Shadow Box

A shadow box is a good way to display mementos from a trip.
recycled wine crate makes a unique display box

recycled wine crate makes a unique display box

Recycle a wine crate to make a one-of-a-kind display for three-dimensional mementos.

Photo by: Lucie Rowe

Lucie Rowe

Materials and Tools:

wooden box such as a wine crate
Luan (thin plywood) board
scroll saw, if using
safety glasses
red and black paint and paintbrush
gold gilding cream
hammer and finish nails
grass cloth to fit crate bottom


Obtain a wooden box, whether a castoff wooden wine crate, premade shadow box from the craft store or something you hammer together yourself.

From luan board, which is very thin plywood available from the home store, cut two triangles, one a bit smaller than the other and both the same width as the box when you set it on its shorter end. A scroll saw makes short work of the job. Just trace a paper pattern onto the luan with a pencil, and make sure to wear safety glasses when you work with the scroll saw. If you don't have a scroll saw or aren't comfortable using one, a lumberyard can also cut the luan to your specifications.

Paint the crate. Make it folk-arty — don't worry about getting an even coat or covering the nooks and crannies in the wood. Use an ordinary brush to paint the inside red and the outside black.

Add a bit of gold gilding cream around the front edges of the shadow box, to create an oriental look. Of course, all the paint colors can be altered depending on the theme of your shadow box or the mood you're trying to create.

Paint the triangles. Attach one to the top of the box at the front and one behind it, using a hammer and finish nails. Three nails are sufficient to hold each triangle in place.

Cut a piece of grass cloth to fit the bottom of the box. Spray adhesive on the back of the grass cloth and the surface of the box and let it get tacky for a few minutes before pressing the cloth into place.

If you want to hang anything inside the shadow box, screw a hook screw into the inside "ceiling." If you'd like to attach anything to the back of the shadow box, wire it on.

Display items in the box. Attach flat items to the back with putty. For an oriental theme, consider an Asian fan, a bonsai tree and a Chinese food takeout box. Another possibility: votive candles in glass holders on the flat top of the shadow box.

Questions about memory saving:

Q: What's the best way to anchor a bigger shadow box to the wall?

A: Use some very heavy-duty picture-hanging hardware, the same type you would use to hang a heavy mirror.

Q: What's the best way to preserve photographs?

A: If you're talking about an older photograph that's not on an acid-free paper, color-copy it. Display the copy and store the photograph between acid-free sheets.

Q: If I had to buy one kind of brush to get started making crafts, what would you recommend?

A: I personally would recommend a nice round brush, but it's kind of a personal thing. To find your preference, go to the store, get a variety pack and experiment a little.

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