Gift for Coffee Addicts | How to Make a Shadow Box




We had a Coffee themed secret Santa for our Christmas party and wanted to come up with something a little different from just another coffee mug. This is a quick project to make and can be easily modified to suit the tools you have.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

For those without a workshop:

I couldn't decide if I wanted to make my own shadowbox as I could not think of an easy way to attach it all together and add the beans. So I bought a cheap 8" x 10" (20 x 25 cm) shadow box. Once I seen how it was assembled I realized it would be easy to reproduce and make my own. However if you wanted to make one yourself and do not have the tools you can purchase a frame, beans and print the "In case of emergency" plaque and attach it to the glass.

Equipment that I used:

  • Table Saw with a sled for the frame miters
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain or clear finish - I used a Japanese Black stain to try and match the color of the beans.
  • Band clamp - this makes clamping frames easy
  • Hot Glue Gun


I used scrap Oak that I had left over from another project. It measured 30 x 19 mm which is not a standard width. You will need to consider how thick the plaque is and if there will be a gap between the glass and plaque that little bits coffee beans can fall between. I made sure my plaque sat flush against the glass to avoid this.

  • 4 pieces of Oak: 30 x 19 x 300mm long to make the sides. I like to start with a little bit more then I need when cutting miters to allow for any error and help get a perfect fit. You will use these 4 pieces to make the following:
    • 2 x Long sides: 30 x 19 x 280mm Oak
    • 2 x Short Sides: 30 x 19 x 230mm Oak
    • Off Cuts - don't throw out the off cuts you will use these to make the spacer between the glass and back
  • Plaque: 195 x 95 x 12mm Plywood
  • Back: 255 x 205 x 3mm Plywood
  • Glass or Acrylic: I had a piece of glass from an old frame I was able to use and cut a piece of acrylic for the second frame I made.
  • Hook - If you want to be able to hang it from the wall
  • Coffee Beans

Step 2: Prepare the Frame

  1. Using the table saw I cut a grove 5 mm in from one side of each piece.
  2. I then lifted the blade so that I could remove the waste and be left with a ledge that the glass will sit on.
  3. Put the pieces of timber you removed to the side as these will be used to make the spacer between the glass and back of the frame.

Step 3: Cut the Miter Joints and Glue the Frame

Using a table saw sled I cut a 45 miter on each of the sides, making sure I tested and dry fit to ensure everything was square and the glass and acrylic fit correctly.

Once everything was fitted and squared I used a band clamp to glue the frame together.

Step 4: Create the Spacer

Using the frame as a guide I cut 2 of the off cuts to length. I was then able to cut the other sides to fit, ensuring that the front of the spacer would not be seen through the front of the glass.

I just but joined these pieces and used masking tape to hold while the glue dried. They won't be under much force and only need to space the glass and backing board.

Step 5: Add a Finish to the Frame and Prepare the Plaque

I wanted the frame to match the coffee beans so I used some stain I already had called "Black Japan". I used this and a red stain to make 2 plaques, I wanted to see how they both turned out. I don't have the name of the red stain but it was a wipe on thick paste.

I applied the stain to the frame, inside of the spacer and the back. I also applied it to 2 scrap pieces of plywood to prepare for carving with the CNC.

Step 6: Create the Plaque

Using my Shapeoko CNC I carved "In case of emergency break glass" and cut out both plaques. I went over the edges of each plaque with the matching stain (only shown on the red plaque).

Once these were complete I went over everything with clear satin varnish.

Step 7: Assembly

  1. With the frame upside down insert the glass and then the spacer.
  2. Add the plaque and use a ruler to make sure it is centered.
  3. Fill the space around the plaque with Coffee Beans making sure not to bump the plaque! This was the hardest part, if it wasn't for the great smell of the Coffee Beans I would have probably gave in and tried to somehow glue the plaque to the glass.
  4. Once you have filled with coffee beans and they are level with the spacer use hot glue on the back of the plaque and insert the back to help keep it in place.
  5. Use small nails to hold the back in place on the frame.
  6. Attach a hook to hang it off the wall and you are done!

Step 8: Complete!

These were fairly quick and easy to make and there are other options for the plaque for those without a CNC. The red one was used as my secret Santa gift and I have kept the other to put beside my coffee machine.

Thank you for taking the time to view my instructable!

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    10 Discussions


    Reply 2 years ago

    Good question. I did some research and they should last a very long time as a decoration, they will not be too tasty after a few weeks as they will go stale. I considered sealing them with spray lacquer but that would have been hard to get a complete coverage and decided that it will be fairly easy to remove the back should the beans need to be replaced one day.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I was thinking that if you could glue the beans together using a CA glue, then pouring acrylic resin over the whole project, that would seal the beans in and keep them "Fresh" I've already got one coffee addict sign made for Christmas, but another may be in the works before this weekend :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Resin would defiantly help keep them fresh but probably taste worse then the stale coffee beans! I have had little experience with resin but would have been a great project to try it with.

    Would love to see a image of how yours came out if you would like to share.


    2 years ago

    Thanks for the great idea. I hadn't thought of coffee beans for my coffee addict friends.

    A few years ago I made an "emergency chocolate" case for my sister who is a chocoholic. I found a large rectangular candy bar that was only about 1/4" thick. I cut a piece of 1/4" plywood the same size as the candy. I then carefully unwrapped the candy bar and used the paper to wrap the plywood. I then had a "chocolate" candy bar that wouldn't spoil. I built a case that was sized for the candy. I added a small wooden hammer (normally used for cracking crab/lobster shells) and attached it to the case using a small chain. I don't have any pictures but maybe others can come up with other uses for your Instructable. By the way I did give her the chocolate in a ziplock bag.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    That's a cool idea, love the hammer idea. Using OutlawKtulu's idea of using resin you could really open up the possibilities for all kinds of 'addicts'.


    2 years ago

    Nice instructable and great write-up.


    2 years ago

    Nice and original. I need one of those.