We got the idea for the display case shelf out of an old book called Woodworking for Kids. With a few tweaks and updates, we came up with this!

Dunn DIY Display Case Shelf

Step 1: Cut

Using a chop saw, cut your 10-footer into the nine pieces needed for the frame and shelves.

  • 22 ¼" sides x2
  • 18" top and bottom x2
  • 16 ½" shelves x2
  • 10 ¾" shelf x1
  • 5" shelves x2

Keep in mind that no matter how exact you are during this step you will probably need to trim off some edges later when you're fitting it together.

Step 2: Sand

Smooth out the ends of your cuts with a piece of sandpaper. We love using spruce because it's generally naturally smooth enough that it doesn't require much sanding. If you do end up with a rough piece, give it a once-over with 150-grit and then 220-grit sandpaper.

Sanding Display Case Shelf

Step 3: Build frame

First, we're going to construct the frame of the shelf. Take the two 22 ¼" and the two 18" pieces. The 18" pieces will be your top and bottom and will be on the outside of the side pieces. With the 3/32" bit, drill through the top piece into the side piece, making two holes. Fasten in two 2" screws. Repeat drilling and screwing on the other side of the top piece. You can now turn the display case upside down and attach the bottom piece using the same method as on top.

diy display case frame

Step 4: Dry-fit pieces

When the frame is put together it's time to do a dry fit. This will be a good time to make any necessary adjustments to the pieces. Arrange the two longest shelves horizontally and vertically inside the frame. Fit the three smaller shelves wherever you like the look of them. Cut any pieces down to size if needed.

framing a display case shelf

Step 5: Mark shelves

Once you've fit everything inside the frame, use a pencil to mark where the shelves meet each other and the frame. Run a light pencil mark up and down either side of the ends. We recommend doing this in a systematic way or it's very easy to forget and hard to tell which ends you've already marked.

marking diy shelves

Step 6: Install shelves

Take the pieces out and attach the two longest shelves together. Pre-dill two holes down through the horizontal shelf into the vertical shelf lined up with the pencil marks. Apply a small bead of glue on the end of the vertical shelf before you secure the pieces with 2" screws. Fit the pieces back into the frame to make sure they still fit well.

Attach each additional shelf individually in the same manner fitting it back inside of the frame after each addition. The position of your shelves may need to shift slightly, or you may need to make a few more minor cuts.

After all the shelves are connected to each other, you can apply glue to all ends and slide it into the frame, wiping off any excess glue with a wet paper towel. Pre-drill two holes through the frame into each shelf and secure with 2" screws.

wood glue display shelf

display case framing diy

Step 7: Stain wood

Now that your shelf is constructed, lay out your drop cloth and prepare to stain. Shake and stir the can of stain well and apply to the shelf following the directions on the can. We used Varathane wood stain in the color "provincial." This is one of our favorite stains because of the way it brings out the natural quality of the wood and adds a lot of color dimension. Wipe off any excess stain and allow to dry. Your display case is now ready to be put up. You can set it on an existing surface, but make sure that the bottom piece is nice and flat. Because of the wood we used, ours rocks back and forth a little.

staining display case

Step 8: Mount to wall (optional)

We opted to wall-mount ours, using a couple of ring hangers attached to the back of the shelf. Drill a small hole in the back of the shelf using the hanger as a guide, then secure the hanger in place with the screw provided. The hanger can either stick out above the shelf or hang down below the shelf. You can then use screws to mount it to the wall. If you're unsure about the best way to do this you can always talk to a Dunn Lumber employee.

display case shelf diy