Another Shadow Box

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Project by Muzhik posted 02-20-2008 09:37 PM 9146 views 16 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This one for a 32-year Chief Master Sergeant (E-9, the highest enlisted rank in the AF – top 1%). Her retirement ceremony is this Friday. The woods are curly maple and cherry. The finish is my usual Formbys high gloss tung oil varnish and wax. Comments and constructive criticism welcome.

Also, I’m working on my photography skills. I finally got around to getting a decent flash for my camera. Photography critiques and pointers are welcome as well.

Thanks for looking!

15 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4215 days

#1 posted 02-20-2008 10:22 PM

Beautiful shadow box. The joinery is unbelievably tight!

As far as photography, I’ve found that most projects look better if you can take them outside and get some natural sunlight involved.

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

View Critterman's profile


600 posts in 3807 days

#2 posted 02-20-2008 10:31 PM

Wow, Charlie is right the joinery is excellent, probably the best retirement shadow box I’ve ever seen. Love the contrasting splines too. Great work.

-- Jim Hallada, Chesterfield, VA

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3985 days

#3 posted 02-20-2008 10:41 PM

Looks very nice. Great details in the corners. Congradulate her for us.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View RobH's profile


465 posts in 4046 days

#4 posted 02-20-2008 11:40 PM

Beautiful job. Would you mind sharing at least the dimensions of the box. I have one to make for the widow of a marine. I have been putting it off for a while, but I am about to have to get started on it. I would like to show her this box as an idea for hers. Dimensions would really help out.

Keep up the great work!

-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3818 days

#5 posted 02-21-2008 12:26 AM

Great box. Maple and cherry are a favorite combination of mine but the curly maple adds a nice element to the box. The details on this box are first class. This should be a retirement gift that she will appreciate.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Sgt_Lobo's profile


87 posts in 3855 days

#6 posted 02-21-2008 01:28 AM

Hooah Air Force “Above All”! You know Muzhik, your shadow boxes are an inspiration. I am going to have to try my hand at one. This is beautiful and I would be proud to have my career displayed in it. I would really like to know the dimensions of this box. I have a lot of friends whom I have served with and would love to be able to create a shadow box like this for them. Thanks for posting…

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View Muzhik's profile


173 posts in 4135 days

#7 posted 02-21-2008 07:29 AM

Thanks for the comments. I agree with you, Charlie, that it’s best to drag things out into the sunlight most times for pictures.

As for dimensioning, RobH and Sgt Lobo, this one is 35×21 1/2×3. I like to dimension my shadow boxes around the contents when I can. With all of the patches that went in this one, it had to be huge. Typically, I start with the flag – usually (every box I’ve built, at least) that is a 3’ x 5’ flag. When folded, the flag forms a right triangle with the short sides being 9” long, and a 12 3/4” hypoteneuse. The thickness is something like 1 1/4”, if i recall. It’s been awhile since I measured one.

I make all of my shadow boxes starting with 2 1/2” tall sides to allow room for the internally-housed 2” thick flag case and a 1/2” rabbet to make room for the foam core and velvet display board and the plywood back panel. This is the first one I’ve made with dovetailed corners. I used to use 1/2” finger joints at the corners.

Like I said, to get the height and width, I start with what I know has to go in the box. The only time I couldn’t do this was for my father’s shadow box. I wanted to make it in the shape of a MAJCOM patch, and I really didn’t have much to put into it. He only served a few years. I had to get creative on that one. I asked him if I could borrow some of his old slides from photos he took in Thailand while he was there. I made the whole display board out of framing mat and put four pictures in the shadow box to take up space. Anyway, to determine dimensions, I sort of sketch everything out on paper sometimes, but usually just visualize it in my head. I try to get one dimension worked out, then I use the golden ratio (1.618:1) to figure the other. I usually wind up with a face frame that’s 3/4” thick and around 2 1/4” wide. I always spline those corners with contrasting wood.

