Picture of DIY Projector on the Cheap
Although it's not my original idea (far from it), I finally decided to tear apart my LCD monitor and give this one a go. I had to innovate a few parts, so I hope my solutions help anyone out who's attempting this awesome project. This is my first instructable, be gentle :)

Step 1: Materials and Initial Disassembly

Picture of Materials and Initial Disassembly

LCD Monitor, any old one will do, the backlighting is going to be ripped out anyway. In my case, 14" was perfect, larger would have gone outside the border of the overhead's window.

Overhead projector, like from school. I'm no expert at these, and living in Taiwan, it was nearly impossible to find, but I know there are loads on ebay for cheap.

Document protector, used for housing the power and settings strip of the monitor.

Cork. Self explanatory.

First, get the LCD glass out of the monitor by carefully unscrewing, dismembering and prying. Be careful around the wires and you should be fine. One handy thing is that on mine, the display cable was detachable from the motherboard, so that made it easier. It's helpful to have a second pair of hands for this, in my case, I used my girlfriend's.
belgadro3 years ago
I broke two lcds that I got at garage sales for cheap all I got are white lines of death...least that is what people call them...I was extremely careful with taking apart the monitor and still managed to break it. Good luck...I'm giving up. I think I will go back to my idea of the projection tv except find a way to integrate more light...
I used a fresnel lense, cardboard box and mirror for the tv projector at the time, i found a nice 32 inch tv abandoned on the sidewalk so it made it unessesary to use lol. it also helped to direct and focus the light from the mirror to the projection screen using cardboard rather than having the light projected off the mirror spread out.
As i havent seen it done, I'm wondering if making a double projector and merging the image (focusing the two images on top of eachother
on the projection screen using two projectors projecting the same image simultaneously, using a splitter for the videocord projecting the same image) will improve picture brightness/quality. just a thought. probably going to try that myself when i get money.
Also i've tried with a cheapo tv and gotten murky semi watchable images, it helps the picture brightness to have the room completely light tight , even if its dark out (starlight/moonlight/streetlights will cause problems because the picture is faint) cover windows
with a blanket, cover all led's in the room.
tten eyck3 years ago
Does that not cause massive overheating?
tten eyck3 years ago
That thin layer of cork is enough distance between the screen and the projector to prevent overheating? Is your LCD screen still working/in good shape? Most of the other instructables demand building a frame and inserting fans to cool the screen. If cork is sufficient -- that would be so easy and awesome!!
slimguy3794 years ago
how do u guys hoo up things such as a game cube to a RCA monitor? i did this same thing. only thing now is i can only hook up my computer/laptop. no game systems
you use an emulator on your computer and use a controller hooked up...
bass8casey6 years ago
cool, what age are u??
sandworm (author)  bass8casey6 years ago
Me? I'm 29.
you said you are in Taiwan? which City?
sandworm (author)  spooky13006 years ago
I spent the last 8 years in running a design firm in Taichung, but now I am a game designer in Jakarta! I'm super stoked about my new job :)
Jakarta? well ,what i can say welcome to jakarta ,crowd city, although i live in west jakarta too ..... :D
are u happy and comfortable live in jakarta for a temporary?
sandworm (author)  sandworm6 years ago
Correction: 30 :)
bijikenyot4 years ago
yeah, i hate original LCD projector, because they're keep broke lamp inside if get shut off quickly
,and the price for the lamp is minimum $2000
st00pit6 years ago
hey, built one of these following your's (total hassle with the monitor i chose lol thin plastic ribbon cables that are all just ALMOST long enough to be out of the way) anyways, was wondering if just cutting a square in like a thick black beach towel and draping over/taping it on the rising lens would work all the same as the bellow? not too great with those instructions
sandworm (author)  st00pit6 years ago
No kidding about the monitor, it took me forever to figure out all those cables :) The beach towel seems like a good idea, but it IS a lot of light, it might come out of the sides... Also if the towel collapses inward, it might block some of the image, but there's no way to know until you try!
Use cardboard formed around it in a 4-sided pyramid shape :)
Runeshai4 years ago
Just tackled this project this weekend and it worked great. I definitely recommend the screen-size=OHP screen size. Ours doesn't and it's a tad annoying, but as long as we can adjust the size of whatever's playing we're good. Overall, 100 bucks for a permanent projector and an extra monitor (lucked out, got 2 for $50), we're very happy :D.
squiggy24 years ago
hey sandworm,
awesome work!
I've taken some pointers, and made my own.
Did you have a problem with the LCD being too big for the projector? - I can't project about 10% of the screen - which is where the start bar is on one side, and the quicklaunch bar on the other side is. how did you fix this?
