Monday, October 31, 2011

LEGO Minifigure Display Cases

[Update 2013: The cases are complete! You can see my finished wall of Minifig cases as well as some other versions that people have made. And here's a tour of the Lego Room and its most current iteration.]

I was always disappointed that we collected LEGO minifigures and then stored them in plastic containers out of sight. I thought about displaying them on a large base plate but my nose itched at the thought of all that dust.

Ideally, I wanted something enclosed that could be hung on a wall. With a rough idea in mind, I dragged the boy to Michael's. We scored some amazing deals on shadow boxes - they were originally $64.00 each but were on sale for 40% off and we had a coupon for an additional 25% off the total purchase. Don't buy these without the coupons.

The measurements of my shadow box are 18 x 24 and approximately 2 inches deep (I checked on their website and didn't see the model and size that I bought, sorry!). Also double check each case even if they're from the same manufacturer. We noticed a half inch discrepancy in one of the cases and had to take it back - it was very noticeable on the wall next to the others.

[Check Michael's website for weekly coupons. They routinely have coupons for 40% off one regular item.]

Shadow Box Case

James originally wanted to build the interior with just LEGO but that approach needed multiple support columns. I wanted a cleaner, open look which required custom shelves. We wandered around Home Depot for a while until we found these. Perfect!

Trim for the shelves

Trim for the shelves

For our first set of cases, we had Home Depot cut the trim to size - the cutting service is free and they will cut almost anything for you as long as you buy it. Stack multiple pieces of trim on top of each other for cleaner cuts because the piece on the bottom will be splintered.

Trim for the shelves

I recommend you measure each piece while you're at the store, just in case things are off. We had to get a few re-cuts the first visit.

Soon to be shelves

After sanding (lots of splinters!), I spray painted the wood with Rustoleum Satin Black - all purpose paint. Two coats and remember to get the sides that face the glass. There are 8 shelves per shadowbox with the bottom of the case serving as a row.  This was actually the longest step - literally waiting for paint to dry. With a few coats of black spray paint, the "shelves" blended right in with the case frame.

I started off using primer which you can see in the photo below but got lazy and skipped that step for the subsequent cases with no noticeable difference.

Shelves

We decided to use LEGO bricks and plate along the side as support columns. Each shelf was 2.35 inches high - for light saber clearance etc, you know, important stuff - except the bottom and top shelf, which needed slightly more room for the bigger minifigures like Hagrid or General Grievous.

Each column contained 5 1x3 bricks, 2 1x3 plates and a 2x3 plate for the shelf to rest on. You need 2 support columns per row - one on each side. We didn't have enough black bricks and plates to build more than one case so we ordered the rest on Bricklink.

In order to secure and stabilize the columns, I used some scrapbooking adhesive called ZOTs to stick the bricks against the side of the case and also the shelves to the 2x3 plate. I love this stuff - it's acid free and while quite strong, it's not permanent. Here's one column ready to be stuck inside the case:

Columns and Zots!

If you're really compulsive, use a level for each row because if the bottom row is askew, you'll keep building on top of it.

After we started this process, I did a Flickr search and saw that someone had used a similar approach - although he used all LEGOs to build his shelves.

Shadow Box

I placed each minifigure on a 2x4 plate (or the stand included with Collectible Minifigures) also secured to the shelf with two ZOTs. No sliding around. Use whatever spacing you like to make sure they're not too crowded. For my cases, each shelf holds 11 minifigures and with 9 shelves, that's a total of 99 minifigures per case.

We were at odds at whether or not to display everything. The boy wanted unique models, otherwise, we'd have rows and rows of Stormtroopers, droids and Rebel fighters. Originally, the cases looked like this ... but it looked busy and chaotic.

Lego Minifigure Display: Star Wars

 So, I tried grouping like minifigs together. That boring case we were worried about ended up looking like this:

Troopers!!

Amazing!! This approach requires a bit more work since we're always opening the cases and rearranging things as we get new sets.

And remember my craft studio? I converted it to a LEGO room and sold all my scrapbooking supplies. And then the AT-AT moved in.

