Picture of Display Case for a Military Honors Flag

When someone in the United States of America who once served in the armed forces dies, a military honor guard presents a folded American flag to the family at the graveside committal service.  Many people buy or make a wooden three-cornered flag case with a glass front.  Although a cheap flag case can be had for as little as $20 US, a decent case made of solid wood can cost over $100 US. 

At this link you can read about the significance of the folds in the flag and other things related to the ceremony.
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Step 1: Take dimensions

Picture of Take dimensions
measure thickness of folded flag.jpg

I chose to make a case for the flag that draped the coffin for my wife's father when he died a few years ago.  He served in the US Army during World War II in the Philippines.  The first step is to measure the folded flag.  I am using a piece of newspaper to make a paper pattern.  The flag is positioned with 3/4 inch of space around it for the wood that will make the case.  Unfurled, the flag measures 5 feet by 9 1/2 feet.  Folded, two sides are 17 5/8 inches.  The third side is 25 5/16 inches.  The folded flag is 3 1/4 inches thick.  See the second photo.  Your measurements may vary, depending on how tightly the flag is folded. 

pfred24 years ago
I guess someone has to say it. Don't refold the flag! The spirit of the fallen is contained within or some such nonsense. Anyhow it is bad form to unfold the flag! Must be why these boxes are so popular. Helps people resist the urge. I just saw a show on TV where some guy made one of these boxes. he did a great job and had lots of neat little tricks. Not that I remember a single one of them but I do remember the whole deal about not unfolding the flag.
Phil B (author)  pfred24 years ago
You probably saw Tommy MacDonald on "Rough Cut Woodworking" from WGBH, Boston broadcast over PBS. I have seen a number of his programs and saw part of the one on making a flag case and made reference to it in one of the early steps. My wife needed a flag to fly at church for some event, and there was no other flag. So, she unfurled this one from her father's funeral, and we had to fold it again afterward. I am a pastor and have seen quite a few honor guard ceremonies up close at the cemetery, so I know how they do the folding step-by-step. There is a web site that has neat information about the significance of the folding and each part of it. I meant to include that in the Instructable, but forgot.
pfred2 Phil B4 years ago
No! You didn't! I suppose a little more spirit at a church event can never hurt. Anyhow that sounds about right, the Tommy MacDonald on "Rough Cut Woodworking" from WGBH, Boston part. I think he was pretty good. His box came out real nice. Though he said he'd made about 200 or something silly like that beforehand. I guess after doing something 200 times we all get pretty good at it.
Phil B (author)  pfred24 years ago
Were I to do a second flag case like this, there are some things I would do differently to make less work and maybe achieve better results at the same time. I would also make some jigs that would allow me to do it right everytime with minimal bother. I once visited the furniture factory at Iowa's Amana Colonies. Special jigs and fixtures for specific tasks were hanging from the walls and the ceilings.
I love the way you made your flag case. I have made 2 one for my wife (her dad's flag) and one for my mom (grandad's) flag. I've read some of your posts and love the writing style also I don't have all the nice tools and have to be creative when working. The flag cases that I made were out of pine ripped to a 2x3 for the top pieces and a 2x4 for the bottom with a skirt ripped at 45 degrees to match the width of the uprights (i don't have a good camera at the moment so I cannot take pictures to post) I like the thicker wood to compliment the size of the flag and the beveled edge is a good place for the brass plaque. I also fashioned a cross to go in the center of the glass up to about a 1/3 height as I've never seen this done before but it looks nice and I have received many compliments on it. One day maybe I'll write an article and post with pictures.
Again good work and your posts are an inspiration for making the most of what I have to work with.
Phil B (author)  Topcat20214 years ago
Dan, Thank you for commenting. I really appreciate your comments. I would very much like to see a photo of your flag cases one day.

Many years ago I bought a copy of Woodwork for Secondary Schools in a second hand bookstore.  My copy was published in 1910.  It made the point that anything you can do with power tools, you can also do with hand tools.  It just takes a bit longer.  The 1915 edition of that book is now available as a free download here.  I shamelessly stole and idea from it and made an Instructable from it at this location.
Phil B (author)  pfred24 years ago
I found a link with information about the significance of the folds and other things related to the ceremony. I embedded the link in the Introduction, but here it is one more time:
As always my friend another great unstructable, very well done.
Thank you, Stelios. I felt embarrassed to admit all of the things that did not go as planned. But, it seemed good to share some helpful ways to overcome them. Thank you for looking at it. I hope the physical ailment we discussed in e-mail has improved by now.
IMHO woodworking is not about flawless projects but overcoming the difficulties or mistakes and still make a nice piece of work. Sorry about that typo mistake above instructable should have been the word :-) Thank you Phil for asking about my health, I am not fit yet for woodworking but is getting there.
When I was a boy in the State of Iowa I knew two brothers who were carpenters and known for their very fine work. They often said, "Every carpenter makes mistakes. A good one covers them up." I hope you can get back to your woodworking projects very soon. They are good mental therapy for the stresses of life.
I agree
Phil B (author)  rimar20004 years ago
Thank you, Osvaldo. This is the birthday gift for my wife that I mentioned. She seems pleased.