I made very cool LED lit wooden frame with Darth Vader made from Oak pieces!
I'll teach you how to make yours, it's super easy!
Step 1: Making the Stencil
Use your computer/laptop screen to trace the picture you want to cut in wood (plywood/MDF/hardboard, etc.)
Step 2: Cut Your Wood Strips
Cut your wood to 1/4 thick or less.
I used some scrap Oak I had lying around, but you can use virtually any thin and flat material.
Heck, you could even cut vinyl and stick it to glass!
Be creative :)
Step 3: Cut Your Pattern
If you use pieces of wood like I did, then you'll have to cut the pieces of your stencil.
If you use sheet material (ply/MDF/hardboard) then you can glue your stencil directly.
I used stick glue to temporarily glue my stencil onto the wood. You can also use spray adhesive.
Step 4: Cutting the Pieces
You'll have to drill all the letters that will have holes.
Then you can start to use your jigsaw (or better scroll saw) to cut your pieces.
Make sure you cut strategically as you can't cut small pieces if they are not attached to bigger pieces of wood.
Be patient and you'll get there (for my project there were 55 pieces to cut)
When you cut all of the pieces, sand them to get rid of the cut marks and/or sharp edges.
Step 5: Staining the Pieces
I decided to black stain the pieces.
If you don't have the paint like me, you can mix black oil based paint with lacquer thinner to get the intensity that you wish for.
Then my wife stained the pieces.
First she used paintbrush and gloves.
For the smaller pieces she used Pritt Tack (tacky thing) on the piece of wood to hold small pieces while she dipped them in stain.
At the end she found the best method was to use chopsticks (to hold) and brush (to paint).
Then she left it to dry for 2 hours.
Step 6: Making the Frame (part 1)
First cut your pieces on the table saw to desired thickness of the frame (width of the pieces). Mine were about 1 3/4 wide.
Then cut out the groove for the glass and LEDs to fit in.
At the miter (or table) saw cut the pieces to length and with 45 degree miters.
I used glass as the measure for my pieces (my glass was 3 mm thick 16'' x 20'')
When all cut to measure sand the inside edges of the frame, these are hard to reach later.
Make sure you don't sand the miters, if you do you'll have gaps at corners.
Step 7: Making the Frame (part 2 - Joining the Miters)
There are many ways to join the miters.
I used fairly simple one.
Drill 1/2 hole for the dowel insert.
Then drill pilot hole for screw and put the screw inside.
Use flat head screw (not the conical ones that make wedge because they will split your miters)
Cut the dowel a bit over-sized of the size of your hole. Glue it, and tap in place with a mallet.
Finally take off the rest with a block plane and sandpaper to make it flush to the frame.
Step 8: Making the Frame (part 3 - Finishing Touches)
Sand the frame first using 120 and finally 220 grit sandpaper.
I then applied my signature using laser printed image (mirrored) of my branding.
It transfers to wood by using lacquer thinner on a soft cloth and rubbing it over the printed image onto wood
(see video: Darth Vader LED Frame for details)
Finish your frame using your desired finish. (I went with a simple and quick beeswax finish)
Step 9: Installing the LEDs
I used two 20'' strips of LEDs to put on the sides of the frame.
You can use top and bottom if you wish.
Staple the cables into the frame and remove self adhesive tape on the back of the LED strips.
Glue them to the frame.
Make sure to leave space for the glass under the lights.
Finally drill the hole for the cable and put it through the frame.
If you want you can battery operate your LEDs by putting switch in the frame, which would have clean look without cables. Mine goes over some drawers so the cable won't be visible anyways.
Step 10: Attaching Pieces to the Glass
First, clean the glass of any debris or oil.
Then use silicone to attach the pieces to the glass (be patient, it takes time to dry)
Use the stencil under the glass for easier spacing and position of the pieces.
Step 11: Frosting the Glass
You can buy frosted glass, but for this application I found it cheaper to use frosting lacquer spray.
Spray two coats (drying in between the coats) and leave dry.
Step 12: Installing the Glass Into the Frame
Put the glass into the frame and secure the glass to the frame.
I don't have fancy hardware to hold the glass so I used plain nails.
Step 13: Hang, Turn on and Enjoy - the Force!
Hang your art onto a screw (or nail) on the wall.
Turn it on and may The Force be with you!