Cherry "Chest-Lid" Shadow Box

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Project by Mottom posted 09-19-2007 06:22 PM 12990 views 18 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A friend recently retired from the Navy. He asked me to make him a shadow box for his retirement. He wanted the box to look as though someone had removed the lid from an old sea chest and hung it on the wall, but he wanted to look through the curved top of the chest.

The box is American Cherry and the medal mounts are made of Curly Maple. The clear piece is 1/4” heat-bent Lexan.

The story behind the shadow box is an old Navy tradition. In the days of sail, there was a superstition of doom for retiring sailors. If the sailor’s shadow hit the pier before he did, he would be foreshadowed by bad luck for his remaining days. Sailors fought the superstition by constructinbg a timber box and filling it with the departing sailor’s mementoes and treasures. The box would be held in front of the sailor as he walked down the gang-plank – catching his shadow – and keeping it from hitting the pier before he did. Hence the name “shadow-box.”

-- A novice at the craft and loving every minute!

18 comments so far

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 3950 days

#1 posted 09-19-2007 06:37 PM

Great memorial box and a big splash with your talent into LumberJocks!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4122 days

#2 posted 09-19-2007 06:43 PM

cool information! THanks.

and the design, follows the requirements to the “T”. It is stunning. Well done.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4054 days

#3 posted 09-19-2007 06:49 PM

Thanks for the history of “shadow box.”

Congratulations on an excellent design to meet your friend’s instructions!


-- Paul, Texas

View TomFran's profile


2957 posts in 3956 days

#4 posted 09-19-2007 07:10 PM

Very attractive design. Nice looking project! I’ll bet your friend liked it.

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4180 days

#5 posted 09-19-2007 07:14 PM

Very nice layout!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 3998 days

#6 posted 09-19-2007 07:23 PM

I think it looks fantastic! Great.

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

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3952 days

#7 posted 09-19-2007 09:10 PM

Real nice piece and a story I’ve never heard before! Welcome to LJ!

I’d like the details on how you “heat bent” the lexan piece.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Muzhik's profile


173 posts in 4100 days

#8 posted 09-20-2007 06:29 AM

Well done, Mottom! I’ve seen Navy shadow boxes done in the shape of a ship’s wheel before, but I think this design is even cooler and more appropriate. It looks like your execution is top notch as well. Bravo!

Welcome aboard (to Lumberjocks)

View Bob Morris's profile

Bob Morris

39 posts in 4333 days

#9 posted 09-22-2007 12:48 PM

Very well done, I will be sure to pass the URL on to my son who recently retired from the Navy.

-- Bob Morris, Ohio,

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3489 days

#10 posted 10-02-2008 04:09 PM

I was in the navy and never heard that, very interesting and a beautiful job you did for your friend. he will treasure that always.

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View banditbailey's profile


1 post in 3082 days

#11 posted 11-10-2009 06:26 AM

Would you be willing to build a box for a stranger? Of course I would be willing to pay for your work. This is one of the best shadow boxes I’ve ever seen.

View a1Jim's profile


117060 posts in 3539 days

#12 posted 11-10-2009 06:48 AM

Wonderful unique shadow box and a most interesting story behind shadow boxes.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View WistysWoodWorkingWonders's profile


12758 posts in 3119 days

#13 posted 02-11-2010 10:37 PM

Thanks for sharing the story behind the shadow box… never knew that… kind of embarassing after serving 20+ years in the Navy… oops, some traditions get left behind unfortunately…
Great job on the design of this one and the results… very nice…

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

View Cricketsdad's profile


4 posts in 3092 days

#14 posted 02-25-2010 02:10 AM

My wife is retiring in July of this year and unfortunely for me she has fallen in love with your American Cherry Shadow Box. I’m not that good I’m afraid. I do mostly scroll sawing and a little box and shelf work. I hate to ask but when the wife “ask” you to do something you try. I don’t suppose you could assist me in how to make one or if I could inquire as to if you could make one for me. I would appreciate any and all assistance.


View MstrChief's profile


5 posts in 2519 days

#15 posted 05-27-2011 01:09 AM

Very nice job….one of the most unique and classy looking shadow boxes i’ve seen

showing 1 through 15 of 18 comments

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