Learn how to build this DIY Shadowbox for a simple home décor pallet project. Bring new life to an old picture frame and pallet wood for a fun way to store meaningful mementos.
We all have memories we value and would like to share but the thought of dusting has kept most of these memories stashed away in a drawer or closet. We are going to show you step by step how you can build a Shadowbox using repurposed pallet wood and a picture frame we found at an estate sale.
Our Shadowbox is going to be 17 x 12 x 3 ½ deep. We are going to attach the frame to the box using keyhole hangers–This allows us the opportunity to hang it horizontally or vertically without having to work around any hinges.
You could recreate this DIY Shadowbox using any size frame you’d like! This would make an excellent graduation shadow box, wedding gift, or personalized present for a family welcoming a new baby.
Materials for a DIY Shadow Box:
- Pallet wood or any scrap wood that is long enough to build a box that fits your frame
- Circular saw or Jigsaw
- Wood glue
- Paper tape
- 3D Finishing Nails
- Speed square or small Carpenters square
- Table saw
- Frame (with glass)
- Measuring tape
- Keyhole hangers
- Wood clamps
How to Build a Shadowbox
Step 1: Match your frame with a keyhole hanger.
The keyhole hanger I used is 1 3/8 inches wide so I needed to find a frame that was at least 1 ½ in wide. The frame will also have to be deep enough to allow for a shallow groove to be drilled into the frame–This is for the screw head that will be on the edge of the shadow box frame.
Step 2: Selecting a good pallet will save you a lot of time and energy.
Pallets come in all shapes and sizes and they can be found almost anywhere. Decide what size shadow box you want to build and make sure the top slats will be long enough to build the box if cut from the stringers. Also, check the width of the slats to be sure they are wide enough for the depth you desire.
I like starting with slates longer and wider than I need–This will allow me to square up the sides and end pieces. Check for cupping; a small amount of cupping is manageable but the more cupping the wood has the harder it is to build good corners and edges.
Step 3: Determine the Shadowbox fitment to the frame.
Once you have cut the slats free from the pallet (here’s a great tutorial for dismantling a pallet), it’s time to fit the pallet wood to the frame. Turn the frame face down and begin placing the boards along the edge of the opening of the frame. Placing three boards will give you a good idea of how the shadowbox is going to match up with the frame.
Notice in the picture below that the frame has a groove that requires the outer walls of the box to be inset about ¼ of an inch from the inside edge. Glass will later occupy the groove. Now it’s time to measure the lengths of the four walls of the box.
Step 4: Cut the boards to frame out the DIY Shadowbox.
Begin with squaring the end of each board then measure and cut the board to the length needed. My experience with pallet wood has led me to double-check the edges of each board for squareness. If needed, the sides can be squared by ripping a small amount off each side.
Step 5: Form and glue the frame of the Shadowbox.
We will use wood glue and masking tape to build the frame of our Shadowbox. Place a couple of pieces of masking tape on the outside of the two pieces you are going to join together with the wood glue.
Once the tape is in place, dampen each piece and apply glue on each piece and bring them together to form the first corner, repeat this process three more times. Use a square at each corner to make sure the frame is square.
I use a ratchet strap around the frame to hold the piece together while drying and place the frame on a level surface and add weight to ensure that the frame is square and flat. The frame should be allowed 24 hours to dry before the next step.
Step 6: Finish building the Shadowbox.
The back of the Shadowbox will be your last chance to make sure the frame is square. I suggest leaving the ratchet strap in place until the back is complete.
Check each corner of the frame with a square to see if any adjustments need to be made during the placement of boards to the back of the frame. Make note of any adjustments and now begin fitting the boards to the frame.
Fit the end of the first board even with the outside edge of the horizontal and one vertical side. Pre-drill the board on the vertical side of the frame so that the outside edges are flush. Don’t drill the full length of the nail.
Dip the nail in a little wood glue and lightly drive the nail into the frame, making sure to keep the end piece flush with the frame edge. Now check the two corners of the frame opposite where you are working with the board. Make any adjustments needed to get the frame square then predrill the board and attach the board to both frame pieces it is contacting.
Repeat this process until you reach the other two corners of the frame. The last board might have to be trimmed down the fit the frame.
Step 7: Measure and mark the frame for keyhole hangers.
Place the frame on a flat surface and measure how far down the frame you would like for the keyhole hanger to be, then measure and mark the other side of the frame for the second hanger.
TIP: If your frame is as thin as the one I am using, you should place the keyhole hangers on the frame now–This will make it easier for you to locate where the screws should be placed on the frame of the Shadowbox. If you are using a wider frame you will need to place the frame on the Shadowbox and mark where the frame of the Shadowbox will be positioned on the frame. Now remove the frame and place the keyhole hanger on the frame.
When placing the keyhole hanger, the top (narrow portion) of the slot should be placed where the screw will be placed on the frame of the Shadowbox.
Mark the open area in the keyhole hanger. Remove one screw from the keyhole hanger and twist the hanger until it is clear of the area you just marked inside the hanger. You will need to drill the marked area just deep enough for the screw head to fully set under the hanger, gingerly work the drill bit to the top of the marked area. Once you finish return the keyhole hanger to position and secure it with the screw.
Step 8: Install the frame onto the Shadow Box with the hanger screws.
Place the frame on the Shadowbox as if you were ready to install the frame. Make sure the frame is sitting squarely on the box, locate the keyhole hangers and mark the sidewall of the box where the top of the keyhole slot would be on the frame.
Now that you have the three locations marked on the sidewalls of the DIY Shadowbox, you are ready to take the frame off the box and use masking or painter tape to transfer the keyhole placement.
Punch a hole through the tape at the top of each keyhole outline. Apply a generous portion of glue stick to the tape covering each of the keyholes. Now place the frame back on the Shadowbox, be sure to match the frame back with the marks you made earlier. Now gently pull the ends of the tape from the frame and tape them down to the Shadowbox wall.
Once you have all three points released from the frame and connected to the Shadowbox gently lift the frame away from the Shadowbox. Now, all that is left is to place the screws into the hole you punched into the tape earlier.
Step 9: Install the keyhole hangers to the back of the Shadow Box.
First, make sure you are working on a level surface. Second, you will need to measure and mark where you want the keyhole hangers to be installed. Now place and screw the hangers into place and find a drill bit that will fit tightly into the large hole of the hanger (my hanger needs a 3/8 inch bit).
Once you have that hole drilled, remove one of the screws from the hanger and swivel the hanger upward until there is only a small portion of the first hole visible. Drill a second hole and return the holder and screw into their original location.
I drilled through the board to allow for the display board to fit very tightly into the Shadowbox. The eraser end of a #2 pencil will fit through the hole and push the board forward for removal.
This Shadow Box has had hangers installed to allow for the Shadowbox to be hung horizontally or vertically.
More Home Décor DIY Projects
Whether you’re decorating for the holidays or adding your own unique touch to a space, these easy projects are perfect for a fun weekend project!