Shadow Box Shelf Tutorial

 For those of you who did not see my tutorial when it was on Tools Are For Women Too, I am re-posting it here. I love shadow box shelves! Sometime in the future I will be setting up a store and will be selling these. For you DIYers, here is how you can build one yourself!

 I am on a mission to get you to use power tools if you are not already using them. Building your own furniture and decorations is cheaper, rewarding, and best of all you can make things to custom fit your space. If I can learn to use a sewing machine ( shudder ) then you can try power tools. I picked this project because it uses my three favorite tools. And they aren’t as “scary” as some of the other ones.

I used some scrap plywood for the back of one of the boxes. I used the ruler on my level to measure the size I wanted and then used it as a straight edge to mark it.

I used some scrap hard board for the other box. Both the plywood and the hard board I cut with a jig saw. You can get a jig saw for as cheap as $20.00. A table saw would work as well. If you are buying wood at say Home Depot or Lowe’s, they have large a saw at the back of the store and they will cut wood for you. Before we had access to a truck we had to do that to get the wood home.

Once the backs are cut out, you will need a miter saw. If you do not have access to a miter saw, you can use a miter box and a hand saw like this one below. This is a less expensive alternative.

A cute assistant is optional!

For a straight cut you will need to have the saw set at 0, which is the center. To move it to the right place, twist the handle to loosen it and then press down on the trigger ( see my thumb) and it will slide right where you need it. Twist it tight again to lock it in place.
 Make sure you have on safety goggles. Mine are old, big and ugly. I am too vain to show a picture of me, but trust me. I was wearing them!

The saw will take off about 1/8 of an inch, so cut on the outside of the line that you drew. I measure as I go for this reason instead of marking all of my measurements at the same time.
Once all your boards are cut and you have made sure they fit together correctly, it is time to nail them together. This is my favorite part!!! Oh how I love my nail gun :) It is right up there with my glue gun.

Nail all the sides together to make the box and then nail on the back.

I normally do this in my garage, but the lighting was better on the driveway. I sacrificed my knees for you to have good pictures.

If all your measurements were right then it should be all nice and smooth.

Now you will cut the molding. The miter saw will have to be turned to 45 degrees.

Before you measure your molding you will need to cut the end at a 45 degree angle. Then hold it up to your box to measure.

Most new saws have a laser that will show you where the blade is going to cut. Remember that the saw cuts off about 1/8 of an inch. The picture is hard to see, but don’t have the laser match up to the line you drew. Slide it over about 1/16 of an inch or your molding will be a tiny bit too short. If this is your first molding project then it would be a good idea to buy extra molding. It can be tricky. You might even want to practice on scrap wood.

Before you nail the molding to the box, lay it out on the ground and make sure it is square.

Nail the molding on the box.

The nails get embedded below the surface. So you will need to fill the holes with putty. I LOVE Elmer’s paintable, stainable, sandable putty. If I am going to be staining something dark I like to use the walnut color.

Putty any cracks or holes and give it time to dry. Then sand it smooth. If there is a big area that needs to be filled, you may have to repeat that process to make sure it is nice and flat.

I painted one of the boxes white and distressed it. Doesn’t it look so shabby chic with that antique china?

I have one above my bed.

And they make great display shelves in kids’ rooms.

What will you use yours for?

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  1. Van says

    Love the versatile still-life images you display in these shadow boxes. I love shadow boxes in general, they're the best way to get all of our bits and pieces off the counters and on the walls :)

  2. Lori@Paisley Passions says

    LOVE this! And YAY for power tools! I use them all the time and my friends think I am insane! Thanks SO much for joining in on Thrilling Thursdays @ Paisley Passions. I love to see the creative talent of other fellow bloggers. Hope you will stop by again soon :)
    ~Lori S.
    Thrilling Thursdays @Paisley Passions

  3. Creative Decor by Brooke says

    You are my kind of gal. I love power tools too. I built some boxes just like that for a client a few years ago and now we are reuseing them in another part of her house just turned the other way. They are so versitile. I like the idea of using molding. I used what I had and just routed the edge of a 1×2. Worked great.
    I think I have to become a follower so I can keep up on your great idea.

  4. Christy says

    That looks so awesome! ….and I think I’ll make one for tea cups for my mother in law, she’s a major tea drinker & she’d love it!

  5. says

    Hi, I know this is an old post, but i have to say i simply love these shadow boxes. I have just decorated my bedroom and there is a spare space above my bed and thanks to you, I know how i am going to fill it. You have a beautiful home, I have spend all morning on your blog and have tons of ideas for the rest of the house…..(hubby will go mad) I wanted to say thank you for sharing your ideas, and it is so good to see a woman using power tools.

  6. says

    These would be a great addition to my hubby’s office! He has some model cars he made many years ago
    that would look so awesome in these! Thanks for the wonderful tutorials Stacy! I think you have a lot of clever
    solutions to little “problem areas” around the home!

  7. Tracy Coy says

    This is exactly what I was looking to make! I love the color of the one in the kids room. Is that just pine? What kind of stain did you use for that? Thanks so much for sharing.