Upcycle Final Report: House of Cards

For my project I welded a house of cards out of metal and then pasted cards to the metal to give the illusion of it being a regular house of cards. The aesthetic I was going for is the casino aesthetic. Bright colored cards, different suits represented, and My inspiration was basic house of cards and its figurative meaning. A house of cards represents something that is very difficult to achieve and very vulnerable at the same time. I enjoy this concept because one of my hobbies is counting cards and that is very well represented by a house of cards. It takes meticulous planning and practice to master but at this point my house of cards is made of steel just like this project.

My vision for this project was to create a house of cards that appeared to be a normal house of cards, but was impossible to knock down. I wanted to find metal that was thin enough to remain unnoticed, while still being able to be welded. I wanted red cards to be used because that is the color most often found in casinos. I wanted some of my greatest moments of counting somehow represented in the piece. I was able to accomplish all of these goals with a few iterations of my design.


My ideal design process was clean and simple, but in real life it got a little messier. The metal I originally wanted to use was far too thick, it would have been much more obvious than I would have liked. Then, the 26 gauge steel that I used was just thick enough to weld, with much difficulty. No matter what thickness I used, it was going to cause issues. Then, the design had to be supported from the bottom, so I had to make a plate and weld it to that, which makes it very obvious that it is not just a house of cards, but I was able to effectively integrate some of my artistic goals with that plate.

There were many steps needed for me to create my artifact. First, I had to gather the materials, a deck of cards, sheet metal, and adhesive. Second, I had to practice welding on thin metal. I used a MIG set that a friend of mine has in his garage. Third, I used a set of metal shears to cut the metal into 2.5” x 3.5” rectangles, the size of a standard playing card. Fourth, I used a grinder to smooth all of the edges of the metal pieces and round the corners so that they would be hidden under the cards and the metal would be easier to weld. Fifth, I did some calculations to design a jig that would be used to ensure that all of the triangles that I welded with the cards would be at an identical 40-degree angle. This jig was cut from a spare piece of wood. Sixth, I used the jig to hold the metal cards in place and I welded 3 “v” shaped pieces. Seventh, I welded two of them together to make an “M” or a “W” depending on how you look at it. Eighth, I made a plate that was 5” x 7”, double the dimensions a standard card and welded the “M” to it. Ninth, I took the single plate and welded it across the top of the “M”. Tenth, I welded the final “V” to the top. Eleventh, I used the cards to make the house of cards appear to be normal and placed cards around the base to represent the best hands I had ever played.

The only functional goals I had were that it looked like a regular house of cards at first glance, and it remained upright without falling apart. I achieved both of these goals.

My artistic goals were to create something that represented one of my favorite hobbies, counting cards in blackjack while using a casino aesthetic. I achieved this while adding a lot of subtle details that hit home for me. The undersides of the cards were left as metal because card counting is very easy to spot, if you know what you are looking for. The cards that were glued to the fronts of the metal pieces were all face cards and aces, the combination of cards needed to get a blackjack, and the base was covered in some of the greatest hands of blackjack I had ever won, archived in my house of cards. I would say that my original goals were surpassed with this artifact.

My plans for continuing with this artifact is to add the best hand of blackjack I win with each trip to the base of the house for the rest of the semester. This will serve as a story of card counting for the semester that card counting paid for. In the last semester I earned enough money with the system to pay for all of my classes and tuition for this semester.






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14 Comments. Leave new

  • Jack Wheeler
    May 9, 2017 9:47 pm

    It was really interesting to see each step of your design process and how it played into a really cool final project! The idea of a house of cards sculpture is something that really speaks to the gambling aesthetic well. At that size, I could also see it being something that a lot of people would want to keep in their house as a small piece of artwork or a decoration. Really cool project!

  • Kira Sadighi
    March 1, 2017 9:26 am

    Hi Levi, nice project, I’d be interested to know if it actually stays in your house as a decorative piece. I liked the idea, because I think it was really original. Your presentation was a little out of focus because you focused more on card counting than on the object you made (although the class seemed most interested in that). Overall, good job.

