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How to Build a Flag Display Case

Ask This Old House carpenter, Nathan Gilbert, shows the office he renovated during the quarantine and works on the finishing touch—a display case to store the U.S. flag that was presented to him at his grandfather’s funeral.

In this video, carpenter Nathan Gilbert puts the final touch on the home office he upgraded during the pandemic: a display case to store his grandfather’s American flag. The flag was hung over his grandfather’s casket after he passed away the year before. Like Nathan and his father, his grandfather was a Navy Seabee, and Nathan was presented the flag at the funeral wanted to safely store it in the new office shelving. Nathan demonstrates how to build a flag display case step by step in his father’s workshop.

Steps for Building a Flag Display Case

1. Establish a center line on the plywood with a straight edge.
2. A typical folded coffin flag is 11 inches high and 22 inches wide, but you’ll want to undersize all your measurements by ¼”. From the bottom, go 10 ¾” each way.
a. Nathan’s case was built using ¾” wood so he used a scrap piece of ¾” to do his layout.
3. Come up 10 ¾” from the base.
4. Connect your lines.
5. Cut each of the three sides of the case. Go a little longer than you need, you can finetune them later.
6. Rip down the side pieces to 4 inches with a table saw.
7. The glass groove will be in 3 ½ inches. Set your blade to a ¼” high. Make the groove in all three pieces.
8. Make rabbet cuts on all three pieces for the plywood to sit in. For the first pass, set the rip fence a ½” to the back side of the blade. Set the blade ¼” tall.
9. For the second pass, stand each piece on it’s edge. Set the rip fence a ½” to the back side of the blade. Set the blade 1/2” tall.
10. Nathan likes to use a router with a chamfer bit to round the edges of the flag case.
11. Make mitered cuts to join all three sides together. The bottom two will need to be cut steep. On the table saw using a modified tenon jig, Nathan cut the bottom piece using a 67.5 degree angle.
12. For the side pieces, make a 45 degree miter.
13. Sand the wood with 220 grit sandpaper. Red oak comes smooth so a fine grit will be good.
14. Use a tack cloth to remove all debris.
15. Use lacquer for a finish on the inner sides so you don’t have to do it later.
16. Cut the plywood by measuring from the 90-degree point down to the sides.
17. Using the same method, cut the glass using a glass cutter. Undersize it just a little more than the plywood because it will be hidden on all three sides.
18. Add wood glue to the mitered cuts and join the top of the case together.
19. Use a pin nailer to nail the two sides together.
20. Carefully slide the glass in the frame.
21. Dry fit the bottom piece with the glass and sides before adding wood glue.
22. Once it is all together, use the pin nailer to secure the bottom.
23. Nathan then made a base, a little longer than the bottom of the flag case. Secure it to the bottom.
24. Go over all the wood with more lacquer.
25. Secure the plywood in the back with some screws, that way you can access the inside if you ever need to clean it or take out the flag for any reason.


Nathan built the flag display case out of 1x6” red oak boards and sheet glass which can be found at any home center.

To secure the boards together, Nathan used wood glue from Gorilla Glue and some pin nails with a Porter-Cable pin nailer.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by William C Gilbert Carpentry.