Shadowboxin’ Baby: Displaying Nerdy Collections


I’d really love to tell you that making a shadowbox that will impress and inspire is a quick and easy ordeal. Unfortunately, my first foray into shadowbox-making wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. As with most craft projects worth doing, it didn’t come easy. But don’t worry, there’s a shadowbox for every collection and skill level.

Here’s the thing with how the geek life goes: there’s just lovely junk everywhere all the time around the house. We love action figures and LEGOs, and if they make a new doll or toy of our favorite hero, we’re going to buy now and figure out how to display later.

My collections involve a lot of Blizzard stuff and LEGO minifigs with a sprinkling of Final Fantasy and Star Wars action figures. Up until now, these things have lived in the darkness of the storage room because I like to pretend I’m some kind of normal, upstanding adult who has control over house clutter. My desire for an organized space and my love all my little friends can finally meet – as long as I have the patience to make (or buy) the appropriate shadow boxes.

Buying Shadowboxes

The thing with shadowboxes is that they’re often really pricey – sometimes to the point of banishing all my Leias back to the storage room. With a little strategy though, things will turn out ok in the end.

I ran into some shadowboxes at the dollar store (of all places) that was just an unfinished wood frame with no back or front. I bought a whole mess of them and made clusters of them on my walls, then had fun positioning my action figures inside.

They look a little something like this:


These ones are the same as mine, except they’re made of antique barn wood. You can purchase them over on Etsy.

If you’re into the kind with the little shelves, that’s where you’re going to run into a price hike. Know what though? They’re so worth it. I’ll explain the tough time I had with making my own shelves in the DIY section of this post.


I’ve found the best place around to go out and buy shadowboxes in the store is Michael’s. They sometimes have a 40% off coupon, and they almost always have some sort of BOGO deal going on in the frame section.

If your collection is small, try searching Etsy for a display. I found this awesome (and awesomely-priced) minifig display that I may just need to get my hands on like yesterday.



DIY Shadowboxes

If you’re thinking that a premade shadowbox won’t fit your needs or budget, it’s time to get crafty.

You can make your own frame to start off, but if you have an IKEA near you (or are in delivery range of one) you might want to try using a RIBBA frame first. AT $10 for a small one (and a variety of other sizes and colors to choose from), the price is just right. I’m pretty sure that LEGO display above was made using a RIBBA frame.


Now that you have the frame, how in the heck do you make the drawers? Well that’s the part where skill level (and tool availability) is going to seperate the men from the boys. If you have a LEGO collection, you can most certainly make a creative shelving system inside your frame made of LEGO bricks – Bonggamom explains how.


If you’re going to try and build shelving for something else, wood glue works nicely to attach the shelves to the side of your frame, but you’ll need to cut and paint your wood. For my first shadowbox, I accidentally bought a top-loading frame from Michael’s, which meant that I couldn’t open the front to attach the shelves or arrange my display. I also ended up having to take the wood I had bought to make the shelves to Home Depot for them to cut, which they did (bless them) despite the sizes of wood I needed being smaller than the minimum allowed for their huge-mungo industrial cutting center saw.

Moral of the story: be smarter than me when choosing materials and knowing the limitations of your tools. If you’re anything like me, the extent of your tools is the mini-low-temp hot glue gun you used for your wedding stuff. Sometimes, that’s all you need. Via At Second Street, here’s the exact action figure shadowbox I need, made using the “tools” I have!


And don’t forget to jazz up the background!


Via Star Wars Blog



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