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Building a Custom Display Kit

With Grandpa’s Cabinets being asked to build more and more display kits for models that are very large, I thought I’d take some time to show just what goes into the building of a Custom Display Kit. The first thing I do is to make a rough drawing of just how the kit will measure out to help me determine the amount of materials I’ll need to get a finished kit.

Custom Display Case Kit Creation

Step by Step Photos

Custom Display Case Kit

To start construction, I select the wood that will be making up the kit. There’s planks that are glued together to form a large solid base. I try to choose grain patterns that will work well together and this photo shows a display kit using Cherry wood which is actually my favorite to work with and gives a beautiful finish when stained and topcoated.

Custom Display Case Kit

After the wood has been planed and jointed to get perfectly straight edges for accurate glue up I run it through my drum sander to get both a smooth surface and a flat surface as well. This sander will accommodate a board up to 38” wide which covers just about any size display kit I might be called on to build.

Custom Display Case Kit

Next, I use a selection of sanders to get an even smoother finish on the base board before forming the groove that the acrylic panels will sit in as you’ll see in the next photo.

This is not the final sanding but rather it takes the wood surface down to 120 grit to show any blemishes that need addressing. The final sanding, especially with cherry, will be sanded down to a 320 grit.

Custom Display Case Kit

After this, the board is cut to the final finished overall size for routing of the groove and the outer edges. I also cut all the pieces needed for the four corners and the framed top assembly that will hold the kit together when placed onto the acrylic panels during assembly.

The miscellaneous pieces also get their respective grooves cut and edges roundover routed before sanding to a finished smooth 320 grit.

At this point, I do the finish sanding of the surfaces of both the base and all the parts to get everything ready for staining. I stain all the surfaces, let them dry for 24 hours then topcoat with several coats of satin polyurethane.

If a customer wants a flat or gloss finish, I’m happy to accommodate that for them of course.

Custom Display Case Kit

Now that everything has dried, I cut and assemble the top. This consists of a solid wood frame with the acrylic inserted permanently to fit exactly with the grooved base. This allows the kit to remain erect when assembled. The four corner pieces keep the panels lined up and when the grooved top is placed over the acrylic panels, everything is secure and standing proud and beautiful. The final piece to this build is the wrapping and getting ready for shipping.

I keep the protective paper on the acrylic panels to keep them safe during their travels to the customer and all other parts are shrink wrapped to keep them together and protected from scratching. I include some sample packets of scratch removers and cleaners for the customers use when assembling but the only thing that should be needed is the cleaner. The kit is then packed in 2” of solid Styrofoam and 350lb double wall corrugated to protect its journey. This costs quite a bit but I would rather err on the side of safety.

Custom Display Case Kit Assembled
So as you can see, building a display kit is a time consuming process and this will show why it costs a little more than a display case. The kit, however, is necessary when the size of the display case is just too large to ship when packed.

UPS has weight and size restrictions and this option allows kits very large to be made and shipped successfully. It seems kits are the choice for sail ship modelers and other very large items and as long as there’s a demand, I’ll keep on building.

Custom Display Case Model Ship

Two Shelf Custom Custom Display Case

Recently a customer sent along a photo of two items that he wanted displayed in one display case and to just place them next to each other on a single level base just didn’t seem to do them justice.

So, after I convinced him to give me artistic freedom I came up with this design.

I made the base 10″ wide front to back and placed a second shelf 4″ high and 5″ wide behind the base making two shelves for these items to be seen together yet separately.

The customer was literally overwhelmed and sent me a truly beautiful thank you for my design.  I think also the light natural finish on the oak offsets the dark bases of the statues which I suggested and again, the customer gave me the artistic freedom to do this.

I am always open to working with any customer’s needs and come up with best possible solutions for a display that will enhance and still protect your precious items.  Give Grandpa’s Cabinets a chance to build a very high quality custom display case for you for your precious one of a kind items.

custom display case

Two Shelf Custom Display Case

Received the case today. My wife and I could not be more pleased. The Design is fantastic and the care you took on packaging was above and beyond. Best money I have spent in a long time.


