Friday, September 6, 2019

Presentation shadow boxes

A long held military tradition, is to present a flag, to a widow or retiree in recognition of his or her service to the country it represent.

As part of my Depart With Dignity (DWD) ceremonies
I raised my flag to be flown on 14 Wing in June 2013 in front of my Squadron

The following morning I lowered it and replace it by another, while my flag was folded and presented to me by my last Commanding Officer, again in front of my assembled squadron, minus the ones teaching, deployed or flying that day. 404 Sqn is a busy training and Maritime Patrol Sqn.


My flag was presented to me by then LCol Thauberger  in front of my squadron mates and Heather.
Above pics are from 404 Sqn imaging section, 14 Wing Greenwood

Which beg the question, what do you do with such a flag?  A safe place to keep and display it is of course inside a specially designed shadow box.

I say specially designed, because typically a folded flag is often in a triangular shape. To better show some characteristics of the flag, making it instantly identifiable.

Hence the box would either be triangular or most often here in Canada, square or rectangular with one corner reserved for the flag.

Another variation, this one for a Navy veteran, my friend CPO1 (Ret) Bill Cleal's shadow box.

The Boss teasing me about my shadow box, he knows I made it myself.
Me telling him, careful the varnish is not dry yet :-)

After all these years, I retired 6 years ago, I still haven't decided what to put in my box. 
So many choices, such a long career.  Mostly as a Cold war warrior.

The size and depth of the corner reserved for the flag depend on the size of the flag.  The biggest being the one flown daily on our parliament building in Ottawa.  While as a veteran I am eligible for one, they can only fly one a day and the waiting list is bigger than the flag! Don't think I will live long enough to see it ...  Mine was flown on my last military affectation, 14 Wing Greenwood.  It is the standard Canadian flag size (3x6 ft) flown on all our military installations.  My shadow box was made for that size.

There is about 40 years of my life inside this box... 

Here are the box dimensions and order of procedures to make your own.

The box is 17-1/2 inches square 

2-1/2 in high.
Cover is 1 in high, box is 1-1/2 in high

3/4 in stock

A diagonal divider separate flag and display area.

This is how I learned to make these boxes from my old friend CWO (Ret) JC Picard while in Bagotville.

Machine box sides
Using 4/4 or 3/4 in thick wood.  Final thickness is 3/4 in.
Length of finished mitered boards are 17-1/2 in long x 3/4 in thick (finished dimensions).
Figured rough length of about 19-20 inches each (4), if using separate boards.
If making from one board to wrap the grain around the box, figured using as a minimum, 72 in board (6ft).
17-1/2 * 4 = 70 plus 4 saw kerfs of 1/4 in (thin kerf blade) = 71

Width of finished boards are 2-3/4 in (when using a thin kerf blade, 1/4 in).
If using ornate, wild figured grain stock, highly recommend finish with a drum sander, versus planer

Box and cover are cut apart after assembly. Grain will always match up/down.  IF you take care to mark both pieces BEFORE cutting off the lid.  Much easier than trying to re-match them after, just saying.
Box is assembled using mitered corners, reinforced with splines.
Cut the groove and rabbet first on the side pieces, left over long.  That is to give you some Smidge factor for when cutting the miters exactly 17-1/2 in long boards

Side profile.
Top groove is 3/4 in wide, to take in account the width of the saw kerf (1/4 in) 

I used a 3/4 in wide stack dado blade in the table saw with a sacrificial fence.
Along one edge cut a 3/4 in wide groove, 1/2 in deep, 1/4 in from the edge.
After cutting off the cover that will leave a 1/2 in wide rabbet (because of thin kerf 1/4 in blade)
On the other edge, burying the stack dado 1/4 in inside sacrificial fence board, cut a 1/2 in rabbet.
Using featherboards, one on side, one on top, ensure accurate grooves.
We used Veritas set up block for setting up the Dado stack on the TS and fence.  Ensure repeatably in set ups, especially in a multi users environment when we were making production runs.   Work great by yourself too.   Quick and fool proof measurements without measuring.

