I decided to make this light after seeing some of the other acrylic lights on the internet. Some of them are pretty elaborate but then I noticed pretty much the same thing with a lot of them...they were etched with a laser.
Most of us do not have a laser or CNC machine or access to one. This sign was built entirely in my garage and from a picture I found off of Google images. And I decided to make this particular sign because of the "wavy" lines in the lettering. I was actually sitting on break at work and looked at the Monster Energy can that I was drinking and thought that this would be a cool design.
Materials used were:
- 18"x24"x.25" Acrylic Sheet (Menards)
- Black Poster Board (Walmart)
- Polyurethane and/or Stain
- Wood Glue
- LED Light Strip (Color Changing Optional)
- A Few 3/4" screws
- Brand Nails (1 1/4")
- Sandpaper (120 and 240 Grit)
Tools used were:
- Miter Saw
- Table Saw
- Scroll Saw (Jig Saw)
- Orbital Sander
- Paint Brush
Step 1: Step 1: Cut 4 Sides for the Frame
To make the frame I used a runner off of a pallet I got from work. I decided to used this because it was made of cherry. The runner was roughly 3"x4" and would work perfectly for my frame. I was able to get the right and left side out of one cut and the top and bottom out of the other cut.
I started out by cutting the frame long. I cut one piece at 15" and the other piece at 17 1/2". These were cut on my miter saw.
After the two were cut I squared up two adjacent sides on my table saw. I do not own a planer or a jointer but this seemed to work out very well. When cutting, I kept the piece pressed tightly to the fence, then flipped the piece upside down to cut the rest. My saw only raises to 2 1/2" so I had to flip it over 180 degrees to cut the rest of the wood.
I cut the two boards to 2 1/4" first and then flipped each board on it's side and cut those pieces at 1 3/8". I was able to get all four sides out of the two cuts I made on the miter saw. In the end my pieces measured:
- 2 @ 15" x 2 1/4" x 1 3/8"
- 2@ 17 1/2" x 2 1/4" x 1 3/8"
Step 2: Step 2: Dado
Then I marked one of the frame pieces so that they could be dadoed. On the 1 3/8" side I will dado 7/8" deep and on the 2 1/4" side I will dado 1/2" wide. I set my height on the table saw and ran all four pieces through at once, then moved the fence over a bit and ran all four pieces through again. Reason being because I can only fit 1/4" dado blade on my saw.
Step 3: Step 3: Cut Frames to Length
I started out by mitering only one side of all 4 pieces and then measuring each individual piece so that they could be mitered the other way. Check out the pictures above for reference.
Step 4: Step 4: Glue and Nail the Frame
Add a liberal amount of wood glue to each end of the frame pieces. With a square and some clamps get the to adjoining sides lined up and use a small finishing nail to tac the two sides together to help with the glue-up. I used a brad nailer which used 1 1/4" long nails that were 18 gauge.
Step 5: Step 5: Cut and Etch
Cut your acrylic or plexiglass to 9 3/8" x 11 7/8". I used my scroll saw with a fine wood cutting blade. If you don't have a scroll saw you can use a jig saw with a fine tooth blade. I have also used a circular saw to cut plexiglass.
After your piece is cut out spray one side with some spray adhesive. You don't need a whole lot, just add a mist over the top. Then try to center your image as best you can. Then rub the paper with your hands so that it sits flat on the acrylic.
With very slight pressure and both hands on the Dremel, follow the outline of your drawing. You may want to clamp down your work piece. I used a super fine wood carving bit to get the outline done. This was fairly easy to do since the lettering was quite erratic and wavy. The "ENERGY" part was a different story. I ended up using a straightedge to follow the lettering both on the outside and on the inside. This was a little tricky to do considering that the Dremel would want to bounce off the straight edge, so keeping a very firm hand on it and going very slow is the way to overcome this.
After the "ENERGY" lettering was outline, I took a slightly larger wood carving bit and "colored" in the lettering in the "ENERGY" lettering only.
Step 6: Step 6: Sand and Stain and or Poly
If you want, you can give your frame a routered edge. I gave it a very slight round then took the orbital sander it it using 120 grit and then 240 grit. I did the face, the sides and the inside perimeter of the frame. I liked the look of the cherry so I decided not to stain it and just use a coat of Minwax One Coat polyurethane.
Step 7: Step 7: Get the Lights Ready
I found these LED's at Menards, which is like a Home Depot or Lowes. It was around 25 dollars and comes with a remote. They have an adhesive backing and can be cut to length which works out perfectly for this project.
I started out by tracing the receiver onto the back of the frame and made a reference line as to where the wires would run. This is the reason that the frame is so wide and thick...to store everything.
After I made the reference marks I used my multi-tool with a wood blade attached to cut out a lot of the wood. I did end up using a grinder with a cutoff wheel to remove some of the wood also, which is not pictured, but I found that a sharp chisel worked best; especially since the back does not have to be perfect.
Step 8: Step 8: Run the Lights
The receiver has two screw slots, screw this down and then start running your lighting around the perimeter. Make sure that the inside of your frame is clear of any sawdust. Push the lighting tight to the sides and bend the lighting fairly tight around the corners. When you're near the end, you can snip these lights in the dedicated "CUT" sections on the wiring using tin snips like I did or even household scissors.
Step 9: Step 9: Test and Install Acrylic
So just to be sure that everything was in working order, I plugged everything in and tested it. After seeing that it worked i installed the acrylic etching and then I cut a piece of black poster board I purchased at Walmart the same size as the acrylic. I placed that on top of the acrylic. This was fairly tight against the lighting as was the acrylic. Therefore we shouldn't need much to hold these two pieces in. I used one screw on the top just to hold everything still. This should be more than adequate.
One thing I wish I did was to take some glass cleaner and clean both the acrylic and the poster board. I noticed that after everything was all said and done that some things should have been wiped off...whoops!
I used two generic mirror hangers on the back of the frame, one on each end, screwed them down and...
Step 10: Step 10: Hang Up
...hung it up on the wall next to my other bar signs. I don't have any that light up yet so this was pretty exciting to me. These lights have 16 different colors, and some show off the etching better than others so here are a couple pics of what I thought looked the best...
Total time on this project was around 5 hours...etching took the most time and what I noticed is that this acrylic scratches very easily. You can scratch it with your fingernail. So be very careful. Other than that, it was a fun project and I would definitely say that I would make another one, but I would make it slightly larger. I also really like the LED's! Having the remote is pretty sweet! It controls the different colors, the different brightness and you can have it transition from one color to the next. Also on and off.
For a full video on this Instructable, please visit my YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/c/adamfleisch you can also find other unique video tutorials on that channel. Thanks for looking'!