Lunch boxes are great for carrying lunches in, but not so great for hauling around Magic cards. Here’s an easy do-it-yourself project to convert a metal lunch box into the ultimate collectible card game road case.
A few weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast sent out these sweet Scars of Mirrodin lunch boxes (with two preconstucted decks and a stack of booster packs inside). As far as I can tell, these were sent out as promotional items to press and website owners, but you can still make this project without it using any standard-sized metal lunch box. There are tons of excellent ones out there — hell, they’re a collectible hobby all by themselves.
The first thing I noticed when I started planning this project was that the inside of the box is not only not compartmentalized (so your cards would just fall into a big pile), but there are metal pokey bits that could do serious damage to the cards.
Step 1. Cover the bottom with felt. You can find single pieces of self-adhesive felt at craft stores for less than $1. I marked the size of the box, cut the felt to shape, and rounded off the corners. Then I stuck it down – if you don’t get the size perfect, it’s not a problem, since the edges will be covered later.
Step 2. Cut the inner framework out of foam core. I’d pondered a lot of different materials for lining the inside before my wife suggested foam core. It’s inexpensive, very easy to cut and work with, lightweight, and protects the cards well. You’ll need a good metal ruler, a sharp hobby knife and a pen or pencil for marking cuts. Measure the dimensions of the box and the height of the cards — I used a regular cardboard card box for a guideline on how much extra clearance around the size of the cards was needed. For cards lying on their sides, each piece needed to be 2 7/8 inches high. The long dimension of the box was about 8 1/2″, and the front-to-back dimension was about 6 1/2″. Just remember: measure twice, cut your opponent’s deck before presenting it as sufficiently randomized.
The key to cutting foam core is making three cuts. First you cut the top paper layer, making sure to hold the ruler steady and pressing the blade against the ruler so it doesn’t deviate. Then cut through the foam, and on your final pass, cut the bottom paper layer. This will give you the neatest, crispest cuts.
Step 3. Press fit the pieces into the box. The key is to cut them about a quarter inch longer than you think you need. Foam core is flexible and will bend into place somewhat. You’ll still need to trim off a little more to get the right fit, but this is obviously much easier than cutting a piece too short. If you trim them down until they just fit, the four pieces will actually be very secure with no gluing at all. They’ll wedge in against the sides of the box and each other quite tightly.
Step 4. The center divider between the two rows of cards is made up of two more lengths of foam core glued together. Once dry, this section was glued into place using glue along the sides and bottom. I used craft glue (like Elmer’s, but a little better). Glue sparingly, since you don’t want excess glue where you’ll be putting cards. Use a cotton swab to clean up any extra glue. Measurement is important here, since you want to slide the divider into the right place in the center. It should also fit tightly. By the time this was dry (roughly one hour), I could pick up the whole box by the center divider and it didn’t budge.
This box will fit 500 cards in sleeves. There’s enough space that you can thumb through them or grab a section without too much trouble, but it’s tight enough that they don’t flop around too much, as you can see below.
Step 5. Take a piece of high density, stiff foam and cut it to size to fill in the top of the box. I had some sections of this stuff leftover from the packing materials for a computer monitor. I was able to cut it by carefully using a hobby knife and a large kitchen knife.
I cut it slightly large, but being foam it squishes into place and stays there very neatly. The notch at the top is so you can stick a finger in to pry the foam out. Otherwise, it made it a bit challenging to get at your cards. With the foam in place, you can close the box, latch it, and carry around and the cards don’t bounce around at all.
If you want to use this as a tournament case, you can easily glue or just press fit additional sections of foam core to make partitions for decks, sections for dice and counters, extra sleeves, your DCI card or whatever else you need.
I am personally using this box to store my Cube in. If you know what a Cube is, you’re probably smiling and nodding. If you don’t, all will be explained next week.