DIY Display Riser – Mark 2

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Those that have been coming to the site since April will probably remember my DIY on making your own display risers out of foam core for a cheap, lightweight, and simple display that you can customize to suit your various needs. Well, I’m back with an update! After it was shared around on the artist group AANI one member had their engineering parent help them modify the design so it could be collapsible, making ease of storage/packing another benefit to making these risers.

I had a mighty need to make my own as this was my only gripe with them. So, after speaking with the artist directly to find out how they went about it, I set about making my own this summer.

After taking it out for a test run at 3-4 conventions after I made it, I have to say I’m in love. They lay flat and only the long shelves cannot be placed in bins and be completely protected in my packed car, they are much more sturdy (this could be to better measuring/leveling), and take just a minute to assemble when putting together my display. Now, I’m not here just to show off my new display, but to teach you all how it was done as well! Please note that I have never fully typed out instructions for a DIY before and that I made these back in July so it is possible I forgot a detail or did not explain something that was a basic skill for me. If you find any part of this hard to follow please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will do what I can to help you out. ^_^

You’ll need the following materials:


– A Pencil
– A long ruler (I used a metal 18″ one with cork backing)
– A cutting knife (Xacto or other brand) with a new blade
– A Cutting mat (I used an express mail box I had lying around)
– 1/2 inch thick foam core (Double the normal thickness is essential to give it support. Regular foam core IS NOT recommended)
– Hot glue & Gun (Or any glue that can be used with foam core. My E6000 ate thru it so don’t use that one)
– 1/4 inch diameter Wooden Dowels (can also use metal, but I found the cheap balsa ones worked fine)
– Drill (or be lazy like me and use the knife and wooden dowel to push a hole in. Just depends on how pro you want it to be)

1) First thing you want to do it measure out your cuts. Always double check your measurements!! The things to consider when making your measurements: Your total height of your display, the height for each shelf, how many shelves, the total width of your display, the width of the foam core. What we will be making are shelves to hold you items and support struts to keep them all in place/sturdy. My display measures 23″ long so I made 4 struts (2 for the ends and 2 in the middle), making it about 7″ between struts. My items are light weight with each shelf only holding about 1-1.5lbs. If you are going to have heavy items on your shelves you will need additional struts to keep the foam from bowing/breaking.



As you can see in my picture, I measured out each shelf height (mine is 3 shelves high. The total height is 15″ so each level is on a 5″ increment with 1/2 inch taken out of the bottom where the shelf will rest ) and made sure to include the area where the shelf will slot into the support struts (pictured above as the shaded in areas). The depth that they go into the display I’m sure has some sort of math formula, but the basics of it is that the heavier it is, the closer to half way through your support strut it should be. I wanted my shelves interchangeable so I just measured an inch deep into my strut. The other thing you will notice I did was flip my design so I wasted very little foam core. Shading in the sections that would be completely cut out for where the shelves would slot into the struts helped me visualize my shapes, but don’t feel as if you have to do it this way. Once you’ve double checked your measurements, you’ll want to use the cutting knife to slowly cut along your lines and cut out the support struts. This may take 2 swipes to get thru the bottom layer of the foam core.

051You’ll notice that these finished ones also have a back notch that I didn’t include when I first cut them out. I found it too confusing visually with the piece rotated, so I measured it onto each of my 4 struts and cut it out of each one afterwards. What is it for? Well, that is for a back support to help stabilize your display. I use mine as a shelf to hold my various tools/supplies during shows, but you could keep a bit of stock to restock your front with if you like and the items are small enough. You want it to be close to the bottom but not too close. Mostly you want it equal distance from the base and your first shelf to provide maximum support (mine is 1.5″ from the base). Too close to either will cause weak points in the struts. Now with the supports done, it’s time to move on to the shelves!

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Do the big cut of your shelf first out of the foam core (total length by total width). When you do this be sure to include the overlap on the edges where your shelf will slot into your struts!! If you don’t have these your piece will not be nearly as stable! For example, my shelves need to be 2.5″ wide to hold my items so I make the overall width 4.5″ since 2″ will not be used to hold product, but will instead go around the struts. Now, I hear you saying ‘But, Nicole, you only made a 1″ notch into the strut. Why do I need to double it?’ Well, dear anon, this is also for support. The extra 1″ I have added will wrap around the strut to provide the need stability. Like an interlocking puzzle piece they will both support each other and provide a sturdier and safer display. For much the same reason, my total length of 23″ included an extra 2″ to accommodate the 1″ on each end that would go around the outside strut.

When measuring where you will place your inside struts, remember that math is your friend and find the spots that are equal distance from the outer ones. Using my own as an example again, my total length is 23″, 2″ of which is going outside the struts for support. Then I lose another 1″ for the width of the foam core struts (these holes are .5″ wide by 1″ long) making my inner length 20″. I have two struts that need to be equal distance apart meaning my struts need to be (20/3=6.666″) 6 and 2/3 inches apart. I divided the space by three because putting in 2 struts would give me 3 inner sections. If you have 3 struts you will have 4 sections, and so on. Make sure you measure the 1/2″ strut width around those dividing points or else you will derp like me.


While my structure works just fine with these being and inch closer together in the middle….don’t be like me. Measure twice people. In my defense, I had been working on installing upper ball joints in my car before working on these shelves so I was kind of tired. Anyway, the observant person will have no doubt noticed that this shelf seems like it has much less width then the ones above. Congrats! You are correct! This shelf happens to be my back support shelf. It is only 2″ wide as I don’t need to have the back sticking out for me to hit while it’s on the table so I made not as wide that way it will be flush against the back. You don’t have to do this if you want to store more items there, but I think it looks better. At this point I have 2 shelves with notches and one back support shelf….but what about the top?


I was tired and forgot to take a shot of the shelf’s full length (hint: it’s 23″) but this is the important area anyway. This shelf is the required item width of 2.5″ for me as it will be going on top of my display and doesn’t need the extra support strut length. The important part is that this is what you will be making holes in, along with the top of the struts. You again want them to be equal distance apart (mine have .75″ gaps on either side) and you can use a drill with a 1/4 inch bit here…..or be lazy like me and carve it out with an Xacto knife. Just make sure the dowel will fit in the hole and it will be fine. Now, you can also drill a hole into the top of the foam core very gently that is at least 1″ deep to add your wooden dowel to (meaning you will need 2 dowels that are 1.5″ long for each strut you have. In my case I needed 8 as 2×4=8).

I can already hear you asking what the lazy the way that I did this is, so here you have it. Since the top of the foam core strut is just open foam, I simply measured where the dowels should go and pushed them down into the foam gently but firmly. If you don’t have a steady hand or want a very professional look to your stand, don’t do this. It will condense the foam and a very slight bulge will be visible on the sides. I was busy and tired all summer and did not care. One day I may make new ones that are pretty. Don’t blame me if you take the lazy way and push the dowel out the side of your strut though. Get help or borrow a drill if you don’t think you can do it this way.

Place some glue on the end of your dowels and slot them in your newly made holes at the top of your struts. Let it dry and ta da! You are feel to assemble your new display shelves!

Unlike the original DIY shelves I posted about, these clearly do not have backs. If you want to add backs you’ll need to figure it out yourself. These are about the extent of my engineering skills, lol. If you have any questions or need help assembling your own, please do not hesitate to contact me in the forums or in the comments where I will be happy to answer your questions or explain steps better.