Utahtabby8 years ago
****Dumb Question Alert**** Could you just lay your laptop open as wide as possible on the overhead projector's base with the keyboard-half sticking off on a box for support, (maybe propped on an upside-down beanbag-filled lap-writing desk so the LCD screen would lay flat) and use that set-up to play DVDs or show Documents, power points, etc on the wall screen? Using cork spacers or something in-between the projector's base and the laptop to allow for cooling... Be gentle with your answers; I am not trained in electronics. I was just curious.
I saw a guy who took of the back of his laptop screen, and removed the backlight and stuff, and permanently attached it to the overhead. Fine if you have an old laptop that you no longer use, but it destoys the portable-ness of the laptop, and it's a lot more work than using and LCD monitor
You couldn't do it with any laptop I've ever seen; the opaque casing of the laptop would block the light that needs to go through the LCD screen in order to project an image. However, if you are okay with possibly destroying your laptop, you could remove the back casing, backlight, and other electronics that would block the light and replace the casing with acrylic or something similiar. Then you could just lay the laptop screen on an overhead.
Well, that would be wonderful if it would, but It wont. The light needs to pass through the screen, then through a lense to blow it up (make it larger).
Srry Didnt see the answers below.
sandworm (author)  Utahtabby7 years ago
Actually that wouldn't be possible because your laptop screen isn't transparent, only the glass itself is. The folding screen of your laptop is more than just glass, it's backlighting and support and logos and little chipboards and wires and stuff. You need to extract the glass from it's shell to get to the transparent part. :)
but all those things is possible to remove with a steady hand and some elbow grease :-)
sandworm (author)  bullzebub6 years ago
Oh yeah, totally. Thing is with the monitor, it's better 'cause it has VGA input alreado, no need to rewire.
you would have to remove the back casing from the laptop. the lcd screen is really clear, but you have to remove the backlight and other materials. its best to use a old computer monitor screen.
joniwilhelm5 years ago
 can you use a "box" computer monitor for this one?
No it wouldn't because you need to shine light THROUGH the monitor, which is what happens with an LCD anyway, just with a much dimmer light than a projector. A CRT, or 'Box monitor' projects the image from the back of the box to the glass pannel at the front.
Whales5 years ago
 okay, so to make this "cheap" projector i have to buy an expensive one? kinda defeats the point of it in the first place. unless you're talking about a different projector than i'm thinking.
I looked on ebay, and if you do it right this whole project could run you under 150 USD. Old (but good--there is really no design variation between old and new basic overhead projectors) overhead projectors can be found on Ebay for around 50 USD, sometimes less. LCD monitors are generally around 80-100 USD. That's cheaper than replacement light bulbs for some commercial projectors.
i got my over head for free i just went to a school and asked if they had an extra they gave me a pile of parts and i just had to assemble it
same here. I even got a fully assembled one :P
and I got an LCD monitor from the IT department because the backlight didn't work - perfect!
= one data projector ASOLUTELY free
squiggy2 Whales4 years ago
The projector you need to get (I stole one from school) is an overhead transperancy projector - one of those ones that are a big box of light with a mirror on top and you print on a piece of perspex then place that on top and can write on it with whiteboard markers.
they're a fraction of the price (if they cost anything at all) of a data projector which plugs into a computer and can project moving images
If you followed the project you would see they made a video projector with an overhead (or "transparency") projector.
thorn111665 years ago
about how big does the screen get?
According to photonics, the image can be as large as you want it.
The further you move the projector away from the wall, the larger the image will be. So if you have a really long room, you canmake the image huge!
The only limitation is the power of the light in the projector compared to the ambient light.
Therefore, the darker the room, the further back you can move the projector and the larger the image you can have.
With a pitch black room, the image can be pretty darn big.
bennyj925 years ago
Whales, the overhead projector is like a big box, that shines light upwards, through a transparency, which can be written on. Then the light is reflected forwards and focused by a lens, and projected onto a wall/screen.
The difference is that it has no screen, and has no input for a video device (or any capability of such.)
They are pretty much old technology, i just finished High School and they dont use them anymore, but they did when I was in primary school!
they should be pretty cheap nowadays!
Gizmotech5 years ago
LOL, I remember my DIY build from ages ago. Wasn't economical due to having going through 3 LCD screens. The heat inside these are so intense and cooling as to be very good. However, too many cooling fans leaks out too much light. It's just cheaper to repair or mod a used commercial projector. Bulbs are available these days so you don't have to buy the whole lamp. LumenArc holds a lot of projector surplus which maybe useful commercial projector owners and compact DIY projector builders. The've recently launched their forums and I think the people new to this project should open a thread in their forums and share your experiences. It's all fun. I've still got my 250W NDL HQI-TS lamp and ballast kit growing dust.
getsdhc5 years ago
Woow mac donalds sponsor him! ;)
tokooloshe5 years ago
 Would it be possible to add energy saving light bulbs inside the overhead to reduce power consumption and heat?
