A few months ago I saw a sliding picture shadow box frame in a small arts gift store in my hometown. I absolutely loved the idea and wanted to make my mom a custom frame with photographs from her recent trip to Spain. It was a great weekend afternoon project and it turned out really well! It's a fun DIY project that you can make for either yourself or a friend!
Step 1: What You'll Need
Here's a list of the materials you'll need to begin the project:
*(2) .5" thick x 3" wide x 2' long wood planks - You can find these at Lowes or any hardware store. I used oak because it was the least expensive, but you could use any variety of wood that you like. **As a note, in retrospect I would have used a SOFTER wood to make it easier to drill/hammer.
*(8) Flat-head screws
*(8) Finishing nails
*(8) Of your favorite photos
Computer with photo editing software (not required), printer
*An X-acto knife/scissors/box cutter
A glue stick
Machinery/tools for cutting your wood pieces
*Please note that a great aspect of this project is that it is completely customizable. Your final shadow box frame could be any desired length, height, and thickness. This will determine how many photos you wish to use as well as the amount of screws and nails you'll need to put it all together. In terms of cardboard stock I used one longer/thicker piece of standard cardboard for the back, and also slightly thinner pieces for the individual photos. The cardboard thickness is determined by the thickness of your saw blade.
Step 2: Measuring and Cutting the TOP and BOTTOM Wood Pieces
I suggest that you prepare and partly assemble the wooden box frame first because it is easier to adjust your photos to the parameters of the box than the other way around.
You'll have to have access to wood cutting tools such as a radial arm saw, table saw, or circular saw- I personally don't own any of these tools but I utilized the wood shop at my school. Remember, safety first, and be sure to wear protective equipment and ask a shop monitor for help!!
Don't let the use of these tools intimidate you! I have less than beginner experience with all of the tools I mentioned but with the help of a shop monitor I was able to complete this entire project in just a few hours.
First, cut the first .5" thick x 3" wide x 2' long wood plank in half to get approximately (2) 12" wood planks. *Like I mentioned before you can change the length to your liking.*
Step 3: Measuring and Cutting the SIDE Wood Pieces
Now, you'll take the remaining .5" thick x 3" wide x 2' plank and measure out your side frame pieces.
For my shadow box frame I cut (2) 5" pieces.
Step 4: Cutting Your TOP and BOTTOM Wood Pieces to Be Photo-Ready
Now, this is the trickiest part of this project. You'll need to utilize a table saw (and perhaps the assistance of a shop monitor) to make (2) dado cuts (aka slits) down the length of each (2) 12" wood planks. This cut will allow your photos to glide smoothly inside the frame.
First, cut the BOTTOM wood piece. Measure how far apart you'd like your cuts to be from one another. I wanted my photos to be more towards the front of my frame so my first cut-line (the 1st row of photos) was drawn approximately 1/2" from the front edge (what would be the front of my frame). The second cut-line (the 2nd row of photos) was drawn approximately 1.25" from the front edge. Both of my dado cuts were approximately 3/16" deep.
Repeat this step for the TOP wood piece. After you draw your 1/2" cut-line and 1.25" cut-line make sure that the top piece matches up with the bottom piece before cutting!
Step 5: Attaching Your SIDE Wood Pieces to the Wood BOTTOM
Place your bottom piece on a flat surface. Then, take one of your (2) side pieces and match it up with the bottom to make a right angle. Use a pencil to mark where you will drill (2) holes. *Be sure that your drill holes do not run into the dado cuts you just made! Once you decide where to place your screws, use a countersink to make sure that your flat-head screws will be flush against the wood.
Step 6: Pick Your Favorite Photos!
Ok, now it's time to put down the tools for just a bit (you still have to attach the top wood piece to your frame)!
The number of photos you can choose depends entirely on the total length of your box frame. My frame is 12" so I decided to to select 9 of my favorite photos (8 that I would ultimately use, and 1 as a backup). My plan was to use (3) photos (the mosaics) as the background- these would be put on the back panel of my frame. I wanted (3) photos for the second row and (2) photos for the first row (front of the frame).
I used Adobe Photoshop CS6 to edit my photos, but you could use any editing program or none at all. I used the grid measurement feature to make sure my photos were an appropriate size. (If you don't have Photoshop, you could import your pictures in a Word Document and utilize the margins).
Step 7: Find Cardboard!
Once you've printed out your photos, it's time to get some cardboard. You can use any thickness cardboard that fits and easily slides along the dado cuts. For the back panel of your frame, I would suggest finding cardboard that is at least 1/8" thick. The cardboard for the photos inside the frame should be thinner since the width of your table saw blade is probably the standard 1/8" thick.
Step 8: Preparing Your Photos for the Frame
After you've gathered your cardboard, you need to use scissors/an X-acto knife/box cutter to cut your printed out photos. Cut along the left and right sides of each photo, and be sure to leave approximately a 3/16" gap of white space on the TOP and BOTTOM. If you don't, part of your photo will be missing when it's inside the frame because of the depth of the dado cuts.
First, cut the photos that will be in rows 1 and 2 of your frame (not the backing). Once you complete this, I suggest to place them over your cardboard to trace the photo's outline. Then, you can cut out each piece of cardboard.
Use a glue stick to paste each photo to its piece of cardboard. You should have (5) photos on cardboard.
Now for the back panel of thicker cardboard, you'll need to trace the outline of your semi-completed box frame. Place partial frame you just assembled on your cardboard and place the remaining top piece where it would appear when the box is complete. Trace the outline, and cut it out. Then glue your background photos, carefully making sure you still have the 3/16" gap on the top and bottom.
Step 9: Place Your Photos Inside the Frame
You should now have (5) single photos glued onto cardboard and (1) long back panel consisting of (3) photos on cardboard.
Place the individual photos in the order that you like. I decided to place (3) black/white photos in the second row and (2) color photos in the first row.
Once your photos are in, match up the TOP wood piece and connect it to each side wood piece using flat-head screws.
Step 10: Last Step! Attach Your Back Photo Panel
You're basically done, now all you have to do is attach your back photo panel. You'll need (8) finishing nails.
Step 11: FINISHED!
Now you have a great sliding picture shadow box frame!