The Idea of Building 18 Display Cabinets

How I found the museum

I was looking at Wisconsin sites on the web and found one about interesting places to see around Manitowoc. I never heard of wood type and the history of that industry, so I looked at the Hamilton site and recorded the address. A year later I looked again and the museum was moving. They had work weekends where volunteers move and sort things. This would be a good way to learn what wood type is and why anyone would have such a museum.

I drove up Friday and slept in the van in the parking lot. People showed up and I went in the museum. We got our work assignments to move cabinets from all over into the store area. I was having a lot of fun with pallet jacks and furniture dollies. We had lunch in Two Rivers at a street fest so I had a chance to look at the Hamilton factory.

By Sunday when our job was finished, I knew Jim, the Director, Stephanie, Assistant Director and some volunteers. And I saw the entire museum space. They have an overhead crane in the back room. I was pretty intrigued with the place and the people. So I thought I would be back to see how it came out when they reopened the museum in the new building.

Housewarming Party

The housewarming was fun. People printing and all kinds of things in the store. I got a t-shirt, posters and some wood type to spell my name. Going through the print shop with Stephanie Carpenter, I asked what they needed. She said they could use more type display cabinets, since they have a large collection. I especially liked looking at the type with the many styles and sizes and just the beautiful wood.


I spent three days camping in Peninsula State Park, Door County, one of my favorites. I had a new kayak to try out and had a great time. On the way back I stopped at the museum to say Hi and asked Stephanie if they still needed more display cabinets. I have been building with wood for a long time and figured I could make some. The original cabinets looked good with nothing more than ninety degree joints. Easy to cut and join. So I told her I would build some, like a dozen. She said they had no budget for more cabinets, but I said I would buy the wood and do the work as a fun project. When Jim came by to talk about more cabinets, I said how about a dozen and a half. I was coming back from camping and felt pretty adventurous.

I got home and looked in the garage. There was no way to fit just the plywood I would need in there. So I needed to get a shop. I’ve thought about having a shop for a lot of years. Plenty of room, good lighting and heat in the winter. But I never had a project that wouldn’t fit in the garage. I looked around an industrial park ten minutes from home, wrote down a couple phone numbers and found a space just vacated with no new tenant. I signed the lease for three months and moved the big power tools in the next day. Two and a half months later I took the parts for eighteen display cabinets to the museum and finished building them.

Jigs & Methods

To align the walls of the boxes before screwing them together I used a 4x4 held to the top of a work table with a lag bolt. Then clamp two box sides to the 4x4, so they are held at 90 degrees and drive the screws in.

My table saw is a portable one, so the work surface is small. To cut long pieces with the miter gauge, I built an extension on the right side which clamped level with the edge of the saw top. Now the table width was four feet.

The display cabinets have a door frame with plexiglas over a box. A type case goes in the box. The door frame has 45 degree miter joints at each corner. To make 144 frame pieces exactly the same size, you could cut a master template and mark the angles on the stock. Or you can make a master template, put it on top of the stock in the miter saw, clamp them together and push the template against the saw blade. Then clamp the stock in place, remove the template and make the cut. It will exactly duplicate the template. Lots faster and easier.

The end.

Bruce McConachieDisplay

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