SbS: Building the ultimate miniature showcase

by Hansrainer

Hello Jungle!

Hansrainer again :)

No matter if you are a competition painter, an army painter for wargames or painting the figures of your board games, we all like to keep our results in a place were we can see them and show them to friends, visitors and family (well, many of us do :) ).

Follow me in this article to build the ultimate miniature showcase with me:

Over the years, Detolf, a full glass showcase made by the swedish company Ikea has become the staple of miniature collectors it seems. Its a full glass case with three floors, and a lot of easy hacks to add more. However, while the concept makes the best use of ambient light, adding sufficient lighting is a challenge, especially without displaying a lot of wiring and cabling as well. There are some solutions to run current through the metal shelving of the showcase, but in a household with little children, thats an unacceptable safety hazard.

I ended up with a similar construction as many other hobbyists, adding additional shelves the detolf and rigging some rather week lighting to it. The construction was functional, but due to weird setup, I ended up rarely using the illumination and rarely looking at the showcase, only turning it on every now and then, if someone interested in the hobby showed up at my place. And with this treatment, my works were somehow in our living room but rather in a way like a cabinet with glasses and plates than as a proud exhibit of my dabbling in the fine arts.

There are ways to improve the Detolf's though:

How to dust proof your Detolf Ikea Cabinet
Raffa explains a good way to make your cabinet dust proof!

How to pimp your Detolf Cabinet
Raffa explains the pimping of his cabinets.

... but my Idea was even bigger!


Late last year, I realized how sad I was whenever I put a new piece in there, only to be stored and more or less forgotten. I put some thought to it and analyzed what most annoyed me and how to solve it:

1. I rarely used the illumination because it was a fuss to turn it on in the evenings and off when I went to bed.  

2. The fact the shelves were glass/plexyglass as well, made the whole impression somewhat noisy, as each shelves display was affected by the shelves above and below.

3. Only the top to or three shelves really drew attention as the rest would need constant bending down to take a closer look.

4. Having all busts and figures on each shelf at the same level made the shelves either looking empty or crowded, making it hard to look at the models in the back.

    I solved these Issues by looking for a showcase with separate cabinets, a programmable timer for the light and some ways to structure each cabinet. Also the cabinets needed to be spread over less height, thereby making them easier to look at.

    As an added requirement, I realized, that Miniatures are best shown off under a mild daylight (5500  Kelvin) while on the other hand my family preferes warm light in the living room.


    As for the cabinet itself, I ended up with Kallax by Ikea - its a staple system of the brand and comes in lots of varieties. All shelves have a roughly cubic arrangement and you can get all kinds of inserts, not least among then a showcase insert with white insides and a glass door.

    While the shelf is availabe in several different sizes an configurations, I ended up going for 5 high and 3 wide solution. This allowed me to create a showcase that fits the other interior of our living room with regard to height. I converted the top three rows (with three cabinets each) to showcases and using the lower 6 as storage for stuff currently not on display, unpainted minis etc.

    For illumination I decided to go with LED strips that allow me to control the light temperature and the controlling module also came with a programmable Bluetooth-element. The strips provide 500 lumen per meter and can be adjusted from a warm 2700K to a very bright 6500K. This sounds like a lot of light, but within each cabinet, you can use about 1 m of strip and thats a decent light not too much.

    To achieve an even, largely shadow-free lighting in each cabinet, I planned to put them in a U-shape, with the closed side to the door. I also decided to mount them in a roughly 45 degree-angle from the ceiling to avoid casting hard shadows when illuminating from the top or blinding viewers too much and losing lights on the lower levels by mounting them on the walls. To make the mounting a bit easier and for a more professional finish, I got delta shaped aluminum rails for mounting LED-strips. 

