Adventures with Power Tools!

I promised another post from the National Museum of the Marine Corps, so here goes! The subject of this post is mountmaking–specifically, creating mounts with Plexiglas.

I know when I enter the job market after graduating and look for a job in exhibits, I may find myself in a museum where I’m the entire exhibits department. I might have to do everything, fabrication of mounts included! So I’ve been looking for opportunities to learn more. This included badgering Jen and Alice, who work in the exhibits workshop (Building 3034) on Base Quantico, to let me know the next time they would be making mounts. This week, I got lucky. On Monday, we’ll be installing artifacts in a small case to support a temporary photography exhibit: “Afghanistan, Its People, Its Army – and U.S. Marine Advisors.”

This is the case layout Jen worked up. Artifacts include a helmet, burqa, Tuffbook laptop, Afghani currency, and a Martini-Henry .450 cal rifle.

The first mount Alice and I worked on was a mount for the rifle. We chose to use Plexiglas rather than brass because of the look of the case: glass shelving. Working off measurements reported to us by ordnance, we created two simple Plexiglas stands.

Operating a drill press in a dress. If nothing else, I'd like to hope this shows my commitment!!

Completed mounts for the rifle.

Once the mounts were done, Alice arranged for us to take a trip to the armory Friday morning and meet with Bruce to test them. This gave me an opportunity not only to dress appropriately, but also to see the armory for the first time.

A Springfield Cadet Rifle, c. 1851. One of many deadly things Bruce showed me and allowed me to take my photograph with.

Case in point.

Anyway, Alice and I test-fitted the Martini-Henry to our mounts.

The rifle sloped forward. The front mount turned out to be an inch too short.

Back in the shop, Alice and I cut and drilled a new piece of plexi.

We broke for lunch and headed for a picnic sponsored by Marine Corps University. This is the arm of operations the museum falls under at base Quantico.

Breckenridge Hall, Marine Corps University, Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Back at Building 3034, Alice and I tackled another mount, this one for a digital voice recorder. Instead of fitting a piece of plexi into a dado, this mount would be one long piece of plexi bent into shape. I didn’t get any photographs of the bending process, but we used a heating element to soften the plexi, then brace and bend it into shape. This was hot work. 3034’s warehouse isn’t air conditioned to begin with, and Friday was a 97 degree day.

Alice also taught me how to make beautiful Plexiglas edges without slaving away with increasingly smaller grits of sandpaper for the rest of my life… by using a propane torch!!


She’s a thing of beauty. And just the right size for the recorder, too!

I’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning for the installation. I can’t wait to see this process all the way to the end!

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