Finally, I always try to add something unique to every one I make – so I never make two alike. For this one, I cut a subtle V in the frame at the bottom to showcase the MAJCOM patches a bit more than they would have been if they were in a straight line. This Chief managed to get into TAC, SAC and MAC before they were all reorganized under McPeak in the early 90’s. She followed on with ACC and finally the newest MAJCOM, AF ISR Agency (AF Cyber command is a MAJCOM in name only so far, to my knowledge). I also used my inlay in the flag case as jointery by carrying it through the case sides. The pictures below will illistrate what I’m talking about better than I could describe it in words.

If you want to check out more pictures of my shadow boxes, They can be found on my smugmug page in the woodworking gallery:

View Bradford's profile


1434 posts in 3819 days

#8 posted 02-21-2008 08:57 AM

WOW! WOW! WOW!, what else can I say. That is a work of art. I would be proud to have that on my mantle. As a retired Navy Corpsman, I can really appreciate the work you put in to displaying the transition up the ranks she made. Truly impressed.

-- so much wood, so little time. Bradford. Wood-a-holics unanimous president

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3871 days

#9 posted 02-21-2008 02:12 PM

Beautiful box, worthy tribute for a lifetime of service.

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3979 days

#10 posted 02-24-2008 07:07 PM

Great posting. Workmanship is crisp and clean. Looking forward to the nice one.

Do you advertise your shadowbox work or is it word of mouth ?

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Muzhik's profile


173 posts in 4135 days

#11 posted 02-25-2008 07:20 AM


You asked, “Do you advertise your shadowbox work or is it word of mouth?”

My answer: Neither! I try NOT to let the word get out!

I don’t really do these very often – less than 1/year. I think my squadron wants me to do two more of these this spring. I’m not even sure I will. They managed to scrape together $200 for this one. I usually don’t keep track of my cost, but for this one, I did. I bought $170 worth of new materials and added some of what I had (I had all of the curly maple). Figuring the percentage of what I had left over from the new materials (glass, some cherry, velvet, etc) and the percentage of what I used that I had on hand already, my cost for the box was around $150 or so.

I kept track of my hours as well. Since I have to go to the wood shop on base to do half of the work, and the other half in my basement, it took me a pretty inefficient 25 hours to make this. With that being said, I made at best $2.00 per hour on this. That’s OK with me, because I feel like it’s a conflict of interest for me to make money off of my superiors (and subordinates). I just don’t want to do it very often because it sets me back in my own projects! If I were doing this for a living, and with my own tools all in one shop, I could probably batch these out at 8 hours each (maybe less). Still, they would cost well over $500/per for my kids to eat.

View Rxmpo's profile


268 posts in 3742 days

#12 posted 02-28-2008 08:16 AM

The details are magnificent. I actually stumbled across your projects after seeing the workbench (which is fabulous) and wondered how a shop could look so neat. Well, I must say the pictures of your entertainment center with the patina columns are unreal. The blend of woods, the design, the craftsmanship all speak to your skill level, which is extremely high. Thank you for the inspiration and I can’t wait to see the next project!

View glennl's profile


24 posts in 3624 days

#13 posted 07-09-2008 07:47 PM

Nice shadow box…

NOW a photography suggestion: I personally like to use studio lights with photography umbrellas. I think you can get an inexpensive setup (bulb or halogen lights), stands, and umbrellas for about $200. One advantage is that you eliminate all “bright” or flash spots, and can eliminate or create shadows where & when you want them by moving the lights, or changing the angles, etc.
By using a light setup (as opposed to a flash) you know EXACTLY what you are going to get. You can key the lights to make a specific grain pattern or color stand out too…Hope this helps.

-- GlennL, New Jersey

View dadefreese's profile


42 posts in 4018 days

#14 posted 06-15-2011 03:31 PM

Beautiful work. Very nicely designed and detailed.

View TomTinkerSum's profile


226 posts in 3831 days

#15 posted 06-02-2012 07:26 AM

Great job. Glad I came across your post. I’m doing a Master Chief’s box at this time. He has been a friend and mentor. I was thinking of dovetails and splines—that’s how I came across your project. Nice job. I’m still trying to figure what wood I want to add to the koa.

Thanks again for sharing your beautiful work.


-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic.... :)

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