Monday, March 4, 2013


                              TO DATE:  
                                             PART 1, THE SHADOW BOX
                     PART 2, THE FIRST SECTION, "EGGS FOR SALE"

This photo is of the original 2003 version of this project.  It will give you an approximate idea of what the finished, filled  shadow box will look like.  

Miniaturists are always on the look-out for new and different ways to display their collections.  One of the most practical ideas is the classic shadow box, but appropriate ones are not always easy to come by.  This shadow-box project offers an easy and inexpensive way to “frame” your treasures using simple hand tools to build your own.  The results belie the simplicity of the project…no special woodworking skills needed here. 
Note:  If for some reason or other you are unable to cut your own wood here are a couple of suggestions that have worked for others:  Ask the place where you purchase your lumber to cut the pieces for you, you may be surprised;  Explore your neighborhood for “that guy” who has a workshop full of tools and loves to use them….sometimes a dozen cookies does the trick;  Ask your local high school workshop teacher if there is a student who would like to make a few dollars for a simple job.  In the past I have done all these three with success.  

You may want to make more than one because different styles of picture frames, rudimentary painting skills, assorted decorative mouldings, and such, can make each shadow-box an individual piece of art and a wonderful gift. They can become three-dimensional scrapbooks with the addition of photo and scrap cut-outs related to the theme of the miniatures displayed….for instance for a Mother or Father’s Day gift the miniatures displayed on the shelves could reflect the recipient’s hobbies and interests with related photo cut-outs backing each section.

This is a progressive project so it will be done in parts over a period of time.  Part one is the shadow box itself.  It will be followed by vignettes to fill the 6 sections of the box.  So let’s get started….


The background:
In my shadow box this section is 3-5/8” wide.  A paper copy of a vintage Easter printie was used as background.  If you choose to use the same one this is what I did: I trimmed the sky area from the printie; around the trees I made jagged cuts. I tried the cutout out in the section and decided to place it an unconventional way…the left edge of the printie is glued flat to the left edge of the back wall and the right edge of the printie is glued to front edge of the partition wall.  These two edges are the only parts glued down. This leaves a curve in the printie on the right hand corner, adding dimension to the scene.  Oh, and the printie sits up approx. ½ “ up from the bottom of the section. I have made the printie extra long so you should be able to create the same dimensional look in your space even if it is wider than mine.   Of course you may just glue the printie, trimmed to fit, flat to back wall.  

Copy and paste to your computer.  Set to print at 7.75" w x 2.6"h.  Use best printer settings.
I also made an extra printie on cardstock and cut the rooster from it.  The cut edges were colored black.  A dimensional tab was placed on the back of the rooster and then cut out was placed over the rooster on the background, adding more dimension. 
Copy and paste image to your computer.  Set to print at 0.93"w x 1.34"h.  Use best printer settings.
A layer of Lichen (craft store purchase), to represent straw, was glued to cover the shelf.

The Hen is made by Schleich  She is a bit off scale but I chose to use her because she is available world-wide.  I sawed off her legs so she would sit rather than stand.  Glue your hen in place, snuggled into the “straw”. 

Eggs in Basket:
The eggs are formed from white Fimo.  Soften it and roll into an approx. 1/8” snake/coil.  For ease in measurement of the eggs you can make a copy of the Egg Template and lay your coil across it and use the vertical lines to cut the Fimo into pieces.  Otherwise cut 13/64segments of the coil.  Either way, roll each segment in your fingertips to a form an egg shaped oval, one end fatter than the other.  Bake your eggs according to Fimo package directions. Or if you have a heat gun you can do as I do with small pieces like this…put them in a paint free, small metal container (I use a copper plumbing cap sold in plumbing supplies at hardware stores…great for making your own copper pots).  Put the pot on a non-heat sensitive surface and hold the heat gun a few inches over it until the eggs are baked.  Move the heat gun around and around so the heat does not concentrate on one place too long.  This is a fast and easy way to cure little bits like the eggs but DON’T TOUCH THE CONTAINER …IT WILL BE VERY HOT.
Make enough eggs to fill a basket and a few other to put away for another section of the shadow box. 
The basket used here is a craft store purchase.  We will be exploring different ways to create Easter baskets later, for another section of the shadow box.  If you can’t see thru the sides of your basket you can fill the basket with whatever…I used a wad of white tissue paper…and then top with a layer of eggs, gluing them in place.  Glue the basket and a few eggs, here and there, on the straw. 

