How to Build a Shadow Box Picture Frame

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to Build a Shadow Box Picture Frame
Shadow box picture frames add depth to a photographic display. (plastic frame image by Ivan ivashin from

Shadow boxes add visual interest to walls. Because shadow boxes have depth, they work well in larger rooms, rooms with high ceilings, and an art galleries. Shadow boxes often display three dimensional objects, but you can add visual impact to pictures by framing them in shadow boxes. Shadow boxes are not difficult to build and can be made in a home workshop with materials that are readily available at hardware or home improvement stores. Make your own shadow box picture frame to create a custom display for your pictures. A basic shadow box picture frame can make a simple photograph look like a work of art.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1-by-3-by-12 boards, (4)
  • Mitre saw
  • Router table with 1/2-inch straight bit
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Damp rag
  • Flush trim wood screws
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Wood finish of your choice
  • Screw gun
  • 11 1/2-by-11 1/2-inch glass panel
  • Matting
  • Picture
  • 1/16-by-11 1/2-by-11 1/2-inch wood panel
  • Picture frame tabs, with screws (4)
  • Picture frame hook ,with screws

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  1. 1

    Cut a 45-degree angle on each end of the 1-by-3-by-12 boards using a mitre saw. These are the sides of the box.

  2. 2

    Set up the router table to make a 1/2-inch wide by 1/8-inch deep cut. Run the 1-inch side of each side board through the router table. This is the channel for the glass and wood panels.

  3. 3

    Apply a bead of wood glue to the edges box sides with the mitre cuts. Place the sides together to form a box. The side with the channel should be on the inside of the box to allow for the glass and wood panels to sit in the back of the shadow box.

  4. 4

    Clamp the assembly together using clamps. Wipe off any glue with a damp rag. Allow the glue to dry. Remove the clamps.

  5. 5

    Secure the joints by screwing two flush trim wood screws into each joint evenly spaced using a screw gun.

  6. 6

    Sand the entire wood assembly using fine-grit sandpaper. Apply a wood finish of your choice. Allow the finish to dry before continuing.

  7. 7

    Insert the glass panel into the slot. Place the matting and picture on top of the glass face down. Place the wood panel over the picture.

  8. 8

    Align a picture frame tab in the centre of each side so that the tab portion will overlap the wood panel. Fasten the tabs in place using a screw gun and the provided screws. Place a picture frame hook in the centre of the top side of the wood panel. Fasten it in place using the provide screws and a screw gun. The shadow box picture frame can now be displayed.

Tips and warnings

  • Create several shadow box picture frames to mount in a geometric grid on one wall to create a focal wall.
  • Wear eye protection when working with wood.

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