What Are Acrylic Boxes?
An acrylic box is an enclosure used to display and protect a 3d object or artwork with depth, like a canvas. They are used when:
- It’s desirable to view more than one side of the artwork
- A full frame would be too visually restrictive
- A strong sense of light or minimalism is required
It becomes a box when there are at least 2 faces of acrylic joined together. Creating custom, highly quality acrylic boxes does not simply mean using a 6 sided plastic box. Much of the work is in creating the sub-structure to hold the object or artwork, then joining this to the acrylic.
The box can then be displayed on a table, pedestal or hung on the wall.
Difference Between Plastic, Acrylic & Perspex
- Perspex is a brand name for acrylic.
- An acrylic is a type of plastic, usually polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).
- A plastic is any (usually synthetic) material that can be moulded into shape without breaking. I.e. it has plasticity.
There are other types of acrylic brands such as Plexiglas (Often misspelled was PlexiGlass). They’ve all got slightly different properties but for display boxes – Perspex is the most commonly used.
Glass can’t realistically be used to create display boxes. The main reason being that it’s particularly difficult to work into a clean looking, safe shape. Acrylic is shatter resistant, lighter weight and actually enhances the colours in the artwork.
The thickness of acrylic used for display boxes varies depending on the size of the item being displayed. 5mm is usually what is required for a pleasing, sturdy box.
Very large Perspex boxes can be created to display artwork several meters in length. We’re comfortable framing work this size so please contact us to discuss the options.
How Are Perspex Boxes Created?
After discussing your project, the process for creating a display box is three fold.
The Acrylic Sections
The sections of acrylic are cut from larger panels and the edges diamond polished to ensure a clean join.
Special acrylic glue is used to adhere the sections together. The edges are usually butt-joined which gives a sharp, clean 90 degree angle for the edges. These edges are softened slightly for safety after the glue has dried.
Another method of joining the panels is to use one piece of acrylic to form 2 or 3 faces. This is done by bending the acrylic with heat to create a curved edge. The other sides of the box are then either specially cut section of more acrylic to fit the gaps, or become part of the support structure (more below).
If any full sides of the acrylic will be exposed for any reason they will sometimes be gently flamed to soften then further. This might be done if the acrylic section is specifically designed to be removable to examine or change the object being displayed.
It’s of great importance to ensure any method of fixing the artwork into place is non damaging and fully reversible. It would of course be easy to simply glue artwork into place but this is treason in the conservation framing world.
As not every object is the same we’re required to come up with safe and unique ways of fixing items into place quite often. However for more common types of objects like stretched canvas art, books, and small metal items we have developed special techniques for creating pleasing aesthetics.
The Support Structure
This is usually constructed from Tulip wood as a frame to house the artwork and acrylic enclosure. It can simply be a base, or can encompass several sides of the cube.
In the case of display boxes for canvas frames, the support structure will be very similar to a canvas tray frame but without the sides. This allows the acrylic box to wrap around the canvas for a very interesting display option. It allows you to view the sides of the canvas work which has been required before.
The approach to take will depend on a discussion with you about your art and goals for the work. Custom fabrics or finishes are sometimes required when building the structure. Other times complex, bespoke shapes are required that both hold the artwork in position and create the backing structure.
When attaching the acrylic enclosure to the support backing, it’s important to be as invisible as possible. To maintain safety we usually go with a number of small screws to hold the acrylic face into position. To create a more seamless visual we will paint out these screws the same colours as the support backing, or sometimes use special screw caps to hide them. Depending on the type of object you’re framing it may be possible to create an interesting feature out of this fixing area, much like splines can do with normal frames.