My first shadow box

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Project by usmc1371 posted 112 days ago 582 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was my first shadow box that I made in August 2013 for a retiring warfighter. I believe I used 1/2” or 3/4” oak for the box and lid, hardboard for the base and lined with felt. I made a 1/4” dado around the box to fit the hardboard base. I tried again and again on the miters, but I now have a miter sled(thanks to Lumberjocks) I did stain it, but have since begun to understand, appreciate, and use wood in its natural color to value its true original beauty. I finished it with a gloss poly, or at least I tried to. I used a plan that I found in one of the many books I have purchased to try and self teach. In hindsight, I could have done much better, but he was very happy with the end result. It may be a little rough around the edges, but the cloth and flash inside tells the stories of a man that walked the valley of the shadow of death, again and again. For anyone that does not know, that round green plastic piece is an M-81, one of the tools of our trade; spreading mass hate and discontent to those that wish to do us harm.

Please feel free to break down and tear apart the box itself, I have tough skin and learn through my mistakes.
Thanks for looking and thank you in advance for any advise or improvements.


-- "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who wish to do us harm."

7 comments so far

View AngieO's profile


1119 posts in 654 days

#1 posted 112 days ago

Nice shadow box!

View ChiefE's profile


6 posts in 134 days

#2 posted 112 days ago

You know I always wanted to do one of them for myself, but I don’t think I even have half the stuff I would need from my military days or my Police days, I know I still have a few badges, patches, and my old duty .45, but the .45 still stays by my side when traveling, but I could put my handcuffs in the box, that would work.

Don’t want them to end up the way another set I saw when working on the PD. An old friend of mine called me one day and asked if I had a key for S&W handcuffs, I said I did, so he asked me to come by his house. He wouldn’t tell me why, so I drove over to his house, his wife let me in, and back in the rear bedroom was his 4 year old daughter, her feet through the bars of the footboard of the bed, and a shiny pair of S&W handcuffs around her little ankles. Her 5 year old brother had found them in the closet, some of her dad’s keepsakes from his days on the force, and put them on her, she was sobbing as if she had been crying for hours, he said he couldn’t find the damn key anywhere. I used my key to free her up, and got a nice hug from a little 4 year old child, and handshake from her dad and a rather nice kiss on the cheek from her pretty little mom. Oh and I also got an old set of handcuffs for my trouble,

View usmc1371's profile


6 posts in 225 days

#3 posted 112 days ago

I have seen so many different styles of military shadow boxes. I havent put mine up yet b/c it is not finished yet, almost, but I dont want to upset anyone with unfinished projects. If you really want to make one, I have a lot of flash-pins, badges, patches, awards, medals, etc, etc…. feel free to message me and see if ive collected what would bring yours together. I worked in the explosives field (combat engineer) so I picked up a few things in my 10 years. I actually started making shadow boxes after experiencing the tradition of such in the military. You can check out my website/story which shows how I started with the hobby in the military. Great story by the way, gave me a chuckle. I used to think woodworking was sanding C4 crates and passing them on as plaques. Im slowly learning that I was in for some serious learning! What kind of woodwork are you into Chief? I have seen some SUPERB retirement shadow boxes on here, thought maybe one was yours.

-- "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who wish to do us harm."

View AlBCuttnWud's profile


469 posts in 1196 days

#4 posted 112 days ago

Very nice job, don’t short yourself. All of us are our own worst critics for sure.

I agree with you on leaving the wood in its natural look with some sort of clear coat for protection. Curly or birdseye maple are my favorite.

You didn’t mention how you keep the glass in place so thought I would share what I have done. I use clear plastic retainers and cut the corners at 45s. Really leaves a nice, polished look over times where I have used silicon.

I did a similar box to hold a gun to give you ideas for the next one.

Again, nice done….you will find you will get better with each one you finish.

-- -Al, Patuxent River, MD

View usmc1371's profile


6 posts in 225 days

#5 posted 112 days ago

Thanks Al! I am working on a personal box, oddly enough with birdseye maple, suedetex and spent a bit much on some nice brusso hardware. anyhow, i had to put it on hold. some of the pieces that wil be displayed are tough to look at. More importantly, your firearm display is beautiful! I have some plans (in my mind) for some of my pistols and for a long rifle. As far as the glass, the lid was about 7/8” wide, then I put a “glass stop” along the interior of the lid, 1/8’ short of being flush I then placed the trim(as I call it) in thqt 1/8” recess, which the trim holds in place. I did not spline the miters, which I wish I would have, but am working on for the next few boxes. Any advise on joinery with a shadow/display box? I am nowhere near dovetail capable, but am practicing with a jig.

-- "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who wish to do us harm."

View AlBCuttnWud's profile


469 posts in 1196 days

#6 posted 112 days ago

For smaller boxes I like the spline idea with contrasting wood…maybe angle the cuts vice 90 degree, straight cuts. The box I made was my first attempt to cove cut using my table saw…..fairly easy but makes a huge difference.

Oh yea, try using General Finishes Arm-R-Seal……haven’t used anything else since the first time I used it. I put the first coat on heavy, let it sit for about 5 minutes and wipe off. Then put on lighter thin coats to build up. It dries fairly quickly and just leaves a natural finish but still protects well. I normally don’t like the high gloss look so this worked perfectly for me. You won’t regret giving it a shot.

-- -Al, Patuxent River, MD

View JT23325's profile


111 posts in 654 days

#7 posted 111 days ago

The box looks great, There are a million different ways to approach making these boxes. I have been doing them for many years and am still coming up with different Ideas all the time…. My choices in joinery varies greatly depending on the size, shape and materials selected for the project. For a large majority of rectangular boxes I lean to the miter with either a thin splines, dovetail splines, or a biscuit of a outer decoration is not desired as it provides a nice clean and symmetrical look. I would suggest doing s search on the LJ projects for a nice Miter Sled that will help with the miter angles problem, or if you have a router table and a 45 deg camphor bit, you can rough cut the angles on the Table or miter saw and use the router table to true the angles. There are some pretty good blogs on these as well.

There are a few relative formulas that I use depending on the type of box I am making ( wall mounting, mantle piece, free standing, vertical or horizontal ect.) contact me at and I would be happy to share, you will also find a few box examples there.

I like the natural look as well. The Arm-R-Seal mentioned by AlBCuttnWud above works very well for most projects. My preference is Bush Oil easy to apply but does take a little longer to dry between coats. The box should complement the contents not take away from them.

A side note: Mounting makes all the difference and it looks like you did a great job!!! I have moved away from felt and use either Real Velvet (though it is getting harder and harder to find) or Velvet Velour. Both work very well and give the box a bit more refined look. to provide a SECURE mounting base I use a 3 layer foundation. the bottom layer is 1/4” foam core which I glue a 3/16” matte board to then use spray glue (3M 90 or equivalent) to adhere the materials.

-- Jeff, Ability will never catch up with the demand for it. - Malcolm Forbes

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