Glass, Acrylic or ??? for display case

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Forum topic by SteveMI posted 08-23-2010 04:59 PM 6025 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1094 posts in 3295 days

08-23-2010 04:59 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have been asked to quote a display case for jewelry vendor who does weekend shows. Due to some misfortune at couple shows, she needs to keep higher price items secure from snatch and grab crews.

Her current case is 5” high box with glass top and open in the rear. Biggest problem for her is reaching in to the front for item and setting up the display. Being flat, there is sometimes a glare from light reflection.

The idea for new one is a slanted top tapering to the front, with the front being 4” high. Probably 24” wide by final 12” tall at rear. My first idea was tempered glass, but then realized that it would be quite a bit of weight. She has a smaller SUV/wagon and needs to load everything herself.

So the questions are: Is there a substitute for glass? What is best way to mount glass that is going to be constantly transported? Does acrylic scratch or is there more robust acrylic available?

Any other ideas?


7 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4219 days

#1 posted 08-23-2010 05:03 PM

I think the modern acrylics will hold up pretty well for this application. Of course it will be more easily scratched than glass, but I don’t think it’s going to be a major problem. I’d say glass is definitely out of the question due to weight and breakage issues.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View TungOilTim's profile


83 posts in 3217 days

#2 posted 08-23-2010 05:23 PM

I’d recommend acrylic, we use it at our work a lot. I cut it with a jigsaw or tablesaw, just watch out for “chipout” and I’d use an old blade. Different thicknesses are available, along with a few that are more scratch-resistant, but I haven’t used any of the scratch resistant stuff. It does scratch easier than glass, but in my experience it still takes a good amount to scratch them. I’d recommend covering the display with a soft piece of cloth while moving it. Hope this helps.

-- Tim, Plant City FL

View bill1352's profile


130 posts in 3122 days

#3 posted 08-24-2010 03:14 AM

You might look at hinging the lid or back panel and using a sliding tray. Either will reduce the overall size & improve the ability to load & unload. She will want to put felt on the display panel or at least cover it with silk or cloth. I can get a good price on a felt panel that can be attached to a thin plywood or MDF base. She could slide the panel in & out as needed to fill or show a customer.

-- Keep Your Stick On The Ice

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3132 days

#4 posted 08-24-2010 03:18 AM

Acrylic scratches fairly easily. My choice would be tempered glass.

-- Gerry,

View psh's profile


79 posts in 2996 days

#5 posted 08-25-2010 04:36 AM

I just made a set of jewelry display cases for my wife similiar to what you describe. Mine are 18” x 30” bottoms, 4” high in front and rising to (I don’t remember) about 12” – 14” in the rear. Tempered 1/8” glass top for clarity and safety. Tops are 20” x 30”. (had to use a bit of trig to get the angles right!) I used 1/8” polycarbonate on the front and sides, which I found a little on the “floppy” side. Sliding 1/4” glass mirror doors in the back. I think the back weighs more than the top! They are design to knock down flat and I pack them in medium density foam rubber sheets covered with cloth inside a big box (better box plan to come). Foam rubber came from a material (sewing) store. I don’t have pics yet, but should soon. So, far have traveled well.

-- Peter, Central VA

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3893 days

#6 posted 08-25-2010 04:44 AM

Use Lexan. It’s tougher than acrylic and doesn’t scratch as easily. I have used 1/4” lexan for large frameless display doors. The Blum 26mm euro hinge works well with this .

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View SteveMI's profile


1094 posts in 3295 days

#7 posted 08-26-2010 11:23 PM

Bit of an update.

First on the “safety” of tempered glass versus acrylics. I have experience with tempered glass and while it is stronger than plain glass it is not like auto windshields or side glass on cars which are laminated glass. Tempered glass is made by a process that generates internal stresses within the glass. The surface of the material is under compression, while the interior is under tension. My first hand experience is that tempered glass explodes into small pieces when the surface is breached. That is why you cannot cut tempered glass. Those small pieces are not artery cutting capable, like plain glass, but are extremely sharp. Also, they get everywhere. Want an example, look at a car with rear window broken the shards are probably still present in the front defroster ducts after many cleaning attempts. Want video, check u-tube for the famous spark plug ceramic chip flicked with finger nail to break tempered glass. I’m not against tempered glass, just not going to use it on this project.

The experiences of easily scratching and fogging acrylic products are the old process technology. Lexan, as closetguy noted, is from the newer process method of “cell cast sheet.” Asking some architects, all banks, hotels, casinos and the like will not use tempered glass and specify cell cast acrylic. Bullet proof “glass” in banks is now all acrylic. I went to three of the newer local drugstores and found all of their “clear” display cases were acrylic.

Older jewelry stores and the like with actual tempered glass displays with be quick to put a felt backed tray on top for the customer to see the product taken out.

So, I am going with acrylic, just not sure which flavor yet.


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