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tomsimon
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I recently built display cases for three of my models. First I got a quote from a local glazier that usually made display cases for shops etc. It was not too expensive, so I will keep that as an option for the future. But I wanted a challenge to make it myself.

 

The first case had a frame in which I slotted panes of plexiglass.

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The second one was also made from plexiglass, but this time I used UV hardening glue to join the sides. The problem with this method was to get the glue only where it should go. Some blotches are visible in the corners. 

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The tools I used where simple. A straight edge and Japanese type hand saw to cut the panes. A hand held router to cut the slots and the form the base.

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There is at least one article on building cases in one of the Shipmodeler's Shop Notes volumes and perhaps a few posts about case making on the forum, but the search feature didn't help any when I looked for them. It's a simple enough project to make a case, although it helps to have three arms! A decent table saw is a must and you'll need to have a way of making very exactly accurate 45 degree angle cuts. This is where your Jim Saw will really come in handy! :D A picture framer's 45 degree corner clamp is also very handy, although one can build their own jig for this purpose easily enough.

 

I've found the best-priced glass can be sourced from places like Michael's that do custom framing. Ask them to cut to the exact dimensions you specify and buy the picture framing glass with the UV-blocking filtering in it. I've also used simple window glass, which is a bit cheaper, but I've found a glazer's shop may not cut to the exact measurements you request and may not have the thinner glass you'd likely prefer.  

 

Construction is pretty simple and any article on building cases will give you the details. You can pick whatever method you prefer. I like glass because it doesn't scratch like the plastics can and it's less expensive. It's easier to clean, too.  I've found that you can't build a glued box plexiglas case unless you are a pro. They use special proprietary adhesives that dry to an invisible weld at the corners and if your adhesive (I've tried CA) goes anywhere that you don't want it, you'll have a mess that is relatively impossible to buff out unless you are using the professional proprietary adhesive which is only sold to licensees, I believe. If you prefer plastic, you can always build a wood frame case and glaze it with plastic.  Plastic out-gasses and that troubles me in terms of archival quality. Others' mileage varies in that respect, of course.

 

One can buy case kits, but they are expensive and the size selection is limited. Purchasing a professionally built case has always been prohibitively expensive in my estimation, although I have the tools to do it in house myself, so I'm biased in that respect. Most of the case kits on the market do not include the glass or plastic. Shipping the fragile built case from the manufacturer is quite expensive, as well. I expect the special handling and insurance is costly.

 

After trying a number of construction methods, I've settled on what I've found to be the most simple. I make two rectangles with 45 degree mitered corners. these define the shape of the top and bottom of the case frame. The top rectangle has a saw kerf cut into the inside sides of it, as well as on the bottom sides of it. (A table saw blade kerf just matches thickness of the glass I use. It should be a tight fit.) The top rectangle is assembled with the glass held in place in the saw kerfs. The corners are glued with thickened epoxy adhesive and allowed to set. Diagonal holes are then (carefully) drilled at right angles to the joints and a dowel or metal pin (or two, depending on the size of the case) is inserted into the hole(s) at each corner and glued with epoxy or CA. The bottom rectangle is assembled in the same fashion, but without the glass, of course, for which reason it will only need saw kerfs on its top sides. Then four posts are cut and saw kerfs run on the two inside sides of each post. (All this kerf cutting will take careful measurements to ensure the kerfs on the posts will be in line with the kerfs in the top and base.) The entire case is then assembled with the edges of its glass sides being captured by the saw kerfs in the top and bottom rectangles and the side posts and the side posts are glued with epoxy to the top and bottom rectangles. (Here again, fitting is critical. A little bit of extra depth in the saw kerfs is helpful. Do not force the glass panes into the kerfs. Don't ask me how I know this!) When this epoxy is cured, again carefully, drill one or two holes in the top and bottom rectangles at each corner and insert a dowel or metal pin cemented with epoxy or CA. The holes for the metal pins can then be filled with a bit of furniture refinisher's wax or putty and will be virtually invisible. If you use dowels, they can be sanded flush.

