How to Build a Shadow Box for Police Officers

ny policeman image by Tanguy Prouvost from

Things You'll Need

  • Dado blades
  • Table saw
  • Scrap wood
  • C-clamps
  • Piece of 1-by-4-by-120-inch lumber
  • Electric miter saw
  • Drill
  • Drill bit, 1/16-inch
  • Wood glue
  • Finish nails, 3-penny
  • Hammer
  • Piece of 23-by-23-by-1/8-inch glass
  • Piece of 23 1/2-by-23 1/2-by-1/2-inch plywood
  • Countersink bit
  • Philips head screw tip
  • Felt glue
  • Thick navy blue felt
  • Razor knife
  • Wood screws, 1-inch

Honoring those who protect us is one way to show how much they are appreciated. Shadow boxes for police officers give people a chance to honor them in a personal manner. Regardless of their position or rank, building a shadow box with awards, honors or items directly connected to their jobs always bring honor to those who serve. Build the shadow box with a combination of lumber and plywood with a glass front to the size needed for each specific police officer. Leave 2 inches between the felt on the back of the shadow box and the glass in the front so there is ample room for memorabilia.


Set up the dado blades to cut a groove 1/2 inch wide and install them on the table saw. Set the height of the blades at 1/2 inch as well. Attach a scrap piece of wood to the inside of the table saw fence with C-clamps.

Move the fence of the table saw until you have 1/2 inch between the dado blades and the fence. Set the fence so it will not move. Place the 1-by-4-by-120-inch lumber on the table saw so the 3 1/2-inch side is facing down.

Turn the saw on. Place the long edge of the lumber against the fence and run the full length of the wood over the dado blades. Turn the table saw off.

Remove the dado blades and reset them to cut a 3/16-inch groove. Set the height of the blades at 1/4 inch. Ensure the fence of the table saw is still 1/2 inch from the dado blades. Turn the table saw on again.

Put the opposite long edge of the lumber against the fence. Run the full length of the wood over the dado blades. Turn the table saw off.

Cutting Frame and Assembly

Adjust the angle of the electric miter saw to 45 degrees. Cut one end of the lumber. Measure from the cut end and mark the lumber at 24 inches. Change the electric miter saw to cut the opposite 45-degree angle.

Line the blade of the electric miter saw up with the mark made on the lumber. Cut the piece at this length. Repeat this until you have four pieces just like this one.

Drill two pilot holes in two of the pieces 3/8 inch from the cut ends and 1 inch away from the long edges with a 1/16-inch drill bit. Apply glue to one mitered edge and secure another piece to it through the pilot holes with the 3-penny finish nails. Repeat this with one more piece so there are three pieces secured together.

Slip the glass into the grooves and secure the remaining lumber in the same manner as the others. Drill pilot holes about 8 inches apart around the perimeter of the 23 1/2-by-23 1/2-by-1/2-inch plywood with the 1/16-inch drill bit. Keep them 1/4 inch from the edges. Drill countersink holes 1/4 inch deep in the same place as the pilot holes to hide the heads of the screws once installed.

Spray the felt glue on the plywood according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Stick the felt to the plywood and trim the edges to fit the plywood with a razor knife. Add the police badge, shooting medals, rank stripes and other items that personify the officer for whom the shadow box is being built. Secure it to the shadow box with wood screws.


  • Thick felt allows you to easily place stick pins and medals in the shadow box.

    Set the nail heads with a nail set and fill the holes with putty if desired.

    Sand the entire shadow box before applying a finish.


  • Do not leave power tools within reach of children.

    Do not raise the blade of the table saw any higher than needed to make the cut.

    Do not apply a finish to the shadow box without proper ventilation.