Derin6 years ago
STAR TREK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111111
sandworm (author)  Derin6 years ago
What else? :)
albro5 years ago
its a nice work! the bellow idea was nice and unique.
Albro -india keep going
i am planning on making this soon and i would need to use my dads ebay account for the overhead, but hes a bit hesitant about it saying that quality probably wouldnt be good. is there any argument i can use against him?
No. Your Dad is right. The quality won't very good, or people would do this instead of spending $3000. Look at the picture above, for chrissake.
ZBM slim_jim5 years ago
wow you are an unpleasant person ..the guy who posted this instructional said he took the pic with a cell phone camera but the quality is fairly sharp..and at 400 bucks as opposed to your $3000 investment then losing a little quality is better than losing a lot of money.....and the person who posted the question that you answered would making something and learning as he goes, might even make some improvements along the way....so go and stifle some one else  some where else.
That assumes that people are smart. They aren't.
DYLEGO slim_jim6 years ago
the quality is great! i have a projector that only projects in like 250xsomethinng and i barely notice the lack of pixels on that.
sandworm (author)  slim_jim7 years ago
Fact is, people DO do this instead of spending $3000. That picture was taken with my phone's camera, which has no way to capture the quality of the image in the dark. Take a picture in the movie theater with your phone, and see how good it looks. I think you'd be surprised how good the image is in real life. In any case, this project cost me next to nothing, so I guess it depends on if you've got $3000 hidden in your couch cushions or not. Anyway, my friend has a commercial projector, and mine's almost there for quality.
Game, set, match. Nice reply to a harsh, uneducated comment.
sandworm (author)  mwwdesign7 years ago
Cheers, mwwdesign!
just tell him that many expensive projectors only project in 1024x768 resolution, and that if you use a computer monitor, it will be almost the same, for thousands of dollarsless. but if you want to get an overhead, don't use ebay, the shipping would be astronomical. use craigslist. that way you get it locally and at a bargain. good luck!
sandworm (author)  astrozombies1387 years ago
Reasons my projector is better (for me) than commercial equivalents: 1. Price - I was able to get the projector for free from an old chinese woman, and I had the monitor laying around. The only cost I had was in the vga-rgb converter box, which was about US$60. Even if you had to buy the projector on Ebay, I've seen them for 30-50 dollars. The cheapest commercial projector (hereafter "The Cheapie") made right here in Taiwan is still over $600. 2. Resolution - The Cheapie's max resolution is 800x600. Pretty low, especially when spread over a 6-8' area. Mine will go as high as the monitor will, and is capable of doing many non-standard resolutions like 16x9. (ok, this is partly because of the converter, but still, the monitor supports it.) 3. It's just damn cool - Why buy when you can build? I've gotten so many props for putting this thing together, and I've had a great time thinking of new solutions, improving and tweaking, plus I've learned quite a bit about the science of projectors (and how to say it all in Chinese, haha). It's a great learning experience. Good luck with your dad.
lightofra6 years ago
Didn't you have to get a converter to use your Wii with it?
sandworm (author)  lightofra6 years ago
Yeah I did, but it was worth it because I got one that supports HDTV with component cables, so it was really high quality. Aw, I miss that thing. Had to give it up with I left Taiwan.
3356398566 years ago
is the projected image actualy bad or is it the camera because it looks a little blury.
sandworm (author)  3356398566 years ago
Yes, at the time, i only had my mobile phone camera. Apologies, the original image was quite sharp!
add.thebad6 years ago
would it be possible to do a similar thing but use a high power garden lamp and mirrors because i don't have a ohp
yes, have a look at Diyprojectorcompany.com, be patcient with the links some don't work, but if you are patient you should be able to find the designs of several projectors.
Hawaii000007 years ago
Does anyone now how I could do it with a screen from a cell phone and a lens or two?
What about one of those cheap maccas toys?
The resolution would be too low for this sort of thing. There are people who have made projectors with screens a lil bigger than a cell and get a screen door effect.
