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Shadow Box Display Case

Protect and display small collectibles in this decorative display case. When the holidays arrive, transform it into a display of your favorite Christmas ornaments.

Shadow box display case in white and red.

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools & Materials


  • Miter saw
  • Table saw or circular saw and straightedge (optional)
  • Drill and 1/2-in bit
  • 120-grit and 180-grit sandpaper
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Clamps
  • Tape measure
  • Wood glue or super glue
  • Painter’s tape


  • 9- 3/8 x 3 x 36 pine craft boards
  • 3 - 3/8 x 4 x 36 pine craft boards
  • 1/4 x 24 x 48 birch plywood
  • Valspar Signature paint, quarts: Quite Red (#1011-3) and Dove White (#7002-7)

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

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Project Resources


Create the Grid

Step 1

From 3/8 x 3 boards, cut seven pieces 20-1/8 inches long for the shelves, top, and bottom (A). Then cut ten 4-1/2-inch-long dividers (B) -- two of these will be used as spacers -- and two 25-7/8-inch-long sides (C). For each group, all of the pieces must be of identical length for the grid to go together correctly (Shadow Box Display Case Project Diagram, Drawing 1).

Good to Know

Decide at this point whether you want to paint the grid pieces (except the ends) before putting them together or wait and paint the assembled grid. Painting the pieces first makes finishing the grid easier but requires super glue instead of wood glue for assembly. Painting the completed grid will be harder because of the tight spaces, but you can use wood glue for sturdy joints. Either way, don’t paint the back edges of any grid parts.

Step 2

Draw center marks along grid edges.

Group the shelf/top/bottom pieces (A) with the ends flush. Measure to find the center and use a square to draw a line across all of the edges. Then select two 4-1/2-inch dividers (B) to use as spacers --not glued in place -- and draw center marks along their edges.

Step 3

Glue and clamp grid pieces together.

Align the spacer edge marks with the edge marks on two shelves. On both sides of the spacers, glue and clamp two dividers to the shelves. Remove the spacers after the clamps are in place, and allow the glue to dry before you continue. Repeat to make a second assembly you’ll add later.

Step 4

Add pieces to the grid.

Use the spacers to align two more dividers and glue a third shelf in place.

Good to Know

Tighten the clamps just enough to bring the wood pieces together from top to bottom. Too much tension may bow the wood and break the glue bond on the pieces assembled earlier.

Step 5

Assemble the grid.

Align the spacers with the second assembly from Step 3 and the three-shelf assembly from Step 4. Glue and clamp the assemblies to complete the grid. After the glue dries, touch up the paint as needed on the faces and front edges (but not the back).

Step 6

If you haven’t already done so, paint the grid (Dove White shown) except along the back edges that will be glued to the plywood back and the ends.

Build the Case

Step 1

Cut the back panel (D) to size. If you don’t have a table saw or circular saw, ask a Lowe’s associate to cut it in the store. Drill two 1/2-inch holes where shown (Shadow Box Display Case Project Diagram, Drawing 2) to hang the shadow box on a wall.

Step 2

Sand the faces and edges of the plywood and wipe clean. On the face that will be the backdrop for the display, apply 1-inch painter’s tape along all four edges. Then paint both faces (Quite Red shown) and remove the tape before the paint dries.

Good to Know

Paint both sides? By painting both, you keep one face of the plywood from absorbing more moisture than the other and warping.

Step 3

Center the grid on the back panel (D) and mark the mounting locations on the plywood. (The finished case will be slightly larger than the back.) Lightly glue the back edges of the grid, place it on the back where marked, and add weights to the top until the glue dries.

Step 4

Glue the top to the back and sides.

Glue and clamp the sides (C) to the grid and back. Then glue the top and bottom boards to the back and sides.

Add the Frame and Trim

Step 1

Cut the frame sides (E) 1/4 inch longer than the height of the case. Cut the frame top and bottom (F) about 1 inch oversize. Lay the frame sides in position on the case with both outside edges overhanging 1/8 inch. There should be a 1/8-inch overhang at the top and bottom, too.

Step 2

Measure for the frame top and bottom length.

Measure between the frame sides for the length of the top and bottom pieces (F). Cut the frame top and bottom to the same length.

Step 3

Attach the frame to the case.

Glue one frame side (E) in position with 1/8-inch overhangs on the edge and ends, and add weight until the glue dries. Then add the frame top and bottom (F) so that the inside edges are flush with the shelves. Add the remaining side to complete the frame.

Step 4

Cut moulding to length.

Measure between the inside edges of the frame top and bottom, and miter-cut both side moulding pieces (G) to that length. Fasten a side moulding in position on the frame. Miter-cut one end of both top/bottom pieces to join with the side moulding. Measure and cut the top and bottom pieces the same length. Glue the top and bottom moulding in place; then add the other side moulding.

Step 5

Sand and paint the case frame and moulding as needed.

Step 6

Drive two nails level with each other and 16 inches apart where you want to display the case. The hole spacing gives you the option to drive both nails into wall studs for a sturdy installation.

Step 7

To display round objects that could roll off the shelves, use flat washers to support the bottoms of the objects. You can also hang small Christmas ornaments from small thumb tacks pressed into the upper part of a compartment. Estimated cost: $82.