View Full Version : Question Opening shadow box....

canada framer
February 15th, 2010, 12:12 PM
Ive made countless of shadow box jerseys....but never one that opens with hinges...
Can someone tell me how is it done exactly?
I asume the bottom frame and the top have to be the same moulding...if someone can help me out pls i would realy apreciate it....
Thank you...

February 15th, 2010, 01:05 PM
Here's an example of a hinged shadowbox using barrel hinges, and a magnetic closure.



Of course you can use other types of hinges, but the barrel hinges are totally hidden when closed and create no gap on the hinged side. Barrel hinges come in a variety of sizes, but even the largest are suitable only up to a certain size/weight of door.

No, front and back halves do not have to be the same moulding but they have to complement one another. In this example there is a CMI front and a Studio rear. BTW the magazine is completely intact. It stands on a mini shelf - fabricated from black acrylic - the acrylic is angled so the magazine doesn't tip forward - the acrylic support is like an upside down 'T' - the long part runs most of the height of the book - 2 screws at the top into birch ply backing - the cross piece of the 'T' creates both the shelf and the angle effect.

Cut the longs for front and back with the same production stop setting on the saw, then cut shorts for both front and back. That way you get exactly the same size frames without having to measure / adjust.

If you use barrel hinges ideally drill using a drill press. If you don't have a drill press use a jig to ensure holes are perpendicular. Use brad point drill bits to facilitate accurate placement.

Here's a somewhat larger hinged opener - the back half is over 5" deep, has a mirrored back, and a tray at the base to hold sand - for a somewhat quirky display! Again illustrating that front and back don't have to be identical, just in harmony.


The only thing left to do is to hang it on the wall, fill the tray with sand, and position the Egyptian mementos.

canada framer
February 15th, 2010, 01:42 PM
Love Michael and miss him!!
Thank u so much for posting pictures and explaining all the details...
i have a nother question ...
the so called door (top part) of the box is stained on the bottom side?? how do hide the v-nails? or you dont use v-nails?

February 15th, 2010, 01:46 PM
even the largest are suitable only up to a certain size/weight of door.

any one guesstimate at a "reasonable" outside size using something as heavy as the stuff you show?????? I ask as I did (attempted) one couple of years ago(in the neighborhood of 40x40--jersey and lots of photos/game programs/tickets)using piano hinges and it just would not work----door tooooo heavy(even used acrylic) and sssaaagggeeeddd badly---settled for one the had to be opened from the back---NOT optimum solution but it worked. Has anyone (besides Jim, that is) done a large one like that using gravity groove??? any particular problems there?

Jay H
February 15th, 2010, 01:50 PM
I piano hinge wouldn't work? I can't imagine there being a sturdier hinge than a piano hinge running the entire length of the frame. Did the frame sag or the hinge? I build them about 60x30 often using a nice bulky frame and piano hinges. I think a small child could hang on it and tear the whole thing off the wall long before the frame would sag.

February 15th, 2010, 01:51 PM
Those examples were painted on the inside - usually a couple of coats of primer and a couple of topcoat - V-nails are then pretty much indiscernible.

Here's a stained example ... V-nails would be visible on close inspection but not really an issue seeing that it's closed most of the time and when open typically attention is focused on the contents.


If V-mail visibility is an issue, and cannot be easily masked with paint, consider joining with biscuits instead.

canada framer
February 15th, 2010, 02:01 PM
Thank u so much....i wish u the best...

February 15th, 2010, 02:47 PM
Has anyone (besides Jim, that is) done a large one like that using gravity groove??? any particular problems there?

Here's a sizeable gravity groove ... it's about the length of a small sofa ... contains a sand tray in the bottom, and has a mirrored back:


And here's it's smaller companion - this one has a black linen back, and again a sand tray for the collectibles to stand in


I agree with Jay, for large pieces a piano hinge makes for a very secure door.

February 15th, 2010, 06:12 PM
Andrew, in the example of a stained frame above - how is the glass held? Looks like a little metal frame inside.

For heavy duty hidden hinges try these:


Jim Miller
February 15th, 2010, 06:13 PM
I seldom use barrel hinges, because of their strength limitations and the need for precise drilling within 1/8" or so of the frame's edge.

A continuous hinge (piano hinge) would be my preference for a large medicine-cabinet frame. If you put the hinge on the top rails, gravity would hold the frame shut. However, the customer would have to hold it open with one hand while reaching inside with the other hand.

Gravity Groove has turned out to be suitable for some big frames. Gemini/Showcase Acrylics in Elgin, Ill builds tons of them for guitars and other musical instruments.

