Everybody has something that means a great deal to them, something they would like to display, yet keep safe from harm. In this instance it is the military medals and cherished items of Cecil Fulcher, the father of founding Canadian Woodworking publisher Paul Fulcher.
The design of this case is a bit different from the display cases that I found when researching display cases over the internet. Most of the ones I found were little more than a shallow plywood box, capped with a picture frame. Once the items were mounted, they were forever beyond reach. This display case takes a slightly different approach. It is still a shallow plywood box with a frame on it, but the frame takes the form of a door that can be opened. This allows a more intimate contact with the items that are inside.
When you are making your display case, remember that this particular box was custom made to hold military mementos that were inherited. In all likelihood you will have different artefacts, so your box will need to be a different size. Make adjustments to the dimensions in the accompanying materials list as required.
Also, rather than worry about how to display all of the various pieces, we decided to have the pieces mounted by a professional framing shop. That way, it was all set in an attractive and balanced mounting that I simply built around.
I used solid brass Brusso knife hinges for the door, as they are elegant and yet unobtrusive. The latch side of the door is held in place with a pair of Brusso ball catches. Both of these are very fine pieces of hardware that demand precision fitting. Once you have cut the mortises for them, there is no room for adjustment – they either fit or they don’t. If you choose to use this same hardware, take your time during the installation phase. Using the simple tricks that I show you, it is possible to achieve perfect results, even the first time.
When selecting your wood at the lumberyard for this project, bear in mind that the object is to build an elegant display case to show off the contents.
Select wood with this in mind – the case should not draw attention away from the contents. Straight grained stock works the best, giving the final project an understated appearance that compliments the contents.
You will need about seven board feet of 4/4 stock for this project. When you get the wood back to the shop let it acclimatize for a few days. Select the stock you will be using for the case and door components with an eye for grain and colour. It’s best to order the glass for the door after you have assembled the door.
This display case is essentially a box with a door. As such, the top must match the bottom, and the rails and stiles (opposite each other) must be precisely the same. The most basic step toward accurate construction, and hassle free hardware fitting, is to machine both components of a pair with one machine set-up. Set an end stop and cut both pieces to length one after the other. Use the same fence setting to rip both sides to width before cutting them to length.
Box and Door
The Main Box
I used a dovetail jig to cut the through dovetails on the main box. Biscuits or dowels would be equally as effective. If you go this route, remember to deduct the thickness of the top and bottom from the length given in the materials list for the sides. The sides are not as wide as the top and bottom, so if you are using a dovetail jig, bear in mind that most jigs require a common reference edge to ensure all parts line up. I used the back edge of the milled boards as my common reference edge for all set-ups.
As mentioned, the matting and mounting was done at a local framing shop, which allowed me to focus on constructing the box. The mounting measured 1¼” x 23″ x 17½”, and sits inside the display case, being held in place with a bezel made of cherry (E, F). These pieces of cherry sit in stopped grooves in each side of the box. If you opt for butt joints instead of through dovetails, the grooves in the side pieces must run the full length of the side boards. I cut mine on a router table using a spiral Onsrud bit.
Lay Out the Hardware
In order to accurately lay out the hardware on the top and bottom pieces, dry assemble the box and clamp it to draw the joints tight.
Install the Catches
The latch side of the door is securely held by ¼” Brusso bullet catches. The holes for these have to be drilled in exactly the right place before the case is assembled.
Cherry can be a tricky wood to stain, as the wood tends to absorb the pigments unevenly, resulting in a blotchy appearance. With cherry’s natural beauty I’ve always preferred to highlight the grain and colour with a natural oil, followed with a beeswax finish.
Install the Spacers
Install the Mounting
Stand back, be quiet, and give thanks to the contributions our veterans have made to the peace and security we all enjoy today.
Medals like these are earned at great personal sacrifice and it is important that we recognize the efforts our family members have made on our behalf; display them with appreciation and keep the link to your past alive.
Installing Knife Hinges
The method I use works with the Brusso hinges from Lee Valley, which are ⅜” wide. If you use other hinges, check the measurements first. All routing is done on a router table. To set the projection of the hinge past the edge of the door, I use a ⅛” drill bit. To set the gap between the door and the cabinet I use laminate samples, and to set the hinge setback, some scrap wood.