For each chick you will need a 3mm and a 5mm yellow pom-pom for the head and body, yellow paper to match the pom-poms for the wings, a shade deeper yellow paper for the beak and feet, two tiny black no-hole beads for the eyes, and tacky glue.  The paper wings and feet may be hand cut or punched from paper.  For the beak fold the paper in half with a sharp crease and cut the shape with the large end on the fold.  For all gluing use the tiniest amount.

Glue a 3mm head to a 5mm body and set aside.  Glue hand-cut feet to the underside of the 5mm pom-pom.  If you are using the punched stars, glue them to the underside of the body so that three points of each of the two stars are showing.  Cut or punch out two wings from paper and glue to the sides of the body.  Glue the flat end of the beak centered on the front of the head.  Glue the no-hole bead eyes slightly above and on either side of the beak.  Make as may as you want to display, and maybe a couple of extras.  Glue in place in the scene.

See you soon with instructions for filling the 2nd section, where we will see how the eggs are delivered to the Easter Rabbit.  Hope you are having fun!



Note: I have not added any decorative art to the corners of my new shadow box yet because I haven’t decided exactly what I want on them.  I also have not attached the frame-door as I want to be able to take better photos of the vignettes to come.
You will need:  a purchased wood or composite picture frame (if you are planning on doing decorative painting on the frame one with less decorative moulding will work best;  an 8” x 10” was used here but other sizes may be used; no need to pay high prices for a frame, craft stores often offer big discounts on a regular basis and don’t forget 2nd hand stores)  +  plain or decorative moulding for the box sides and top; the width of the moulding will determine the depth of the box ; using plain rather than decorative moulding means you do not have to miter the corners of the sides and can just abut them…the basket weave moulding used here did not have to be miters  +  2 1/8” x ¼” stripwood for the shelves and partitions…this width makes the shelves  sit a bit back from the box’s front edges thus allowing for some decorative overhang of the display items   + larger size hobby miter box and razor saw or a  full sized miter box and saw  +  book board, matboard or illustration board for the box back  +  wood glue  +  small triangle ruler  +  acrylic or latex paint in your choice of color  +  tacky glue  + small brads (optional)  +  assorted decorative items of your choice (see instructions)  +   ¼” or 3/16” square bass wood stripwood  +  two small brass hinges and screws (see photo info)

Note: The measurements given here are for the wood I used; if you use different dimensions make any necessary adjustments.  When purchasing your wood take along a ruler to actually measure the width and depth as it may say 3” when in reality it is 2 ½” and so on…there are good explanations why online but they are too complicated for this brain, thus the ruler.

For the sample I used an 8” X 10” size picture frame in an antique white for the door.  The size of the frame used will determine the size of your shadow box and serve as its door.

Remove the backing and glass from the frame and set the glass aside.

For the box back, trace or transfer the dimensions of the frame to a piece of bookboard, matboard or illustration board and carefully cut out.

Select either plain or decorative molding for the box’s sides, top and bottom, according to your tastes or to fit with the theme of the box….keeping in mind your mitering skills as plain moulding does not have to be mitered.  As seen the moulding for the sides, top and bottom are 5/16” thick x 2 ½” wide in a basket weave pattern, purchased from Lowes .  The bottom shelf wood is 2 ½” w x ½” thick and is glued to the underside of the bottom piece …this makes the bottom shelf sit up higher from the bottom of the frame, allowing what is displayed thereon easier to see. 

The top, bottom and sides will be glued ON TOP of the backing piece, outside edges flush.  Measure and cut the two side pieces first and then top and bottom pieces to fit between them, using the back piece as a guide for the measurements.    Use wood glue to adhere the pieces together, making sure the assembly fits exactly on the back piece…do not glue it in place yet.  Set aside until the glue sets. 

