How to Make a Shadow Box

Some people are good with their hands and some can barely use a screwdriver. There are those who are more comfortable than others when it comes to creating crafts or building projects from scratch. They can visualize raw materials and turn them into something special.

For those who are not-so-skilled in the woodworking vocations, luckily the internet is packed with lots of friendly how-to videos and plenty of articles to show you how to make a shadow box. The primary tool you need is patience and ensure to bring that military-grade attention to detail because working with wood can be rewarding, but equally frustrating if the woodshop is not your second home.

The first thing you need to do is determine what type of wood you’re going top use. Shadow boxes are usually made with cherry, mahogany, maple, oak, walnut, pine, and other types of woods, but lately individuals constructing their own shadow boxes have also turned to reclaimed wood. Old doors, barn walls, porch planks, wood floors, you name it, can all be repurposed and used in building a shadow box.

Once you’ve figured out the kind of wood you need, you will need to determine what type of glass you want to use. You can use glass, acrylic, and even polycarbonates or any other lucid material that you prefer. You also have to decide if you want clear glass, tempered, smoked, non-glare. These can usually be purchased at home improvement stores and you can cut them to size. Pay careful attention to the thickness you purchase. Like wood, glass can also be repurposed and using reclaimed glass adds a touch of romanticism to the project, especially if you know the history behind the reclaimed items.

PRO TIP: As a short cut, some do-it-yourselfers have used a picture frame as a door for their shadow box. Essentially, they find a frame they like and they build a box behind the frame, attaching the frame with hinges to the box. The key here is to find a frame you like, in the dimensions you need, in the wood grain that fits your taste. This is probably the simplest way to answer the question, how to make a shadow box.

Once you’ve determined the kind of wood and glass you’d like to use, and the materials needed to assemble the box (wood glue, nails, screws, etc.), you need to determine what type of tools you will need. The average person doesn’t have a great woodworking setup in their homes, but that does not mean that you still can’t do it yourself. The typical shadow box can be constructed with handheld tools like a saw, hammer, tape measure and drill.

Remember those videos and articles about how to make a shadow box mentioned earlier in this article? Well, most of those will list the materials you need in order to tackle your shadow box project. The tools and raw materials will likely be shared with you, so can piece together what you think you need in order to make a shadow box.

If you find that you lack the tools needed to make a shadow box, consider renting some from the local home improvement store. Military base hobby shops are a great place to work with borrowed tools as well. In addition, some home improvement stores and craft shops have free workshops where you can sign up and build items using their tools. If all else fails, you can always buy the tools and add them to your toolbox.

The main thing to remember when you ask yourself how to make a shadow box is that the box will hold many of the priceless items that you hold near and dear, many that were hard-earned like Ranger tabs, combat action awards and badges, and certain medals for work you’re proud that you performed. You want to house your military memories in something that you can be proud of.

So, use an internet search engine and ask the question how to make a shadow box. If you find that the project is overwhelming or that you will be punching above your weight class as a craftsperson by trying to make a shadow box, then you should reach out to the professionals at USAMM and order a shadow box.

Ordering a shadow box from USAMM is much easier than building your own and they can also fill it with all of the medals, patches and insignia that you’ve earned. How to make a shadow box is an easy question to answer. The steps, materials and tools needed can be looked up anywhere on the web, but if you are asking that question, maybe it is best to leave that task to the professionals.


Patrick, the answer is yes. Please reach out to our customer service folks at or give us a call. Thanks.


I served in the USMC, SC National Guard, and the Army. Can you do a combo shadow box of all three?

Patrick ,

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