I have wanted a lightbox for years, I live in a small flat and don't have the space to store a large lightbox. I decided to build a photo/tracing lightbox into my Ikea coffee table. I picked up all of the equipment on ebay and put the whole lot together in a couple of hours. The table is an Ikea 'Lack' and cost about £5, they come in many different colours.
Step 1: Choosing Correct Acrylic
-Ideally I would have made the top from one single thick sheet of acrylic with a routed out step around it's edge. However to do this I would need a router and a acrylic cutting router head... which I don't have. Instead I ordered two sheets of Acrylic. One 8mm thick transparent sheet and one 3mm thick Opal coloured sheet. I had the clear sheet cut slightly smaller (which the acrylic company did free of charge).
-Lack table top measures 550x550mm
-Clear Acrylic 8mm 480x480mm
-Opal 3mm Acrylic 500x500mm
-I purchased these materials on Ebay from trentplastics.co.uk, they gave me cheap combined postage and next day delivery.
Step 2: Measure and Cut
-Carefully Measure out the aperture on the top of the table. Check your measurements and offer up the thickest sheet of Acrylic, make sure it will fit correctly as the chance are it probably wont be perfectly square.
-Use a brand new stanley blade and a non slip metal ruler to carefully cut through the table top. Be patient because it takes quite a few cuts to break through.
-Peel off the cut away section and remove the cardboard reinforcement.
-Check the acrylic fits and cut/sand away more if it doesn't.
(tip. Mark one side of the table and acrylic sheet with small strips of masking tape, this will make sure you relocate it the same way when you put it back)
Step 3: Recessing the Corners
-Each corner has a chipboard reinforced corner. You need to Recess these to the thickness of the first sheet of acrylic. I used a stanley knife but a chisel would probably have been much safer. Keep measuring as you go and check each corner by replacing the clear Acrylic sheet. If you chisel any of the corners to much then you can always build them up again with the cut away section of table top and some PVA.
(Tip: Use the protective coating from the acrylic to help you remove it from the table top)
-When the corner reinforcements are complete paint the whole thing white with emulsion or gloss. It might not seem that important but it makes a HUGE difference.
Step 4: Electrical Components
-I picked up a 5 meter strip of adhesive LED lighting from ebay. These are intended for use inside cars so I also bought a 12 volt adapter kit from the same seller. The lighting is available in different tones of white but I went for Cool White as I thought it would probably be brightest.
-I thought about adding a switch but in the end I couldn't be arsed.
-I drilled a small hole for the power cable and attached some cable ties to stop it slipping through.
Step 5: Attaching the Lighting
-Make sure you lay out the lighting before you start sticking it down. Start from the end near the power cable so you don't end up having to re-drill the hole. The adhesive is pretty strong although I added some double sided padded tape at the corners just to be sure. You have to sort of curve the strip around each corner.
I used up the entire 5 meter strip.
-Connect the LED strip to the power supply and tape/glue gun in place under the lip of the table top.
-Test everything is working
Step 6: Drilling and Finishing
-Mark and drill the holes in the first sheet of clear acrylic. Use this as a template for the Opal top sheet by laying both flat on the floor. Make sure the holes are large enough for the screws you have chosen otherwise it can easily crack.
-Round off the corners of the Opal sheet with a metal file.
-Choose your screws, you could probably counter sink them so they are neat and tidy but I quite like the look of the rounded head ones I've chosen.
-Screw the whole thing together and you're done! Try and keep the sheets clean because dust and dirt will show through when you turn the lights on.
Step 7: Finished Piece
I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to do this but my finished result is very neat, tidy and effective. It provides an EXTREMELY bright and even light which is perfect for viewing negatives and tracing.