  • Dean Alibrandi
    March 1, 2017 1:44 am

    I thought it was very interesting how you had a personal connection to “playing cards” and as a result it added a personal touch to your project. It really gave your project some additional backstory besides the very clever idea to make an indestructible house of cards. I enjoy the irony in this project because if you have ever tried to build a house cards you would soon wish you could weld them together to make them stand up properly. Nice job and nice presentation!

  • I really like the symbolism that sculpture represents. It tells multiple stories that many people would not see at an initial glance. The extra info on card counting was really cool too. I also really appreciate the craftsmanship. Nice Job

  • This is a cool idea and I like the fact that a regular house of cards should be able fall over but instead you added a metal frame to support them so they wouldn’t fall over. I’m impressed with your welding skills (and your blackjack skills) and was excited to see the finished product. Are you planning on expanding your house of cards at all? Also, what kind of adhesive did you use to attach the cards to the metal? Great job!

  • Scott Lowenstein
    February 19, 2017 10:49 pm

    What a cool project! I love the symbolical parallels you pointed out between the physical nature of a house of cards being simultaneously difficult to create and a vulnerable structure, compared to your interest in the fragile nature of card counting. I suspect that akin to the metal card structure’s resiliency, so is your ability to careful control the card counting process. What a process it was to create this piece! I am impressed with the both the complexity, and your ability to achieve such a polished final result. It sounds like you were able to get the structure looking how you imagined the first time around, which is quite impressive especially considering the difficult nature of welding such thin pieces of metal. If you were to create this piece again, are there any steps you would have handled differently? I am excited to see what hands you’s end up attaching to the structure! You did an awesome job outlining your process in the report, and explaining your inspirations and methods!

  • From first glance, I couldn’t even see that you used sheet metal to help support the house! I think that was a great addition, especially considering that whenever I have tried to make a house out of cards, they always fall with any wrong movement on my part. I also like you tried to make it more aesthetic by making it look like a casino table. Good job!

  • Katherine Yarnell
    February 17, 2017 1:12 pm

    This is really cool! When I first saw it I didn’t realize that there were metal sheets underneath it. I really like that there are reasons to the cards you choose to display, it makes the final product seem more personalized and unique. If you ever decide to remake this, it might be cool if you hide the metal on the bottom completely to add to the illusion. Learning a bit about card counting was really interesting, my sister’s boyfriend is always acting me to join his card counting team (that doesn’t exist yet) so I enjoyed learning more about it. It was smart to use a jig to produce the same shape each time. Your report read well, I really appreciated the images included in the report. Maybe for the next project you can take some images during the building process so we can see it come together. Really great job on the project!

  • I love how personal this project was for you. It’s one of your hobbies and you showed your favorite hands, a nice touch. I think it would have been nicer if it had been bigger or more complex. Because you have a support structure there isn’t anything stopping you from going big !

  • I really like all of the thought that went into this project. At first glance it seems as though the cards that were on display were chosen at random but the deeper meaning to them added much more to the project. As shown in your presentation I believe that you achieved all of the goals that you set out to meet. Great work on this project

  • Faisal Al Balushi
    February 17, 2017 12:15 pm

    I really like that you put one of your hobbies to your project. The fact that the cards are set in a way that the winning blackjack are faced down. Really interesting! Great job

  • I like all the metaphorical features you added to this, and all the personal touches. The metal work looks great, I think the fixturing of the cards could have been done a little more neatly. Also going with your casino aesthetic, I think some more intricate designs in the metal, or maybe a more flashy type of metal. But I do enjoy the thought you put into all the metaphors and meaningful tokens you added to this. Good work friend!

  • I love how personal the project was. It stands on its own as an art piece, and your explanation of how the cards displayed were winning hands you had played was very neat. The steel isn’t obvious and to the untrained eye it does look like its made of cards.

  • This is a really cool optical illusion that you made. I had to start reading your report before I even noticed that the cards were on a metal frame, so your trick does work. It might have been cool to put green felt on the base of the structure to add even more to the aesthetic and the trick by making the bottom of the house of cards look like it is on a casino table. I was wondering how you got the cards to stick to the metal? Gorilla Glue? A spray adhesive? Also, did you just cut a card up and glue it on for the base of the second level? Overall, great job.


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