About: In my shop I have a name for hammer, saw, and plier. The saw is Tess, the hammer's Joe, and Glumdalclitch is the plier. Yes, I'm brillig, and my slithy toves still gyre and gimble in the wabe. With that, le…

The best laid plans.... This was a fun project even though my plans were not accurate which I found out later. I suppose a more detailed plan in some online program would've prevented my errors, but what-the-heck, I never have problems with any project, I only have challenges. And to quote Bob Ross: We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents. Now that I've paraphrased Robert Burns and quoted Bob Ross, on with the build.

My son and his wife had just bought their first home and I wanted to give them something special as a house warming gift. I've always like the haphazard openings of shadow boxes. I built this without a back to let the wall show through.

Step 1: Dado Jig

I used 1 x 10s and decided to dado all the shelves. In another instructable I'll show how I built this dado jig, though I'm sure you can figure it out from these pictures.

Step 2: Cross Cut Jig

I also built this cross cut jig which made very accurate cuts.

Step 3: My Outdoor Workshop

Don't laugh. I'm using 1/4 of a garage for a workshop and need all the room I can get.

Step 4: My Portable Workbench

Yes, that is the bottom of my defunct BBQ with a 2 x 4 top.


After dadoing the sides, top and bottom I assembled them using 90 degree corner jigs. I only used screws where they would not show on the finished project since I assembled all the rest using dowels and glue.

Step 6: Adding Shelves

I began to dry fit shelves and quickly found out my original plans were off. So I improvised and used the garage floor and chalk to redesign the unit. I had to keep the dados already in the fixed sides, top and bottom. New interior shelving also had to have dadoes. These measurements for shelves were critical as I later discovered.

Step 7: Fixing Errors

Luckily I have very few of these corrections to make. The remedy was to fill the dado and re dado it correctly.

Step 8: Fixing Another Error.

All shelves were dry fit. The unit turned out to be one inch wider in the center than the top and bottom. Shelves were trimmed until the unit was plumb.

Step 9: Edging

I used 1 x 2s for all edging and made sure all the edging was square thus hiding any minor shelving anomalies.

Step 10: The Base

I built a frame of 2 x 4s, added interior cleats to keep the unit from sliding around once placed atop and finished it off with a colonial molding. Yes, I date and sign all my work.

Step 11: Decorative Top

Using the same material I used for the edging I created a decorative top design.

Step 12: Square?

Periodically, I checked for square.

Step 13: The Shadow Box Book Case

There was one more touch still left to do.

Step 14:

I made 3 drawers out of pallet wood and used Cholula tops for knobs. My son and his wife finished it to their liking and filled it with knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, paddy whack, give your dog a bone, this old unit is going home....

Hope you enjoyed this HOW TO.


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