3/4 in stack dado, raised 1/2 in.
1/4 in from one edge (lid rabbet, once cut)

3/4 in Stack dado, raised 1/2 in.
Bury 1/4 in into sacrificial fence (bottom panel rabbet)

Miter the ends of each boards, exactly the same length, 17-1/2 in long.  I used a miter saw and a stop block to ensure accuracy.

Glue box on a flat surface using a strap clamp preferably.  If making a production run, make a simple jig with two square fences and use it to clamp box using regular clamps or simply wedges.  Just make sure box assembly wont stuck to jig.

Typical web or strap clamp, like I used.
Works great for the occasional boxes, but if making production runs, make a gluing jig

After dry (max strength 24 hrs) using a corner jig on the table saw,  see details of a typical jg here
make two cuts on lower box and one on the cover side.  Repeat for all four corners.  Spline cuts are about 3/4 in showing on the sides.  Careful not to cut too deep.  Try test cuts first, just saying :-)
Make splines of a contrasting wood, if desired.  I used quilted maple for the box and American Walnut for the contrasting splines.
Once dried, trim splines flush with box.

Separate the cover from box
On the table saw carefully cut the cover off the box.  On a rectangular box I like to cut the shorter sides first, but in this case, being square, makes no differences which sides you cut first.
I first cut two opposite sides, insert shim (1/4 in scrap of plywood) tape securely with painter's tape.
Cut remaining sides, cover wont fall off after last cut.

If you cut precisely, you should end up with a rabbet 1/2 in deep X 1/2 in wide.
Clean up the top of box carefully ensuring it remain level and no twist.
If you were off a bit, there will be a small ridge left on top of box, shave it off.
Smidgen smaller size of rabbet wont matter.

Apply finish on box and cover
After a light sanding, apply the finish of your choice.
Once satisfied, number of coats sanding and etc.

Take cover to glass shop and have them cut and install 1/8 safety glass with glass sealer.
You can do that yourself too if you have the time and inclination.  To me, it's not worth the trouble.
Between the wide landing for the glass to sit in and being secured by a sealer all around, makes the lid frame more rigid.  Add the corner spline and we have a very strong corner.

The rabbet formed in cover after cutting it off the box.
Piece of glass is secured in place by a bead of glass sealer around frame.
No fastener used, glazier points and etc

Assembling bottom sandwich
Cut to size  and temporarily put in the 1/4 in plywood bottom. Should not be too snug (explained later why)
Since plywood is recessed inside a deeper rabbet put something under about 1/4 in thick  to support plywood fully seated in rabbet.

Cut and fit inside the box a 1/2 in thick cork board (or similar, should be able to take and retain metal pins (insignia and etc).  Again not too tight a fit.  Fabric will have to fit between box rabbet, plywood and cork board.  Too tight, will be hard to fit box over fabric without pulling too much.
Too loose, fabric wont be held taut.
Once satisfied with fit, glue cork piece with yellow glue and use whatever at hand for weight.
Take care not to glue box to bottom panels.

The bottom plywood is temporally in the bottom rabbet.
The cork board is cut to fit inside, then glued to plywood using yellow glue and weights.  
Whatever weight you need anywhere on it. 

Once dry, remove box frame from bottom panel.

Putting on the fabric
Being made for military members, use whatever fabric representative of the service you can get your hands on... Literally!
While serving we were fortunate to get our hands on the real stuff from clothing stores.
We used CF dress pants material;
Blue for Air Force members, Black for Navy, Dark green for Army
For Army we also used CADPAT material  (Hard to get),
and when lucky we got RCAF Tartan to use on some Airforce boxes. (Expensive)

Lay fabric flat over the bottom sandwich (plywood and cork) leave a generous overlap all around.
Push box straight down over fabric, locking the fabric in place taut.
Pay attention to the patterns or lines on fabric try to keep it straight, not crooked.

If using a pattern fabric, RCAF Tartan in this case, pay attention to lines or motif.
Fabric need some tweaking before fastening the bottom.
In this pic, the box cover has no splines but has reinforcement brass corners (4)

In blue approximate location of splines.  In red, the fabric.
This cross section shows how the fabric is held taut, 
before trimming flush with bottom of plywood.