Mike Thomas

America Flag Display Case

Grandpa’s Cabinets was approached and asked if I would be interested in building a display case that would hang on a wall to house both a folded American Flag and a photo the client’s father. The photo was important to his son who lived across the country from him. After I received a photo of a design, I happily agreed to take this custom display case project.

America Flag Display Case American Flag Display Case

He sent me both the flag and the photos to have here so I could make the display case fit them perfectly and assemble the finished case for shipping directly to his son in New Mexico. The first thing I did was to cut and mill all the individual pieces that would make up the case. I used solid cherry wood as the wood of choice and as the finished photos show, stained in Red Oak stain for a dark rich color.

American Flag Display Case Assembly

After I laid out all the parts and did a fit and finish inspection, I cut and mitered the trim pieces that would surround the faces of the three parts of this case. You’ll notice, there’s a framed, raised box to hold a photo, a triangular box to hold the flag and the overall large box to hold both.

I cut all parts and then did an extensive amount of sanding to get all the wood to a smooth finish to accept the stain and satin polyurethane topcoats. I actually assembled this case in the “raw” and decided to stain and finish everything as an assembled case. This affords me the opportunity to do a nicer finish sanding of all joints etc without worrying about over sanding any parts of the assembled case. I used acrylic sheets for the faces of the photo case, flag case and over the entire case when assembled. The background is a black material that’s glued to the plywood back.

American Flag Display Case

The wall mounting system I chose for this case consists of two piece of aluminum bars that fasten to the wall and back of the case and the case part sits into the wall piece to give a very strong hold and keeps the case always level.

I hope you like the finished case and if you are ever in need of help with a display you want, contact and I’ll be happy to help with your display. Also, check out my video page on YouTube at the link here

Jim Farrens German Submarine U-552 scale model build

Grandpa’s Cabinets was given the privilege of building a custom display kit to house a spectacular model, hand built by Jim Farrens of the German submarine U-552 from World War II. Jim spent a huge amount of time and money to create a true work of art in his rendition of the submarine and I am pleased to report a little information about the sub’s history and show the model.

U-552 was launched on September 14, 1940 and went into service on December 4, 1904. Her nickname was Roter Teufel which means Red Devil after her mascot of a grinning devil painted on the conning tower. She was involved in two serious actions in October of 1941 when she sank the USS Reuben James which was the first US Navy warship to be lost in World War II. This is significant as the US was still neutral at the time. Another controversial action was in April of 1942 when she sank the freighter SS David H. Atwater off the US seaboard.

With the sinking of the Atwater, the action was considered controversial because she was a coastal steamer, completely unarmed carrying 4000 tons of coal from Norfolk, Vriginia to Fall River, Massachusetts. U-552 surfaced about 600 yards from the freighter, opened fire with her 88mm deck gun and machine guns without warning. The bridge of the Atwater was decimated and all crew officers lost their lives there. The real contraversary was because once the Atwater was sinking and the crew were trying to launch the lifeboats, the sub continued to fire on the men as they worked. They ended up jumping into the sea and swimming to any remaining boats still afloat.

The model Jim has created here is remarkable in it’s detail and perspective. He has done a remarkable job with the painting of all the figures and different parts of the interior of the sub. When you look at the cut away areas it’s as if you’re actually looking into a working sub! When Jim contacted me for a display case to house this model, it was decided that because of the size of the model, and the size the case would have to be to accommodate the model properly, a display kit was in order. He decided on oak as the wood of choice and the finish is natural with topcoats of satin polyurethane for protection and a furniture finish.

With all kits Grandpa’s Cabinets makes, all the pieces, the base, four corner pieces, acrylic panels and framed acrylic and oak top comes apart easily for access to the model and goes together just as easy. The kit isn’t glued or screwed together but rather sits nicely on its own with the top and base keeping all the kit together and upright. This keeps the model clean, dust free and keeps curious hands from touching the model and possibly harming the work as it is delicate and fragile.

When you have a model, special item, memorabilia piece or just about anything that’s special to you and needs protection, remember to go to There you’ll find blogs, photos in the huge gallery of past work, comments from current and past customers and a chance to Request a Quote on the same named tab. Hope you like this build by Jim Farrens as much as I do.

