How to Make a Martial Arts Belt Display

Over the next few months we will be publishing some Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ideas you can try at home. While most of our DIYs are simple, we will include some ideas that are a little more detailed and require a bit more skill. Sharing some of these ideas and products will help you create your own or modify them as needed.  With that said, lets get on with the show!

This week will be sharing our Martial Arts Display case. Before becoming a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student I earned a few belt promotions as a Marine. The United States Marine Corps has developed the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and here’s a little excerpt describing the program:

Our Belts aren't issued, they're earned“The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program has been around for about 10 years now. It’s a combination of many different martial arts disciplines with One Mind Any Weapon as our motto. There’s weapons all over the battlefield. It could be a helmet, it could be a knife, a rifle, or our hands — anything on the battlefield can be a weapon of opportunity. All Marines, it doesn’t matter if you’re an aviator or a female or a male or a grunt, we all are gonna do this program. Every Marine going through Parris Island and San Diego have to go through 26.5 hours to get their first level tan belt. Everything we do we tie to the core values of honor, courage, commitment. We’re not just focused on the fighting, we’re focused on physical discipline of actually being in shape. We’re focused on the mental discipline of honing your minds to be a warrior. And then we’re also tying everything to character.”

Just like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate and a host of other martial arts programs, MCMAP hasBJJbelts a belt ranking system. MCMAP has five belts- Tan, Grey, Green, Brown, Black (up to 6 degrees), as well as a few instructor-specific classifications. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) also has a varying degree of belts, and each school/dojo may have varying number of belts for kids and adults.  We’ve made our Martial Arts Belt Display to accommodate 5 belts, while adding the flexibility of removable shelves. This allows the student the ability to proudly display pictures, competition medals, and other keepsakes she or he may have attained on their martial arts journey.  By removing some of the shelves you are able to display larger items. Here’s the build:

* Detailed plans available for purchase, click here*

Material items needed

  • Wood
  • PlexiGlass or glass cut to size
  • Door Magnet and catch
  • Hinges
  • Wooden cabinet knob
  • Felt bottoms
  • Wood glue
  • Stain Provincial
  • Nails
  • Sand Paper

Tools recommended

  • Table Saw
  • Chop Saw
  • Pocket Hole Jig (optional)
  • Pocket square
  • Router
  • Hammer
  • Screw driver
  • Clamps


Sanded with 120 grit sand paper. We then wiped away the excess saw dust and applied a Provincial min-wax stain to protect the surface and give the pine a nice tone.

(Read all instructions before making your purchases. Some optional/alternative suggestions are included).

Step 1: Building the frame

First, build the base frame by starting with the sides. I cut two pieces of wood to length. These will be my two sides. I routed four dado cuts, about 2-1/2″ apart, to serve as slots for the shelves I will cut later. You will notice that one of the ends will be larger than the others. Understanding that most people do not attain the rank of black belt, this wider shelf can serve as a platform to place pictures, medals, or other keepsakes the martial artist wants to display on his or her journey up the ranks.

Next, lets cut the top and bottom of the display case by cutting two pieces of wood to the width and length wanted. These two pieces will align inside of the two side pieces. Mock up the display case and identify the front and the back. Mark the back of the piece (the part that would be facing the wall as it were mounted), and cut out a  recess on the inside lip. This will allow for the backing to fit flush once glued and nailed shut.

Speaking of back, lets cut it! Grab your 1/4″ piece of MDF (or plywood) and cut it down to size. Now mock everything up and ensure a tight fit remains. If it requires some trimming do so at this time. If it does not, grab your sand paper (and sander if available) and sand it to a smooth finish.

Step 2: Cut the shelves

Cut four shelves to match the dado cuts made on the body (sides). Sand and stain

Step 3: Building the door.

Make 45-degree cuts to your

Make two stiles 20-3/4 in length, and two rails 12-1/4 in length.

Cut your plexiglass (or have a glass shop cut your glass) to 21-1/4 x 12-3/4.

Make a 1/4″-wide dado cut inside of the door frame. You can make dado cuts with a router or simply make two to three passes with your table saw, about 1/4″ deep. Check out this video on how to make dado cuts.

Once all the cuts have been made, test fit the pieces and ensure a snug fit. Once satisfied, sand your material with 120-grit sand paper. Stain the wood and allow to dry. At this time, sand and stain your wooden knob (optional).

Step 4: Build the ‘Crown’

As a design element, I cut another piece to serve as the top. I allowed for an extra 1/2″ on each side, and the front. The back is flushed with the back of the display case. I then routed the tree sides (sides and front) with my desired bell-shape, and proceeded to sand the piece and stain it to match the body. I call this piece the crown.

Step 5: Lets assemble!

Now that we have test fit and sanded each piece, lets start assembling the body. I recommend making pocket holes on the top and bottom of the display case. You will not see the pocket holes on the top once you glue the crown on it. After you’ve made the pocket holes, screw them in place.

(Alternatively, you can glue and nail the pieces instead of pocket screwing, you can make butt joints, or even use a doweling jig)

Now, test fit the place the backing to ensure the case is square and fits. If so, glue the piece unto the recessed back. You may opt to clamp it in place with a series of clamps, or use a staple gun or brad nails.

While the glue dries, lets work on the door. Assemble three sides of the door by securing them with pocket holes on the inside, or gluing/nailing/staple gun. Slide the plexiglass into place, then secure the last piece just like the others. Allow to dry.

Once dried, slide the shelves into place. If the shelves are too tight, you can sand the edges or plane them down, test fit, the stain again and insert unto the dados.

There are many hinges available, and installation will depend on the type you choose. I recommend using simple 1″ hinges, and screwing the hinges to the outside of the door, on the side opposite the knob. Ensure you allow for a 1/8″ to 1/4″ gap from the top of the door to the top of the display case. This will allow for the door to close with no problems once the crown is placed.

Glue and nail or clamp down the crown unto the display case. Make sure the piece is centered (right to left), and there is overhang on the front of the display case. The rear should be aligned flush with the rear.

Screw the knob (drill pilot holes if you have drill bits available) into place.

Attach the magnetic catch on the door and display case according to the instructions.

You are done! Grab a cold beverage of choice (if you haven’t already), fill your display case with your items of choice, take some pictures, and share your accomplishments.

Please share on social media, tag us and let us know what you think of this how to 🙂

To purchase the detailed how-to plans, click here. If you rather we build it for you, visit our shop page and have us build it for you. This item can be personalized to include your name, or your dojo/gym’s emblem.

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