Displaying memorabilia in a frame enjoys tremendous popularity. Sport objects, collectors plates, medals and clothing pieces are just a sample of huge number of objects regularly displayed. Retail stores abound with examples of completed shadow boxes which usually command high prices due to originality of display.
Finding frames for artwork and photos is easy, with standard sizes available everywhere. Shadow box frames are a different story. Many require odd shapes, and depth necessary may be anything from a fraction of an inch to several inches. Some of larger Art supply outlets and Craft stores carry a limited supply of shadow box frames. Custom frame shops can design one to your requirements, but cost can easily run to several hundred dollars for larger frames.
Shadow box frames can be divided into 3 categories (B)1. Shallow frames, ranging up to 1/2 inch or so.
These can often use "off shelf" frames. Objects such as coins, metals, ribbons etc. usually do not require more than 3/8 to 1/2 inch of depth, and many normal frames will accommodate this. Some frames also come with a "double" rabbet and are usually for oil paintings. These can allow up to 1 1/2 inches of depth. Standards size "off shelf" frames are relatively inexpensive.
2. True shadow box (solid wood) frames.
These will allow depths of 4 inches or more, depending on design. A rabbet is usually put on bottom of frame for installation of back. Shadow box frames take a lot of high quality wood, are difficult to obtain, and generally quite expensive. The inner sides and back usually need to be decorated with a covering material, often matboard or similar materials.
3. Display boxes which fit into "off shelf" frames.
Display boxes are made to fit into rabbet of a normal frame. They normally come pre-lined with mat or paper materials and you can add your own lining if required. If used with a true Shadow box frame, steps of decorating sides and back are eliminate, and disassembly is easy. The advantage is that a very nice frame can be turned into a shadow box of any depth quite inexpensively. The back of display box will jut out from back of frame used, so a wide frame is desireable. Display boxes are normally manufactured for specific purposes, and thus are difficult to obtain.
Lining Shadow box frame 1. If mats are to be used, sides of frame may not be seen. Also, glass and mats can be held in by using framing points. Thus no work is required on sides.
2. If mats are not used, sides should be lined first with foamcore, and then with matboard or some other decorative material. (Wall paper, colored paper etc.) The top edge of foamcore will press against glass and hold it in place. Double sided tape or glue will hold foamcore and lining in place. Be sure foamcore and lining is not thicker than width of rabbet, or it will be seen from front of frame.
3. The rear of box requires a material less than 1/4 inch deep, or width of rabbet at bottom of frame. Thin plywood or a similar material is fine, but 3/16" foamcore is one of better materials. It is very smooth, and easy to attach to a lining. Use matboard or a similar material to line back and attach it with double sided tape or glue.
Using window mats with shadow boxes Any shadow box can be used with or without a single or double mat. If mats are used, any number of openings can be placed to effectively display several objects. The mats can even be placed at different levels to add to "3D" effect. If mats are used, sides of frames do not usually need to be decorated as they are not seen. The type and color of mats should match color of backing board.