Illuminated Showcase

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Project by rilanda posted 07-30-2012 02:07 PM 2168 views 8 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a display showcase I made a few years ago to display a range of models a neighbour had collected. They wanted it to be illuminated and mirrored to show off their collection to advantage. Made in Beech this was my interpretation. The top was vented to dispel the heat from the light fittings and the top was hinged to allow replacement of the lamps. the lighting was low voltage (12v) and designed for showcase lighting.

Photographs 1 & 2- the showcase finished and in position; 3- the finished carcase on my bench ready for its first coat of sander sealer; 4- the orthographic drawing of the project; 5- exploded diagram of the project, numbers relate to text. Once again apologies for the quality of the drawings but this is due to converting them to jpeg for the purpose of posting here.

This is a modern styled showcase with quartz halogen lighting designed to give impact to collection items and display them to advantage. The unit is simple and straightforward to make with the end frames constructed using mortise & tenon joints, dovetails connecting both front and rear construct rails (items 8 & 9) to the end frames, and some dowelling is required. Make the width of the wider members of the cabinet from several sections biscuit joined together from; do this to minimise problems that could be created by timber movement.
The glass used throughout the cabinet is all toughened safety glass, this material is not difficult to obtain from a good glass merchant, however, BE AWARE, toughened glass cannot be altered after the process therefore, all sizes and detailed information must be correct when ordering. The glass sizes shown within the cutting list are advisory only, use these for obtaining quotations, and obtain the final glass sizes from your own completed cabinet, confirming the sizes to your chosen glass merchant.
Beech was the chosen timber for this showcase; however, this is open to choice. Albeit it is vital, to select kiln-dried timber to avoid shrinkage problems that will occur later in the event of the timber having high moisture content. This cabinet will become quite warm internally when the lighting is operational therefore making kiln dried timber essential. All timber materials need to be prepared accurately to the cutting list with materials listed as short lengths left in multiple lengths to assist with planing and any subsequent machining operations to follow. Select and identify both face side and face edge of all components.
Item1 mark-out the face edge for the centrally positioned 6mm mortise and haunch to receive the top & bottom rails (3). Reduce the mortise length by 6mm to allow for the glazing rebate in the rails (3). The length of the haunch 15mm reduces the mortise to a final length of 17mm; a depth of 32mm for the mortise is required. The haunch depth is 9mm (3mm beyond the glazing rebate depth). Rebate the face edge 12mm x 6mm and apply a 6mm x 4mm sunk chamfer to the face side face edge intersection. A double rebate is also required to the back edge to receive both the back and the mirrors however do not apply these rebates until after the assembly of the end frames.
Item 2 mark out and pair together with item 1, mortising, rebating and moulding is identical, however the stopped chamfer applied to the external corner and the 4mm x 4mm deep groove on the inside face should be left until after assembly of the end frames.
Item 3 top and bottom rails to the end frames; tenon to each end to fit the mortises in the stiles (items 1 & 2). The tenon is square shouldered with a shoulder length of 100mm. Glazing rebate & moulding are identical to items 1 & 2
Items 4 & 5 produce the glazing bead in multiple lengths with a 10-degree bevel applied to one face.
Item 6 toughened glass end panels, the cutting list size reflects the glass opening size minus 3mm in length & width. However, it is important you check your own assembled end frames to confirm these sizes.
Item7 top this item is required to be jointed from several pieces of timber (minimum 3 pieces) with the heart alternated side to side in adjacent pieces to counter any movement that may take place. Ideally, the use of quarter-sawn timber would be superior if it is available. The top is shaped on the front edge with a 12mm radius applied to the external corners the finally the edges (excepting the back edge) are finished with a 6mm round over to both faces. However, do not shape and finish the edges until after all other work to the component is complete. Two openings are required to receive the quartz halogen lighting; position these holes to place each light central in either section of the cabinet. Opening sizes vary between manufacturers therefore, it is necessary to purchase the lights first, however when selecting the lighting aim for an aperture size no greater than 70mm diameter. Several dowel positions need drilling in the top these can only be determined after work on other components is complete.
Item7 base like the top this item requires jointing in its width, similarly the base is identical in shape and edge finishing as the top, leave this work till later. However, there the similarities with the top ends; two grooves are required 4.5mm (must be an easy running fit with 4mm glass) wide x 4mm deep, these must stop at the inside face of each end and they must run parallel with the rear edge (see drawings for more information). Join each framed end to the base with four 6mm dowels. Join the division to the base with a stopped sliding dovetail. A double rebate is required on the back edge (see drawing number 43/8 for details); it is important both of these rebates stop at the ends.
