Two-Flags Shadow Box (LARGE)

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Project by ju7281 posted 07-05-2015 04:15 PM 5266 views 4 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My good friend Dave (pictured at his retirement ceremony) asked me to build his shadow box. Of course I said yes; it would be an honor, I said. I had previously only built one shadow box (mine), but I knew my woodworking skills would carry me through this project. I had exactly one month to complete it, which I thought would be plenty of time, however, I found myself up against the ropes on ceremony day, putting the very last piece of trim on at about 8:10 A.M., with the ceremony starting at 9:00 A.M.! But, I did it! By the way, I was the official photographer for the ceremony as well.

The inspiration for this piece came from a similar design I saw online, and without plans, and only a very low-resolution photo, I got started. My design changed a few times over the course of the build, and since I had been out of serious woodworking for about the last ten years due to work and health reasons, I had to relearn many techniques as well as learn many new ones in order to complete the job. I made a few mistakes along the way, some of which were costly, as you all know that oak isn’t cheap.

Although I had no plans, I did have some inspiration for the overall design. However, I’ve scoured the Internet for flag cases and I’ve never seen one like this one, so to me at least, this is an original design, one that looks pretty nice, if I do say so myself :)

Something that certainly isn’t new to shadow box design, but I wanted to try, is inlaying challenge coins into the wood, as seen in the last two photos above. I racked my brain trying to come up with a jig to make the holes with my router, and I finally came up with the idea of using plexiglass, just adding the radii of the bit, router base and coin, and then cutting out the hole in the plexiglass that I would run the router in. Well, in theory that was a great idea, but after three tries, I realized I just wasn’t going to get it right. The holes were never exactly the right diameter, or the right shape, or both, so I went back to basics and routed the holes in the wood by hand, by tracing a circle around the coins and routing the material out inside the circles, being careful at the edges and checking the fit of the coins often. I eventually got the holes to where the coins fitted perfectly, and now I realize I can inlay any sized coin. UPDATE (10/18/16): I now have a Forstner bit the same diameter as my coins, so it’s a snap cutting out just enough wood in which to lay the coins for a perfect fit – every time!

It took me about 250 hours to finish this project, mainly because I was “out of shape”, so-to-speak, and because the mistakes I made were not only costly in terms of money but also time. I learned quite a few lessons that in future projects will prevent most, if not all, of those mistakes from recurring, saving me time and money. Nevertheless, it was a real pleasure making this box for a good friend.

I love woodworking and it was great to get back into it after such a long hiatus, and for a good cause, but the sheer complexity of, and time required to complete, this project are enough to keep me from doing any more of these for the foreseeable future. If you would like me to make one like this for you or for a loved one, check out the Two-Flags Shadow Box (SMALL) version in my Projects. I modified the plans for this one a bit to make it less complex and to take less time to complete. I’m just not going to be making this particular model again for a while.

-- Joe, Georgia,

16 comments so far

View stefang's profile


16219 posts in 3575 days

#1 posted 07-05-2015 04:41 PM

In spite of maybe being a bit rusty you sure did a fine job on this beautiful shadow box and I can imagine that your friend is more than happy with it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Northwest29's profile


1664 posts in 2731 days

#2 posted 07-05-2015 06:40 PM

Excellent work on a shadow box that will certainly become a wonderful piece of family history. I think your design is extremely unique and your being a ‘bit rusty’ doesn’t show at all. IMHO

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View ju7281's profile


23 posts in 1667 days

#3 posted 07-05-2015 07:45 PM

Thanks, I appreciate it! I definitely feel more confident now, and I just hope I get the opportunity to build more boxes for other people retiring or otherwise leaving the service. Being a retiree myself, it’s one way I can “still serve”. By the way, don’t go too far, I might have questions along the way :)

-- Joe, Georgia,

View jeffswildwood's profile


3680 posts in 2218 days

#4 posted 07-06-2015 12:21 AM

One of the best I have seen! You did an amazing job on this. The lighting is a wonderful touch.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View DonB's profile


541 posts in 2933 days

#5 posted 07-06-2015 10:08 AM

Wow! Impressive is the word. Also being retired, I appreciate the design, layout and obvious cost. Your “Leftover Oak” comment sure is correct. I would have been overwhelmed had this been for me. Your description of yourself on your “Home” page is nearly the same as mine, except that I am also a Great-Grandfather. Thank you for sharing.

-- DonB

View AlBCuttnWud's profile


703 posts in 2931 days

#6 posted 07-06-2015 12:19 PM

Great job. I really like the enclosed area at the bottom.

Recommend trying forstner bits for the round coins. Pro is they are clean holes, you can control the depth. Con is that you coins come in many sizes so you can quickly collect a few bits.

-- -Al, Oak Harbor, WA

View ju7281's profile


23 posts in 1667 days

#7 posted 07-06-2015 03:14 PM

Thanks, Al! The enclosed area is for his coin collection which is about 150 strong right now. I’m going to make some strips to put in the bottom to hold them up – I just didn’t have time before I gave it to him. I hear you about forstner bits, but the smallest coin I’ll be using for this purpose is 1 ¾” in diameter, and since I was already way over budget on this project, I had to come up with a way to do it without spending as much as those bits cost. Besides, the two coins I used were of different diameters, so I would have had to buy two bits, and I just didn’t have that kind of money left. I agree that the holes would be much cleaner, though.

-- Joe, Georgia,

View skeeterusaf's profile


82 posts in 1820 days

#8 posted 07-07-2015 12:53 PM

As a regular shadowbox maker, I am truly impressed. May have just found the design for mine come my retirement this May. Awesome design and craftsmanship.

-- I cut three boards and all four were too short.

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3107 days

#9 posted 07-07-2015 01:44 PM

This turned out so nicely. Congratulations. You did a fine job on this and welcome to Lumberjocks.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View ju7281's profile


23 posts in 1667 days

#10 posted 07-07-2015 01:54 PM

Thanks, Skeeter!

I hope to be a regular shadow box maker. I did get another job as a result of this one, so I’m still working :)

I can’t take credit for the design of the box though, at least not totally. I saw a couple online that had “wings” like this which were my inspiration for this one, and one of them had the open area underneath too for a sword, which looked awesome, so I really wanted to try it. But the flag case design was mine. At least I haven’t seen anything like it, so if someone has done it before, I apologize for taking credit, but I think it’s a first.

Charles, your comment came in as I was typing this, so thanks for the welcome and the great comment! I’ve known about this site for some time now, but finally got around to posting something on it.

-- Joe, Georgia,

View Pdub's profile


924 posts in 3421 days

#11 posted 07-07-2015 07:02 PM

WOW! Very impressive. It turned out Great!!

-- Paul, North Dakota, USAF Ret.

View JeffMartineau's profile


78 posts in 1294 days

#12 posted 07-10-2015 08:00 PM

That is simply a beautiful piece, congrats on the hard work, I’m sure it’ll stay in his family for a very long time.

-- -Jeff. My shop is huge, it just doesn't have a ceiling. Or walls.

View WistysWoodWorkingWonders's profile


12764 posts in 3397 days

#13 posted 12-10-2016 12:54 AM

Wow, this just became one of my favorite shadow boxes! Nice work and detail in this project!

-- New Project = New Tool... it's just the way it is, don't fight it... :)

View Cheapguy82's profile


78 posts in 774 days

#14 posted 01-21-2017 01:25 PM

Awesome build!

-- Stephen - Georgia

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 3953 days

#15 posted 02-19-2017 01:54 AM

An impressive showcase!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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