Intro: Make Invisible Floating Display Stands
These inexpensive and elegant clear floating displays for art or collectibles use minimal material and can be laser cut or cut by hand.
I was looking for a simple way to elevate and display sculptures that would make the artwork appear as if it is "floating". Mounting in this way is aesthetically pleasing, makes the artwork look more finished and is a professional standard for exhibiting artwork in at museums and institutions. It also allows the viewer to see underneath the piece to a certain degree.
This style of "disappearing" stands worked well for my sculptures and may work well for your display pieces too! Use these stands to present artwork, collectibles, products, jewelry or anything you want.
I use an Epilog laser cutter to cut the acrylic but you can use the same method to create these display stands by hand without the use of a computer or laser cutter. There are many approaches, designs and solutions to creating floating bases, share your ideas in the comments below!
You will need:
- Sheet Acrylic (3/16ths or 1/4 inch)
- Acrylic Rods (3/16ths or 1/4 inch)
- Laser Cutter and Computer OR Tools to Cut Acrylic
- Tracing Paper and Marker OR Scanner
- Optional Acrylic Cement
( I purchased my supplies from Tapp Plastics )
Step 1: Why Make a Stand?
I needed to make a stand when I was asked to share my artwork at REAL 2016 Capture > Compute > Create. The event has a lot of traffic and I wanted to protect the artwork from people touching it so I put my 3D printed sculptures in clear acrylic cases. I also felt encasing the artwork added to the aesthetic as I wanted to present these pieces as rare specimens.
The idea for the stand started with this horse head sculpture that I made which was designed to sit on a ledge like a shelf or mantle. It didn't sit right in the case because the jaw needed to hang below the level of the actual bottom of the piece; so I started experimenting with holding it up in the case at levels that I thought looked good. I quickly realized that most of my pieces would look better raised on a stand, if they were encased or not.
When I placed the sculptures in the cases they didn't always fit or sit right. Raising the sculptures off of the bottom of the case with space equally around the piece looked like a more finished presentation, like a mat around an image in a frame. It also allows the viewer to see underneath the piece to a certain degree.
Step 2: Test Out Heights for Your Stand
If you are using cases or not it is a good idea to test out heights that you would like your stand to be. I had some clear acrylic pre-made stands that I used to elevate my sculptures in their cases to get an idea of how high I wanted them to sit off the presentation surface. You could use little blocks or a roll of packing tape or anything you'd like to get an idea of elevation / height. If you are presenting in a case or display curio, set your piece on a stand in the space it will be displayed in for the best idea of what it will look like presented there.
Once you have a height established that you'd like, take a measurement of how high you'd like your piece to be off the ground, presentation surface, or base of the case.
Step 3: Design Stand Leg Placement
Consider if you would like the legs to be flush with and stop at the top of the stand or if legs should come up through the stand top for more security. This works well for pieces that have spaces in their base (like my art shown here), or for ceramic pieces that have a foot. In the ceramic foot example, you'd design the stand so that the feet go up in the inside of the ceramic foot/ ledge for more security, while the base of the ceramic foot sits on the tabletop of the stand.
Study your piece and take note where it would make sense to have the feet of the stand / clear acrylic rods. Three feet are usually most stable.
Step 4: Capture Base Pattern Dimesions
I scanned the base of my skull so I would get exact dimensions in the computer. Scanning didn't work for the horse head since I couldn't put the base flat on the scan bed, so I used a clear sheet of acetate (you can use tracing paper too), placed it on bottom of horse sculpture then traced the outline of the bottom part of the horse sculpture. I then scanned the tracing.
If you are making your stand by hand and not using a laser cutter, you do not need to scan and can simply trace the base of your piece on a clear or transparent piece of paper. Use this pattern to draw on your acrylic as a guide of where to cut.
When tracing by hand or on the computer (in next step), mark areas where it would make sense to have the feet of the stand / clear acrylic rods. Three feet are usually most stable.
Step 5: Trace Base of Artwork Pattern in Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator
- Open the program you use for laser cutting. In this example I am using Corel Draw.
- Establish the size of your laser bed as your art board and then bring in your tracing or scan pattern.
- Measure and make sure the tracing or scan pattern accurately reflects the size of the base of your artwork.
- Set your lines to "hairline" or the appropriate size for laser cutting in your program.
- Trace the base of your object (I used T-Splines).
- Measure and place ellipses where holes should be for your acrylic rods. Holes size should be .01mm larger than the rod size for a good fit.
- Hide layers other than the spline drawing so that only your splines and ellipses are sent to laser cutter.
Step 6: Cut!
Before cutting your stands, test your laser cutter settings.
I used 3/16ths inch/ 4.7mm acrylic and my settings are speed/power/frequency 20/70/5000 for 120 watt laser cutter. Every laser cutter is different but this may be a good place to start.
Send your designs to your laser cutter and cut out your pieces.
Step 7: Cut Base Legs
Next, design and cut the base's legs
Measure the length you'd like the rods to be. This can either be flush with the top of the base or extending above.
Mark rods and cut by hand OR you can use the laser cutter like colleague and friend Martin Horn taught me.
He's got a lot of great tips, check out his other instructables by clicking here!
I liked the method of cutting rods with the laser cutter because it gave a smooth, polished finished edge. This is how I did it:
I used 3/16ths inch/ 4.7mm acrylic rods.
- Create a guide in Corel Draw to lasercut 3/16ths inch rod into cardboard.
- Laser cut cardboard to make a guide to hold the rods.
My laser cut settings for 3/16th inch corrugated cardboard were speed/power/frequency 75/55/500
- Keep cardboard on laser bed, remove cut area. Place rods into cardboard guide.
- Create a new layer in your draw program, measure cut lines of the leg length you want over where the guide lines were for the cardboard.
- Hide cardboard layer.
- Send cut lines to lasercutter to cut acrylic rods.
Note: Something I learned was to only have 1 cut be the end and beginning of each leg instead of two next to each other, so this is a little different than the drawing I included.
Step 8: Assemble
Put together your base legs into base top. It make take a little pressure to slide them in. Test your piece on the base and see if you like the height. You may finish here or use acrylic bond or acrylic cement to secure the rods in place. Clean with windex before final presentation.
Step 9: Evaluate & Invent
I learned that in the future I may want to use black acrylic rods if I'm placing the sculpture on a black surface or black acrylic base.
I found some of my pieces were difficult to present on a stand because their bases were rounded so I tried a few other methods, including hanging with fishing wire and wiring a piece to a single rod which I glued to a white acrylic sheet I cut as a base.
This aesthetic worked well for me, as I wanted to present these pieces both as artwork and scientific specimens.
Step 10: Present!
Place your artwork on its stand in the place you'd like to share it, or in a curio or case.