It depends on how large you want to project the image. If you just wanted it 20" or so across it would probably be OK. Aside from the low resolution the other problem in projecting large images through such a small screen is that a lot of light is needed and the heat is tremendous. You need to take drastic steps to shield the screen from the lamp heat, like big fans and such.
the screen is WAY too small, plus there are no inputs on a cell phone. you need a crap tv or monitor
bobulator7 years ago
Try watching LOTR, awesome.
sandworm (author)  bobulator6 years ago
Absolutely :)
bosherston7 years ago
How quiet are projectors these days? I remember the cooling fan used to make a racket, one that would really bug me if watching a movie. I'll be keeping a watch on the dumpsters for one tho'. Great Instructable ++
If it's the cooling fan that makes the noise, you can get silent fans for computers now for about £40 (thats about $80) and just replace the old fan with that!
sandworm (author)  bosherston7 years ago
Not as quiet as I'd like, but tolerable. The only rough part that I've encountered is the heat! Since it's pretty big, and you have to set it in the middle of the screen (either behind you or just to the side of the couch), someone's getting a jet of hot air coming out of the vent :) I'd love to figure out a new mounting scheme so it's not right there, but I'm not allowed to drill holes in my walls (or presumably my ceiling.)
Well, you have the skill to make a bellows, I don't think re-routing the exhaust will vex you for long. Maybe keep the ducting method inside the case ( if there's room ) just for aesthetics sake.
tudgeanator7 years ago
yeah! Zelda! My brother has got a gamecube game (£7) that has ocarina of time AND muduras mask,for seven quid!
i was at play n trade and they had the zelda duo game for like 40$ USD!!! Why is crap cheaper everywhere else??? grumble grumble...
garguy6 years ago
Hi I learned on diy sites the basics of diy projection during my last month free time. I had the idea of the overhead projector and was curious to see if someone had tried it and i found your project two days ago. I loved the old kodak style Shade system you made. I was primed to the max to try it myself and found a used overhead projector for 50 Canadian dollars.(About 40 USD) A mint 3M 9050 with a 360w ENX bulb. Replacements will cost about 10$ ea. Today i found a 15" Monitor with burned backlight for 10 Canadian Dollars. I just dismantled it and put it on the projector. This is my very first try on an aqua-green wall and note that the upper left corner is missing because i still have to add an extention to some wires to get the circuitry out of the field. I will do a presentable setup and upgrades and will be back soon to share. The screen is on 800x600 for now because i didn't took the time to download the driver for it. It's a 1024x768. We must admit the fact that it is a pretty great result for 4 hours of work and 50 bucks. I still have to keep working on every aspect of it for now. Thanks for the DRIVE.
sandworm (author)  garguy6 years ago
Hey, sorry for the late reply. Congratulations for getting it working, I'm really happy to hear that people are inspired by this, I had a great time working on it. Enjoy the mightiness of projector! :)
garguy6 years ago
Ok i replaced the monitor screen by a 15" TV screen.(100$ used) Now i have all inputs for TV and PC I finally found a ribbon wire to extend the plug between the two circuitry and remove them from the field of view. I Have a 103" setup now and all is missing for now is a white wall or screen for more brightness and some finition on the casing of the projector. The cost of the project is now under 200 Canadian dollars. I'm happy.
sandworm (author)  garguy6 years ago
Congratulations!! Isn't it awesome when you finally get everything set up the way you want? Glad to hear people are still doing this!
zambonie57 years ago
haha sorry, my email is colin-dunn@hotmail.com if you have any questions.
zambonie57 years ago
this idea is so sweet and i expirimentd with it for around a year, a year ago i bought a overhead and a projection panel which is an lcd, but built for overheads making it easier, the only issue was poor resolution but oh well, still cool. later, i got a "real" projector off ebay (no, not one that the bulbs cost 300+ dollars, thats crazy!) i got one that had 400w bulb? not sure, but its bright! and it only cost me $160! and the picture is so clear, (probly not as clear as the newer projectors, but i cant tell). it works for me! and is at least 10 times etter than the overhead setup. the bulbs are like 5 bucks each and said to last 50 hrs, but ive got at least 100 hrs out of mine! the model is a Lightware VP800. there are other models that look the same but use different bulbs so their alot more to replace. its just a great projector and il probly have it forever! i have pictures, but im not sure if i uploaded them properly, but you can see the one with the over head, and the one i have now. the picture of the screen is of the overhead projector, and the one i have now picture, i just got off the internet. im not saying the overhead idea is bad, its really fun and cool to expiriment with it all and is well worth doing it, but if you want something small and reliable, do wat i did. its well worth it, so you can say im pretty expirienced with this stuff and projectors, so if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!!
zlek7 years ago
How long do the light bulbs for the projector last?
firesketch7 years ago
Sweets, props man. Doing this! :)
sandworm (author)  firesketch7 years ago
Right on man, best of luck. If you have any questions shoot me a mail.
