Project: Card Divider

Leather Card Sorter

If you’re a fan of tabletop games, you’ve probably run into the same problem we did, in that some games have lots of fiddly bits that take up valuable table space. This is usually solved with small storage containers (may I recommend Altoids tins?) or something, but what do you do with all the cards in some games? Settlers of Catan: Cities and Knights has 12 piles of cards, and by the first roll of the dice they end up looking like this:


The solution to this is the Card Divider. I had to run an errand on game night one Sunday and returned to find the rest of the gang halfway through a game, and realized we really had to do something with the cards. Inspiration struck, and a few minutes rummaging turned up a cardboard box and a roll of packing tape. A few minutes of concentrated hacking later, and I had the Mark I, as seen here next to the Mark II:

Leather card sorter and prototype

Now, as I said, SoC:C&K has piles and piles of cards, so the wife took my idea and translated it into this fine wooden box below, all set to play:

Leather and wood card sorters

The leather version is mainly just a lot of bends. My groover got quite the workout – as a matter of fact, I had to hack my groover to get it to make consistent cuts – there was too much slop in the adjustment screw, so I crammed a few strips from a soda can in to take up the slack. Here’s the raw parts:


At the top we have front and back views of the end caps. I should note here that these particular end caps are the wrong size; I somehow completely borked my measurements and had to make two new ones later on.

I also have front and back views of the dividers. When folded, it’s an inverted V with little tabs coming off, and those tabs get sewn to an underlying strip that later gets dropped into the box and glued to the bottom. I glued some chopped-off tongue depressors on the vertical portion to make sure they didn’t buckle. I’m not sure if it was really needed, but there you are.

The last piece here is the main body of the box – you can see where I’ve grooved the backside, and those tabs on the end get folded in and glued to the endcaps in the final construction.

Here we have progress on the carving:



And yes, I screwed up one of the gear windows and ended up just hammering the whole part with a backgrounder. Of course, the color found all the cut lines so you can see them quite nicely in the final product. Gah!

Color by Eco-Flow Saddle Tan. This is the gel color, and I’m quite pleased with the results. I still haven’t figured out how red = tan, but that’s another story. Since I colored the inside as well, the final step of the coloring process was to seal all the inside edges to make sure none of the color ever transferred off to the cards. For that, I used Fiebing’s Tan-Kote. I used a disposable foam brush to apply it, and the product managed to lift a trace of the color back off the leather and streak it around a bit, which was not my intent, but it gives the hint of a wodgrain effect in the end. Might be something to play around with later on in another project.


I didn’t get any progress shots while stitching the dividers to the backing (or even one of that part finished), but here’s part of the process of attaching the endcaps. Random bits of wood are your friend! I cut a chunk of 2×6 down to size and cut the ends off at a 45 degree angle to stuff into the corner while stitching.


It probably took me an hour to agonize over whether the thread should be white, brown or black before I started sewing. I settled on white to give it a touch of contrast. In the end, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out, but there will be a Mark III sometime in the future. There is going to be an adjustment in the divider measurements to get a larger space between the ramp of one and the upright of the next – this one gets a little crowded with larger piles of cards and they don’t lay smoothly. I will also make the dividers out of a single long piece of leather instead of the separate components I used in this model. This will make sewing it together simpler, but it means that my measurements had better be spot-on for the next one.

I will also be using a less-intricate pattern for the side decoration. The gears look cool, but man they were a bitch to carve!

Here’s one last shot of the final project from the other side:

Completed leather card sorter withCards

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