Creating a military memory shadow box for a veteran or fallen soldier can be a great way to honor them. To prepare for this project, gather the items you’d like to include. The determining factor on how much bracing your shadow box will need to create the right depth will more than likely be the medals, unless you are including a flag.
Lay the items out flat on the back, and determine the layout. Look for balance and logical grouping in your layout. Once they layout is determined, you’re ready to measure for the top photographic matting. This top matting can be cut by you or by a framing professional. If you’d like multiple colors in your matting, measure the window layouts with a primary matting dimension in mind and the highlight matting at one quarter of an inch smaller. This will enable you to glue two layers of matting together with the highlight matting color visible, adding interest to the windows you’ve created in your layout.
The depth of the top layer of matting for your shadow box will be determined by the thickest item in your display. Once your top layer of matting has been cut, lay out your windows again to confirm that everything will fit as you expect. Now you need to bridge your matting. Foam core is lightweight and can easily be cut into small pieces to successfully bridge the depth of the items you are gluing into your shadow box. Be sure to bridge the matting all the way around the outside of the matting, and as possible, find larger areas of matting inside the layout and custom cut foam core pieces to support the top layer of matting. Keep these bridges away from the window opening so these glued pieces are not visible once you hang your shadow box.
While many shadow boxes are sold at a predetermined depth, glued strips of foam core can be used to build a custom depth between the bottom layer of backing and the back of the frame. Elevating this bottom layer of backing will make the subject of your shadow box easier to see once mounted.
After your backing has been elevated to the proper height and the top layer of matting has been glued into place, you’re ready to mount the medals and awards. When mounting pins, create a small hole in the backing and affix the pin directly to the back layer. This will reduce the need for glue. Additionally, medals can be affixed with fine floral wire, again reducing the need to apply any glue. If a medal is affixed to a ribbon and you intend to mount the shadow box vertically, provide support for the medal so the weight of the medal does not damage the fabric over time. It is important to use as little glue as possible. If glue is needed, consider a clear silicone as it is less reactive to metal.