Lego Minifigure Display Wall: 99% full


Things of note: 

1. I wish I had bought front-closing shadow boxes (think Aaron Brothers may have some) - this would make accessing and switching the minifigures so much easier. Also, great for kids who want to play (gasp!) with the little guys.

**Update: I made some additional cases with the front closing shadow boxes. They're a little bit smaller but the ease of access is perfect.

Front opening Minifigure Case - Marvel and DC

2. I made these cases vertically but horizontally looks just as good and would use up less materials - less bricks, plates etc because of less rows.

3. Move the minfigures as close to the glass as possible. I moved these guys one stud closer and they were a lot more visible.

4. Be prepared to buy a lot of Lego minifigures.

Play well!

16 comments:

  1. You two have way too much time on your hands. LOL

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  2. I LOVE this!! Awesome.

    I think a whole case of Stormtroopers would be pretty funny.

    I also saw some framed lego figures, sold on a kind of etsy store,*googles*.....ok here it is. I especially love this one. Would be fun to make :)

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  3. You guys are awesome. I never gave any thought to Lego until I had three sons. Now, I must go to the Lego aisle or Lego store anytime I'm near one. I even tell my boys that they're Mommy's Legos so I don't have to hear any bickering. When they do get tired of them, I hope to make something similar because I would love save them for my grandkids, and I really think they're a cool display piece. Now, I ask for Legos for Christmas too.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Jess - you sound like me. I always scan the LEGO aisles of every store I'm in.

      If you haven't already been to this site, I highly recommend it.

      http://toysnbricks.com/

      This is where I find out about all the sales, coupons etc. So, I rarely ever buy full price and usually get most of my LEGO for 40-50% off (with free shipping). Saved me a fortune because these plastic bricks are expeeeensive!!

      Delete
  4. Polarizing filters work well for removing glare

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  5. Wow that's super cool. We have a much smaller number and are working on a plan to house them so they can still be played with too.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Wow I love display case.

    I've been looking to buy a display case for my Logo minifigures and I just can not find anything I like, besides this case.

    Does anyone know of a site that I can buy a similar display case from???

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  8. Hi Cindy, I'm trying to drawn some scheme to give to the artisan who will make my showcases.
    Unfortunately I cannot find anything ready and I have to build them.
    I'm considering to place 16 figs on their base on the same shelf, adding 1 cm (0,4 in) between each minifig and 6,5 cm (2,5 in) between each shelf.
    What do you think? Are these measures ok in your opinion?
    What about the deep of your shelf?
    Can you post please yours measures?
    The look of your cases are amazing and I'd like to get the same result.
    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Massimo

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    Replies
    1. hi Massimo,

      I'm so glad you like my cases! Did you see that some people made some very similar cases using Ikea Ribba frames?

      You can see them here:

      http://nubcakes.blogspot.com/2012/07/show-me-yours.html

      I think this might be better/cheaper than having someone make them for you. But if you want my exact look, I'd be happy to supply you with the details.

      Delete
  9. Ribba!
    Anyway, when you find some time, if you can give me your measures I try to put something on my still-blank sheet...

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  10. Cindy, I checked and even if none replayed to my post, I'm sure Ribba frames are not enough depth to place minifigs with their accessories on their stands.
    If you look closer the Ikea frame photo you can see that the guy had to put some figs sidelong.
    Too bad, Ribba frame could have been cheap and easy to find solution :(

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    Replies
    1. m pretty sure that people are using Ribba frames without making modifications to the frame.

      I recommend you check out this thread on the Brickset forums. You can see all the Ribba versions there and ask the builders directly.

      http://www.bricksetforum.com/discussion/71/how-do-you-display-minifigs/p6

      Delete
  11. Thanks for the great idea! I just finished two 18x24 frames for my two boys. I opted to remove the glass to make access and addition to their collections easier.

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  12. Very nice idea and very elegant as well! I have a huge Minifigure collection but they are in a case with glass shelves they are stacked deep but its hard to see the ones in the back!
    I will keep and eye out for these cases!
    Steelwoolghandi

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  13. OMG! I hope New Zealand has all this cause I now know my next project!!!! These display cases are amazing. We have all our minifigures in a cabinet but on the wall would look so much better. Thankyou so much for posting the instructions :-)

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