Displaying military medals, citations, ribbons, patches, photos and souvenirs in a shadow box display is a long standing tradition among veterans. The collection tells a visual story of your military service with no words needed.

The process of building the shadow box is fairly simple given you have the right tools and the proper materials.

Layout the display Gather all the items to be displayed and lay them out on a display board of some kind. Arrange them in any pattern or sequence you desire keeping in mind you want to tell a story. Photos usually are centered at the top or in the center. Once you have finalized your layout, measure the width and length. These measurements dictate the interior size of your box.

Gather materials – Your basic material list should include:

• Sheet of plywood
• Lengths of 3″ molding
• Wood glue or nails
• Carpentry tools
• Hanging hardware
• Sandpaper
• Stain or paint
• Wood sealer
• Velcro®

Measure and cut all wood pieces. Remember the old carpenter’s rule of “measure twice, cut once” when you measure and mark plywood and molding for cutting. Measure the plywood so that you leave a 3” lip on all four sides to accommodate the 3” molding. Use a carpenter’s square to inscribe your cutting lines so all cuts are at right 90 degree angles.

Display board cover. You’ll want to select an elegant material such as black velvet as a backdrop to your military memorabilia pieces rather than displaying your collection on plain plywood. Using material will also allow you to use Velcro® to attache the items to the board rather than having to glue them on. Once you’ve found the covering, cut it to match the plywood base. Brush a thin layer of shellac or varnish on the plywood, then carefully lay the material down so that it evenly covers he board. Use a roller or squeegee to press the material firmly to the board so that no wrinkles or air pockets are visible.

Assembling the finished box. Depending on what you are using to join the wood frame pieces (small finishing nails or glue or a combination of both) lay out all of your wood pieces in a logical construction sequence. Join the four wood sides so they make a rectangle. If you use glue only, allow at least thirty minutes for the wood glue to dry and from a strong bond. Attache the display board to the frame. Your shadow box is finished and ready to receive the military collection for display.

Cut sections of Velcro® to size for each piece of memorabilia and then press each piece into place. This allows you to maneuver the items around in order to form a perfect display arrangement.

When the entire collection is attached, the hang the shadow box to the desired wall location using the hanger hardware attached to the rear of the display board.