Amongst the actual souvenirs that we pick up on our travels, I also hold on to a lot of the smaller mementos. I’m talking the maps, ticket stubs, postcards, bar coasters, and restaurant menus that we accumulate as we explore.
I’ve never really had a great way to store all of these items, unless you count putting them on the fridge for two months and then cramming the treasures into a small box on a shelf in the basement. It’s not that it was a bad system (at least they were in one place) but as they say, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ and I really wanted a way to present the memories in our home not so much for others, but as a casual reminder of the fun stuff we’ve done as a family.
As it happened, Pete and I stopped for a lunch break at IKEA on the way home from a recent road trip to North Carolina (a food-tastic weekend with lots of good grub from our fave PBS personalities at Chef & The Farmer). The break at IKEA was anything but food-tastic (forget a 40-minute wait for meatballs – we settled on cool pizza and lingonberry) but we left enough time to peruse the IKEA marketplace and pick up a few goodies.
One of the items I knew I wanted was a 19-3/4″ x 19-3/4″ RIBBA shadowbox picture frame for this little hack – making a framed, shadowbox-style home for all of our vacation keepsakes.
My little scheme was to route an opening in the top of the picture frame, like a mail slot, through which we could easily deposit the items we collect and let them accrue and settle into the frame.
Assuming you want to know the truth, I gave this a test run on an older 9″ x 9″ RIBBA that we weren’t currently using and it was such an abomination that I was almost certain that this project would be a bust. The router is a tricky beast to wield and as much as I love to use it for projects, it sometimes has a mind of its own, even when I’m using it with a straight-edge. I prefer my palm router to the heavier plunge router that we own because it’s easier to hold and control. My first attempt was to clamp the bottom of the square frame to the workbench and route directly into the top of the frame as it stood upright. I predrilled a hole for the router to bore through, but once I plunged the router, it only took the first .25-seconds of reverberation to obliterate the frame into four pieces. Well, crap. I took the opportunity to use the remaining three pieces of frame, clamp them more directly to the workbench (with a open space beneath so the router could plunge completely), and tested my ability to make an even, perfect cut in the edge of the frame. Not good, not good at all.
One might advise that if you can’t do it right after four attempts, maybe you should come up with a Plan B but I didn’t follow that logic. I was out of frames to test on and didn’t have any scrap wood that I felt like destroying, and decided to go for the gold on the real picture frame.
I removed the backing, glass, and the spacer insert that makes the frame into a shadowbox, and clamped the exterior frame down onto the table so that there was no wiggle room – especially with the undeniable reverberation of the power tool. A piece of painter’s tape created a barrier to protect the frame from potential router scratches as I dragged the tool along the edge.
This is the part where I was so certain I’d mess up that I didn’t bother trying to take a photo or video, and all I can say is that I paid a lot of attention in keeping the straight edge firmly against the frame as I plunged and made the cut. One opportunity = perfection.
Next, I had to match up the insert for the shadowbox and create a matching cut; this was a little less nerve-wracking because I knew it would be hidden, unlike the line that needed to look perfect on the outer edge of the frame. Still a damn good job for having had so many preceding failures.
Some of the edges where I cut were still a little ragged, but a piece of fine sandpaper completely smoothed them out. I reassembled the frame, and hung it on the wall in our hallway.
Now, whenever we have a memento to store, we can just drop those items into the top and let them fall where they may. (Yes, we went to see the elusive Daniel Tiger last weekend.)
We’ve already taken it down off the wall a few times to shake-shake-shake the contents so they fall in a different order, to keep the presentation fresh. All in all, it’s an easy way to contain our travel keepsakes not ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and I love that it’s a collection that will continue to grow as we explore more and more. In a pinch, we can easily open the frame from the back and look at something if we want to show anyone a certain map, or re-read the postcards (when we’re on vaca, we pick up a postcard for each day and write a short note about what it was that we experienced and enjoyed).
The scale of the frame is perfect for our bedroom hallway – a great place where we can all enjoy it.