Building My Own Mousetrap

Building My Own Mousetrap

I do a lot of conventions to promote Love and Capes. I love doing the shows, but hauling my gear to shows is always an effort. For shows I can drive to, everything fits (albeit snugly) in my convertible. The worst for transport is, of course, Comic-Con in San Diego, where I have to ship things across the country. The biggest hassle, to my mind, is shipping my wire display rack. It’s too large to fit into a suitcase so I have to ship it in a big box. The box isn’t so much heavy as it is unweildly, but just its size makes it expensive to ship. I’ve been trying to find a better mousetrap, as it were. I haven’t been able to find one, so I decided to make one. Here’s what I wanted my design to do:

  1. Fit into a suitcase, flat.
  2. Be light.
  3. Display a decent number of books.
  4. Be sturdy.
  5. Be disposable, so I can leave it behind if I want to.

Here’s what I came up with. Stand With Books I’ll need two of them to display the Love and Capes ouevre, but that’s fine. It folds down to about 17″ x 27″, which does fit in my suitcase. And it’s even got an area for signage at the top, where I’ll put a price list. I think it came out really well, and I’m a little proud of myself. My Dad is awesome at building things, and it’s nice to know that I’ve got a little bit of that in me when I need it. I’m also going to share it, under the Creative Commons act. I’ve had people say that I could sell these, but honestly, I’d rather make comics than stands. Besides, not everything’s got to be about profit, sometimes you should just release some good into the universe, you know? If this design helps someone else, I’m happy to help. Here’s a link to a PDF of my blueprints. I figure each one takes about $10-15 in supplies. You need a 40″ x 60″ piece of foam core board, an X-acto knife, a long ruler, and a piece of tape or Velcro. It probably takes 30-60 minutes to build. I laid out and marked up the foam core. Here’s what the flat piece looks like. (Click any picture to see it larger.) Flat Piece before Scoring Then I scored it so that the front panel becomes like a set of stairs. I scored the side panels so that it will fold up flat. You have to be careful while making your scores, though. The design has a lot of weak points while you’re trying to fold it, although once it’s complete it’s pretty solid. I stress tested it for a day and there were no problems. It also has a slight lean to it, by design. This puts the shelves at an angle so that gravity can help keep the books in place. Stand folded The stair shelf doesn’t hold itself down at first. You need the books to force it into place, but after a couple of hours, it starts to hold its shape. And I put some Velcro on the back panel to make the final connection. You could use tape, too. You just need to have a knife to cut it when you’re done if you want to reuse it. Velcro holds it together Here it is folded flat. Flattened And here it is with books on it. Pretty cool, eh? Buy some books! Oh, what the heck, how about a little shilling? Hey! Love and Capes: Going to the Chapel, the second Love and Capes collection is available in comic stores this Wednesday! Creative Commons License Foam Core Display Stand by Thomas Zahler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

About the Author

Man's man, ladies' man, man about town. Friend to small children and animals. The greatest criminal mind of our time. Occasional cartoonist and writer. Also, very tall.


  1. I can’t believe that’s foam core and that it works. I think I’m going to give it a try, if nothing else, it’s giving me flashbacks to me 3D Design class.

  2. Very kool, Thom!

    Looks like you’ve solved the puzzle! 🙂

  3. Very nice!

    Having worked retail, I have just one question:
    How easy is it to tip over?

    You could probably cut and score the larger back piece to have it run perpendicular to the shelves, to give it more stability. It doesn’t need to be very wide, just long enough to keep the stand from tipping over.

    Did you reinforce the scores with fabric tape?
    Or do you just plan to make another when this one wears out?

  4. I’m thinking of building one of these tonight, actually. Kelly and I will report back in after. 🙂

    – jeremy

  5. Done– somewhere along the way we messed some of the measurements up, but it’s fixed and looks pretty good! 🙂

    – jeremy

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