Instagram iconInstagram icon
Facebook iconFacebook icon
pinterest iconpinterest icon
YouTube iconYouTube icon
Tiktok iconTiktok icon
LTK iconLTK icon

These Old Nails: How to Frame + Display Keepsakes

It’s a Monday Rewind! We have over 11 years of archives, so from time to time, we’ll be sharing our favorites from posts past. This tutorial was originally a contributor article on a partner site in June 2015, but this is the first time you can view the article in its entirety on Yellow Brick Home. Enjoy!

A shadow box frame using old nails from a home renovation | via Yellow Brick Home
frame | bookcase

When Scott and I first began demolition on our house, we were in for a lot of surprises! Curveballs were thrown, timelines were continually delayed, and there were many, many months of 100-year-old dust covering our floors despite our best attempts to stay tidy. With every wall that came down, we painstakingly removed old studs with care, knowing we’d like to reuse them in some way down the road. We’ve since made furniture, shelving and décor, which has been a fun way to have our home’s history on display.

The studs (which are just beautiful; they don’t make them like they used to!) were full of thick, long nails, and with every piece of lumber we saved, we’d spend a good 30 minutes pulling them out. While we could have tossed them, we did what any sane person would do in the middle of a renovation, and we saved them! These would make an interesting keepsake, we said.

Old home studs and the nails from them will make a great shadow box display! via Yellow Brick Home

I had been keeping the rusty nails in a sandwich bag, trying to figure out a way to display them in our home, when I came across this shadowbox frame!

Supplies needed to make a shadow box frame using old nails from a home renovation | via Yellow Brick Home
metal shadow box frame

Supplies + Tools Used

How to Make a Keepsake Frame

In this tutorial, I’ll be sharing how I framed these old nails, but I can see other keepsakes being displayed in a similar way – whether it’s keys from past homes, shells from yearly beach vacations or corks from celebratory bottles of champagne. Have fun with it and show off those sentiments!

1| Create the Template

The idea was to lay out the nails in a perfect grid – a juxtaposition from the grit and grime that covered them. Using a scrap piece of 11″ x 14″ paper (as to not get my pristine foam board dirty), I laid out a to-scale pattern I liked, although I couldn’t resist throwing in one crooked nail for interest.

Step 1| Create the template for your shadow box | via Yellow Brick Home

2| Make the Holes for Wire

Once I had everything lined up, I needed to get that same spacing onto my 11″ x 14″ foam board, which would be the backer board for the artwork. Using a ruler, I made a single mark where every nail would go on the foam board. Then, I poked each mark with a thick needle to create a small hole.

Step 2| Make holes for the wire  | via Yellow Brick Home

3| Loop the Wire Into the Foam Board

I cut 4” sections of wire, and folding each piece in half, I pushed the wire through the holes in the foam board, leaving the looped end facing the front.

Step 3| Loop the wire into the foam board | via Yellow Brick Home

4| Secure the Items Into Place

With the wire in place, I could take each nail and slip it into place, while tightening the wire from the back.

Step 4| Secure the items into place | via Yellow Brick Home

For good measure, I used a small dab of super glue underneath each nail to keep things from shifting. Tip: Use a gel super glue for dimensional objects.

Glue the keepsake items in place with a small dab of super glue | via Yellow Brick Home

5| Tape the Exposed Wire

With the nails secured, the sharp wire was exposed on the back of the foam board, so as extra credit, I used strips of heavy duty artist tape to protect the frame from getting scratched up.

Exposed wires on the back of a keepsake display | via Yellow Brick Home

Although I used artist tape, any archival tape will do the trick. The key is to use any product labeled as ‘archival’ or ‘acid-free,’ which will prevent your work from getting discolored over time.

Protect the shadow box from the wire by protecting it with artist tape | via Yellow Brick Home

6| Frame the Keepsakes In a Shadow Box + Enjoy!

Between the wire, glue and tape, these 100-year-old (plus) nails weren’t going to budge. I was ready to frame the keepsake and hang it in our home!

A shadow box frame using old nails from a home renovation | via Yellow Brick Home
metal shadow box frame

We have so much fun displaying the ways we’ve made this house into a home, while still respecting where it all began. Have you framed keepsakes from your home, vacations or elsewhere? Please share!

PS: We used this shadow box frame, but I also love this one in brass for more dimensional objects, and this one is budget-friendly in multiple finishes with awesome reviews. Go forth and preserve your memories!

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

  • Priscilla6.22.15 - 9:51 AM

    All along I thought you guys photographed the nails! This is even freaking better! How awesome! and thanks for sharing the tutorial.ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.22.15 - 10:13 AM

      Thanks, Priscilla! Yup, they’re the real deal. :)ReplyCancel

  • Josh | The Kentucky Gent6.22.15 - 10:51 AM

    This is definitely the perfect way to tie your old home in with your new home – love it!

