Shadow Box With Splines, I Made It at TechShop

Introduction: Shadow Box With Splines, I Made It at TechShop

Hey everyone, this is my first instructables. I made this shadow box at TechShop. If your wood is 4s4 the only class you would have to take is the basic wood shop SBU. To find out more about TechShop visit

Step 1: Shadow Box With Splines, I Made It at TechShop

What you need

s4s (surface four side) piece or of wood (length will vary on the size of your box)
smaller s4s 1/8 thick piece of wood used for the splines
2 ½ inch piece of ¾ ply wood (length will vary on the size of the box)
scrap block wood
Clamp (TechShop)
Tape Measure
Cord less drill and 2 screws (TechShop)
Table saw  (TechShop)
Dado Blades (TechShop)
Chop Saw (TechShop)
random orbital sander (TechShop)
sand paper for the random orbital sander  80 120 150 220
wood glue
painters tape or masking tape
ban saw (TechShop)
Spine Jig
¼ thick backing board (Masonite)
¼ thick piece of glass
Point Drive with inserts

Step 2: Dado Cuts

Before you start you have to figure out what size shadow box you are going to be making. I’m going to make a shadow box that will fit 8 x 10 prints. The outside dimension is 9 1/2 by 11 1/2. Also have to choose the type of wood that you are going to be using. For this shadow box I use Red Oak, with walnut splines, this is what i had laying around. 

To start you want your board to be s4s, I milled my wood down to 3/4 inches thick. Using the table saw, cut the wood down to desire width that you want, I ended up at about 3 inches.  Change out the blades to the dado set, I will put 4 blades on which would give me ½ blade loss, and this is also called the kerf. I will set the saw fence up so it takes just over 3/8 off. You could vary the size and depth on what you are putting in the shadow box and what you are going to use for the backing board.

Step 3: Chop Saw

Measure out the sides of the box. If you want the box to have a wrapping grain pattern, measure out the sides in that order. Start with the short piece and then a long piece then back to a short piece.  I would mark them in the order that you go. Make sure to mark them on the outside of  the box. (the out of the box it going to be the side that dose not  have the ditto cut in it.) Cut the piece down to size on the chop saw.

Step 4: Cutting Miter on Table Saw

I cut my miters on the table saw, but you can use the chop saw. Change blade back to single blade for the table saw. Sliding miter jig, screwing on the piece of plywood to the sliding miter jig, this will give you the backer for the sides of your box. If you don’t use a backing board for this you are more likely to have blowout on the wood and over all it gives you more support to when moving across the moving the blade. Change the blade to 45 degrees.

Set up the scrap block with a clamp to the desire length that you want, cut all four corners of your boards. When you set the block up, you can take off less then you need and move the board over a little at a time. When you flip, and change your board to the other board, it will be the same size. When you do this cut the two boards that are going to be the same length. Move the block to the other length and cut the other  two boards.  You want to make sure that the boards are the actually same size.

Step 5: Sanding and Glue Up

Sand the inside of the boards, it is easier to sand the inside the boards before you glue the box together. I use and random orbital sander, starting with 80, 120, 180 and 220. Don’t sand the inside of the miters cuts.

Lay out the boards in the order that you want them, so when you fold them, you have your box. Add tape to the exterior of the box leaving a little grab so the tape can fold over. Glue the miters keeping the glue nearer the exterior of the box. It is easier to sand the exterior then the interior, if the glue spills over.

Let the wood glue dry.

When the wood glue is dry you can add the spines to the corner of the boxes. You want to add the spines to the miter corner because the end grain to end grain joint is not a strong joint.

Step 6: Adding the Splines

Figure out how many splines that you want to add to the corner of the box. Sometimes you many only put one spline in other times you will have to add more. for this box im going to use 2 splines in each corner. The spine jig that I’m using is made of ¾ ply wood, which means it, is going to set ¾ inches off the table saw fence. Remember this when you are setting up the table saw. I am going to have my splines in about ¾ inch from either side. I’m going to set the table saw fence at 1½. Start with one corner of the box moving around the box as you go. When you are done with all four side flip the box over and repeat on the other side of the box. This will give you 8 splines for the box. 

Using the band saw, I cut the 2nd piece of wood in to 8 small pieces that are long enough to cover the length of the spline. Add wood glue to the spines pushing the piece of wood into each cut of the corner of the box. You want the wood fit tightly. If need be you can use tape down each corners.

Wait for the glue to dry.

Step 7: Band Saw

When the glue is dry, cut off the extra wood on the band saw. Try to cut the piece of wood close to your box without cutting in to your box. Sand the exterior of the box using the same method for the interior of the box.

Step 8:

Measure the inside of the dado cuts for the backing board. Cut the piece of Masonite to drop in the dado. I would cut two pieces of Masonite, and the 2nd piece will act as the glass, so when you use the point driver I don’t have the glass inside that shadow box.  Using the point drive add in the tabs that keep the board and glass in place. Take the boards out and add a finish to your shadow box. Put the glass, art work and Masonite and close the tabs on your shadow box.

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    4 Discussions

    Dream Dragon
    Dream Dragon

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice looking project, thanks for sharing it.

    I think you'll find that the word is "Dado" not "Ditto" (Unless Ditto is some kind of brand name for the Dado cutter you use). Dado Head Cutters are not a universally available tool. They're not even legal here in the UK, because fitting and using them requires "modifying the tool in a manner deemed to be unsafe", i.e. Removing the Safety Guards.

    There are of course other and possibly "better" methods, but it's results that count. Well Done!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Spelling mistake on my part. I'm moved my files and i think that auto-correct kick in.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Next time you do this, you might want to try using a block plane to smooth down those splines, instead of a palm sander.

    Planes are generally faster, cleaner, do a better job, and are generally much more pleasant to work with.

    They do, though, have a higher learning curve, both in using and in learning how to setup and sharpen.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job. I believe the correct term is splines for the wood inserts that go in the notches.