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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.

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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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.


How is a Custom Display Case Actually Created?



Creating a custom display case requires a ton of patience, measuring and re-measuring, operating and maintaining power equipment and a ton of desire to produce a product that not only the customer will be pleased with but you as well need to be totally pleased. Every case I build must have the quality that I personally would be proud to display in my own home. After all, when someone has something to display that has very special meaning to them, or a model builder has spent hundreds of hours building that one of a kind model, it must be protected and displayed with the same attention to detail and quality that went into their memorabilia.


To detail just how I go about building a custom display case, I’ll start with some steps I take to get all my ducks in a row.  The first thing is to take a moment to determine the overall size of the acrylic sheet I’ll need for an individual case.  Because I heat bend the acrylic to form a three sided box with no ends, I must allow some acrylic to allow for the bend and still maintain the dimension the customer wants their case to be.  Once I’ve determined the size I need, I use a very special saw blade just for cutting acrylic and I cut the material allowing a little extra.  This is to allow me to run all edges over my jointer to get the smoothest edges possible to reduce the bubbling effect that appears whenever you weld acrylic.


Ron now works with the optical quality acrylic on the bending jig, creating the cover to fit the oak base.

Ron now works with the optical quality acrylic on the bending jig, creating the cover to fit the oak base.

Now that I have the acrylic cut to size, I take it back to the table saw where I score (cut a very shallow line) the acrylic where I want it to bend when heated to the right temperature.  I’ve designed and built my own bending jig which allows me to get perfect 90 degree corners for a more precise finish on all my cases.  Now that the acrylic is scored, I place it over the heat rod for a period of time, and never too much or too little as that makes a perfect bend not possible or the acrylic burned or warped if too long.  When it’s just right, I form the right angle edge and let it cool.


Next, after the two bends have been made, I cut the end pieces of acrylic and weld them onto the ends of the three sided box to form a box with one open side that will become the bottom that sits on the solid hardwood base.  This is allowed to dry for at least two days for a solid weld.


The oak base has been routed and sanded to desired finish quality, and a final coat of polyurethane clear coat is applied.

The oak base has been routed and sanded to desired finish quality, and a final coat of polyurethane clear coat is applied.

I then go to the base.  I choose the best, flattest and straightest piece of wood with a grain pattern that is pleasing to the eye and cut it to a rough size.  After I’ve jointed and planed the wood, I cut it to it’s final size based on the opening of the acrylic cover.  It is often the case when I have to glue up multiple pieces of wood to create a base wide enough to accommodate the acrylic cover which I can do easily.  Actually, with wide bases, the more pieces used to create the wide enough base, the better as that prevents warping, bending and twisting later in it’s life.

I then run the outer edges through my router to create the beautiful edges with soft curves and a raised platform for the acrylic to sit over to prevent it from moving around on the shelf when displayed.  Lastly, this is sanded and smoothed for finishing.  I stain every base to the color the customer desires, and I apply at least 2 topcoats of satin polyurethane to the finished base for a finish that’s soft to the eye and provides great protection.


To finish a custom display case, the last step is to run the acrylic cover through the router to round over the edges PICT0240where the two ends were welded on so ALL edges have a rounded over finish so there appears that the acrylic was formed rather than constructed.  It’s one extra step that I feel gives a much more professional look to the finished case.  The very last thing is to flame polish the routed edges so all surfaces are smooth and glossy.


PICT0206So, you can see, building a custom display case is a work of art in itself, and I personally take it very seriously.  Every case leaving here is created by me personally.  I’m a one man company who believes every customer deserves the best possible work and it’s my job to guarantee they will get just that.  If I wouldn’t place it in my home, I would never send it out to your home, period.  Please contact me with any questions about my work, service and quality anytime at  I’d love to hear from you and work for you in the very near future.

custom display cases

An antique pocket watch needed special care and protection. The customer was very pleased with the result.



Creating A Custom Display Case Cabinet

Cabinet 2

Grandpa’s Cabinets gets requests often for cabinets and display cases that are not in the norm for what we do.  This isn’t a problem most times and this was no exception to that.  A very good customer commissioned me to build a custom display case in my kit format to house a very large, very old antique sail ship for his condo in southern Florida.  After learning the dimensions needed, I realized it was probably going to be the largest ever ordered.  Once we confirmed the dimensions needed, I got to work on his order and completed it in two weeks and as agreed, I even delivered it personally to St. Augustine because it was too large when packed to be shipped by UPS or any conventional means.