Item 8 this rail has a single 4mm x 4mm rebate applied to the back edge to house the mirrors and a 6mm round over to the bottom inside corner (Drg Nr.43/9 for detail). A 12mm long dovetail on either end of this rail forms the connection with the ends. These dovetails have long & short shoulders to overcome the 4mm x 4mm rebate applied to the end frames; the short shoulder length should be 844mm. These dovetails are shouldered back 6mm from the inside face of the rails thickness to leave a dovetail 12mm deep, this is to avoid the dovetail pins weakening the mortise & tenon joints in the ends. Cut 3mm deep location housing across the centre of the rail to position the top of the division (item 10).
Item 9 Position the dovetails to avoid any clash with the two grooves 4.5mm wide x 10mm deep for the glass sliding doors (see drg 43/9). Apply the 6mm round over to the bottom inside edge of the rail and cut a small housing joint central in the length to locate the division (item 10).
Item 10 this item will require biscuit jointing in its width from a number of sections with heart reversal between adjacent pieces to create stability. Cut to length then Mark-out the bottom end for the sliding dovetail; at the top end mark out the cut back positions allowing for the housings for both construct rails be aware this will hand this item. Two rebates are required on the rear edge of 4mm x 4mm to accommodate the mirrors.
Item 11 plane this item to fit the groove provided in the end frames to receive it, its function is to prevent the shelves being accidentally slid forward and subsequently dropping off the rear shelf supports, glue into position only after the end frames have been drilled for shelf supports and cleaned up.
Item 12 the MDF back is marked out and drilled with countersink for Nr. 6 screws. Be careful when positioning the screws to avoid any contact between screw and mirror to avoid breakage. The back is a structural part of the cabinet but must remain removable for mirror replacement should that become necessary.
Item 13 toughened glass silver mirrors with the edges as cut. Check the final sizes from the assembled cabinet before placing the order. Reduce the opening size within the cabinet by 3mm to determine the final size for the mirrors. Insert softwood packing between edge of mirrors and cabinet at assembly point.
Item 14 6mm clear toughened glass shelves; order only after final sizes can be determined from the assembled cabinet. Reduce the opening size length and width by 1mm for a snug fit
Item 15 .4mm clear toughened glass doors confirm sizes on completion of the cabinet. Obtain the size by measuring the clear opening height for example, measure from top of base to underside of front construct rail (item 9) and add 8mm for the height. The width is determined by measuring the overall internal width for example inside end to inside end divide the figure by 2 and add 8mm. These doors have polished edges all round with tipped corners; this is to prevent the corners of the glass from cutting into the timber track during use. Have the doors drilled with a 22mm diameter central in the height 25mm in from the edge. This hole is suitable to take a sliding door pull or left just as a hole that also helps to ventilate the cabinet.
Item 16 there is a wide variety of halogen lighting available within the market place. The only criteria to apply, it must be low voltage cabinet lighting; whereas some is available as recessed fitting (preferred) others are available as surface mounted. However a transformer will be required for either configuration, make sure it will fit inside the vented canopy at the top of the cabinet.
Item 17 dowels required to form a number of joints.
Item 18 top (hinged section) to the vented canopy , 10mm radius applied to front corners, both ends and front edges finished with a 6mm round over. Attached to item 19 with a pair of 50mm solid drawn brass butts set in to both items equal depth. This provides access to all electrical installations at the top of the case.
Item 19 fixed section of the top; ends finished to match item 18. Fix this item to the canopy with six Nr. 6mm dowels & P.V.A. adhesive. Make the hinge connection with item 18 before gluing into position.
Items 20/21 these items form the ends and front to the vented canopy. Leave as one length mark-out the mitres to the front corners and mark-out the quatrefoils; one central in each end and three equal spaced across the front. Drill the quatrefoils using a 15 mm forstener bit; after drilling plane the front face to the section shown in the drawing; finally cut the mitres and drill for dowels (2 to each joint).
Item 22 joined to the ends (item 20) with four Nr. 6mm dowels (2 each end)
Mortise, mould, and rebate for glass the end frames stiles (items 1 & 2) in that order, similarly tenon, mould, and rebate the ends rails (item 3). Cut back the tenons to produce the haunch to the rails and mitre back the mould to create a masons mitre. Preparation of the stiles consists of cutting back the mould to leave a square face to the mortise face and a mitre to meet with the one on the rails. Clean up the face of the moulding before assembly, ensure the ends are dimensionally correct then assemble with P.V.A. adhesive; check the frames for square. When the adhesive has cured, apply the double rebates to the back edge and the stopped chamfer to the front edge of both frames
Next plough the grooves in the front construct rail (item 9) making the groove a minimum of 4.5mm wide x 10mm deep don’t aim for a tight fit to the glass . Next, rebate the rear construct rail for the mirror aiming for a snug fit against the back (item 12) when fixed into position . Now mark out and cut the dovetails to both ends of the front construct rail and shoulder back as previously described. Cut the housing on both rails to receive the division (note, the rear rail is housed on the inside face of the rail, whereas the front rail is housed on the inside edge of the rail.
