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Build It | Salvaged Door Shadow Box

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor build a shadow box using wood recycled from an old door.


  1. Older doors may contain lead paint. Use a test kit from a home center to verify if lead is present, and if it is, you may want to have the door stripped by a professional.
  2. Cut the door down to pieces using the circular saw. Use the stiles and rails as a rough guide for where to make the cuts.
  3. True up the sides of the boards using the table saw.
  4. Shave off the stain using the table saw. Do two passes through the saw on both sides of each board. Since this was an old door, use a P95 or higher-rated mask to protect yourself from the sawdust. Once the stain is removed, the mask can be removed.
  5. Use the table saw to make a rabbet cut on the edge of one of the stiles to hold the back panel. On the other side of the same stile, make a dado cut to hold the glass.
  6. Sand down the back panel of the door to use as a backer for the shadow box.
  7. Fill in any holes with homemade wood filler made from wood glue saw dust left over from making previous cuts. You may need to install scrap fillers into larger holes before adding the wood putty. Sand the stile and the backer with medium-grit sandpaper.
  8. Apply a Danish oil finish to the stile now to prevent oil from getting on the face of the miters. Dispose of oiled rags in a bucket of water to prevent spontaneous combustion.
  9. Once the finish dries, cut the boards to desired length in four pieces using the miter saw. The ends can then be cut at 45 degrees.
  10. Using the measurements from the boards, the backer can be cut to size with the table saw.
  11. Lay the backer on top of the glass. Using the marker, trace the edges of the backer onto the glass.
  12. Wearing gloves, dip the tip of the glass cutter into oil, then roll the cutter along the line on the glass in one pass.
  13. Turn the glass over so the traced line falls just over the edge of your work bench. Lift the glass up, then snap it down onto the table. The glass should break along the line.
  14. Polyurethane glue is water activated, so dampen the miters and secure three of the four pieces together using polyurethane glue, ensuring the dado cut lines up on all three sides. Before the glue sets, finish securing the pieces with brad nails. Do not secure the fourth side yet.
  15. Spray the angled cuts and apply the glue to the fourth side. Slide the glass through the dado cuts, then secure the fourth side to the rest of the frame.
  16. Use a strap clamp around the box to keep it tight until the glue dries.
  17. Screw the back panel to the frame with small wood screws through the rabbeted section of the frame.