Stefanie’s Sacred Heart Display Case

Based on a sacred heart pendant and unique display case she saw in Italy, my friend Stefanie asked me if I would consider making her a similar display case. After looking at a photograph of the display case she saw, I said, “Sure, that looks like a fun and interesting challenge!” Stefanie ordered a sacred heart pendant from a friend she made in Italy, and had it sent to me so I could size and design a display case around it.

As a practicing veterinarian, one of the special features that attracted Stefanie’s attention originally was a hand-drawn graphic of an anatomical human heart featured on the front of the display case. After an extensive search of stock photographs and illustrations, I acquired a full-color illustration very similar to the graphic on the original display case. The design challenge then became finding the best method of applying the illustration to our version of the wooden case. My friends Joanna and Vince at CG Vinyl Studio suggested inkjet printing the illustration on printable vinyl, overlaminating it for protection, attaching it to the display case with a special spray adhesive, and finally coating the entire piece with clear, two-part epoxy resin.

Next came the design challenge of tracing the outline of the display case and scaling it to Stefanie’s pendant. Once the tracings of both the display case and pendant were done in InkScape, I imported the vectors into SketchUp and designed a two-piece display case with a windowed display area and hidden recesses for storing the pendant’s chain. For ease of access, the two-piece case will be aligned with brass dowel pins and held together with four small magnetic catches.

From SketchUp, I exported the 2D vector outlines of all features on the front and back of the case into Vectric’s VCarve Desktop CNC design program and G code post processor. Since the front of the case had features that had to be machined on both surfaces, this project was my first use of VCarve’s two-sided machining capabilities. Once the CNC designs were complete and G code routines were generated for each machining step, I build an indexing jig for the CNC router’s table, so that blanks for the front and back of the case could be repeatably positioned. With all this preparation, and the CNC router’s working axes zeroed at the blanks’ lower left “0” corner, it was easy to complete all the machining steps with a quarter-inch solid carbide up cutting end mill.

After completing some sanding and other details of the wooden components, it’s time to turn attention to the vinyl graphic attachment and finishing techniques. The modified heart graphic was printed on glossy inkjet-printable clear vinyl and a protective overlaminate film was added with a cold laminator. The inside surfaces of the back and front of the display case were masked with a layer of releaseable painter’s tape and a layer of nonporous Tyvek tape in preparation for coating with two coats of clear two-part epoxy. Once the first coat of epoxy was cured, the vinyl heart graphic was cut out with a fresh No. 11 blade and applied to the front of the display case. A second coat of epoxy embedded the graphic, rendering the clear areas nearly invisible. Two coats of spar urethane on the inside surfaces of the display case were applied and allowed to dry thoroughly.

Cherry was selected to use in fabricating a desktop stand for the display case. A quick design in SketchUp and VCarve Desktop provided the data to build from. Two coats of spar urethane deepened the reddish hues of the cherry in a nice contrast to the light maple of the display case itself.

After magnets were epoxied in and the polycarbonate window was affixed with silicone, the last step was to flock the display case cavities and saddle of the display stand. Black Suede-Tex flocking was applied to the wet black adhesive with a very fancy (two cardboard tubes) Mini Flocker.

Based on sliding the magnets apart instead of pulling on them, opening and closing the display case is easy, but not obvious. I created this short YouTube video to provide a few tips:

This was a fun and challenging project that provided the opportunity to learn some new techniques and to buy a few new pieces of equipment. Thanks again, Stefanie, for allowing me to collaborate with you on this unique display case!

Here is a pictorial record of the project. Each picture is captioned with information about the step it represents.