Introduction: Flat-pack Light Play Box

Picture of Flat-pack Light Play Box

The Tinkering Studio at The Exploratorium in San Francisco has a wonderful light box tinkering activity. You choose objects that cast interesting shadows, arrange them behind a translucent screen, and shine a small bright light on them. Place some of your objects on a slowly turning motor (blend door motors scavenged from junkyards are the best!) and the results are mesmerizing.

Here is how I built an inexpensive light play box that packs flat when not in use.


  • a large, sturdy cardboard box with a display window. I got my box from Costco. Its about 23" x 12" x 15"
  • a 21" x 30" sheet of mylar from the art supply store. I had to buy a 42" x 30" sheet and cut it in half. It was 0.004 mm thick and double matte. I think white butcher paper might work as well.
  • 12 brass brads (they are used to fasten papers- look in the office supply section)

Step 1: Punch Holes for the Brads

Picture of Punch Holes for the Brads

Punch holes through each of the 8 corners of the box where the cardboard flaps overlap. I used an ice pick.

Step 2: Pry the Glued Flaps Apart

Picture of Pry the Glued Flaps Apart

Pry all of the cardboard flaps apart. You will put them back together with brads. The flaps are hot-glued together. Use a sturdy tool!

Step 3: Cut Each Back Flap to Make Doors

Picture of Cut Each Back Flap to Make Doors

Make a cut in each of the back flaps so that a “door” can be left open but the top corners can be re-fastened.

Step 4: Cut a Larger Display Window (optional)

Picture of Cut a Larger Display Window (optional)

Your light display will be more beautiful, but the box won't be sturdy enough to stack one on top of another.

Step 5: Re-fasten All the Cardboard Flaps With Brads

Picture of Re-fasten All the Cardboard Flaps With Brads

Step 6: Prepare the Mylar

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Use a hole-puncher to punch holes in each corner of a 21"x 30" sheet of mylar or some other translucent material, even white butcher paper . You may need to cut the sheet smaller to fit inside your box.

Step 7: Insert the Mylar Screen

Picture of Insert the Mylar Screen

Place the mylar inside the box in a U-shape. Mark inside the box where the 4 mylar holes touch the cardboard, then punch holes into the cardboard. To attach the mylar to the box, put brads through the holes in the mylar and cardboard.

Step 8: The Finished Light Box

Picture of The Finished Light Box

Find some things that cast interesting shadows and put them in the box. Shine a small bright light (I use an extra bright LED) on them and view from the front. Try adding another light, or colored lights. Put some objects on a slowly turning motor-spectacular! Try stacking two rows of boxes (as long as they are not too heavy)


MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-09-07

Oooo so pretty! And it packs flat! That's awesome. Thanks for sharing!

BartholomewH (author)2015-05-29

Dope flat pack assembly man! I can't believe all the cool flat pack projects I have found here! The last gif looks more than romantic! Really simple and easy flat pack assembly idea but yet super effective!

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