 

This wooden framed glass box is the top of the case. A base, upon which the model will rest, must be built to accept the "box" cover when it is placed over it. A rabet in the base board edge secures the case over the base and keeps it from slipping around. If one desires, holes can be drilled in the edges of the frame of the glass box and through into the edges of the baseboard rabet and a nail, brass escutcheon pin, or other unobtrusive fastener provided to slide into the holes with a "slip fit." these will prevent a disaster from occurring if someone attempts to lift up the case by the "box" instead of the baseboard, thinking it's all attached and whacks the model with the box! This is particularly relevant to small models that hamfisted cleaning ladies seem to think the can just throw around when they are dusting! 

 

It is important to provide a means for air circulation in a model case. Otherwise, an acidic atmosphere can be trapped in the case environment and cause deterioration of the model. The acid out-gasses from various sources within the case environment, including PVA adhesives and without air circulation, can reach destructive levels over time. Only a very small hole is required. A space of an eighth of an inch between the side of the baseboard rabet and the box bottom rectangle and a space of and eighth of an inch between the baseboard and the bottom of of the "box," provided by something like those adhesive felt "buttons" they sell for putting on the lower back edges of picture frames so they don't mark up the walls should be sufficient. The "rule of thumb" is that there should be one square inch of "hole" in a case for every one cubic yard of a case's interior volume, so it doesn't take much to provide enough circulation. An alternate method of providing ventilation is to make the base rectangle higher than the size of the rest of the framing rails and drill a few ventilation holes through the back of it. This "heavier" base rectangle side can also be more aesthetically pleasing, particularly if the baseboard plinth upon which the model is mounted is raised up a bit. See: Nautical Research Guild - Article - Ephemeral Materials in Ship Models (thenrg.org) for more details on preventing acid deterioration in ship model cases.

 

So, there you have it. It's not rocket science, but it does take care and accurate measurements and cutting. Building a case for a 36" model yourself can easily save you several hundred bucks!

 

Oak case with mahogany plinth made using the above-described method. Note the thicker bottom rectangle sides:

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Detail of baseboard construction with glass box removed showing the mahogany plinth on a plywood baseboard with mitered oak trim around the edges:

 

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Edited by Bob Cleek
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If you don't have the tools to make a case there are places that will make them for you.  Some will make the box and you make the base.  If you have a table saw great, if you don't, not a problem.  Make the base board (lumber stores will cut to size for you) and use small strips of wood to form the grooves in which the box will sit.   It is actually easier to do it this way.  Set the box on the base board and glue the outboard strips in place..... perfect fit every time.   Then remove the box and glue the inboard strips leaving the gap to match the thickness of the box walls.    

 

Do pay attention to have some kind of air holes as explained above by Bob.  Tiny openings are best and/or fill the openings with something like plastic wool or other non-rusting material to keep out the beasts but will let the air in.   Even a 1/8" hole will let the spiders in.  

 

https://www.shoppopdisplays.com/CS001/5-sided-clear-acrylic-box-custom-size.html?v=85&gclid=CjwKCAjwvuGJBhB1EiwACU1AiVb-wk0hbMZwPDjswKU-Eu7_9856ZCnqNCRk0SK6L6JIb1eth3m4bBoC3qgQAvD_BwE  is just one supplier but I am sure you can find someone local out by you.

 

Just make a base to go with it.   A not-to-scale basic design that has worked for me over the years follows.  I only show two of the four "grooves"  for clarity.

 

UV protection or not, it is best not leave the model where it is exposed to direct sun light.  

 

Allan

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Allan

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Plexi glass / acrylic sheet....

I found marking out with water soluble fibre pen then scoring with a very sharp Stanley knife against a metal straight edge. Place the scored line over a table edge, apply pressure and the material will snap with a clean edge. Some mild dressing of the edge with a sanding block may be required. A little practice helps.

Make sure the scored line goes entirely from one side to the other.

Plan your shapes to fit within the sheet into large sections which can then be sub divided as needed.

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I was thinking of buying this base kit as a start then sourcing the glass/plexi, as per above. Does anyone have a review to share about this display base kit from Mantua, as it, also, seems reasonably priced from American-based distributors?

 

https://www.mantuamodel.co.uk/products/ship-fittings/miscellaneous/1545/boat-stand-universal-detail

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42 minutes ago, tomsimon said:

I was thinking of buying this base kit as a start then sourcing the glass/plexi, as per above. Does anyone have a review to share about this display base kit from Mantua, as it, also, seems reasonably priced from American-based distributors?