Cheers man, and Twilight Princess rocks : D
pbpenguin57 years ago
last question, is there anyway i could convert this to play cable on an LCD monitor?
sandworm (author)  pbpenguin57 years ago
You mean cable TV? Sure, pick up a tv tuner box with different inputs. Mine has component for hdtv, as well as s-video and standard composite, as well as cable.
pepsiqueen7 years ago
i have a 3 year old LCD monitor (with a tv tuner built in) that has faded to black on most of the screen, does this mean it is too 'broken' to use in this instructable or will the light from the projector solve my problem? i can no longer use it as the screen for my computer.
sandworm (author)  pepsiqueen7 years ago
That fading *could* be the backlighting going out. If that's the case, this is the perfect candidate for conversion! You won't really know 'till you take it apart, but I bet that's the case.
pbpenguin57 years ago
stupid question but i'm on ebay and would a 10x10 overhead projector be to wide for a 15" monitor?
sandworm (author)  pbpenguin57 years ago
Measure the visible width and height of your monitor. Generally the 15' measurement is a diagonal, so it's hard to say unless you measure it specifically.
Hawaii000007 years ago
How can you reverse the image if want to do a rear projection.
sandworm (author)  Hawaii000007 years ago
Easy, just flip the LCD screen over.
Should have thought of that.
radiobath7 years ago
It's about time someone used those things for good. Those kind of projectors just remind me of school and the smell of whiteboard markers. If I find one lying around in the dumpster somewhere, I'll be one freakin' happy person now.
Brennn107 years ago
Is the projector behind the LCD Screen?
sandworm (author)  Brennn107 years ago
what did you use to make the bellows how can i make one of my own?
sandworm (author)  astrozombies1387 years ago
I used large black paper and duct tape to make the bellows.
I used the instructions from this site to put it together: Bellows
would this be possible with a smaller monitor and just adjusted to be closer or would the quality be shot?
sandworm (author)  astrozombies1387 years ago
It might, I suppose it depends on how large the window of the projector is. You could mask off the sides around the monitor, and adjust the focus to compensate for its relative distance from the screen, sure. I think it'd be ok, as long as you stayed around 12-13". Mine was 14".
Alyosha8 years ago
Try making a bellows to contain excess light, it'll give you the flexibility you need for focusing. Diy Bellows has decent instructions. For more tips on DIY lcd projectors try lumenlab/diy.
sandworm (author)  Alyosha8 years ago
Thanks a lot for the bellows idea, that was brilliant! I've incorporated it into the instructable :)
stevoIution8 years ago
Good result! +
JakeTobak8 years ago
That's a pretty clever idea.
sandworm (author)  JakeTobak8 years ago
Thanks guys! It's in no way my original idea, I just didn't see one on here, and had taken some pics of the progress, so I thought I'd post it up for anyone who wants to give it a go. For me, it was really worth it, I love it!
Zaen8 years ago
Grrrr. I have been scavenging parts and planning an instructable on this for quite a while. only thing I'm missing is a decently sized lcd screen. (mine are all too big) With that rant over, nice job. one thing you might want to point out is the resources available at www.lumenlabs.com (the forums section). I notice that the picture doesn't seem to be very bright, is that just an illusion, or is the picture quality lower because of the overhead's cheap optics?
sandworm (author)  Zaen8 years ago
My monitor was 14", fits perfectly, but that's just coincidence, I imagine.
sandworm (author)  Zaen8 years ago
Actually it's pretty bright, but there's quite a bit of spilloff from the projector (at the time of the picture) and this was taken with my phone, so the quality is awful. For what it is, I was actually pretty impressed with the quality and brightness.
beavis2k8 years ago
When Tom's Hardware did this project, one thing to consider, they put a fan between the projector screen and the lcd screen to cool them, Link. Most lcds today are quite big, so you need to go to ebay or craigs list to get a smaller one that fits on overhead projectors.
Good instructable, I have been trying to do this for some time myself :)
sandworm (author)  beavis2k8 years ago
I read the Tom's Hardware guide before building mine, but I found it doesn't need the fan since I've cooled the inside of the projector itself with a separate (and huge) fan.
ongissim8 years ago
This is the same as this project, only you didn't use an LCD projector panel, which is made for overhead projectors, and accepts many different types of video signals.
sandworm (author)  ongissim8 years ago
Right, I use a transcoder that accepts component, av, svideo, and a bunch of others and switches it to vga. The whole purpose of this project was to do it for basically free, as I had the parts kicking around.
nemitor8 years ago
ll.138 years ago
It's an intersting concept. ;)