Collector's Case

Here's a free woodworking plan with easy directions to follow to build a collector's briefcase to showcase and safely store all your favorite things.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Collector's Case

A prized collection of miniature cars, ceramic horses, or any other treasured items can be protected and show- cased in our briefcase. We used a piece of inexpensive acrylic window pane for the sides so you can see your collectibles from all angles.

Although small, this project requires considerable time, as many small pieces must be cut and assembled. But your time will be well spent, because you'll have created a lasting showcase for any important collection. And the case is portable so that it can be carried around to show the collection to friends.

Shopping ListWe sized the briefcase for Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars, but you can change the size of the spacers, adjusting the height of shelves to accommodate just about any small collectible item. You can also cut more spacers and position them to make individual compartments for each treasure.

Cutting spacers and trim pieces will take as much time as the actual assembly. Begin by cutting the 1x4 pine stock into two 14-inch-long pieces for the top (A) and bottom (B). Then lay out a 2-inch width on the piece that will be used for the bottom, and clamp a straight piece of scrap along this line to help guide your saw as you cut B to width. Repeat the process for A, but cut it 13/4 inches wide to allow clearance for the removable acrylic front pane.

Cutting ListThe sides are cut from 2-inch-wide lattice. Measure their length according to the Cutting List, and cut them to size using a wood miter box to ensure square cuts. The shelves (D) are cut from lattice 13/4 inches wide. Measure them and cut to size, following the Cutting List.

Since there are eight spacers (E) all the same size, use a stop block to help cut the pieces. Place a scrap of wood 11/2 inches from the cutting slot of the miter box, and clamp it to your table or miter box. Then push the 13/4-inch lattice down the miter box until it hits, stop, and make your cut. Repeat for all eight spacers. While one carpenter is cutting, the other can be sanding the parts.

Cut the top trim (F) and side trim (G) to length from 1-inch-wide lattice. Don't cut the bottom trim (H) to length yet.

Your local hardware store will cut acrylic panes (I and J) for you, or you can purchase a standard size pane large enough to cut both from. Acrylic can be scored with a sharp knife and then carefully cracked along the score line.

After all this cutting, the assembly is easy. Put glue on one end of the top (A), and nail the side © flush with the top piece and even with its back. Piece C will extend beyond piece A at the front, because the side piece is wider than the top piece. Use 7/8- inch wire brads, and place them back from the edges of the sides to prevent splitting. Repeat for the bottom (B).


Turn the case over, and glue and nail up the other side. Be sure to align the top and side as you did on the other end, keeping in mind that the top is narrower than the sides.

Turn the case over, and glue and nail up the other side. Be sure to align the top and side as you did on the other end, keeping in mind that the top is narrower than the sides.

First glue and nail the top and side trim (F and G) in place with 7/8-inch wire brads on the back of the case. Align the trim pieces flush with the sides and square at the ends. When nailing on the side trim, take care to drive the nails in carefully to avoid splitting the narrow side piece.

Measure the distance between the side trim pieces to get an exact fit for the bottom trim (H). Cut it to this measurement. Nail and glue into place. Then sink all nail heads with a nail set.

Turn the case over, and insert the back pane (J) into the case. Your spacers and shelves go in next. Put a drop of glue on the back of a spacer, and place it snugly against the inside and bottom of the case; place another spacer in the opposite corner. All spacers and shelves are 1/4 inch short of the front edge of the sides to leave room for the sliding front pane.

Put the first shelf in place, pushing it down against the spacers. Glue up two more spacers, and place them tightly against the inside and top of the first shelf to hold it in place. Then insert the next shelf, and repeat for all spacers and shelves. Place a small amount of glue on the ends of the top shelf and push it into place; it doesn't need a spacer above it.

The front trim is glued and nailed into place the same way as the back trim. The top trim is only glued to the front edge of the side, leaving a 1/4-inch gap behind it for the front pane to slide into.

We used a modern-style drawer pull for a handle, but you can choose whatever style suits your taste. Drill holes for your handle according to installation instructions furnished by the manufacturer.

A natural finish of tung oil is used to highlight the pine. If you decide to stain your case, apply sealer to the end grain of the pine, or else those areas will absorb more stain than the sides and turn out much darker.

TIME REQUIRED Eight hours for cutting, building, and assembling, plus drying time for glue and finish.

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Find helpful advice and tips about tools, finishing, safety practices and a glossary of woodworking terms at Before You Begin