Edmund Fitzgerald Custom Display Case

Being a former resident of Michigan for most of my life, the great lakes and her freighters have always been a part of my life. I worked and lived along the St. Clair River and her connected lakes and spent many days watching the freighters make their way down the river on their way to Lake Erie and up to Lake Huron and on. When the Edmund Fitzgerald sank with all her crew up in Whitefish Bay I remember the very moment the news broke and just what I was doing then.

A modeler had a model of the Fitz that needed a protective case and I was asked to build for her. Here’s the finished display and I’m happy to say I’m truly proud to be a part of this memorial display. The case has an oak base finished in a natural finish.

Edmund Fitzgerald Custom Display Case

Edmund Fitzgerald

New Custom Display Case Base Options

Grandpa’s Cabinets is happy to announce the creation of another option when it comes to your design choices for your next Custom Display Case order. In the past, the base on any Display Case has been made from a piece of hardwood that has had the edges routed to create a fine finished edge with a raised platform that the acrylic cover sits over to keep it steady and secure.

custom display case inset base

Lately, I’ve been asked to make the base to have a groove that you would set the cover “into” rather than “over” the raised base. Because of the recent popularity of this and since the stability is the same for either design, you now have the option to choose which design would better serve your needs and finished look.

I’ve made a new video that shows the difference in the two options to give you all the information you need to make an informed choice titled “Display Case Options”. Note that it costs a slight bit more for the grooved base but no matter which option you choose, I know you’ll be totally pleased with the finished Custom Display Case.

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Caring for Your Acrylic Custom Display Case

Large Custom Display Case

This customer wanted a really large case and I recommended the kit option which he agreed was the best option. It was the only way to ship it to him as a display case with the all acrylic cover on the base would be too large to ship by ground UPS and would have had to be crated and shipped freight which would have resulted in damage and mishandling. I think this is a great representation of what’s possible when a really large display case is needed.

Large Custom Display Case

Large Custom Display Case

Grandpa’s Cabinets launches a new YouTube Channel

In between making awesome custom display cases, Grandpa’s Cabinet’s has launched its own YouTube Channel

custom display case videos

Visit our channel to learn more about our custom display cases, custom display kits and how Grandpa’s Cabinets can bring you the best model cases for all your modeling needs.

Here are a few of our recent videos:



Planning A Perfect Display Case

custom display cases

Here at Grandpa’s Cabinets, I get asked almost daily about how a display case should be sized and designed to get the best looking display of the customers model or piece of art.  Each item is different and really needs to be evaluated as to the best way to get it shown with the most impact on the person admiring it.

It seems the majority of items being displayed in a display case are models built with painstaking accuracy and attention to detail and require security and protection from interested hands and dust.  Here are a few bits of information I want to pass along to all who are thinking of ordering a display case for their precious items.


When I ask for information about the size of case the customer wants, I always ask for the ‘inside dimensions” that need to be followed as determined by the customer’s model and desires.  However, when asked for my input, I recommend the customer allow between 1 and 1/2 inches at the front, back, sides and at the top for the model to have a presence in the case that gives all attention to that item.  I feel any more open space just takes away from the item being displayed and serves no purpose other than increased cost.

speciality display case

When a customer wants to display a ship etc., they need to take into account the mounting the item will have in their size requirements.  Invariably there will be one or two who forget to allow for those finials or mounts that their model sits on and come up short in the inside height dimension.  As I try to do in the woodshop, measure twice and cut once!

custom display case

In closing, it’s always a very good idea to place your item in the position you want it to be displayed and try a few different poses.  When you’re satisfied with the look you want, then measure the case “inside” dimensions you’ll need allowing that 1 1/2 or 2 inches on all sides and the top.  I think you’ll be very pleased with the end result once Grandpa’s Cabinets has built you the quality display case to house that very important item.  Also, remember, I build display cases for ANYTHING that has value, whether monetarily or sentimentally, that needs protection and a furniture quality display case and EVERYTHING I build is custom and hand made by me personally, right here in the USA!


I look forward to working for you.  Contact my website at and request a quote on your next custom display case need.  You’ll be surprised at how affordable one can be built for your most precious collecible.  Ron Baluch

Go to or call Ron personally at 586-506-2222 for information and suggestions.