 

https://www.mantuamodel.co.uk/products/ship-fittings/miscellaneous/1545/boat-stand-universal-detail

This is just a display stand. It's the same one that's included with their HMS Victory kit. Nothing special, but it's made for models with a keel that's flat and parallel to the waterline, as the model is supposed to rest directly on the stand. The only downside I see is that the edge of the baseboard is visible, and it's plywood. So, you see all the ply layers.

 

Also, it won't serve as the base for an acrylic case, unless the case is just a 5-sided box and you're using it as a simple dust cover.

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I’d like to add my two cents worth to Bob’s excellent post above.  Although you have decided to buy a kit, this might be interesting to others wanting to build one from scratch.

 

Tools:  At least one right angle picture frame clamp is a must.  Also a table saw for ripping stock and cutting grooves.  I have a 35+ year old set of Sears molding cutters that are excellent for cutting the decorative edge on the prepared stock.  If you are interested in using a set of these i’d be happy to post a photo of my setup.

 

Materials:  I personally like American Black Walnut as it is easy to finish and I have a good supply.  Although Mahogany is a traditional boatbuilding material, the stuff sold today called Mahogany is nasty stuff.  If you can find and are willing to pay for true Honduras Mahogany it is a joy to work with.  Teak can make a nice case and is also easy to work with.  I find cherry to be hard to finish.

 

Like Bob, I like the thickened epoxy glues.  A little poster paint powder can be  added to the mix to color it like the wood that you are using.

 

For the last case that I built, I bought glass from our local Ace Hardware.  They cut it accurately.  Since I don’t live in sunny California,😜 I have not used UV resistant glass.

 

The rough sketch below shows my system.  The key is embedding the upright posts into notches cut into the mitred corner joints of the base.  When glued with epoxy this results in a solid three dimensional joint.  When making these corner joints, I use right angle triangles made from 1/8th thick plywood set into the grooves to ensure that everything is square.  Wax the edges of the ply!

 

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Edited by Roger Pellett
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3 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

 The key is embedding the upright posts into notches cut into the mitred corner joints of the base.  When glued with epoxy this results in a solid three dimensional joint.

I used to use this method of corner joint before I started using epoxy resin adhesive. I got lazy and tried "pinning" the corners with metal pegs after assembly with the epoxy adhesive, sort of as a "belt and suspenders" approach to make sure everything was fastened securely. It seems to produce a strong joint and I'm not even sure the pegs are necessary, since a lot of the rigidity of the structure comes from the panes set in the grooves.

 

The one problem I've yet to devise an easy solution to is cleaning the glass on the inside of a case that's taller than the length of my arm! I've tried folding a sponge over the end of a stick and wrapping the sponge in terrycloth toweling held in place with duct tape. It's still tedious business. The next case I build, I will wear clean nitrile gloves in the hope of avoiding a fingerprint somewhere deep on the inside of the glass! :D 

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The reason for the notches used with my system is to secure the uprights.  The uprights pass clear thru the mitered base joints to the case bottom.  They are easily cut with my bandsaw.  For an earlier case, I used short pieces of dowels glued into holes drilled into the base and longitudinally into the uprights.  This didn’t provide the same rigidity.

 

Roger

 

 

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I build the majority of my own cases as I like the look of the wood frame surrounding the model. I have also started adding water features and I am working my way through those trials and tribulations. On occasions when I want a quality Acrylic only case I go to  www.casesforcollectibles.com. Here are a few photos of my cases upside down of course. The one with the Longboat is a Casesforcollectibles case. I used their MDF base and veneered it. The ‘well’ you see is how I get the ship down to the water line then it is through bolted through the well and the keel. Not going anywhere so it is a travel and display case. One went from WA to the whaling museum on Maui with zero damage.

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I will suggest you consider "Tru Vue Optimum Museum Acrylic" for your case.  It's expensive - but - it's antireflective; you may not appreciate the difference this makes in presentation.  It makes an amazing difference.  It is also thinner than most acrylic sheets or glass.  This minimizes the refraction effect as light passes through the inside and outside surfaces.  It does not out-gas and has antistatic, scratch resistant and UV blocking coatings.  It is also much lighter than glass or thicker acrylic. 

 

Framing shops will handle this acrylic for you.  Considering its cost, I would let them do the cutting.

 

And as mentioned above, the case's design must allow for ventilation.  