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent

  • Rebecca6.22.15 - 11:00 AM

    Thank you for the idea. I have antique keys — some are skeleton keys, some are not — that I’d love to display. I’ve been struggling with how to do it, but a shadow box may be the best route to go.ReplyCancel

  • jenn aka the picky girl6.22.15 - 11:52 AM

    This is a great tutorial! I loved the idea about the thin wire. I have some old, really ornate doorplates that the previous owner removed from my house (all the doors have matching ones), and I’ve wondered how I wanted to display these. May just have to do this!ReplyCancel

  • I thought you had photographed them as well. Really love this project and that it has meaning!!ReplyCancel

  • Tara @ Lehman lane6.22.15 - 4:24 PM

    what an awesome idea!!! We live in an old house too and I love the idea of putting them in a shadow box!ReplyCancel

  • Melanie6.22.15 - 5:31 PM

    What a great idea to remember where you started from & it looks fantastic!ReplyCancel

  • Chris6.24.15 - 10:23 AM

    I love this kind of art that ties into our lives. My friend did something similar with her cat’s whiskers! Occasionally when she found a shed whisker on tbe floor she’d toss it into a dish on a shelf. When her beloved kitty passed she mounted the whiskers in a shadow box – one for each of Trixie’s 13 years. Its very simple and beautiful and looks like purrs.ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.24.15 - 11:39 AM

      That’s pretty amazing!! Oh the shadowboxes we could make with the kitty whiskers we find around this house… :)ReplyCancel

  • Emily6.24.15 - 8:53 PM

    I absolutely love this idea!


  • Stephanie10.12.20 - 12:04 AM

    Is this tutorial still available? I’ve been similarly collecting treasures from our old house renovation and would love to do something like this!ReplyCancel

  • Jonelle10.19.20 - 9:35 AM

    Not enough preservation of the past going on, but this is a great way to do it. I did something similar for our bathroom with straight razors my husband’s grandfather used to shave with. Some have things engraved in the blades and the handles are all different materials. Not only do they look beautiful, but every day they bring back memories of his grandfather to my husband.ReplyCancel

    • Scott10.19.20 - 10:34 AM

      What a great idea! We’d love to see a pic if you have one to send over via our contact info. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Tamisha Lee10.19.20 - 1:24 PM

    When we bought a 100 yr old house in Richmond, VA, we found a drawer full of keys in the kitchen.  Skeleton keys to the locks in the house, old Ford and Chevy keys, old house keys, all sorts of keys.  And I knew I wanted to do something with them.  I also had 3 or 4 brass Coptic crosses that reminded me of keys as well as some old crystal door knobs.  So, I started buying 8×10 frames at thrift stores.  Painted them all glossy black (today I would do them in matte black), I wrapped the cardboard inserts with a natural muslin that I had hanging around, and I hot glued the keys, crosses, and knobs in groups of three in each frame.  I had 12 frames I laid out in a grid pattern between two windows in the dining room.  It was a gorgeous art statement, piece of history, and decor all in one.  They proved so popular, that when we sold the house, the new buyers reqested the keys be left, which was my intention anyway, as I didn’t feel the keys belonged to me.  They belonged to the house.  ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.21.20 - 7:33 AM

      Oh, wow, I couldn’t love this more!ReplyCancel

      • Tamisha10.22.20 - 5:30 PM

        It was one of my favorite bits of that house.  I love that you framed the nails.  It’s those unique and cool things that make a house interesting.  We sold that house three years ago to follow our dream of moving back to Hawaii.  We bought a 30 year old rental that has been pretty abused, but it has zilcho architectural interest, which means it’s a blank slate which is pretty fun on its own too.  But small.  We went from an 1800+ square footage to less than 1000.  But, the killer view of the Pacific is worth it!ReplyCancel

  • […] stunning and beautiful and perfect is this idea for what to do if you’re […]ReplyCancel

Let's be Pen Pals

Our Pen Pals have direct access to first looks, a peek behind-the-scenes, and exclusive interviews showcasing members of the #YBHDIY community. We can’t wait to connect with you!

Kim and Scott

We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

Join us as we renovate and nurture vintage homes across Chicago + SW Michigan!

Instagram iconInstagram icon
Facebook iconFacebook icon
pinterest iconpinterest icon
YouTube iconYouTube icon
Tiktok iconTiktok icon
LTK iconLTK icon

LEt's be Pen Pals

Subscribe for first looks, behind-the-scenes, and exclusive community content

/* footer flodesk form */

This site uses affiliate links. We will always disclose sponsored posts in the text and by using the ‘sponsored' tag.

© 2024 Yellow Brick Home. | All Rights Reserved. | PRIVACY POLICY