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My husband, Chris, was on his first deployment when I made this military rank box for him. I wanted to make something special as a gift for when he got home and came up with the idea several months before he even deployed. Since I would never be able to hide it when he is home, I knew I had to wait until he was away to work on it!
After commissioning, he had been talking about needing to get some sort of box to store his ranks in, but the idea he managed to come up with was a plastic CD box… such a boy. 😉 I knew that wasn’t going to work because I wanted his ranks to have a special place for two different reasons. Not only will the contents of this box signify the time he spent serving our country, but it will also house the ranks my mother passed down to him from one of our fallen, LTJG Cole Patrick O’Neil. Chris was completely shocked when I presented him with my gift after he got back home, he had no idea I was making it! This rustic rank box was honestly the most exciting gift for me to give to my husband; it was sentimental for both being handmade for him by his wife and for what resides inside. 🙂
Unfinished Wood Shadow Box w/ Glass Top
Painters Tape (if laser etching glass)
Staining Rag or Paper Towels
Gloves + Mask
Peel + Stick Craft Felt
Needle + Thread
Sewing Machine (Optional)
Glass Engraver (Optional)
Box Knife (Optional)
If you plan to get the glass engraved, begin with this step first and remove the lid from the box. I was in school when I made this project for my husband; therefore, I had access to a laser cutter within the architecture wood shop to laser etch the glass for me. If you have a very steady hand or want a handwritten look, you could try a handheld diamond-tipped engraver, but be sure to practice on a scrap piece of glass first! Otherwise, you could go to a glass engraving shop and have them professionally engrave the lid. Tip: Some architecture colleges allow non-students access to the laser cutter for a fee in addition to completing a safety test.
Note: If a laser is being used to etch the glass, cover the wooden edges of the lid with painter’s tape. The tape prevents the wood from getting any burn marks.
Before the stain is applied, remove any wood dividers in the box that might be in the way for what it is meant to store. For example, I removed one divider on the right side of the box to create a larger space for Chris’s shoulder boards to fit in. You may want to do the same if watches are going to be stored in the box. Be very careful when removing any of the dividers – you don’t want to break the ones you want to keep! Use a box knife to gradually wedge down between the pieces. I admit this is when my dad stepped in to help! I needed some pure manpower because the dividers in my box had been, what I think was, industrially adhered together! Once the pieces are detached, use the box knife to shave down any glue or wood residue to get a flat surface.
Select your color of stain, I used special walnut, and remove any hardware from the box and lid. Use your staining rag or paper towels to apply the stain to the exterior and interior of the box. Apply additional coats until you reach the desired color, allow for adequate drying time between each coat. I decided against applying polyurethane since the box will not come in contact with anything that would require it to be sealed. Also, I loved the unsealed look that the special walnut stain gave the wood; the color has a dry and slightly weathered vintage look. 🙂 Apply the polyurethane at this time if you want a glossy or more finished appearance. I recommend using a sponge brush to apply thin coats of polyurethane, allow for adequate drying time between each coat.
Note: Read all the directions on each product before use. Remember to stir the stain and polyurethane before use, do not shake. If using paper towels to apply stain, make sure the paper towels are not too soft and leave paper remnants on the project. Always wear a mask and gloves when applying stain or polyurethane along with working in a well-ventilated space. A well-ventilated space creates a cleaner workspace to breathe in and faster drying time.
Use a ruler to measure the interior surfaces you want to cover with felt, taking into account the thickness of the felt. Cut out the felt pieces, remove the paper backing, and adhere the felt inside the spaces. The peel and stick felt makes this quick and easy!
Add 1” to both the length and width measurements of each space to get the dimensions for your cushions. This 1” addition accounts for ¼” seam around and ½” extra material both ways to make your cushions fluffy. Cut two pieces of fabric for each cushion and lay them face-to-face. Hand stitch or use a sewing machine to sew your ¼” seam around. Leave a 1” opening and pull the fabric through the opening to flip the fabric correct side out. Fill the cushion with polyester fill to the desired thickness and complete your seam across the opening. Place the cushions in their spots and reattach the hardware onto the box and lid.
You’re done! Whether you made this for a service member to store his ranks or a husband to store his watches and cuff links, you now have a handmade gift any man is sure to love! 🙂
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