    I chose the strip system primarily based on availability, convinience and price. There are multiple brand suppliers out there, with prices ranging from cheap (a few € per meter) to really expensive (upwards of 30€ per meter). If you want to stay on the cheap side, you should at least consider sufficient light output at a decent light temperature - 300 Lumen/m at least and look for a daylight source (for more details on light quality, please refer to the earlier article on painting lights. The same basic principles apply: what to look for in painting light). I went with the tunable white version as the showcase is part of our living room furniture and I wanted the option to blend in with my families lighting preferences at most times while being able to present my works in the ideal conditions.
    The system also provides connectors that can be crimped directly to strips, sparing me any soldering hassle to connect the strips in each cabinet. Soldering would have been cheaper but a lot more work either and my soldering iron is kinda crappy and I wasnt willing to go the whole nine yards here.


    The construction of the IKEA parts was unsurprisingly quite simple. There were two major changes I made in timing to make the installation of the LEDs easier: I didnt install the doors of the cabinets and I cut the upper corners of the back walls, to leave room for the cables/strips to be threaded through.

    The likely most annoying part was cutting the delta profiles with a compound saw at 45° angles to allow for a seemless installation of the profiles.

    Take some time to think the cuts and settings of the saw through, otherwise you'll likely ending up throwing away quite some profile with wrongly cut corners... Also, when using powertools: Always wear eye protection and make sure your pieces are secured properly. We created a backstop jig to make sure all pieces were of the same length and the cuts in the right places. If you are inexperienced, ask a friend or family member who does. With our second cut we ended up shooting a piece of aluminum shrapnel across the workshop...
    Also: Measure twice - cut once. When you cut to miter, make sure you take the correct length of the outsides into account. Otherwise you end up throwing away the pieces that were cut to short.

    Back at the appartment, I did a dry fit of all parts (profile and strips) into the cabinets.

    Pro Tip: Turn the whole thing upside down, its a lot easier to mount the profiles that way instead of working upside down.

    I decided to glue the profiles in place using a double sided tape, mostly because its easy and looks neat and is a lot less work than drilling holes and fidgeting around screwing them fast. The profiles and LED strips are practically weightless and the construction bears no mechanical strain, so using tape is more than sufficient. Before glueing the profiles in, I removed the plastic diffusors ready to be put back in after the strips were installed.

    After the profiles were in place, I put the LED-strips in, fed the cables out, installed the back walls and finished the installation of the inserts. After an initial power- and programming check, I turned the whole showcase back into the ending position - upside-up so to say. After the final tests, I removed the protective foíl from the diffusors, clicked the diffusors in place and started mounting the doors.

    Now that the showcase was basically finished, the manufacturer offers an app on iOS and Android that makes setting up programs for the lighting pretty easy. Its also compatible with some smarthome standards like zigbee. The final tweek was the addition of some simple acrylic step counter stands to each cabinet. I went with simple transparent models (300 mm wide, 200 high, 200 deep with 3 steps), easily obtainable on amazon for about  12€ apiece. These allow me to present the pieces much better than just havin all pieces on one level.

    For now, I am pretty happy with the result, after nearly 6 weeks I still end up looking at the items in my showcase a few times a week and the whole thing is more present in our daily life. I might end up putting a white floor into the cabinets, but other than that, this thing fulfills all my display needs. Thank you for following me on the travel for my perfect showcase.

    If you want to build this or something similar yourselves - here is a list of the materials I used:

    Material list:

    1 x Ikea Kallax White Stained Oak effect (4x3)
    1 x Ikea Kallax White (3 x 1)
    9 x Ikea Kallax Insert with Glass Door
    6 x Ikea Kallax Insert with Door (White Stained oak effekt)
    5 x 2 DISPLAY4TOP Acrylic 3 Step Counter Display Stand Retail Riser Polish Base 200 * 300 * 200 * 2

    1 x Paulmann MaxLED Tunable White 10m Basisset (70565) ca. 130€ (Comes with 10m Strip, Bluetooth Controller und Power Adapter)
    5 x 2 m Paulmann Delta Profile
    4 x Paulman MaxLED Universal Connectors (for connecting the cut 1 m pieces of LED strips)
    2 x Paulmann MaxLED  Cable 1m
    1 Roll of double sided tape

    cordless screwdriver (makes setting up the shelves easier)
    miter or compound saw
    universal pliers
    philips-head screwdriver



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