About two weeks later, I received a phone call stating that he needed a cabinet to place this on because he had no furniture large enough with a big enough footprint to comfortably hold the cabinet!  He even had an architect friend design a cabinet with storage to do just that and here I go with another challenge and project to fix a situation.

Cabinet rough 1

I began construction in solid oak per his request of a simple cabinet.  Here you can see the design starting to take shape.  The base has a toe kick at the very bottom with wheels mounted just inside and just high enough to allow movement but not be seen from a distance.  The sides and divider inside are of furniture grade oak plywood secured with glue and dadoes for strength and support.  The top was made to look like it is about 2″ thick by inserting plywood into the middle of a framed cover of solid oak.


Cabinet framed up without doors

Here is the cabinet completed in the rough without the doors inserted yet.  You can see the thickness of the top and the front framing of solid oak which gives this a truly furniture quality look.



Cabinet rough complete b4 finish

After mounting the doors and hardware and application of 4 topcoats of oil based polyurethane this cabinet took shape very nicely.  The finish I choose is satin in gloss for cabinets like this because I feel it looks more appealing to the eye and doesn’t show dust as fast as a gloss would.  I never choose flat because I just don’t think it brings out the grains in oak well.  Now it was on to delivery time for this piece of furniture and a look at how it will all be once assembled.  I rarely get to see completed work so this was much anticipated.



Cabinet 1

I delivered the cabinet to the customer and realized he hadn’t assembled the display kit as of yet so I got to do it all for him.  He wanted to use this as a sort of room divider in his condo and I feel it worked well for it’s intended purpose.  After moving the cabinet into position, I proceeded to assemble and clean the display kit base and acrylic panels and get the ship mounted and set.  This case and cabinet overall is about 48″ long by 29″ wide and sits about 7 feet high together just to give some idea of size.  I’m very proud of how the entire project came out and the customer was overwhelmingly pleased as well.  If you have any need for a custom display case to display your works of art or models, never hesitate to contact me.  Ron Baluch, or give a call with questions at (586)506-2222 and for a fast quote, go to the “request a quote” spot on my website.

Another Great Customer Comment

Grandpa’s Cabinets just recevied another glowing customer comment for a custom display case:

I spent much of my spare time last year working on the Revell 1/400 model of the Queen Mary 2.  My wife and I had crossed the Atlantic on the ship and it is a fond part of our shared memory.  As I neared completion I began searching for a display case on the web.   After comparing the options (construction, cost, etc.) I decided to purchase from Grandpa’s Cabinets.  It was one of the best choices I ever made in purchasing over the web.   Ronald Baluch at Grandpa’s Cabinets crafted a fine acrylic and oak case for my model (it got a strong thumbs up in terms  of construction and value from someone who works at a major display case firm).   More importantly, Ron provided extraordinary customer service — great shipping  and answers to all of my questions.  He is a proud (deservedly so) craftsman who values his customers.   I will be building another ship this summer and it will end up in another of Ron’s fine cases.

Dr. John J. Grabowski

Model Display Kit – Top Lighting

Shown in the photo here is a display case constructed to display a large model of an aircraft carrier a customer requested. The model was ordered completed and a high quality display case was needed to display this work of art. I explained that my work was of furniture quality and could be proudly displayed in any room of any home in any setting proudly.

model display kit light

This case was determined to be too large to be built in the conventional method, which is to have a solid oak or other hardwood base and an all acrylic cover with no hardwood trim. This happens when because of the overall size, the case would be too large when packed to fit within the guidelines of UPS for size or the danger of damage during shipping because of size becomes an unavoidable problem. So, with that in mind, I suggested this model be housed in a display case kit. I used red oak as the hardwood of choice and finished it in a dark walnut stain by Cabot with two topcoats of a clear satin polyurethane.

model display kit light

My kit cases are unique in that they require no tools, glues or screws to assemble, and just fit together and the case becomes self-supporting when assembled. The kit comes with everything and can be assembled in minutes easily by one person. In this case, the customer surprised me with a unique idea. He wanted light to be shined on the model, and decided to investigate using an aquarium fixture placed on the top of the case. I discussed this idea with him, and we decided to place some spacers between the light and the top acrylic cover to prevent any heat from warping or damaging the acrylic cover.

model display kit light

model display kit light

I think this case and model really proudly shows off a modeler’s art as well as making it a piece that anyone would be proud to display in a living room or den or museum if that’s needed. Hope you agree and if you have a need for a large case and want a price on your project, contact and I’ll get right back to you