My husband Scott is a collector of vintage 1977-'85 Star Wars action figures. He's spent many hours trolling eBay for steals and has amassed a pretty sweet collection which he finally admits is *almost* complete- it's just missing the elusive blue Snaggletooth. Since he's on the home stretch, he had been looking for a while for a display case that would be exactly the right dimensions to house his collection of figures. All 101 of them. We looked around but couldn't find any shadow boxes that were the right size so we decided to make one. Determining what materials to use and it's design was definitely an exercise in trial and error, but eventually we got there! Now Scott has a pretty cool place where all his figures can be showcased together. Below is a rundown of how we made it:
Scott started by building the frame out of wood we already had around the house and then painted it black. The dimensions he used were 45" H x 24" W.
We used white hardboard to make the backing of the case. You might be wondering why we went with the lovely in-your-face yellow background- the actual colour is 'Daffodil Yellow' by FolkArt- and the idea was to mimic the look of the old action figure card back (see pic below). Eventually we may add a border around the entire box to resemble the logo on the front of the card.
For the front of the the case we went with Plexiglass for several reasons: given the size we needed, plexi was much lighter, it was easy to cut at home and we liked that it would be more resilient if we dropped it (which seemed like a very real possibility since we weren't sure at first how we would attach it). We picked this up at Home Depot.
Scott wanted the display case to have a really clean, streamlined look which meant coming up with an alternative to using hinges (which would be pretty visible) so we decided to use magnets. We used 6 sets of magnets, 3 superglued along the sides of the cabinet with their mates glued to the corresponding place on the plexiglass. We did not put any along the top or bottom as we didn't think it needed them but you could if you wanted to to keep it extra tight. Before gluing the magnets we bored a hole a couple of millimeters into the wood frame for the magnets to sit in so they would be flush with the foam we would be lining the frame with.
The foam was placed all around between the magnets so the plexiglass would sit flush against the frame to keep the dust out, while providing a soft buffer for when the plexiglass was removed and replaced. I'm pretty sure any dense foam would work but the one we used is called Weather Shield from Home Depot
A small hole was drilled in the top of the plexiglass which would enable it to sit on a nail just for the added assurance that the plexiglass wasn't going anywhere.
The shelves were a little tricky. Okay, really tricky. This part took longer than every other element combined and was so frustrating that the project was put on hold for quite a while. Eventually the "do or do not, there is no try" attitude prevailed and we came up with a solution. In the beginning we tried using plexiglass because we really wanted the figures to stand apart from the background and look like they were floating. Unfortunately, because the plexi had to be cut into long, thin strips it meant that it would warp/bend in the middle requiring supports. We tried a couple of different fixes for this but every idea we thought would work had a flaw. These are are not the shelves we're looking for. Every attempt disrupted the clean look we were trying to achieve. Scott had to compromise a little on the look he wanted for functionality and in the end went with wood strips instead. We painted them yellow, beveled the edges of the shelves and sawed slats into the sides of the frame so they would slide in nicely. To make sure they stayed level, a thin line of LePage PL construction glue was applied to the shelves as well and it worked perfectly. We cut 8 shelves which were spaced 5" apart and the depth was 3". We used the bottom of the cabinet as the 9th shelf. The tallest action figure we had was just under 5"! All the action figures were placed on 2" wide clear stands and each shelf will accommodate 12 typically sized figures.
Since the shadow box was still fairly heavy we knew we would need some good hanging hardware. In the end we went with two flush mount hangers spaced 16" apart. And that's it! Have you made something similar? I'd love to see what you came up with! If you're thinking of making your own display case hopefully this post will give you some ideas! Good luck and may the Force be with you ;)
Frugal in Fairfield is a blog all about fun DIY projects and home comforts. Thanks for stopping by!