Now remove the horns from the end frames and clean up the trimmed ends, ensure they are a pair; also, check they are square and true with each other. Transfer the dovetails from the construct rails accurately to their location on the ends and cut the pins for the lapped dovetails, check their fit and identify the positions. Next produce the 4mm x 4mm deep groove to receive the shelf stop (item 11) on the inside face of each end; make sure the inside sliding glass door will clear this shelf stop by a minimum of 0.5mm . Next mark-out and drill the four dowel positions in the bottom of each end frame, drill 18mm deep to leave 12mm projecting into the base. Next, mark-out both ends for the shelf support positions and drill . Now clean up both faces of the ends in preparation for the finish, lightly glue the shelf stops into position and tape until the adhesive has set. Mitre the glazing beads to fit the glass aperture and drill for very fine veneer pins for fixing.
Cut the dovetail slot in the base for the division, also position the ends, and transfer the dowel positions to the base. Drill for these dowels then dry assemble the ends with the base, now mark-out the base for the doors running grooves and the stop positions. Mark-out the double rebate at the rear edge of the base along with their stop positions, remove the ends, and complete this work to the base.
The dovetail at the bottom end of the division can now be worked to fit the dovetail groove in the base, aim to achieve a good sliding fit without being too tight loose. Transfer the shelf support positions from the ends to the division and drill through the division to provide a support position on both sides. Cut the top corners back to provide the housings for the front and rear construct rails then assemble the whole unit dry and check for dimensional correctness and check the unit for square. With these checks completed and any remedial works carried out if required then break the assembly down and square of the ends of the base then mark-out and cut the shaped front edge. Clean up both ends and front edge of the base then apply the 10mm radius to the external corners. With this work complete apply the 6mm round over to both top and bottom edges of the base, excluding the rear edges; clean up the base, division, ends, and front/rear construct rails in preparation for the finish. Carefully assemble with adhesive and wipe clean any squeeze out that may occur check the carcass for dimensionality and square then set aside for the adhesive to set.
During this period mark-out and drill the 15mm diameter holes that form the quatrefoils in the vented canopy ends (item 20) and the front (item 21) then plane the bevelled face to the detail. Cut the mitres to the ends and the front and cross cut to length the back rail (item 22). Drill both ends of the back rail for two Nr. 6mm dowels these will form the joint with the ends. Introduce dowels into the mitres between front & ends to make a stronger more positive joint. Check the unit for dimensions and square before assembly with adhesive. Assemble and set aside for the glue to cure, after which a hole can be drilled fro the cable entry in a position to suit the location of the power source.
Turn your attention now to the cabinet top (item 7); this is the same shape as the base with two apertures cut to receive the lighting. Position these holes to place the lights central in each side of the cabinet. Attach to the carcass of the cabinet with six dowels and a number of screws insert these through the construct rails then cover with pellets. Fit the canopy to the top in a similar manner, this time however; insert the screws through the vented canopy into the top then cover with pellets. The fixing of this top requires careful attention to detail as the security of the whole cabinet relies upon it when the cabinet is fixed.
Attach the fixed portion of the canopy top (item 19) to the cabinet with dowels (6 Nr.) and adhesive but only after fitting the hinges and all work to the item has been finished. Fix the hinged section (item 18) to the fixed section and check the hinge operation. Give a general inspection of the whole cabinet and a final clean up as required. Finish the cabinet with a finish of your choice however; remember the cabinet will become quite warm internally; choose a finish to withstand this temperature.
When the finishing is complete check the shelf support sockets and clear as necessary to remove any of the finishing material that may have entered them. Clean and then insert the glass end panels and fix the beads, then with the cabinet laid carefully on its face clean and carefully insert the mirrors from the back and then fix the back over them with screws. It is important to use screws for this purpose as the back forms a structural part of the cabinet, however under no circumstances must the screws make any contact with the mirrors to avoid breakage. Fit the shelves supports into the desired locations and carefully place into the cabinet the four glass shelves after cleaning. Clean the glass doors then starting with the inner door placed into the top groove and lifted into position the allowed to settle into the bottom groove repeat this for the outer door and check the operation of the doors make sure the door pull rests against the end to either side.
Install the lighting and transformer into the cabinet and Connect the unit to its power source with a three amp (maximum) fused plug (if you do not feel competent with this then seek professional advice from a qualified electrician). Remember to keep your fingers from making contact with the capsules during their installation also remember these capsules become very hot during operation and will produce a nasty burn should skin contact be made with them.
Fix the cabinet to the wall with glass plates as required to provide an adequate support for the weight of the cabinet and its contents. Another fixing method is to use a back frame; this you can situate to the wall using fixings that are more substantial. A hook block provides the support to the cabinet and allows the cabinet to lift from the wall when re-decoration of the wall surface is required. See the drawing (43/6) and separate cutting list for details of this back frame.

