Clear acrylic display cases are one of the best ways to show your collectables, models, miniatures or similar items while protecting them from dust. However, one of the problems with acrylic display cases is that they tend to come in standard sizes and your item may not fit well inside of a standard-sized case. You can solve this problem by making a custom case that is designed to show your item in the best way possible.
Measure the item you want to display. A display case should be at least 2 inches larger than the item in height, width and length. For example, if you have a model car that is 5-inches long, 3-inches wide and 3-inches tall, your case should have two side panels that are 7-by-5 inches, two side panels that are 5-by-5 inches and a top panel that is 7-by-5 inches. Calculate the dimensions of your case and write down the size of all of the panels you need. Compensate for the width of the acrylic sheet by adding extra width to the top panel that is twice the thickness of the acrylic sheet.
Cut your acrylic sheet into panels, using a table saw with a blade for cutting acrylic, a circular saw, saber saw, jigsaw or a handsaw. Move the sheet steadily through the blade, if you are using a table saw. Acrylic sheets come with a protective covering; leave this on while you cut the panels.
Sand the edges of the acrylic panels. Start with a 120-grit sandpaper, then move to 220-grit. Finish the edges with a fine, 400-grit sandpaper. Use up to a 600-grit sandpaper for a very smooth finish. Use wet sanding and rinse the sandpaper often. Buff the edges with a buffing wheel attachment for a drill, if desired. Peel off the protective coating when you have finished.
Hold the sides of the case together to form 90-degree angles, using angle clamps. Seal the outer seam between the acrylic pieces, using masking tape.
Apply solvent cement along the inner seams of the case. Use cement with a needle-nose applicator, if possible. Glue one-half of the case at a time as the seams must be horizontal to prevent the glue from running out. Wait about 30 minutes for the solvent cement to dry before gluing the other side.
Place the top panel on top of your case and seal the outer seams between this panel and the rest of the case with masking tape. Turn the entire case over so that the top panel is on the bottom. Apply solvent cement into the seams. Wait for it to dry.
Cut a piece of wood so it is exactly the same size as the top of your case. This will be the bottom of the case. Ensure that the wood that is between 1/2-inch and 1-inch thick.
Cut four pieces of trim. For example, use quarter-round molding, if desired. Ensure that two pieces are the width of the box plus twice the width of the trim itself. Cut the other two pieces the length of the case plus twice the width of the trim. Miter the edges of each piece so that they will fit together at 90-degree angles.
Glue the pieces of trim around the edges of the wood that you cut for the bottom of the case, using wood glue. Allow the glue to dry. Sand, then stain or paint the wood. Seal the base with a coat of polyurethane or similar sealer. Allow it to dry. Put the acrylic case over the wooden base.
- Measuring tape
- Table saw
- Acrylic sheet
- Sandpaper, 120-, 220- and 400-grit
- Angle clamps
- Masking tape
- Solvent cement
- Wood, 1/2-inch to 1-inch thick
- Wood trim
- Wood glue
- Paint or stain
If your acrylic sheets are 1/8-inch thick, you can score and snap the pieces apart rather than cut them with a saw. However, sheets this thin will be too flimsy for anything but a very small case.
For extra security, you can also glue the seams from the outside of the case once the inner seams have dried. Use masking tape again on the inner seams to prevent the glue from running.
Do not apply too much solvent cement. The glue will be drawn between the panels, so you only need a little.
It is possible for the blade to melt the plastic if you move the acrylic too slowly or too quickly through the table saw.
Use caution when using power tools. Wear goggles to protect your eyes when cutting, sanding or filing the materials or when using solvent cement.