Techniques for making cartridge boards?

Hi all, firstly, a quick re-introduction - Ive had to re-register as its been so long since I last logged in ive lost all my details. I gave up actively collecting about 15 years ago when I got married. Im an ex reserve soldier and a communications engineer by trade.

Ive decided that rather than being left hidden away, I will put at least some of my collection on permament display, by building cartridge boards. However, im not sure of the best materials to use and how best to mount and protect the cartridges, I would very much appreciate advise on how to do this.

The first question then is material for the board, ive heard horror stories about woods causing corrosion. which wood would be best to choose for the frame? What should I use to seal the wood to prevent tannins etc leaching out and damaging the cartridges? Im considering a dark hardwood to give a nice contrast to the brass, and a dark green baize backing. Is PVC glue safe to use in this case?

Secondly, how best to mount the cartridges? Should I drill them and tie them on with copper wire? Or is there a suitable adhesive that can be used that wont cause too much damage?

Lastly, the one that I imagine will cause most consternation - how to clean and protect the cartridges themselves so they dont tarnish/corrode once on the board? I know its considered bad normally to polish old well patina’d rounds, but my first board will be mostly modern types and I will be shining them up ( I probably wont do so when making boards with cartridges older than the 1930s), what can I use to stop them tarnishing then? Ive heard mention of ‘saniwax’ but have never come across this in the UK

Thanks in advance for all advise received


Martin, I have no experience of mounting cartridges on boards but if you’ve decided that you are going to clean & polish your rounds you could then try lacquering them with model maker’s lacquer. Thin it down well and I don’t think you would ever know the round has been lacquered. The lacquer coating should also prevent any tarnishing problems that might be caused by the wood.


I have an idea for the cartridge display that I plan to build. The display will have grooved shelves that hold the cartridges laying down, with their bases facing out so that head stamps are readable, BYOB (Bring Your Own Bifocals). The cartridges are held in place by gravity, so no binding is used. The body of the cartridge will be viewed by reflection from mirrors placed at a 45 degree angle above each shelf. This means that the cartridges will appear to be pointing downward rather than the pointy ends up orientation in most displays. I also plan to have a rack of “pigeon holes” under each shelf to display headstamp variations. Cartridges in the pigeon holes would only have their bases visible. All cartridges in the display are easily removable for examination and periodic cleaning/waxing. I would include a locking glass front to prevent unauthorized rearrangement and pilferage and also to enhance storage conditions. I envision a modular approach, so that the display can be expanded over time.

I am planning to build the display out of Dupont’s Corian or similar inert material. The display will obviously not be a simple cartridge board that can be hung on a wall. It will be heavy even before the cartridges are added so it will need to be free standing and preferably fastened to a wall. The display will be at least as thick as the length of the longest cartridge that it holds. I hope my description is not too confusing. I need to borrow a router and build a proof of concept display out of wood. I have no plans to patent this design. I would like to see finished results if anyone decides to run with it.


Here are two wax products from Dixie Gun Works:

There are bound to be other museum waxes available.


I got a Board from Lew which I re-framed.
I bought an existing frame, covered the inlay with dark-green velvet
and all pieces are fixed with a very thin yellowish fishing line.


Back in the 1960’s (I started collecting cartridges in 1958) I thought that “shiny” was “pretty”. I used a small bench grinder with a soft cotton wheel with fine jewelers rouge to polish the cartridges. It put a very nice “high shine” on in a hurry. I then used Clear DuPont Automotive Lacquer to dip the cartridge in. You will need to go to a store that sells professional auto body repainting supplies (here in the U.S., NAPA stores are a good source) to find this lacquer. At the time it was available in 5 gallon buckets or 1 quart cans. It is not inexpensive, but is, in my opinion the best grade of clear lacquer available. I still have some of the cartridges I did back then, 50+ years ago, that look brand new today. The lacquer has never yellowed or flaked despite having been jumbled around with other cartridges in coffee cans, etc. However, except for the cheapest cartridges for display, today I would NOT recommend polishing the cartridges.

As for attaching them, I would use fine monofiloment fishing line or fine brass wire for brass cartridges and copper wire for copper cartridges. I would NOT drill them for attachment, as, at least here in the U.S., that pretty much ruins the value of the cartridge. Of course, in those countries where the cartridges must be inerted, it would not manner. In that case I would not bother to use the fishing line or wire. I would use small brass wood screws from the back side of the board to attach the cartridges. Of course, if you don’t think you will ever want to remove the cartridges, you could hot glue them in place.

