Everyone loves receiving gifts. Gifts are an excellent way to show love, and displaying those gifts are a great way to return that love. However, as time goes on, you can collect a lot of knick-knacks with no place to put them. That’s where a shadow box comes in handy.

You can find shadow boxes at virtually any home goods or furniture store, but they’re usually very pricey and often lack the flare and personality that matches your home. Instead of purchasing one, make your own so that the next time someone gives you a pocketknife for your collection, you’ll have the perfect place to put it!

What You Need

This project is simple enough that amateur and moderate wood workers should be able to participate with very little problems. The first thing you’ll need to do is gather your supplies. Before you do so, read through the entire tutorial. You’ll have an easier time making the shadow box and understanding what supplies to get if you do.

  • Unfinished wooden picture frame with glass
  • 4 wood planks of your preferred length and 1/2-1 inch thick
  • Saw
  • Hammer and finishing nails
  • Wood glue
  • Thin piece of plywood for the back of the box
  • Thin boards for shelves
  • Small shelf holders
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors
  • Spray adhesive
  • Fabric or scrapbook paper
  • Mod Podge if you decide to use scrapbook paper
  • Varnish or paint
  • Foam brushes
  • Hinges
  • Wood tacks
  • Small latch


Once you’ve gathered your supplies, you’re ready to begin. Follow this step-by step guide to complete your shadow box.

Step 1: First, you’ll need to choose the perfect wooden picture frame with glass. This will serve as the door of your shadow cabinet, so it should be the size you want your finished cabinet to be.

Step 2: Then, you’ll make the shallow wooden box. Cut the four planks to match the length of your picture frame and use wood glue and finishing nails to create a rectangle. Because the frame will be covering the seams, you don’t need to worry about making them perfect.

Step 3: Cut your plywood to be the same size as the rectangle you just created. Use wood glue and finishing nails to attach it to the back. You should now have a shallow, open-faced box.

Step 4: To give your box a little personality and a protective lining, use spray adhesive to attach strips of fabric to the inside. You can also use scrapbook paper and Mod Podge to achieve this effect. If neither of these options appeal to you, simply choose a color of paint or varnish and apply. Allow to dry completely before continuing.

Step 5: Cut lengths of plywood to fit in your shadow box as shelves. Measure the length and depth of the inside of the box to achieve the correct measurements.

Step 6: Paint or varnish your unfinished picture frame, freshly cut shelves, and the outside of the box you just made. Allow to dry completely before continuing.

Step 7: Attach the shelf holders inside the wooden box using glue and short tacks. Measure carefully to ensure that the shelves won’t be tilted. Then, insert the shelves.

Step 8: Attach the freshly painted picture frame to the front of the box with two hinges. The hinges should be narrow enough that they’re unnoticeable when attached, unless that’s the look you’re going for. Use short tacks and glue to attach the hinges so they don’t push all the way through the frame.

Step 9: Attach the latch to the opposite side of the frame and box using short tacks and glue to keep the pieces in place.

And, that’s it! This shadow box is very simple to make, and you can store plenty of treasures inside. You now have your very own, personalized shadow box made from scratch.