Trinket/Shadow Box (Iraq Display) #1: One of the main reasons I joined LJ...

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Blog entry by Sgt_Lobo posted 11-06-2007 05:45 AM 8781 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Trinket/Shadow Box (Iraq Display) series Part 2: The Hinges »

Well, here it goes…the long story. On my last tour to Iraq I was stationed at Balad AB, the largest FOB (Forward Operating Base) in the AOR (Area of Responsibility). I was in charge of a 110 person security team known as the FPs (Force Protection). To make a long military story short (since this is a woodworking site, not a military site), my team was responsible for the security of the entire base both inside and outside the wire, and a lot of stuff happened that made us a very tight nit group.

So anyhow, I had to wear a brasard (the thing on my left shoulder in my picture) that identified me as force protection. The brasard has Arabic writing on it that says “Military Police” and since we were the only ones who wore them, everyone could readily identify us. It is a very unique item since so many military deploy and only a very small percentage of us wear the brasard.

Now to the part where this project comes in to play… When I returned from my tour I was allowed to keep my brasard. Also, while I was over there I earned a couple of medals and was also awarded a couple of coins (another military tradition). So I came up with this idea that I wanted to display these items as this was a particularly special deployment for me. I also wanted a place to store all of the mementos I picked up while I was over there (stuff like Iraqi money, Iraqi cigarettes, and the like). The idea I came up with was to build a trinket box to store my mementos in and a display case for my brasard, medals, and coins. Well, I actually decided it might be kind of neat to combine the two, so I decided to make the lid of my trinket box into a shadow box.

About 1 month ago I stared working on this project. Having never built a box before, I started combing the web looking for ideas. Well, I haven’t found anything really similar to what I’m creating…But, I have found that there are a lot of jewelry boxes that share many of the design features I wanted to incorporate into my box. So I started googling “jewelry box” and some of the results I got back led me to this site. Kind of funny how things work out huh? So, after poking around this site for awhile, I decided to join and the rest is as they say, history…

Now on to my box (finally…). I started this box about a month ago, which means that I’ve gotten pretty far on it prior to me finding this site. Essentially though this means that my first box has come a long way without the wonderful advice I could have received from you all. Just for this box I purchased a Porter Cable dovetail jig (as not only is this my first box, but also my first time making dovetail joints). I chose to make the box out of poplar and red oak. I chose these for 2 reasons, first because I wanted my dovetails to really stand out, and second because lowes doesn’t have the greatest selection for wood… Here are some pictures of what I have so far:

This first picture shows the basic box I have made using the dovetail jig. I think it turned out okay. Don’t mind my horrific glue lines inside the box as they will be covered with another 1/4” board wrapped in black velvet.

Box with dovetails and bottom glued in.

This second picture shows the long side of the box. I used the oak for the long sides and the poplar for the short sides. And yes, I didn’t do through dovetails, just half blinds…

half-blind dovetails

The third picture shows the lid or the shadow box portion of my project. As you can see, I built a sub-frame which will accommodate the glass on one side and on the side that is showing will sit another board covered in velvet (where my brasard and medals will sit). So, again, don’t get hung up on the horrible glue as it will not be seen when this is assembled.

Shadow Box Lid

This 4th picture shows the mitered frame which will sit on top of the lid and lexan/glass. I used a cove bit on both the inside and outside edges to give it a little character.

Mitered Lid Frame

The 5th picture is of the box with the lid and frame sitting on top as they will be when it is finally assembled.

Box, Lid, Frame

The sixth picture is a top down view with the lexan in place so you all can see how the frame is going to sit.


The 7th picture is showing how some of my dovetails are pulling apart. I think I used a little to thick of a shim when I was gluing the sub-frame inside the lid. I guess now that it is all glued up, I will be forced to use some wood filler to take up those gaps…


This 7th picture is showing me in the process of using polyurethane on the inside of the box. I had no intention of staining the inside of the box. On the left you can see the oak plywood that will cover the velvet wrapped cork board in the lid portion of my box. When you lift the lid/shadow box to get to the trinket part of the box, the oak ply is what you will see (the bottom part of the lid).

Polyurethane Inside

And finally, in this picture I am holding two sample of stained oak and stained poplar. The stain is Minwax “Sedona Red” which matches up to my bedroom furniture very well. I am still trying to decide if I really want to stain the outside of the box or not. Maybe you all can help me with this decision. The things running through my mind are: 1. It will be in the bedroom, it might be nice if it matched the other furniture. 2. If I stain, will there still be separation between the red oak and the poplar? (In other words, will the poplar stain lighter than the oak?) 3. I actually like the growth lines in the poplar, but as you can see with my stained sample, you really can’t see them anymore… So what do you all think?? Also, this is only one coat of stain and if I do stain I will probably go with at least two coats to give it a deep, rich coloring.

Sample Stain

So, that is what I’ve been working on for about the past month. I am very open to any suggestions, (kind of the reason I joined this site). Please let me know what you think so far and also where you think I should go from here. Oh, and I hope I didn’t bore you all to death with this super long blog… Thanks for looking!

