Completed Shadow Box

I think I left off with the case finished and a picture of it assembled.  I have made a lot of progress since then.

The theme of this shadow box is the ship.  One of the main themes of this ship is the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.  The cliff dwellings are incorporated into the ship’s patch and we thought it would look nice to have a representation of the dwellings in this shadow box.  I started off with 4 pieces of 1/4″ mahogany that I ripped from 3/4″ boards on the table saw that I found on board.  As you can see, the grain matches on the two boards on the left and the two on the right.  I decided to put the two boards that are on the left of the first picture in the middle because i really liked the way the grains came together and I wanted that to be centered.  Unfortunately, I do not have a coping saw so the process to create the cliff dwellings was a little unorthodox.  I used my panel saw to take out the big chunks of wood and then a chisel and file to get rid of the rest and clean up the edges.  The collage below shows the cliff dwellings as they started to take shape.

The next element of the shadow box is the silhouette of the ship.  The idea that was presented to me was to use metal for this part.  I am not a metal smith, but the ship does have some very talented sailors that could help me out with that.  Using a picture found on-line and blowing it up to make a pattern, the sailor cut this silhouette out of stainless steel.  The pictures below show the silhouette after it was cut and then after the edges were finished.  I tried to rotate the second one, but it was being difficult.

At first, I was going to just glue the cliff dwellings directly to the back of the shadow box.  I was going to have the ship mounted on studs to hold it out in front of the dwellings.  I didn’t go with that plan because it would have covered up the top of the cliff dwellings and I thought it would look off if I did that.  Instead, I took some 1/4″ scraps that I had removed from the original boards when making the cliff dwellings, and raised the dwellings off the back of the shadow box.  I think this added a lot of depth to the box and I really like the shadows that you get behind the dwellings now.

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After laying everything out to see how it would look I applied the varnish.  The varnish was fun to find.  I was at a lumber yard in Crete, where I picked up the mahogany, and the language barrier was difficult at times.  I asked them if they had polyurethane and they took me to the wood glue.  It did say polyurethane on the package, but that is not what I was going for.  I saw this Green Hydra Varnish out of the corner of my eye and just went with that.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to look at first.  You can see that it was white before it dried if you look in the windows of the cliff dwellings.  It was really easy to work with and I think it gives the wood a nice look.

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After varnishing the inside I installed the face frame and cleaned up the edges with planes and some sand paper.  I forgot to take pictures of that process.  On a side note, I just finished reading “The Anarchist Tool Chest,” a book about the essential hand tools needed for a woodworker and the plans to build a chest to store your tools in.  While reading the part that talked about planes the author, Chris Schwarz, explained all the different ways you can adjust a bench plane.  He talked about moving the blade forward and closing the throat to help prevent tear out on boards where the grain isn’t perfectly straight.  This was frustrating me throughout this entire project!  The oak was full of knots and grain that changed directions halfway down the board.  As a result, I was getting tear out on almost every board.  After reading this I immediately went and moved the frog (the part of the plane that holds the blade) forward and the results were amazing.  I didn’t get any tear out while cleaning up the sides and I even corrected a few places that had tear out from before.

Anyway, back to the stuff that I have pictures for.  After the varnish was dry I attached the ship to the back of the shadow box using really strong double sided tape.  I am hopeful that it will hold.  You will see the ship in a minute.  In the picture below I am attaching a commissioning pennant to the top of the shadow box.  I drilled two small holes into the back of the shadow box and stitched the pennant in place using matching colored thread.

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Here is the finished product.  Unfortunately, I did not have a way of getting glass for the front.  This shadow box will have to go on without glass.  I think it looks pretty good overall.  I had a lot of fun (and some frustration) building it.

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