Edited by Charles Green
terminology
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On 9/8/2021 at 4:21 PM, Roger Pellett said:

The reason for the notches used with my system is to secure the uprights.  The uprights pass clear thru the mitered base joints to the case bottom.  They are easily cut with my bandsaw.  For an earlier case, I used short pieces of dowels glued into holes drilled into the base and longitudinally into the uprights.  This didn’t provide the same rigidity.

 

Roger

 

 

 

Got it! That should keep the case solidly in place on the base. I addressed that problem by cutting a rabet in the base edge which the case sets down on. The side of the rabet keeps the case from sliding around.. "Different ships, different long splices!" :D 

 

I used your "notched mitered corner" method on this case pictured below for rigidity as you do.  It was built before I'd added epoxy to my armamentarium.  I was concerned about the strength of the glued corners given the relative narrowness of the framing, which, for aesthetic reasons, I didn't want to make larger. It was made from a particularly nice plank of hard old-growth redwood I happened to have on hand.  This case has held up well for over 35 years, two wives, three kids, and several moves. The somewhat narrow table has always been screw-fastened to the wall, which was a good thing in the big 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake! We native Californians learn to adapt to our environment! :D 

image.png

Edited by Bob Cleek
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2 hours ago, Charles Green said:

I will suggest you consider "Tru Vue Optimum Museum Acrylic" for your case.  It's expensive - but - it's antireflective; you may not appreciate the difference this makes in presentation.  It makes an amazing difference.  It is also thinner than most acrylic sheets or glass.  This minimizes the diffraction effect as light passes through the inside and outside surfaces.  It does not out-gas and has antistatic, scratch resistant and UV blocking coatings.  It is also much lighter than glass or thicker acrylic. 

 

Framing shops will handle this acrylic for you.  Considering its cost, I would let them do the cutting.

 

And as mentioned above, the case's design must allow for ventilation.  

This sounds like great stuff! Not only does it provide the advantages you mentioned, but it's unbreakable! Regrettably, "expensive" is an understatement, though. A 4'X8' sheet of the stuff runs around $1,500! Optium Museum F 0001 Tue-Vue Specialty Sheet - 48 x 96 x .125 (acplasticsinc.com) I've "saved" the site address in my "favorites" in case I win the lottery one day. :D 

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3 minutes ago, Bob Cleek said:

This sounds like great stuff! Not only does it provide the advantages you mentioned, but it's unbreakable! Regrettably, "expensive" is an understatement, though. A 4'X8' sheet of the stuff runs around $1,500! Optium Museum F 0001 Tue-Vue Specialty Sheet - 48 x 96 x .125 (acplasticsinc.com) I've "saved" the site address in my "favorites" in case I win the lottery one day. :D 

It certainly looks good but I also noticed the price. For framing a small picture it would be fine but we would need 4 or 5 not small pieces (and some people have multiple models). 

 

Fortunately I don't expect to have a model that's worth that much. I'll keep them out of direct sunlight and hope nobody breaks the glass.

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Regarding plexiglass cost: when I lived in Boston (more than 40 years ago) there was a plexiglass dealer in South Boston that sold the scraps left over from cutting. I was able to get pieces big enough to build cases up to about 2 ft x 3 ft x 1 ft. The dealer sold the scrap by the pound. I would pick out the pieces I wanted and carry them to a big scale. It never cost much. If you can find something like that it makes the plexiglass affordable.

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Lots of good advice here. Another option is to consider a display cabinet instead of a case. One of these can store and display multiple models far more space-efficiently than several cases, which all need their own surface space, and they're more flexible if models come and go. One approach to the style generally called "curio cabinet" tends to have wide glass panes in front that are great for model display. Here's an example from a customer furniture maker here in Missouri (Ramer Brothers):

 

MissionSlidingDoorLargePictureFrameCurio

 

While these aren't cheap, especially if you get a high-quality hardwood version, the equivalent of 3+ cases isn't cheap either. And while cases have few other uses beyond specific model displays, a curio cabinet can be resold or handed down through family for many different uses, making it a potentially better long-term investment.

 

My wife and I recently agreed to invest in one of these for my growing model collection, rather than build a whole series of cases, because it'll be way more space- and resource-efficient while being a better long-term investment. Just a thought to consider.

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