How to Build the Best Card Houses

house of cards

Source: Pixabay

It's something we've all tried: building a house of cards. Sooner or later, these flimsy structures always collapse, but getting them to stand up, at least for a short time, can bring hours of fun. For most of us, a house of cards is just a quick diversion. However, for some people, this is a serious business, with the most successful card stackers building ornate replicas of real-life monuments. You might never reach that level but we can all learn a little more about how to keep our houses of cards upright for longer.

The Basics of Cardstacking

There's really only one rule involved in building a house of cards: only use cards. Glue, sticky tape, or anything else that will help your cards stay together is definitely not welcome. Just take a simple pack of playing cards - exactly the same type that you would use to play blackjack - and start building. You'll probably start out exactly the same way as most people, with a pyramid structure. Architects will tell you that triangles are a particularly strong shape, and it shows here. The key is to balance your cards evenly to ensure that they stay upright and to use a delicate touch when placing each subsequent level. Like a game of Jenga, each new movement could destabilize the entire tower, so a steady hand and patience will be needed.

I'm Still Standing

How can you keep your cards standing upright? There are a few basic tips and tricks to get you started. First, ensure that your surface is completely level. You may find it easier to build on the floor than on a table, which may have a wobbly leg. Shut all the doors and windows to prevent any kind of breeze from disturbing your tower, and if you have pets (or kids!) keep them out of the room for now. Secondly, check your cards. A house of cards relies on a certain degree of friction to stay upright. Glossy finishes can be super slippery, so you'll want to avoid them if possible. Brand new cards may slip and slide all over the place but on the other hand, old cards that are bent or folded - even slightly - spell disaster. Look for a happy medium. Finally, take it slow and accept that you will have to start over, perhaps many times. This is a skill, not a talent, so nobody is good at it in the beginning!

Champions of Cardstacking

Of course, those who stick with it can enjoy immense success with their record-breaking houses of cards. The biggest name in the cardstacking community is American Bryan Berg, holder of four Guinness World Records. This trained architect makes a living from building spectacular reconstructions of buildings. His 2010 recreation of the Las Vegas Venetian Macao hotel took 44 days and contained over 218,000 cards. Let's be honest: most of us will give up and use our cards for solitaire long before then!

cards stacked

Source: Pixabay

Cardstacking Sculptures at Home

The most basic design is a shallow pyramid made up of triangles. Each level contains one fewer triangle than the one below. Once you've mastered this, you can try to move into more complex designs. Want to know a secret? These are often sturdier than your standard pyramid because they demand a stronger base. Try this, for example: put two cards together to make a regular triangle. Then add two more, sloped the opposite way, so the open sides of your triangle are covered. You'll have a box shape, with four cards instead of two for sturdiness. You can also build a pyramid with a square base. Put rows of triangles at right angles to each other to create the bottom level, then continue in this way. You will have a larger, three-dimensional pyramid that is stronger than the basic house. Another technique to try out is making triangles from cards balanced horizontally, rather than vertically. These can be balanced on top of each other at right angles, for a stronger structure.

The wonderful thing? People are so used to seeing a very basic house of cards that even a slightly more complex structure will impress your friends. If you're stuck at home during quarantine, spend a bit of time developing your house of card skills, and get ready to show off!

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