How to Make a Shadow Box

Build your own shadow box frame to house treasured keepsakes.

The humble shadow box is a decorating workhorse. Its display potential is endless: small collectibles, medals, travel mementos, shells, baby clothes, vintage jewelry, or even a bottle cap collection. A shadow box frame is perfect for keeping three-dimensional objects safe from damage and wear. Learn how to build a simple shadow box, then customize its contents to your heart’s content.

  • Working Time 1 Hour
  • Start to Finish 6 Hours
  • Difficulty         Projects Kind of Easy
  • Involves Sawing, Drilling, Painting

What you need

Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Chop saw
  • Nail gun
  • Paintbrush, if needed
  • Drill

Materials

  • Frame
  • 4' 1x3
  • Paint, if desired
  • Craft board larger than the frame opening
  • Hinges (x2)
  • Hook and eye latch
  • Screws
  • Fabric or scrapbook paper
  • Decoupage glue
  • D rings (x2)
  • Wood glue
  • Construction adhesive

How to do it

Step 1 Prep Front Panel

Carefully remove the hardware from the back of your picture frame. Using the construction adhesive, permanently glue in the glass panel so it won’t shift around or fall out. This glass panel is essential to keeping your items protected.

Step 2 Measure and Cut Wood

Measure the opening on your frame. You'll need four pieces of wood to form a box around the opening on the back of the frame. The lengths will vary depending on the size of your frame. Transfer measurements to your 1x3 wood board, and cut four pieces.

Step 3 Assemble Shadow Box

Apply a bead of wood glue along the edge of one of the short pieces you just cut. Butt it against a long piece to form a 90-degree angle and clamp. Tack it in place with a nail gun. Continue this process with the other sides to build the box.

Step 4 Paint Box

If desired, you can paint, stain, or otherwise decorate the box at this stage. We used white paint on ours. Allow the paint to dry fully before proceeding with the next step.

Step 5 Cover and Attach Back of Box

Measure and cut a piece of craft board to fit on the back of the box you just built. Decoupage paper or hot-glue fabric onto one side of the craft board. Fold over and hot-glue any excess fabric. After it dries, apply a bead of glue to the back of the box and press the lined side of the craft board onto the glue. Nail the craft board to the back of the box for security.

Step 6 Attach Box Hardware

Drill in the two hinges along one side of the front of the box. Measure from the edge of the box to the edge of the hinge, then use this measurement to mark where the other half of the hinges will be attached on the front panel. Secure them to the back of the front frame. Your shadow box should now open and close. Next, attach the hook-and-eye fastener on opposite sides of the box and frame to hold it closed. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for installation.

Step 7 Secure Mounting Hardware

To hang your shadow box on the wall, attach D rings to the back. Fill with keepsakes and display memories in any room of the house.

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1 Comment

  1. Super simple. old picture frames that have been collecting dust finally have a new purpose. Just remove the backing and keep the glass and frame part and make a box to fit it. Very cool. Free's up drawer and closet space that's been stowing all your keepsakes. If something is special enough to keep it then display it and enjoy it!

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