Project Overview

An easy way to add dimension to a bare wall is with a shadow box. They look fantastic, let you put your favourite items on display and you’ll be amazed at just how easy they are to make. Continue to step-by-step instructions
headless nail
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How to remove headless nails

Trying to get a headless nail out of a piece of wood can be frustrating. But if you have a pair of pliers and a pry bar, you’ll have it out in no time. Simply lock the pliers tightly on the shank of the nail and then use the pry bar to lever it off. It shouldn’t take too much effort for the nail to come straight out.

Step by Step Instructions

1 Cut the plywood
2 Set out the frame
3 Attach the back to the box
4 Make the second box
5 Mark the slits in the first box
6 Cut out the slits
7 Putty and sand the boxes
8 Paint the boxes
9 Hang the shadow boxes
  • Step 1. Cut the plywood

    You can make whatever size shadow boxes you like to suit your wall but to make the job easier get your plywood cut at your local Bunnings Warehouse to these sizes: 

    Back boxes x 3 (these will be fixed to the wall)
    • 250mm x 150mm x 2
    • 300mm x 150mm x 2
    • 350mm x 150mm x 4
    • 420mm x 150mm x 2
    • 450mm x 150mm x 2

    Back boards (these will be fixed to the back boxes)
    • 450 x 385mm
    • 420 x 335mm
    • 350 x 285mm

    Front boxes x 2 (these will be cut into the back boxes)
    • 250mm x 100mm x 2
    • 350mm x 100mm x 4
    • 450mm x 100mm x 2

  • Step 2. Set out the frame

    To make the first box take your two 300mm lengths and two 420mm lengths of plywood and form them into a rectangle. Apply PVA glue to the edges of the plywood. Make sure the edges are flush and use the nail gun to join the four pieces together. Wipe off any excess glue with a cloth.
  • Step 3. Attach the back to the box

    Because this box is going to be attached to the wall it needs a back. Apply PVA glue around the edges of the box. Place the 420mm x 335mm piece of plywood on top of the box. Make sure the edges are flush. Use the nail gun to secure the back to the box. Wipe away any excess glue.

  • Step 4. Make the second box

    Take two of the 250mm lengths of plywood and two of the 350mm lengths and assemble them into a rectangle shape. Apply glue to the edges. Use the nail gun to join the four pieces together. Wipe off any excess glue with a cloth.

  • Step 5. Mark the slits in the first box

    To give the shadow box the 3D effect you need to cut slits in the first box to slide in the second. You can make the slits as deep as you want. To do this place the second box on top of the first, at the place where you want it to be. Mark on the edge of the first box where the second box sits. Use the square to mark how deep you want the cuts to be.

  • Step 6. Cut out the slits

    Put on your safety equipment. Set your jigsaw to 50mm and cut out the slits. Then use a hammer and chisel to clean up the edges and make them square.

  • Step 7. Putty and sand the boxes

    Use the putty knife to fill any holes in the boxes where the nails are. Wait for the putty to dry and use the sander to make the surfaces smooth. You can repeat the above steps to make as many shadow boxes as you want.

  • Step 8. Paint the boxes

    Paint your boxes to suit your décor. We painted our sections in Jimbaran Bay and Casper White. The rear of the solid backed box was painted in Bel Esprit. The outside frame was finished in clear varnish.
  • Step 9. Hang the shadow boxes

    After the paint has dried, slide the boxes together, mount them on the wall and put your favourite objects on display.

Tools and Materials


  • Chisel
  • Combination square
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Earmuffs
  • Earplugs
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • Measuring tape
  • Nail gun
  • Paint brushes
  • Pencil
  • Putty knife
  • Rags
  • Sander
  • Safety glasses with side shields
  • Work gloves
  • Materials
  • 2400mm x 1200mm x 17mm CD structural plywood
  • 60mm chipboard screws
  • Clear varnish
  • Disposable gloves
  • Nails
  • PVA glue
  • Paint
  • Sealer
  • Wood filler

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