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Brian Wolfe

Do it yourself display stand

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Do it yourself Plexiglas edged weapon display stand.

 

First:

Do not try this at home, I am a professional.   Seriously, if you are nervous around very sharp blades spinning at extremely high speed with no guards it would be better to ask a woodworking friend to help with this project.  I’ve worked around woodworking machines most of my life and something new such as this project always makes me extra cautious.

 

Second:

If you are going to do this yourself best to do so when your doctor’s office is open (bad joke but truer than you might think).

 

I do quite a bit of photography of swords for different articles both here on GMIC and for other publications and have wanted a good stand that didn’t appear so obvious, such as ones made of wood, for quite a while now.  My so-called photo studio is purely amateur but with a little patience I manage some fairly good images. A friend of mine suggested stands made from Plexiglas but this involved experimenting with bending the material and just a little too much heat and the project is ruined.  While at the local stationary store I found pre-made stands that are used for things such as restaurant menus on their tables and thought that perhaps with some modification these might serve my purposes. Obviously they did and therefore I wanted to share this with you.

 

You, or your woodworker friend, will need a table saw with a carbide blade and a drill press with a ¼ inch Forstner bit. I use an industrial carbide rip blade for everything except when I need a narrower cut, almost all woodworkers will be using carbide tipped blades and usually the narrower cross cut blade (which would be better).  The Fostner bit is essential as other bits will most likely crack the Plexiglas when drilling the hole.  Just Google Forstner bit to see what they look like if you don’t already know.  Warning: Do not attempt this project with a circular saw, e.g. “Skill Saw” or a hand drill!

 

The menu holders are 5 inches wide so you will need to cut one down the middle to produce two equal (more or less – not that important) halves.  Set the fence on the table saw at 2½ inches (measure from the fence to the middle of the saw blade).  First you will need to cut the base of the stand.  Do this by keeping the stand’s edge against the saw’s fence and the blade just high enough to cut through the stand’s base.  Don’t worry about the rest of the stand, (that should be in a vertical position at this time), this we will cut later. Now run the base through the saw using a piece of wood – NOT YOUR FINGERS- to push the stand base.  Use a long enough piece of wood so that you can cut all the way through the stand. Don’t try to stop just at the moment the Plexiglas is cut in two otherwise the piece between the blade and the fence will bind and shatter.

 

Next you will need to cut the main section which is double thickness in order to hold a menu. Use a piece of 2 x 4 under the stand so that the base is supported off the saw table.  Make sure you have a long piece of 2 X 4 as you want to keep those fingers where they belong, on your hand not on the floor.  This may sound like obvious advice but even though I have a lot of experience in the shop I could, if you were here, show you a couple of blood trails on the floor from minor mishaps.  Remember that thing about working in the shop when the doctor’s office is open?  I’ve been there so often that they are considering a frequent customer discount!  

 

Feed the stand through the saw base first (remember you have already cut the base) this will allow the stand’s base to keep the stand from being pushed back toward you as you cut.

 

Once you have made this last cut well past the Plexiglas stand you are ready to drill the hole.  Don’t throw away that 2 X 4 as you are going to need it later.  Mark out where you want the hole which will be at the bottom of the slot you will be cutting later using that 2 X 4 again.  I measured ¾ inch down from the top as that is sufficient for any sword I might want to display. I got a little cracking around the hole even with using the Forstner bit but it doesn’t show when you are displaying the sword.  I think this cracking occurred because there is a space between the two halves of the stand. If I were making a lot of these I would probably plane a piece of wood down that would fit between the two Plexiglas halves so as to support them, thereby eliminating any cracking. 

 

Now you have the holes drilled go back to the saw, use a shorter 2 X 4 this time as support and while keeping the 2 X 4 against the saw fence “eyeball” the cut you are making so that the cut ends in such a way to leave a slot the width of the hole.  The base should be toward you this time as you are cutting in from the top rather than from the base end. You’ll have to make two cuts to get the slot wide enough.  Now you are finished except there will be some rough edges where the cuts were made but this can be easily removed with a pocket knife.  I didn’t sand and polished the cut edge as I used them with the factory edge facing the camera, or if you were going to use this to display a weapon the camera would be the viewer’s eyes.  I will be making another stand for the scabbards and photograph the two together with the sword elevated above the scabbard. If you intend to display a sword in the scabbard then simply measure the scabbard and make the slots fit that dimension, usually around ¾ of an inch.  For heavy items such as a rifle I would use thicker Plexiglas and heat-bend it so that if forms a long “U” shape, sort of like “] “when standing on its end.  The advantage of using two stands on the lighter items for photographing is that you can turn each stand slightly so that the camera “sees” only the edge of the stand.  A one piece stand will show more of the support “columns” in a photograph. 

 

I have not shown a lot of photos so if there are any questions please feel free to PM me or email me at brian.wolfe@bell.net and I will be happy to assist you.

 

Regards

Brian

 

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Today I decided to finish this project with the modifying the second menu holder to support the scabbard.  The only difference in procedure from the first part of this tutorial is in the size of the hole you will need to drill and therefore the resultant slot. I drilled a ¾ inch hole as that accommodates all of the swords I might want to photograph. With the exception of my oldest (c.1650) Japanese sword scabbards, they could use a hole of 1 inch in diameter.  For this post we are dealing with British and probably most European weapons. 


I have included a photo of the sword in its scabbard to show how this looks if you decide to just use the stand to display a sword in its scabbard.  The sword alone is sitting on a 4 inch deep box under the red fabric to elevate it above the scabbard and that seems to be about right for any posting I (or you) might want to make. 

 

The sword displayed is one of my prized specimens and is a Pattern 1822 Canadian Artillery Officer’s sword.  I didn’t show the engraving on the blade which is very nice because we are only talking about the photographing or displaying of the whole sword; any sword would have done, I just wanted to “play” with this one today.

 

I hope you, or your woodworking friend, will try this project as I think it really works well.

 

Regards

Brian

 

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Oops, I hate it when I resize a photo twice!  I'll try again with the sword above the scabbard, to save your eyes.

Regards

Brian

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...and another thing.

Where is my memory today?  If you read the first part of this tutorial you will recall that I suggested that before you drill the hole it might be a good idea to insert a thin piece of wood where the menu would normally be before you drill to prevent splitting or cracking of the Plexiglas.  I did this to prove it would work and it did.  This may be hard for those without a shop full of thin scrap but you can sand the piece (after cutting it as thin as possible) on a belt sander.  I had to do this as my planner will not plane that thin.  

I think I have recalled everything now.

Regards

Brian

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