Easy Display Lifts

Here is an inexpensive way to create your own custom-size clear plastic lifts for displaying your models. These lifts have a front, two sides, and a top, but no back. They can be made in various heights, lengths and widths.

Because I have a 14” deep display cabinet there’s room for a second row of cars in the back, and now that the case has interior lighting, that back row has become prime display space. I wanted to raise these cars up a bit—between ” and 1” in height, but wanted them to be clear to allow light to pass through to the shelf below. I looked all over the web but the display pieces I found were expensive, and none of them were the right size. Finally I hit upon this idea, and with a bit of trial and error I got it to work.




  • Metal ruler or straight edge
  • Matt Knife
  • Dremel Tool with Cutting Disks

NOTE: It is more difficult to cut a long surface using the Dremel, because the cutting disk is at a right angle to the handle, and the handle tends to get in the way. It can be done this way, but you will go through a lot more cutting disks. I used a flexible extension made for the Dremel which allows you to get right up against the surface you’re cutting for a more precise and controlled cut. Only the edges of the frame need to be cut using the Dremel—the long cuts will be done using the knife blade and a bit of pressure as described below.




        Clear plastic picture frame (box frame): One frame makes two lifts.


These clear plastic box frames are available in various sizes for about $2.00 to $4.00 apiece. Each frame yields two lifts, although you’ll probably mess up one or two before you get the hang of it. I used an 8” x 10” frame to create two lifts measuring 8” x 3“ but by using a 5” x 7” or 9” x 12” frame you can create lifts of varying length. The width is up to you, but I found 3“ to be just about perfect. NOTE: The 5” x 7” will only yield one 7” long lift. As for height, it is based on the thickness (depth) of the frame you select. I found that I preferred 1“ thick frames for the upper shelves, and “ thick frames for the bottom shelves due to the viewing angle.





It’s important to always wear eye protection when using any power tool, and the Dremel Tool with a cutting wheel can be very dangerous if not used with caution. Also, it’s good to have a proper cutting surface when using a sharp blade. I recommend a cutting mat, which is available at most art supply or craft stores.





1) After removing the frame from its shrink-wrap and taking out the cardboard insert, place the frame face up on your cutting surface.


2) Measure along the side that will be the width of the lift, and make a small cut mark with your knife 3” from the edge to line up your cut. Repeat on opposite side of frame.


3) Lining up your metal ruler with the cut marks, slowly draw your blade across the frame from one side to the other. Repeat this cut about 10 to 12 times using a light but firm pressure to achieve a fairly deep groove. If making two lifts from a single frame, it’s easier to make the cut for the other side of the frame at this point as well. These cuts must be fairly deep—at least half the thickness of the plastic—so the plastic will snap cleanly later on.


4) Using the metal ruler as a guide, make a cut mark on the side of the frame from each end of the groove to the back edge of the frame. This will be a guide for the Dremel Tool.


5) If your Dremel has a variable speed, turn it down to about 1/3 speed. If not, lengthen your cut in small segments to avoid excessive heat, which can melt the plastic severely.


6) You’re only cutting the edge of the frame, which is a little more or less than an inch, but take your time and do it slowly. Start from the back edge of the frame and work your way toward the front surface where your knife cuts end. Go all the way up the side and through the edge of the face of the frame. The Plastic will melt along the cut, and some of the melted plastic will form along the edges of the cut. This will come off very easily leaving a clean cut.


7) Next, you’ll need to make a diagonal cut next to the cut you just made, so that you can remove a triangle of plastic which is widest at the back edge of the frame, and comes to a point at the face of the frame where it intersects the first cut. This second, diagonal cut should be angled away from the end of the frame that you’re using for your lift, so the triangle of plastic will come out of the waste material. A guideline is not necessary because you’re cutting into the waste.


8) Once you’ve finished all the Dremel cuts, you should have a triangle cut out at each end of your knife cut. This is necessary to permit you to flex the frame and snap the line along the knife cut. To improve your chances of getting a clean break, place the frame face down and press your thumbs against the inside of the face of the frame directly above the knife cut. Then gently flex the frame repeatedly until you start to hear some small cracking sounds. The break will start at one end or both, and after a few small snaps it should break off completely.


9) Remove any excess plastic or melted plastic from the cut edges, and clean off any dust or fingerprints.


After admiring your work for a suitable amount of time, go ahead and make another one, and another…