How to make a large shadow box

Written by mary jane
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How to make a large shadow box
Plywood is ideal for making large shadox box frames (plywood image by Paul Moore from

Large shadow boxes are ideal frames for large pictures or homemade scrapbook posters. Purchasing large shadow box frames can be quite expensive, as shadow boxes are often custom made with unique designs or exquisite materials. A large homemade shadow box can also have a unique appeal, as it can be decorated and painted to suit the owner’s needs. Shadow box frames can be used to decorate an empty space and make great gifts, too.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pencil
  • 1/4-inch thick plywood
  • Measuring tape
  • Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain or acrylic craft paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Pre-cut glass, 17-1/4 by 21 inches
  • Glue
  • 8 bendable metal framing locks
  • Picture to be framed
  • Pre-cut foam piece, 17 inches in length, 20-1/2 inches in height and 1/4 inch in depth

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  1. 1

    Draw four rectangles on the plywood for the large shadow box frame. Two of the pieces should measure 2 inches by 21 inches and the other two should measure 2 inches by 17 inches. While the 21 inches is the overall width of the shadow box, the 17 inches is the overall height. The 2 inches will be the depth of the box.

  2. 2

    Cut the four pieces out using a saw and smooth the edges with sandpaper to avoid cracks and splinters in the plywood and overall frame.

  3. 3

    Place the four pieces on a table with the 2-inch sides facing upward. Take one piece at a time and measure 1 inch across and 2 inches in length and make a mark with a pencil. Repeat this further down the piece as well. Connect the marks by making a straight line down. Repeat this step on all four pieces.

  4. 4

    Cut a 1/4 inch indention where the line has been drawn on each piece. Do this by sawing at an angle, creating a triangle shape. This indention will hold the glass frame. Smooth the creases with sandpaper after cutting.

  5. 5

    Paint and decorate the large shadow box. For example, the large box frame could be painted a solid black. After the black has dried, decorate the box with small flowers, vines and symbols painted with acrylic craft paints. The final design is up to you. Let all of the pieces dry before continuing on with the next step.

  6. 6

    Create a rectangular frame using the four pieces. The two 21-inch pieces should be across from one another, and the 17-inch pieces should be perpendicular from the 21-inch pieces. Place the pieces so the 21-inch pieces overlap the ends of the 17-inch pieces.

  7. 7

    Make two marks on the ends of the 21-inch pieces to indicate where the nails will be attached. The marks should be placed so the nails will extend into the 17 inch pieces. Using the hammer and nails, attach the 21-inch pieces to one of the 17-inch pieces, leaving the top of the frame uninstalled.

  8. 8

    Slide the pre-cut glass into the indentions made in the previous step. This should be done from the side that has not been installed. Do not apply much pressure to the glass, as it can crack. It may be a tight squeeze, but it will fit.

  9. 9

    Line up the last piece of the frame to complete the rectangle. It should touch both ends of both sides. Slowly hammer nails into the side piece to connect it. Do not apply too much pressure, as the glass can still crack.

  10. 10

    Install the metal framing locks to the back of the shadow box by applying glue to one end of the metal locks. Line it up so the glued end is placed on the frame itself and the end without glue overlaps the glass. Install two bendable metal framing locks to each side of the frame. When the glue dries, the locks can be opened by simply bending them upward.

  11. 11

    Place the photograph or picture into the frame and place the pre-cut foam piece into the box. Lock the frame by pressing down on the metal frame locks. It is now ready to be hung.

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