Museums, use a product called : Renaissance micro-crystalline wax polish. It is available on the internet in 200 ml cans. The last time I bought it, the cost was about $ 20.00. This is the best wax that I have ever used and, a can will last a long time. M. Rea

Amen to Renaissance Wax. It is THE standard amongst museum curators for all sorts of objects- metals, wood, etc. It may seem expensive, but one tin will last a very long time.

I know many gun collectors use and recommend Renaissance Wax for their gun collections, but I have found plain old Johnson’s Paste Wax (used for floors and furniture) to be perfectly satisfactory for my guns over a period of many years. Is much better than coating guns with various oils, WD-40, etc. as it stays in place, even when handled, and it seals the metal and prevents rust. It would probably work OK for cartridges also, but I haven’t used it for that purpose. I know that there are some super-duper clear protective coating products used for cars available at auto parts stores which are supposedly indestructible, but I don’t know anything about those either.

I always include a surface coat of paste wax as part of every gun cleaning session. I keep a can of it with my cleaning supplies. I have the same can I bought maybe 25 years ago, and it’s still half-full.

Many thanks all for the suggestions,

I have managed to locate and order a tin of Renaissance Wax, and think the idea of a very fine monofilament line to secure the cartridges to the board is ideal, so a trip to the local angling suppliers is in order.

With the cartridges protected by the wax coating, I see no reason to worry over the nature of the wood used to form the frame, so will choose a hardwood with a nice grain and a suitably dark colouring to complement the brass. I have also located a source of adhesive backed baize in my chosen dark green (British Racing Green)

I need now a source local to me of thin toughened glass for the front, but there are several glaziers ive used previously who should be able to help me there.

My two worries now are how to effectively clean the more badly tarnished cartridges (many have nasty finger marks), and how best to neatly label each one on the board!

25 years ago; I didn’t want my prized possessions “displayed” in cigar boxes

I made Velcro cloth lined display boards and placed a 5/16 x 1.5” strip of self-adhesive Velcro hook on the rounds…and bingo…I could move…rearrange…and they looked awesome

Problem…the self-adhesive is slightly viscous and in the summer heat the rounds would begin to side on the tape

Problem…the uneven oxidation of the self-adhesive on the cartridge case

Problem…no adhesive would be placed on any paper cased rounds

Semi solution…a tiny brass or copper wire wrapped around the Velcro hook and that eliminated the slippage

Problem…no good way to label (Sharpie was the temporary solution

20 years ago; a new approach

Same boards but bought several sizes of clear tubes 5/8 x 4; ¾ x 6; 1 x6” (easily cut to length)
(handled up to 12 ga and 50 BMG)

Solved…the viscous slippage as the “tape” held to the plastic like a champ

Solved…allowed me to apply small labels to the tubes

Solved…the oxidation issue

Problem…a lot of time & effort

Problem…my collection grew faster than I could make boards


(you’d walk in my room with 20 sixed matched boards and it was pretty impressive)

Time…size…wall spave al won out

I finally disassembled my 24 boards and have gone to 8-10 blueprint cabinets

Sure there are always issues…space, weight, cost…and back to number One…my prized possession are living in “fancy cigar boxes” again !!!

I still have all the boards and a boat load of used tubes if someone wants to pay UPS and give them a good home (and might cost you a couple adult beverages)
Oh well…that’s my story



Admittedly not the prettiest one I have ever done but I included it to show what can be done with simple archival products. The background is buffered paper from my bookbinding days, with the display items glued on using PVA. This glue can be had at most arts and craft stores. It is nonreactive with pretty much everything, and does not stain, corrode or turn brittle. It remains pliable so you can peel it off even years later leaving no damage. As can be seen it can hold a fair weight as the 8x56r clip isn’t exactly light.
As for polishing etc, on most newer rounds I have found that after a really good polish even with something like Brasso the key is to clean off all residue, until the cleaning cloth shows no tarnish on it. Once framed, and away from air they stay fairly clean. I have had one or two turn a muted brass color but that is down to the material they are made from. Casings like these 56rs stay fairly shiney and clean.