Card Shark

Madison, Ind.'s Snell shows his
creative mind with his creations

The retiree makes cars, trucks, tractors
and more out of playing cards

July 2021) – This area of the country certainly has many different art forms. In the June edition of RoundAbout, a story discussed the Art Walk in Vevay that featured artists with different styles of painting, a potter with her own unique approach to shaping clay and a wood turner who could take a gnarly piece of a tree and make it into a beautiful bowl. But it’s rare to find someone who may have invented his own art form.
Steve Snell is the artist, and he takes playing cards and makes them into various cars and other methods of transportation. Snell, who has lived in Madison all his life, is a retired heavy equipment operator. He spent many years working for Nugent Sand and Gravel Co., which has a large quarry along the Ohio River between Milton and Carrollton, Ky. Digging in a gravel pit may not seem like an exciting occupation, but Snell has had some experiences that few people have ever had, like uncovering Mastodon bones and teeth. He even brought a bone home, but like the species itself, it seems to have disappeared.

Photo by Ben Newell

Madison, Ind., resident Steve Snell shows off some of his unique creations that he makes from playing cards.

When the 71-year-old Snell retired three years ago, he found he needed something to do. While fiddling around with a playing card, he found that he could fold it into something like a car. Intrigued, he continued to work on his creations until they began to look better and better. “I just started with the playing cards and then began using whatever I could find around the house to finish them out,” Snell said. “My daughter’s cheap jewelry became lights for cars. Silver plastic forks are used for bumpers and other chrome parts.”
Once they are painted black, he found that plastic twist-off bottle caps make great wheels.
After each project is painted, it is given a layer of Clear Coat to make it shine. Continuing with the idea of using things around the house, Snell discovered that he can shape his grandson’s PlayDo into anything he needs and then bake it in the micro-wave. It comes out hard, and with a little paint and glue, it becomes part of his models.
Because of the details in these replicas, at first glance you might think that these are the plastic kits that one can buy in a store. That idea is soon adjusted as soon as you pick one up and find that it is lightweight, and when you turn one over, you might discover an ace of spades. Snell’s grandson found out the hard way that these replicas can’t be “zoomed” across the floor like normal toys.
While he started with cars, Snell’s facsimiles soon expanded to many types of vehicles and even scenery. A wide assortment of cars, trucks, motorcycles, heavy equipment and trains adorn his temporary kitchen table display case.

Photo by Ben Newell

Pictured above are samples of Steve Snell's creations.

“Lately, I have been making a lot of trains. I can make a full train with a variety of cars or just the locomotives. When I had my display downtown at the Jefferson County Historical Museum, I did a lot of cabooses, like the real one they have on display in front of the museum.”
Snell claims that if he sticks with it, he can do a project in about a day’s time.
Snell takes a lot of pride in his work and was especially proud that his re-creation of a Harley Davidson motorcycle has ended up in the hands of one of the famous company’s owners in Australia.
“I can make just about anything,” claims Snell. “So if you want a replica of that special car, truck or boat, just give me a call, and I’ll see if I can do it for you.”
You can contact Snell at (812) 274-9482 or (812) 599-5043.

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