This is one of our more ambitious projects to date, incorporating shadowbox mounting, heavy objects, and electronics.
This customer had a number of memorial plaques from the family synagogue that he wanted to incorporate into a display for his father’s 80th birthday. There were two styles of plaques: brass and plastic. The brass plaques were 1/4″ thick and rather heavy, requiring special mounting considerations.
The customer had devised an overall layout for the plaques but left the details to us. We used our visualization system to mock up a design for his approval. The customer wanted the overall background to be black. While from a design standpoint black was an excellent choice for the brass plaques, we believed it provided insufficient contrast for the black plaques. The solution was to use a double mat: black on top, metallic gold underneath. We would cut openings for the black plaques, leaving 1/2″ of gold around each set.
The other requirement was that we incorporate a yahrzeit lamp into the design. By Jewish custom, special “yahrzeit” (anniversary) candles are lit on the anniversary of a loved one’s death and at other high holidays. In modern times electric lamps have been used in place of candles. We chose to incorporate a circular light with a Star Of David motif above the plaques. We used a super-bright LED rather than a conventional bulb for long lamp life, low heat, and low power consumption. The LED is powered by four AA batteries built into the frame.
Here is how we put it together:
First, we built the light assembly. This consists of a flashlight reflector glued to a square of frosted acrylic. The design was made on our vinyl-sign cutter.
Because the plaques to be mounted were so heavy (the brass ones weigh close to a pound each!) we chose to use 1/4″ birch plywood as the mounting substrate. Here the light is set into a hole cut in the plywood.
In order for the gold bottom mat to sit flush with the acrylic, we needed to mount an extra “spacer” mat first.
Next, the gold bottom mat is mounted.
The black mat is mounted on top of the gold mat. This mat has a circular opening for the light and two rectangular openings to provide a gold border around the black plaques. The tape on the top mat is a low-tack tape (essentially using Post-It[tm] adhesive). This allows us to make alignment marks without making any marks on the mat itself.
Here the plaques are mounted. We chose wood screws finished to match the brass and black plaques. The Stars of David are glued to the top mat.
Next we built the frame itself, installed the glass, and then installed 3/8″ spacers to provide clearance between the plaques and the glass. We then set the plywood package in the frame. To hold the plywood in securely and to provide sufficient depth for the electronics, we created a second inner frame to slip into the back of the first. This inner frame is glued to the plywood and screwed to the outer frame, providing a very secure connection.
Here the electronics are installed. A small rocker switch is installed in the bottom of the inner frame to operate the light. When the frame is hung, this switch is concealed by the outer frame but still easily accessible.
The back of the frame gets a nice finish with a black backer board. An opening is cut in the board to provide access to the batteries.
This is the final result. The customer was delighted!