Introduction: Built-in Wireless Light Box With Secret Storage.

Picture of Built-in Wireless Light Box With Secret Storage.

One of my resolutions this year was to do more artwork. Toward this end, I ordered a large coffee table with lots of storage to put art supplies in so I could draw while relaxing in front of the TV at night. I wanted a light box as part of this "art station," and at first was going to cut a part of the table top off and replace it with plexiglass, but came up with this easier solution instead: a built-in light box using one of the drawers.
This light box is wireless, using battery-powered LEDs purchased at the Dollar Store (making this a very affordable solution as well). In playing with the lighting, I discovered that placing a white foam board at an angle under the plexiglass gave me the most light "bounce," as it reflected the LEDs upwards. This angled board in turn created a "secret compartment" for storing paper, pens, etc.


Brilliant white foam core or cardboard
Translucent white Plexiglas to fit top of drawer
Several touch-operated LED lights from the Dollar Store
AAA batteries (3 per LED light)
1" wood screws (2 per LED light)
Strong magnet
Small rare earth magnet
Ferrous metal piece (about 1/2" x 1")

Sharp blade
Sticky putty

Step 1: Bank of Lights

Picture of Bank of Lights

For my light box, I screwed in a bank of seven LED press-to-operate lights to the back side of the drawer--each with three LEDs. I could have mounted them with the sticky back of the LED light, but I wanted to minimize bulk (and trim them to fit as high up as possible), so I stripped off all the extras on each light, flipped the light around to the battery side and screwed them into the drawer permanently.
All I have to do when the batteries wear out is pull them out and replace them.
The video in the intro shows how I did the above.

Step 2: Light Box / Storage Structure

Picture of Light Box / Storage Structure

The structure of the light box is composed of:

1. Three foam core pieces for the two sides and the front of the drawer measuring 1/4" from the top.
2. One foam core piece for the front of the drawer measuring 1 1/4" from the top.
3. One foam core piece that sits at the rear bottom of the drawer and lays at an angle on top of the shorter foam core piece at the front of the drawer (see video at 4:15).
4. One piece of plexiglas that fits snugly inside the drawer (it will rest on top of the foam core pieces and the LED lights).

Glue the first three pieces directly to the drawer, and the shorter front piece to the first front foam core piece, bottom side touching.

Step 3: Magnetic Latches

Picture of Magnetic Latches

This light box has two magnetic latches. The first latch is made by hollowing out a piece of the bottom side of the slanted foam board and inserting a small rare earth magnet. Put glue in the hole, drop the magnet in, and glue a small piece of paper on top. This magnet will be completely invisible.
The second latch is made by gluing a piece of ferrous material (steel, iron) to the top of the plexiglas. I used a random piece of metal that was screwed onto the bottom of a full-sized door. Glue it onto the plexiglas with epoxy.
To open these latches, make a pull by gluing another strong magnet to the end of a wine cork (I had to use epoxy, as school glue just pulled away).

Step 4: Hidden Light Box

Picture of Hidden Light Box

Tuck your finished light box back into the coffee table. Use as needed.


Yonatan24 (author)2015-12-03

Cool! LED strips could work well here...

MarcioWilges (author)2015-02-01

Storage is always welcomed around the house and if it is possible, we would gladly include at least some additional storage area at every corner of the house. Boxes make good storage solutions because of their abundance of space for us to store almost anything and everything. What we need to do is to simply make those boxes look nice and merge into the background of our furniture pieces so as to conceal the real motive of it. Then, our guests would not know what the mess that they actually behold inside.

UdyRegan (author)2014-11-27

That's a beautifully simple DIY tutorial, thanks so much for sharing this! I think my wife might enjoy this if I installed it in one of our coffee table storage drawers, she tends to pick the weirdest times to want to doodle - like when we're watching TV or just having a coffee. And it's almost always dark out so the LED lights would really help a lot!

flyingpuppy (author)UdyRegan2014-11-28

It warms me to know this will bring joy to someone else! I hope you do make it for her.

Super Pixle Man (author)2014-06-26

How difficult was it to make this? Can one complete this on a VERY low budget?

