Make a Military Themed Picture Frame

About: I don't care about what anything was DESIGNED to do, I care about what it CAN do.

If you have been in a uniformed service even a short amount of time, you will accumulate an impressive amount of stuff you will never use again.  When you are married to a fellow Warfighter, things can get out of hand.  This includes old rank insignia, old distinctive unit insignia, decorations that have worn out, old patches, etc.  They migrate to a junk drawer or overflowing "memory box" to be discovered by grandchildren after you are dead.  

In this instructable, we'll try to use these military and other chotchkies to decorate a picture frame so you can see these while still alive!  Finally, something to do with your 37 pieces of flair!

Step 1: Stuff You Will Need

1.  Military insignia.  If you don't want to join the military for this instructable, you can also used those useless chockies you have from trade shows, political rallies or thrift shops.

2.  A picture frame.  One with a nice wide area is great.

3.  Glue.  Even though I'm an epoxy aficionado, I chose "Gorilla Glue" for this project because of its tendency to foam and expand.  This is good for holding 3-D objects I'll be working with.  Any glue that will work with non-porous to porous would be fine.   If you don't like the look of the foamy glue, go with epoxy.  

Step 2: Prep Your Insignia

Most military stuff has sharp pointed pins that go through the fabric and are held fast with clutch back fasteners.  Although the pins look sturdy, they will bend and break if you attempt to hammer them into something as hard as wood.

1.  Bend the pins with a pair of pliers until metal fatigue sets in and they fall off.  It does not take much effort to get the pins off.

2.  If your insignia is shaped somehow, try to bend it so that it is reasonably flat.  The gorilla glue will fill space so reasonably flat is good enough. 

Step 3: Glue Up

Gorilla glue is a polyurethane glue that foams when exposed to water.  Usually, this foaming action forms a weaker than normal bond.  Items need to be clamped to get the strongest bond out of this adhesive.  However, we are not trying to hold a great amount of weight and we want to encourage foaming to get a good grab on the 3-D objects we will be working with.

1.  Dampen your picture frame with a sponge.

2.  Apply the glue to the insignia.

3.  Place on the frame.  You could clamp it if you really wanted a strong bond, but just sitting there is just fine.

4.  The glue will foam up and embrace your 3-D insignia.  For foam that comes up in unwanted spots like in pierced insignia, just wipe away with a cotton swab.

5.  If the glue cures completely, you can fix any "overglue" with an exacto knife.

Step 4: Extra Tip

Older insignia (before "Stay Bright") can get tarnished from pollutants in the air.  This is an easy way to restore and maintain the shine:

1. Polish the insignia with Brasso or any other metal polish and an old tooth brush.

2. Dry.

3. Wash  with dish detergent. 

4.  Dry.

5.  Coat with clear nail polish (several if needed).

You might not want to remove all the tarnish as a little bit left  will highlight the detail in the piece.  If you want a mirror finish, you can do that instead.

Step 5: Finishing Up

Once everything is glued and cured, you can use the frame as is, however I wanted to make it a little busier so I used the glue to fill in the spaces between the insignia (covering my half-assed camo job I tried with stamps.

1.  Damped the frame once more.

2.  Apply gorilla glue to the spaces between the insignia.

3.  Allow a few hours for the glue to foam and cure.

4. Insert your DA photo and hang on your "I love me" wall.




    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest
    • Trash to Treasure

      Trash to Treasure
    • Tape Contest

      Tape Contest

    6 Discussions

    Hey, I could let it slide if it was a one-time typo, but you did it twice so I'll enlighten you a little now, Et Cetera is abbreviated ETC not ECT.

    Also, nice Idea! I would consider making one but I don't have enough medals.

    2 replies

    Thanks, I've corrected the instructable! It is a pretty common mistake for me...I did a paper on Electro Convulsive Therapy once and must have cemented the acronym "ECT" into my mind. By the way, I wouldn't recommend ECT unless it was the absolute last hope. I guess ETC is fine if taken in moderation.

    Thanks, I know I'm a bit of a grammar nazi and not many people really care about how they abbreviate terms, but when it does make a difference to the meaning then I can't not tell people that they have made an error, otherwise somebody may misinterpret what is being said. I believe this makes it easier for more people to understand and especially on the internet where lots of people don't speak English and rely on Google Translate.


    what ever happened to putting all the shiny stuff on a Retired Army Truckers hat and walking into the commissary/PX early in the morning to talk to the Soldiers buying candy?