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Design ideas
Turn a Flea-Market Frame into a Shadowbox
Transform one of these thrifty finds into a shadowbox with some wood scraps and basic building skills.
Written and photographed by Marian Parsons

Frames of all styles and sizes are readily available at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. Use these quick and easy steps to make a unique shadowbox. Fill it with seashells, a nest, baby shoes or a pretty plate—almost any three-dimensional object can become artwork when placed in a shadowbox.

What you’ll need:

Wood frame (The one used for this project has a 9¼- x 11¼-inch opening.)
Tape measure
½-inch plywood, MDF or wood scraps cut to:
One 10½ x 12½-inch sheet for the back
Two 12½ x 2-inch strips for the sides
Two 9½ x 2-inch strips for the top and bottom
Four 9 x ¾-inch pieces to secure box to frame
Brad nailer and ¾-inch brads (or hammer and small nails)
Primer and paint
2½-inch sash paint brush
Hardware to hang shadowbox
Drill (optional, depending on hardware used)

How to do it:

Shadow box Step 1

1. Cut pieces of scrap wood with a table saw or have them cut at a hardware store. Adjust the dimensions of the wood to fit your frame, if necessary. Place one of the 12 ½-inch side pieces of the shadowbox on its side and position the back of the shadowbox on top. Nail into place with a brad nailer or hammer and small nails. Repeat this process with the three remaining sides until the entire box is assembled and secured with brads.

Shadow Box Step 2

2. Flip the box over so the recess is facing up. Position one of the 9 x ¾-inch pieces of wood so it is flush with the top edge of the box and centered from side to side. Secure from the inside of the box with brads. Repeat on the three remaining sides.

Shadow Box Step 3

3. Prime and paint the interior of the shadowbox in the desired color and finish. Since the shadowbox will protrude from the wall a couple of inches, you can paint or stain the exterior of the shadowbox to blend with the wall or the frame. The interior of the shadowbox can be painted in whatever finish will best showcase the item. Lining the box with fabric or pretty papers can add pattern and texture behind a simple object like a white starfish. As paint is drying, remove hanging hardware and glass from frame.

Shadow Box Step 4

4. Place the frame face down on the work surface. Place the shadowbox on top with the recess facing down. Line up with the opening of the frame and nail into place through 9 x ¾-inch pieces of wood directly into frame. Repeat on the remaining three sides until the shadowbox is securely attached to the frame. Install D-rings or other hardware for picture hanging on the backside of the shadowbox. You can even reuse the hardware that came with the frame. Use glue, nails, tacks or even sticky-back hook-and-loop tape to secure your item in the shadowbox.