How to Make a Shadow Box

Build your own shadow box frame to house treasured keepsakes.

modern blue wall with shadow boxes
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner

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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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

Materials

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

Instructions

gluing glass from picture frame to frame
  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.

    marking off measurements for shadow box
  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.

    Related: How to Use a Miter Saw

    attaching two boards at perpendicular angle
  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.

    adding glue for fabric on shadow box
  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.

  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.

  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.

    screw on d-rings to hang shadow box
  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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