How to Make Your Own Model Car Display Case

If you take a huge amount of pride in your model collection and feel they deserve a place of their own to be shown off to friends and family, you might consider building a model car display case. This will allow your prized collectibles to be shown off at their very best.

Tools and Materials

  • Wood pieces (½-inch thick)
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Fine grade sandpaper
  • Panel pins/tacks
  • Drill with ½-inch wood bit
  • Tack hammer
  • 1/8-inch thick hardboard for cabinet backking
  • Handsaw or power saw
  • Wood glue
  • 1½-inch wood screws
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • ½-inch thick wooden dowel
  • Tack rag
  • Hinges/magnetic catches
  • Glass
  • Picture frame edging
  • Picture frame ‘quarter’ beading
  • Framing staples
  • Wood stain or varnish
  • Paint brush

Step 1 – Planning

Measure the size of the cars you wish to display. Most model cars are on a scale of 1:43 so, by allowing approximately 1 inch either side of the car, your display case is going to be 3 inches thick. Let us assume that our cabinet will be 24 inches high and 12 inches wide.

Step 2 – Assembling the Cabinet

Cut 2 pieces of wood 12x3 inches in size and another two pieces of 24x3 inches in size. This is the base for the cabinet frame. For simplicity, use the butt joint where one piece butts up against the other and is attached with glue and screws. Assemble the wood pieces into a box with the longer pieces used as the sides. Mark where your screw holes will go. Set the marks approximately ½-inch from the edge of each side of the wood and ½ inch from the short edge to prevent splitting.

Mark all 8 holes and drill them. Use a small amount of wood glue on the edge that will be attached by the screws. Screw each panel together to make the box frame for the cabinet.

Mark the points on the inside of the cabinet for the shelves. Use a ½-inch drill bit to make dowel holes. Cut the wooden dowel into pegs of 1 inch in length. Place a small amount of glue in the dowel holes and insert the 1-inch dowel pegs into the holes, tapping gently with the hammer to secure them into place. Cut shelves to 11¾ inches in length

Pin the hardboard onto the back of the box frame to secure the entire piece. Hammer one panel pin into each corner of the backing board through to the frame and then two on the longer side at equal distances. Hammer one pin in the top and one at the bottom, also at equal distances.

Step 3 – Making the Cabinet Door

Effectively, the door emulates a picture frame. Cut the framing wood to the same dimensions as the cabinet (12x24 inches), making sure your frame corners are cut to precisely 45 degrees each. Secure each corner with wood glue and staple the frame together using 2 staples for each corner. Place the glass inside the frame and secure using the frame beading. This has a rounded edge but with a 90 degree corner cut out of it to rest against the two flat parts of the frame. Run some glue along the edge that will attach to the wood and then tack very carefully.

Step 4 – Attaching the Door

Make marks 2 inches from the top of the model car display case and 2 inches from the bottom on whichever side you prefer the door to hang. Screw the hinges to the cabinet box on the marked areas. Do the same with the door, making sure you don't break the glass. Stand the cabinet up and place the shelves on top of the dowel pegs. Sand your cabinet using fine grade sandpaper. Wipe with the tack rag to clear excess dust and then varnish. To secure the door, use small magnets or hooks and eyes.