When people think of a display case, most get pictures of the glass and metal cases found in jewelry stores or specialty shops where the establishment displays their wares for sale. When we hear the term, acrylic display case, it’s not commonly thought of as what it actually is.
An acrylic display case used in scale model building is actually not completely made from acrylic but rather a combination of acrylic and various hardwoods. The acrylic comes from the manufacturer in sheet form, normally in 4 foot by 8 foot sheets. The colors, designs and thicknesses vary greatly and because it’s an oil based product, its cost is quite high. The acrylic also varies in quality as with most any product a consumer might buy.
I purchase the sheets in two thicknesses, 1/8″ and 3/16″ which provide all the strength and stability necessary to produce a high quality finished case. I also use red oak as my hardwood since it’s a wood that has been used in so many ways over time, not just for furniture but for everyday strong hard construction material as well.
The acrylic display case is created by either bending the acrylic to form a three sided cover and welding two end pieces to form a box or by cutting 5 pieces of the acrylic and welding them together precisely to form a box, which I refer to as the constructed edge design. Once this is created, the base is cut to a size that precisely allows the acrylic cover to fit over a routed lip created on the wood base to provide a seal to keep dust and airborne debris from settling on the item being displayed.
I then buff the edges of the acrylic cover so each surface is smooth and highly polished, stain the wood base after thorough sanding and apply a clear polyurethane topcoat for pleasing appearance and protection from dirt and oils. Once the case and base are completely dry, it provides a beautiful option for model builders and collectors to display their one of a kind builds with pride and the knowledge that their investment is protected from accidental bumps and curious hands.
Acrylic display cases come in two ways, either produced in standard or “off the shelf” sizes, which saves the manufacturer and customer cost by repetitive cuts and standardized machine settings or in a custom display case option. The custom display case is one that is produced to the exact dimensions a customer requires for their particular item. This costs a little more, but it makes a model builder’s piece a one of a kind both in the model and the display case it’s displayed in.