On the building of Custom Displays

Years ago, I tired of plastic tables and segmented trays as means of present my work at shows. I decided to attempt something new, something odd - a modular display. I wanted a customizable display for any show situation.  Indoor or outdoor, a 10x20 space or an 8 foot table.  I needed something that worked for it all, and looked good. 

The following is the step by step process I went through in creating those displays. (technically this is the second time building/re-designing these displays... the first were used for several years and then stolen - along with my entire business trailer - in 2010, this is the refined and redone version of the same concept. Because my trailer was taken right before show season got into swing, I built these new trays over the course of 2 weeks. The first ones took a month to build... There were a LOT of late nights...) 

It all starts with a concept... 

...and a pile of wood. (cut down from larger sheets.) This time around I used sturdy filled poplar ply, solid bars of poplar, and oak. (obviously not all of the concepts made it into the real world. so it goes with sketches and plans.)

First step was to route a deep line in all of the solid wood bars for edges of the trays (I was using old-style cabinetry techniques, gluing the frame at the corners and sliding the base into the routed slot so they wouldn't warp over time.)  Then the sanding of EVERYTHING.

I stained all of the tray bases and edge-boards before assembling them.  That way there wont be any unstained bits exposed if they shift later.

4 coats of stain and polyurethane later (with gentle sanding between each layer...), the trays are finally ready to assemble.

While the glue is drying before the final touches of stain can be applied on the trays, I turn to cutting and building the legs and supports for the trays.

The bases were made so that corresponding cuts in the legs and the cross-beam support would slide together and lock under the weight of the tray. (I just cut the edges of the leg parts away and arced the bottom of the support because it looked nice...)

Other important parts followed... Quarter circle shelves that could lock the trays into right angles, solid oak bracer bars that would lock the trays together in straight lines and little half circle "end-tables" that bolted onto the exposed edges of trays to create extra display space and cover pesky sharp corners. (all the bracers, corners and end tables are held in place by carriage bolts in corresponding holes throughout the displays.)

Next was a whirl-wind of sanding and staining... some at the school studio where the project began and some in (and in front of) my garage - much to the annoyance of my neighbors. (some of it did drift rather late into the evening...)

Layers later... they are finally complete.

At first, I filled them with rice to cushion and show the work, but later heavy carpet was cut to lay in the trays as a backing for the jewelry it was made to display.

The finished product turned out pretty well. 

These trays are completely modular. I can use several and stack them without the legs if I only have a table (like the lower right hand pic) or I can bolt them together in a wide range of configurations so they will fit in most spaces/wrap around corners.

A lot of work, but in the end so very much nicer than the old plastic tables...