent is going to see, and be the way that it is displayed in there collection.
Boxes are hard.
It’s no small task to source makers as one fines out. Most places you are able to get cards printed through do offer some kind of box service. Unfortunately 98% of the time the boxes are geared to playing card decks of 52 cards. This does the 36 card Lenormand designer no real good at all. There are options out there though, even more in the two years since The Pixie Lenormand came out. For my first deck I ended up hand cutting all 400 boxes. It would take me about 20min to cut and fold each box. Let me tell you, the charm of cutting them wore off after a while so this time I looked into some of the new options out there.
The first issue is getting a box that is the right size. This involves the need to have an early mock up of the finished deck. Even though there are still a few cards left to draw I know that this process can add up to 6 weeks to the production time of a deck so I wanted to get this started now. I have samples of the cards wondering around here so I know the exact thickness of the card stock. For this it’s just a matter of stacking 37 in a pile and taking measurements. Then I have to take the exact paper that I am going to be using as an insert and fold it over enough times to replicate the correct thickness of the final item and take a measurement at the end that is folded since that will be a bit thicker then the open end.
I have taken this measurement so many times right now I swear my ruler thinks I’m an idiot. Most decks need to be measured in either sixteenths of a inch or in millimeters. It’s a process getting the thickness right. Thing is, if you make the box to tight then people will rip it getting the cards out, and if it’s to thick then it will get crushed either in shipping or just by simply storing it with other decks. This is kind of like the little black dress moment in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It needs to fit just right.
I could go the little bag route, but truth be told I’m never a fan of decks that are sold in just a generic cloth bag. That’s not to say I don’t love be a good little deck bag, but unless the material that the bag is made out of truly reflects the tone and character of the deck I’m not a big supporter of that method. I do understand why people go for it thought because the box route can be a pain in the butt.
Now the second issue is price. In the past the only way to get a box made at a local printer was to find one that would make what is called a die template. You can go with your measurements and they then make a special die cut template to use for your project. These produce wonderful professional boxes that are scored and cut so clean and neat. The big issue here is the price. A custom die can run a couple hundred dollars on the low end up to over a thousand. This is a huge stumbling block because most people think about getting up the couple hundred dollars to just get the cards printed now you have to add several more just to get a simple piece of card stock to wrap around it. When ever I get an artist deck that comes in a box I treat that box like gold because I know that just by adding that box they have added so much to the cost of that deck.
Even print on demand places are very expensive to have this done though. If you have a deck done through The Game Crafters and want a box it is adding $2.79 to the cost of your box. Think about that, $2.79. So the cards might have a cost of $10 to print but that box upped the cost of making that deck by almost a third. Now the deck goes from $20 on sale to $26 at the store level. A BIG difference. And all for something that most people put off to the side and don’t really think much of. This option was not around when I was doing my first deck and since I was already a couple grand in the red getting the 400 decks printed the thought of adding a little over $1100 more for a box still would not have been an option for me.
Are you getting to see how even just sourcing a box can keep a designer up at night? And the box isn’t even designed yet!
Designing the box is fun. Real fun. I secretly have a fetish for boxes. I love boxes. My husband, Scott, always teases me because we’ll be in some home store and they will have a section of boxes and I’m over there just drooling about what I might be able to put in side them. So designing the box is my happy place. For this deck I already knew the elements I wanted to have on the box so really the actual design on it was not long in happening. A few test boxes are printed here at home and are set off to the side. Then in a day or two I come back to the project with fresh eyes and see which one I like best. Pictures of it are sent to a few close friends, The Tribunal Sisters, and input is given as to if it works. Tribunal Sister Molly corrects the spelling and grammar for me before the final file is made.
I was still dreading the thought of needing to cut boxes when into the picture walks a unlikely savior to this whole project: my brother. Michael is a computer programer and part time game designer up in The Twin Cities. (He’s single all you Twin City ladies.) He just got himself a nifty little laser cutter and his bank got themselves a nifty little loan. For him it’s his way of being able to cut out the game tokens that he uses in the things he develops. He’s looking at soon starting up a small business cutting things like this for the gaming community. I asked him wether this would be able to cut boxes and he said yes!! So just this past weekend he was down visiting and we hashed out the details: timeline, quantity and cost per box. I told him that if this goes well I will be carrying the banner of his new venture into the tarot world because it’s a very reasonable price on a professionally cut box. I could plotz I’m so excited about not having to cut boxes ever again. Even the designs for the Lenormand de Marseille got into the pipe because..ohh man.. I… its…. I’ll just say that is’t going to be magnifico.
How this works is he sends me a file the size of the sheet I’m using that is blank except for 5 dots on it. These dots must always be visible because those are punched out and fitted onto the pegs of a wood template. I can do anything I want so long as I give him 3 test sheets with the cut lines drawn on them to give him copies to practice on. So my weekend has been to get the boxes correctly sized on his template. He needs a 500th of an inch bleed over so giving a 1/8 inch over on my box design is more then enough for him.
Believe it or not this is an almost full day process. Rebuilding the box on his template takes a few hours and then fitting multiple boxes on a page. Today I get to go to my local printer and get the boxes printed for him. I’ll get a page printed and then cut one out to be sure that the sizing is correct before giving them the go ahead to do a bulk printing. I’ll send them up and once they get back to me I’ll be able to varnish them and fold on score lines to make, what I hope to be, amazing little boxes for this project. There is way more going on that I hope to be able to share with you soon.