-- Bill, Nottingham. Remember its not waiting for the storm to end, but learning to dance in the rain that counts. If you dont make mistakes, you make nothing at all.

7 comments so far

View Brit's profile


7520 posts in 3013 days

#1 posted 07-30-2012 02:16 PM

Very nicely designed and executed cabinet Bill.

By the way, did you see the message I left for you in the Saws forum?

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View SawDustNeophyte's profile


115 posts in 3270 days

#2 posted 07-30-2012 04:47 PM

Great work.

-- So many tools, so little money. *heavy sigh*

View Tom Godfrey's profile

Tom Godfrey

488 posts in 2346 days

#3 posted 07-30-2012 04:54 PM

How about letting me move in with you for a few months and pick your brain. Then maybe I could start making projects like those you post. Come to think of it I may need to stay a few years. You got room?
Joking of course but I would love to spend some time with you. I love learning new things and I know from what you write and post you are willing to pass on that information and I thank you for that.
You realize you will live forever with all you will be leaving behind?

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina (

View Dustmite97's profile


439 posts in 3391 days

#4 posted 07-30-2012 05:32 PM

Excellent job on this. Great write up too.

View javaboy's profile


104 posts in 2305 days

#5 posted 07-31-2012 01:51 AM

Very impressive!

Thanks for sharing your project in such detail. I’ve been wanting to build a display cabinet for some time now, so any details I am able to glean from others is much appreciated!


-- Sow justice, reap peace

View Dana1972's profile


86 posts in 2300 days

#6 posted 08-03-2012 01:13 AM

Very nice case!! love it

-- Dana, Tn and Tx artist

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3027 days

#7 posted 08-04-2012 05:34 PM

That is sooo nice

The lines the design the joints

All tight


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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