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

17 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3521 days

#1 posted 11-06-2007 06:16 AM

Yes the poplar will look different than the oak. The tonal range will be similar but they accept the stain differently, one has open pores and the other is very tight. Also, each wood has its’ own color that will still show through the stain. Minwax is a thin bodied stain and you would need something with a heavy amount of pigments to get them closer, but that would only work to a degree.

What you have going can work. It comes down to this: is it achieving the effect that you want?

Sand a piece of wood and capture the dust, make a paste with the finish and force it into the gaps of your dovetails. I do this with cyanoacrylate glue otherwise known as “super glue”. After it dries sand it off. It usually will be a bit darker than the wood but close and very acceptable. Or you can buy some filler.

I figured you would put a liner in the bottom. Were you going to have material wrapped around a board in the bottom? that would be nice. You can even have it up the sides too.

I think it would be fine to match the furniture, but everything does not have to look the same in a room.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3736 days

#2 posted 11-06-2007 06:31 AM

I’m looking forward to seeing it finished. Keep up the good work.

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4010 posts in 3486 days

#3 posted 11-06-2007 06:55 AM

I use sawdust and liquid hide glue as a filler, same paste development. Push it into the areas that require filling and sand it in with a used up RO sanding disk. The heat of the sanding process cures the glue rapidly, and unlike cyanoacrylic (super glue) the filler will take stain – although at a lesser rate than the wood around it. The glue does darken the filler a little, so passable matching does occur with this technique. Another fix for the doves, if you leave the tails a little proud of the sockets, you can peen the edges over somewhat with a small ballpeen hammer, thus erasing some of the gap. Then sand flush.

The figure below is how I make a liner for the inside of a box, using Foamies or other craft store self-adhesive foam pads, plus fabric and chipboard. You put it in the box bottom and use a butter knife around the edges to dress the edges down smoothly into the box. This technique borrowed from Emily Palm of Blue Heron Woodworks was featured in Fine Woodworking magazine #185. You do not need to use the chipboard, I just like to use it as it makes the bottom less floppy when placing it into the bottom of the box. The foam pad makes the box liner cushy.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3280 days

#4 posted 11-06-2007 07:15 AM

Thanks Todd for the great info. I really wanted there to be differences in the tonal ranges between the stained woods. And yes, I’m going with a board w/material wrapped around it at the bottom of the box. I don’t plan on running material up the sides of the box.

Todd and Douglas: Thanks for the tips on making filler! I am definitely going to give this a shot since I feel it would probably be pretty difficult to find a store bought filler that didn’t stand out like a sore thumb.

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3521 days

#5 posted 11-06-2007 01:25 PM

Doug had a great point about the cyano mix not taking stain. I do so much in clear and black lacquer it escaped me. Much of what I stain is done with a veryfast drying and heavier bodied stain from Sherwin.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3379 days

#6 posted 11-06-2007 02:35 PM

Very interesting design, Sgt.! So the shadow box/lid portion will be hinged to the lower box? Or will it just fit together…is it wall or table display?
I have used a simillar method of self generating wood filler to Dougs..just not with hyde glue with regular Titebond. It works great for small imperfections..sanding it in with the ROS is the key I think to making it work..and it has to be like a dough..way more wood dust than glue so it will take some stain and blend in.


View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 3582 days

#7 posted 11-06-2007 02:42 PM

A great blog entry. I enjoyed hearing about your journey

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 3458 days

#8 posted 11-06-2007 04:46 PM

I’ve used Doug and Todd’s method for gap filling. It’s easy, it works, and if you don’t get it completely the first time, you can take a second run at it. It’s an anxietyless move. Great box. Your comment about half blinds vs through dovetails…there is the traditional use of dovetails in drawers with half blinds in front to hide the joinery from the front of the drawer, and through’s in back where hiding it didn’t matter. In this day and age, there really isn’t a right way/wrong way, proper way/improper way…there is really just THE WAY you used for the effect you want. I like the way the box is coming along.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Chris 's profile


1877 posts in 3413 days

#9 posted 11-06-2007 04:53 PM

Nice Job! and thank you for your service.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3412 days

#10 posted 11-06-2007 05:34 PM

A very good buddy of mine did the same thing with his war mementos and it turned out to be a real nice, and protective display. And…WELCOME HOME!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3521 days

#11 posted 11-06-2007 10:41 PM

Mot is right about the dovetails.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3280 days

#12 posted 11-07-2007 03:59 AM

Well, shortly I will be attaching the frame in picture 4 to the lid. I will definitely need to fill those miter joints and I think I’m going use the titebond/sawdust combo.

Brad: The shadow box/lid portion will be hinged to the lower box and it will be a table display.

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 3668 days

#13 posted 11-07-2007 04:14 AM

Nice job Sgt. and thanks for your service. I got drafted during Nam and all I got was disrespected for my 2 yrs of service so I make it a point to thank anyone in uniform I see in uniform today. My hands are shaking right now, thats how much feeling I have about it, even today. jockmike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3280 days

#14 posted 11-07-2007 05:12 AM

Thanks jockmike and thanks to all of you who have commented on my service.

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View gene's profile


2184 posts in 3305 days

#15 posted 11-07-2007 06:03 AM

Nice post!! “Display Proudly” I cannot put into words, how much your service to our country means to me.
God bless

-- Gene, a Christian in Virginia

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