When cutting the shelves and partitions keep in mind what you may want to display.  Use a small triangle ruler to measure and mark the desired height and location of the shelves on the side pieces.  Cut the shelves, check for a good fit, and glue in place between sides, BACK EDGES FLUSH with the back edge of the sides. 
Note: If you are like me and cut a shelf a bit to short, simply glue a piece of paper or cardstock on an end until you get a good fit. 
For strength you may choose to use thin brads to anchor all joins, sides to top & bottom, shelves to sides.  Slightly inset the brad heads.  Measure, mark, cut and glue the partitions in place in the same manner as the shelves.   Do any light sanding as needed for a smooth finish inside and out.

Paint the assembled piece to match as closely as possible the color of the frame.  Of course you can also paint the frame.  I used Linen White latex paint antiqued with a light brown wash to soften the color and accent the woven pattern. 

Working on the box back:  Paint the edges and backside of the back piece to match the shelf assembly.   If you have an idea of what you will be displaying in your shadow box you will find it easier to decorate the back wall before gluing the shelf assembly to it.  You may choose to paint or wallpaper the front facing side of the back piece.  Be sure to use subtle tones so as not to interfere with the minis on display. I used a sheet of paper from a full-sized wallpaper sample book that is white with overlays of pastel pinks and blues.  A quality glue stick was used to adhere the paper.  Note:  Wallpaper sample books are a wonderful source of interesting papers with many uses in miniature work.  Ask your local dealer for out of date books...they may charge a few dollars but they are well worth it.   Lay the shelf assembly over the top and lightly trace the openings.   I used a combination of cutouts from vintage Easter greeting cards and decorative painting to accent some spaces….I will include printies for these as we fill the shelves with Easter miniatures.

When the back piece is ready, attach, evenly, to the back of the shelf assembly with tacky glue..

Working on the frame door:  Paint and decorate the frame as desired.  Decorative painting may be used in corners, as seen on my original shadow box.  

Small prints may be added with decoupage.  A crackle finish works well.  A light antiquing will add depth and character. 

Use a tacky glue to lightly attach the glass into the frame.  To hold glass in place, cut four pieces of 1/8” or 3/16” square stripwood to fit in the rabbet (the recess between the glass and the back of the frame).  Paint to match frame and glue them in place. 

Attach the frame to the box with two small brass hinges.

The door may be held closed with a clasp, latch, magnet, or Velcro. 
If the box is to be hung on a wall add pictures hanger/s to the back, attached to the wood moulding.

See you soon with the next part of the project, filling one of the shadow box openings...



  1. Wow that is really cool, I want to have one of that too, Right now I keep my stuff on box files to avoid mess. I love this.

  2. this is great, I wanted to get a shadow box for a project on my sons wedding and could not find one, now I can make one, thank you

  3. Is a great work, very well finish...I love it. Hugs

  4. Joann I love your tutorials, your step by step instructions with photos are always spot on and easy to follow. This is a wonderful idea for displaying minis, one I hope to try out one day too! :D

    Many mini hugs,

  5. It's a fantastic project and a good idea for displaying minis.
    Bye Faby

  6. Hi Joann. Great project! Your imagination is limitless!
    I have had a box of this sort mounted above my computer desk in my office for several years. It is unfinished and divided into 22 segments. I have changed the contents several times, but have not been happy with it. Your idea is great for this.
    Now I want to repaint my box and decorate it.Then I will follow along with you on making the contents. Even though I have minis
    for Easter for my houses, I don't want to take them from there.

  7. So pretty! Thanks for the tutorial.

  8. great tut thank you I love how this box was designed!!!

  9. Wonderful Tut Joanne. Thanks. I love the basket weave on the outside sides of the box. Really sets this shadowbox off...

  10. I can't find the 3mm pom poms where do i look for them?? This is soo cute love the project! I posted my valentines tut on my blog have you sen it??

  11. Chris and anyone else looking for the 3mm yellow pom poms: First check with your local craft store so you don't have to pay shipping. Mine are Darcie brand. Do a Google search with the exact wording.."3mm yellow pom poms"...doing an image search works well. You will find quite a few places offering them for sale.