My current favorite design for shadowboxes that open is what I call the Slider. An inner frame is securely attached to the wall and contains the mounted items. The outer frame contains the glazing and simply slides over the perimeter of the inner frame. When closed, the outer frame just sits on the top rail of te inner frame. If you have about 1" or more of overlap, there's usually no need for any closure devices. No magnets, hinges, latches, or other hardware needed. And best of all, any framer could build it, or have a chop service cut the inner & outer frames to ordnary tolerances.

You could probably find more in the archives using search terms like "Slider".

Coming soon: Aluminum shadowboxes, as quietly previewed in the Fletcher-Terry booth at WCAF. Fast an easy to build, they are strong enough for almost any size/depth/weight shadowbox project. A framer could hinge any ordinary frame to any side, or it could be constructed as a Slider or Slip Over frame. Workin' on it...

February 15th, 2010, 06:34 PM
Andrew, in the example of a stained frame above - how is the glass held? Looks like a little metal frame inside.

It's just a fillet. Here's the full frontal view!


Gotta love Lee Valley - some great stuff - agree those SOSS hinges are real nice.

February 15th, 2010, 09:51 PM
Andrew, Thanks - any other tricks to holding the glass or hiding the framer's points?

February 15th, 2010, 10:18 PM
Andrew, Thanks - any other tricks to holding the glass or hiding the framer's points?
There are lots of options, including but not limited to:

Same as I did on the 'Michael' shadowbox - use a fabric spacer

If you deepen the rabbet or use a fillet, 1/4 round and 23g pins

Bead moulding

Rockler Glass Clips

Also from Rockler - brass retaining clips - a bit more tricky to use as you have to cut a thin kerf in the frame
Bead of silicone

February 15th, 2010, 11:23 PM
Thanks, always trying to enlarge the knowledge base.

Jay H
February 16th, 2010, 11:50 AM
I love #5. I wonder how hard they are to remove?

I'm going to try those. Thanks for the reccomendation!

Jim Miller
February 16th, 2010, 12:12 PM
Use two narrow-margin mats back-to-back with ordinary fitting points in between. From the "Special Purpose Shadowboxes" article on page 32, November 2009 PFM...

Jay H
February 16th, 2010, 12:33 PM
Mat's do not "wear" very well. Under any normal use that would fail I'd think. Under any circumstance that would seem unfinished.

February 16th, 2010, 12:44 PM
I sometimes use a 3/32" slotting bit on the router table to cut a slot in the rabbet under the frame lip and trap the glass when assembling the frame. No points, mats, or other hardware required.

Jay H
February 16th, 2010, 12:49 PM
I've thought about that. I think, when possible, being able to remove or replace the glass would offer up a good deal of flexibility. But I'll bet that has a really nice finished look!

There are lots of mass produced shadowboxes that are made just like that. The business next to mine has thousands on their walls. About twice a year a truck smacks that bridge next to their building and they bring 1 or 2 over to me to fix. Man what a headache!

February 16th, 2010, 02:05 PM
The slot mentioned above is something I use in smaller mouldings. If I'm using a big hunk of frame I rout the rabbet to about 3/4 inch and then hold the glass in with a small frame nailed in underneath. Sometimes I'll cut the lip off the small frame and use it outside in. This allows the glass to be changed without dissassembly of the frame. I have even used aluminium frames cut inside out - interesting color/texture look under the glass (silver under a black frame).

Jim Miller
February 16th, 2010, 02:44 PM
Use two narrow-margin mats back-to-back with ordinary fitting points in between...

(JayH) Mat's do not "wear" very well. Under any normal use that would fail I'd think.

What wear?
The mats are both on the inside of the closed frame.

Jay H
February 16th, 2010, 03:10 PM
The frames in question are designed to be opened easily. I suspect that anybody needing a frame that opens will be opening it with regularity that far exceeds that of a typical frame package. There will certainly be more wear than a sealed frame. I could even imagine somebody blasting the backside of the glass with Windex. Mat boards will not suffer that well. I think that fabric is prefered well over mats anywhere inside of this type of shadowbox.

I have built shadowboxes and used a mat to hide points but not in one designed to be opened. To build a shadowbox designed to be opened, I think we should think a little more like furniture makers and a little less like framers building a package that will never be opened again casually. Andrew took the time to paint the back sides of his frames. There was also some question about hiding v-nails. This is the kind of foresight I think is lacking in using glue, nails, and cardboard to hold the glass in place. Even if the technique were appropriate for a hinged framed it certainly lacks in aesthetics.