Introduction: Illuminated Wall Mounted Display Unit

About: I'm an avid self builder and workshop nut, into alternative energy and all things gadgety, living on the side of a mountain still renovating a house after 13 years, trying to be mostly self sufficient ....

I was asked by my son to build a unit to display his gem collection, he liked the look of one that his grandfather had built a few years ago to house a shell collection, so we started with that as a basic plan.

Using some left over wood from another project and some acrylic off cuts from my greenhouse, we knocked this wee cabinet up over a period of a couple of weeks, and I’m pleased with the way that it turned out, I’ve had fun working with the acrylic, I’m much more comfortable using it than when I started.

Sorry I haven’t got more detailed pictures of the steps, I didn’t intend this to be my 1st instructable but after getting some great ideas from here recently it has inspired me to share.


1m of 40x10mm for face frame
1m of 30x10mm  for rear box frame
Piano Hinge
Off cuts of Acrylic sheeting
Led String light and battery holder (optional)

Tools required
Fine toothed mitre Saw
Sharp Knife for marking acrylic
Basic picture frame tools (V nailer, frame clamp)
Acrylic Bonding/welding agent with syringe
Small pressure clamps 4+
Table Saw (not essential)

The materials and tools required are just a rough list of what I used, most of the tools are optional.

Step 1: Assembling the Frames

The top picture is the piece made by my father that gave me the inspiration for this project, the dimensions are roughly the same .

First build your 2 wooden frames (rear box frame and face frame).

Cut timber to length required, I made the face frame 1mm wider all round to give me some tolerance when hinging.

I ran the face frame timber through the table saw on its edge (cheek cut) to rebate 20mm for the acrylic window and did the same for the rear frame on its face for the rear acrylic panel to sit flush.

Mitre the 2 frames and join with V nails if you have them, nails or dowels if you prefer, leave to dry overnight in a frame clamp (I made a basic one from plans on the net).

When dry, a light sand and 2 coats of varnish to seal, I used a water based polyurethane.

Step 2: Working With Acrylic

I used off cuts left from my greenhouse and cut them to size on my table saw, a quick word of caution if you haven’t done this before, I would suggest wearing full face protection, It can shatter quite violently and the last thing you want to be doing is picking shards of acrylic out of your face, alternatively many specialist Plastic suppliers will cut this to size for you if presented with a clear cutting list.

On your table saw cut the larger front and back window pieces first and test fit, ensuring that you leave the protective film on, then cut multiple strips for the dividers/shelves all 30mm wide, you need 2 vertical legs 440mm (approx), and 7 horizontal shelves 360mm (approx), then cut a small notch out of the end of all the pieces to seat the cable for the lights.

To make the acrylic framework

Cut slots half way through in the left and right vertical legs where you want your shelves to be, use the mitre saw set to 90 degrees with the pieces taped together to ensure your shelves line up straight, then cut corresponding slots in the shelves using a clamped piece of wood as a stop so everything lines up then slot together (no glue required).

Once you have your basic frame in place cut the dividers to suit, clamp lightly in place and use the syringe to capillary the solvent into the joins, I used a couple of small wooden off cuts to square the dividers during clamping.

The front Perspex window was attached using thin strips of left over wood drilled and nailed with small tacks. The rear window was drilled and attached using the smallest screws I had 3x12 I think.

My workshop buddy is allways lurking under the table ready to munch anything i mistakenly drop, only if its really important obviously !

Step 3: Lighting

Feed the led light string round the edge of the frame, to secure the LED's I did think about drilling the side acrylic strips and pushing the LED’s through the holes but decided against it in the end, I found that they sit well if I used scrap acrylic squares drilled with the LED’s pushed through the holes flush and just placed in position, not glued.

I hacked a battery holder from an old remote control car to fit in the lower slot and soldered a small slider switch in beside it.

There was a slight bow in the shelves under test load so I added a supporting strip between the bottom shelf and the wooden frame.

Step 4: To Finish and Mount

Cut 4 squares of timber to fit in the corners of the unit, as excess screw pressure on the Acrylic can shatter it.Drill thought the squares of timber and acrylic and mount the unit to the wall using plasterboard fixings in my case.

The final task was the installation of a swing catch and brass eyelet on the side.

Apparently I have to build another one now for medals .... watch this space.