The only hard part was figuring out what angle to put the foam core board in, but now that I've figured it out, you can probably do it all in max two hours. And you can get the lights and the foam core at a Dollar Store. So, yes--cheap.

Kadash (author)2014-01-23

It looks awesome ! I have an old desk which is ready for an update, but I'd like to know how thick the glass have to be ? Before I start breaking anything ^^

And thanks flyingpuppy for the instructable !

flyingpuppy (author)Kadash2014-01-23

You're welcome, Kadash. As for the thickness of the glass/plexiglas, I'd go with at least 1/4". It has to take the pressure of your hand when you're tracing your design.

Kadash (author)flyingpuppy2014-01-24

Thanks ! I'll gather everything I need this afternoon :)

steelyray (author)2014-01-21

White mylar (drafting acetate) also works well for a diffuser if you have a sheet of clear glass or plexiglass.

kariswg1 (author)2014-01-16

....great idea...where did you get the opaque Plexiglas? I can only find the clear type locally.

Erfunden (author)kariswg12014-01-16

I've made a large light box using clear plexi. You just have to spend some time sanding the heck out of one side so it looks frosted. Opaque probably works better, though, if you can find it.

thesupplychick (author)Erfunden2014-01-20

Couldn't you use the frosted glass spray paint by Rust-Oleum or even plain white spray paint?

flyingpuppy (author)kariswg12014-01-16

I bought it on Amazon and had it cut locally. But I suppose you could use regular glass (Dollar Store to the rescue) and spray it a matt finish on the back side. Or spray-mount a piece of wax paper to the back (or maybe even iron a piece of wax paper to the back??). Possibilities...

Oscelot (author)flyingpuppy2014-01-20

Good source of cheap glass: clearance frames at Michael's etc :3

love this instructable!

flyingpuppy (author)Oscelot2014-01-20

Thank you! I love all this "crowd sourcing" of cheap materials!

mdeblasi1 (author)flyingpuppy2014-01-20

In re glass,
Martha Stewart has a nice etching cream that has very low odor and works in about 15 minutes.
You're not going to be able to etch deep shapes into something, but it will work for surface frosting.
I got it at Michael's in the US.

vtbeachldy (author)kariswg12014-01-20

You can use clear glass or plexi and then spray mount some tissue paper on the bottom side. Anything that diffuses the light is good. If you use glass, you can use this unit to cut out stencils or other using a craft knife. (Plexi would scratch)

flyingpuppy (author)vtbeachldy2014-01-20

I like the tissue paper solution! And, yes, a blade on plexiglass would definitely scratch it. I used the leftover piece as a cutting board for the foam core and now it looks like an old skating rink. : )

robchang (author)2014-01-20

I love that desk, what kind of wood is it made of?

Manick Yoj (author)2014-01-19

Wonderful, and well done. I'm impressed by how you managed to reduce what could be a complex project to quite a simple and affordable, but elegant one.

flyingpuppy (author)Manick Yoj2014-01-20

Thank you. It's always my goal--when working on projects--to get the most out of the least. Probably helps that I don't have the technical know-how for things electric.

Tanzer26 (author)2014-01-18

For the plexi, check the fluorescent fixture or ceiling tile aisles at your hardware store. They should have Pavel's to drop into 2'x4' panel ceilings. not as thick/stiff as plexi, if you need more strength, layer it under clear plexi or glass.

Boygasmo (author)2014-01-16

I would use touch-light instead of those. It would provide more light than the side light.

rc jedi (author)Boygasmo2014-01-18

or a sheet of the plastic for flouresent light fixtures, many different diffusion types. cheap!

flyingpuppy (author)Boygasmo2014-01-16

Those ARE touch lights (stripped of bulky casing). And the angled foam board inside catches the bank of LEDs and reflects them up across the plexiglas top.

thematthatter (author)2014-01-17

this is nice, i got an old xray illuminator for my light box. You can get them cheap on ebay since xrays are going digital now.

That's so smart! I just checked ebay, and they have some pretty decent ones in the $25-$45 range.

About This Instructable




Bio: My favorite quotation is: “All you need in order to accomplish something great is a good idea and not quite enough money.” – Anon I live ... More »
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