So you have decided to invest in a poker chip case to store all of your poker chips. Before you get started, whether building the case yourself, or ordering a custom case from a third party, there are some things to consider that differentiate a quality poker chip case from just a plain wooden box.
Joinery is a part of woodworking that involves joining together pieces of wood, to create furniture, structures, toys, and other items. The characteristics of wooden joints - strength, flexibility, toughness, etc. - derive from the properties of the joining materials and from how they are used in the joints. Therefore, different joinery techniques are used to meet differing requirements. When designing a poker chip case, you have to take into account the weight of the chips, which can approach 50 lbs for a 1000 chip case. The joints have to be strong, or the case will fall apart under the weight of the chips.
Most pre-made cases bought on the market utilize a butt joint. A butt joint is a joinery technique in which two members are joined by simply butting them together. The butt joint is the simplest joint to make since it merely involves cutting the members to the appropriate length and butting them together. It is also the weakest because unless some form of reinforcement is used, it relies upon glue alone to hold it together. Because the orientation of the members usually present only end grain to long grain gluing surface, the resulting joint is inherently weak.
When building or ordering a custom chip case, you should avoid butt joints and use a something stronger, such as a dovetail joint. A dovetail joint is a joint technique frequently used in fine woodworking joinery. Noted for its resistance to being pulled apart (tensile strength), the dovetail joint is commonly used to join the sides of a drawer to the front. A series of pins cut to extend from the end of one board interlock with a series of tails cut into the end of another board. The pins and tails have a trapezoidal shape. Once glued, a wooden dovetail joint requires no mechanical fasteners.
Another simple and strong joint is the mortise and tenon joint, which has been used for thousands of years by woodworkers around the world to join pieces of wood. This is commonly used when the pieces are at an angle close to 90°. Although there are many variations on the theme, the basic idea is that the end of one of the members is inserted into a hole cut in the other member. The end of the first member is called the tenon, and it is usually narrowed with respect to the rest of the piece. The hole in the second member is called the mortise. The joint may be glued, pinned, or wedged to lock it in place.
Hardware for a poker chip case must also be durable. A variety of hinges and hardware are available, but you should avoid a stamped hinge, which is the weakest type of hinge. When building or ordering a custom case, there are a variety of hinges you may request.
A full length piano hinge is a long narrow hinge that runs the full length of the two surfaces to which its leaves are joined. This imparts additional strength to the hinge when a heavy solid wood lid is used.
Concealed Hinges are used for furniture doors (with or without self-closing feature, and with or without dampening systems). They are made of 2 parts: One part is the hinge cup and the arm; the other part is the mounting plate. They are also called Euro/cup hinges, and give a cleaner look to the case.
One thing to consider when choosing a finish for your wooden chip case, is to be sure to use Polyurethane or a non-soluble varnish that does not stain or seep into your chips. You should avoid any type of Oil finish such as Tung or Danish oil, as these oils can penetrate into clay chips over time.
The majority of poker chips are 39mm in size, however, large denomination chips, as well as chips based on the Paulson Inverted Hat and Cane mold, are 43mm size. Be certain that the chip trays are appropriately sized for the type of chips you have. If ordering a custom chip case, be sure to specify the size of your chips.
So when building or designing a custom wooden poker chip case to store your chips, remember to consider the type of joints, hinges, and finish used in the design of you case.