I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.  For years, I treated it by sitting in front of a very bright light every morning.  Some people use daylight or full-spectrum bulbs for their light therapy.  But over the last few years, blue lights, particularly LEDs, have become a popular alternative.  I've discovered that, for me at least, they are the most effective kind of SAD treatment.

But blue-light light boxes are expensive.  So I decided to try making a low-cost alternative version with flexible LED strips.  It turns out to be very easy to build one into a mint tin.  (I can't get Altoids where I live, but there's a locally available knockoff whose tins are the same size.)

I've used mine for several months now, and I'm having much less trouble with my SAD than I did with my bright-white light box.  Also, I kind of like the tiny, tidy package of it.

This project requires you to be able to solder.

Step 1: Materials and Tools


1. Mint tin. I can't get Altoids tins where I live, but these are precisely the same size and construction. I used a blue one, for obvious reasons.
2. 45 cm of self-adhesive blue flexible LED tape, plus connector and adapter. You need the stuff that's made to be cut into 5-cm lengths and soldered together. I can get 50cm and a connector for €4 and an adapter for €9 (plus shipping and handling). I don't know prices outside of my area.
3. Cardboard: you'll need at least twice the footpring of the mint tin, about 2mm (1/16") thick.
4. 3 plastic bottle caps to use as spacers inside the box. (If you don't have the right size, you can layer up cardboard instead.)
5. Wire to connect the LED circuit. I used jumper wires for breadboarding, which are really, really easy to work with. With more patience, you could use ordinary wire.
6. Wire to tie the cord down. Its electrical conductivity isn't important. Its ability to hold stuff together when twisted is.
7. About 3" of ribbon to make the tab to pull the LED panel up for maintenance purposes

Edited to add:

8. Stiff card (like unlined index card) for the diffuser.


1. Triangle/ruler
2. Scissors
3. Pencil
4. Awl, for piercing the tin
5. Pliers to cut wire and crimp
6. Needle-nosed pliers. Actually used because their closed jaws are a good cone to widen a hole in the tin.
7. Soldering iron, solder and soldering iron holder

Not shown: glues (ribbon to cardboard, bottle caps to cardboard)

<p>this is a really neat idea. Do you know how to add a tripod or wire or something to be able to direct the light into a specific point? The idea is to use this light as light source for close up videos/photos.</p><p>Thanks,</p><p><br>Vlad</p>
<p>Thank you - this was fun, and I ended up with a neat Christmas gift. Most of the work was learning to solder, which I hadn't done before. Using the Arduino wires was a great tip - I got a box of mixed wires cheaply and easily and one of the lengths fit perfectly.</p>
<p>Hi bathsheba_everdene,</p><p>Making it run on battery power is outside of my knowledge and experience. You probably could, but you'd have to spend some time coming to understand electronics, because you have to get the right voltage for input.</p><p>And the LEDs on the ribbon are simple, normal blue LEDs. (I've also made light boxes with white LEDs -- I'm still experimenting to see which ones work best for me.)</p>
Really like the idea. I'm new to electronics, though. Is there a way to make it run on battery power? And are these LEDs on the ribbon simply LEDs that are blue in color? Not some high-techy kind of light?
glad this is helping with your SAD! I wish I had one of these when I used to live in seattle!

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