Once satisfied with fabric layout, taut, flip box over and using an air brad nailer, secured the plywood bottom, locking the fabric in place.
Then using a sharp knife, (If using a knife with disposable blades, put in a fresh one!!) cut fabric flush with bottom of plywood.  If not sharp you will tear fabric fibers and make a mess.
After trimmed, run a bead of yellow glue all around the plywood bottom and sides.  That will stop  the fabric fibers from fraying and unraveling.  The bottom plywood being recessed about 1/4 inch (slightly less) the box will lay flay on uneven surface, horizontal or vertical.

Delineating flag area
 Flag area is defined by the addition of a diagonal spacer.  No glue, simply held in place by one brad on each ends.  Spacer is about 3/4 in high x 3/8 in thick.
How long?  Depend on flag size, make a triangular template for flag first. (explained later)
Before installing gives some thought about the orientation of the box.
If the box is mounted on the wall, do you want cover to open right or left?  Up /down?
That will determine were you put the hinge and clasp in relation to flag divider.

Notice on this box I presented to one of my men (2008), the hinges & hasp 
are on a different orientation than mine.  The flag divider is also smaller
and in a different quadrant.

Flag divider is still left unfinished.  One of these day, I will rectify that. 

Divider sit on top of fabric and is flush with box top.

The flag is left a bit proud (puffed up).
It will lay flat when cover glass will press it down.

Installing hardware
I used the following products from lee Valley:
Steel brass plated hinges 00D12.20

Ball clasp
1-1/2 X 1-5/8 ball clasp 00D82.02

We have used brass plated corners to reinforced the cover, when not using splines
Filigree corners 00D44.70
They are shown on the above pic (4 up) showing the RCAF Tartan being layed out

Brass or brass plated hardware is mounted using small screws.  Pre-drill before installing screws.

Hinge (2) are mounted about 4 in from each corners

Ball hasp is mounted in the opposite side of hinges, in the center.  See note above under flag divider, for location of hinge/hasp and flag.

How to fold flag to fit.
I tried various way, but in the end, I did not really fold the flag.  The idea is to show off a recognizable feature.  Did not wanted to end up with all white or all red, wanted to show the points of the red maple leaf against the white background.
What I did was to cut a cardboard template of space occupied by flag.  Put feature of flag over template, carefully centering desired feature(s), fold back and tuck remaining material under.  You end up with a compact pile that will fit and keep flag flat.  It will be pressed down by glass in cover.

That template also will help you figured out the size and location of the flag divider.

Finally, the hardest part
What to put in it???
No jokes, not an easy task. We accumulate lots of stuff in our careers.
Each one represent or evoke something about some milestones or events in our lives.

Remember we added about 1/2 in thick of a cork like material (In Bagotville we were using 4X8 sheets of a Kapok board, yes we made a few)
That allows us to pin down some items. such as fabric Sqn and Units patches, name tags, wings or trade badges, rank slip on etc etc

A small sample :-)
All these fabric items can be pinned down, or held by two sided tape.
If using a low tack glue or some sort of adhesive tape, make sure it does not damaged the fabric.

Metal collar badges and rank insignia, court mounted medals, etc.  All can be simply pinned down.

Another small sample :-)
All these have pins sticking out to be pinned on our uniforms.
With the exceptions of the cap badges I wore thru the years.

Other metal objects like Sqn and Units Challenge coins, (Always a good thing to carry in your pocket when going to Mess diners) because they are heavier, pose more problems if box is displayed vertically.  Again if using some sort of adhesive, take care not to damaged the fabric.
Challenge coins, for example, could be mounted in some sort of wooden holder.  Being made readily available when going out on Sqn's mess diners is a good thing :-)

My good old DT60 and dog tags (proving I'm still alive :-)
Used to wear those pretty well all the time until they phased out the DT60, yes, Im old.
Some of my Sqns and Units coins.  The USAF E8 coin is the equivalent of my rank in the RCAF   

Still undecided about what to put in??  Check out this Ex-Servicewomen works, called Army to Artist.  Love her work and she is inspiring me and my box to finish it... Someday.  Hopefully before they have to break my dog tags in two :-)

Some of her work, off her Facebook page (link above).  Those are painting she does...

Both artworks by Mary Fielder

If there are any details I forgot or are unclear, just leave me a comments.

Bob, the builder... of shadow boxes