Cost: up to $35
A light box is a box with one translucent side that allows light to pass through. Light boxes are functional in many different crafts/arts including photography, illustration and design. Cheap light boxes online start around $40, so I thought I could build a nicer one for less money. I wanted to design a box that fulfilled the functional aspects of a good light box, but that was also simple and beautiful enough to be used as a lamp or display for negatives. It can sit flat on a table for drawing and viewing negatives, vertically on a bookshelf, or even hung from a wall.
Here are a few creative uses for the light box:
-Viewing slides and negatives
-Backlit macro photography
-Tracing drawings and photographs
-Converting slides and negatives into digital photos
-Watercolor paint surface
-Lamp, when hung or displayed on a bookshelf
Check out the photos for some examples of these uses!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
-Compound miter saw
-Ruler or tape measure
-Walnut board, at least 4" wide, 3/4" thick and 4.5' long (about $10)
-2 pieces of 10" by 12" glass ($4)
-Candelabra lamp kit ($6)
-Fluorescent candelabra bulb ($3)
-Aluminum tape ($5)
-1/8" birch plywood sheet ($4)
-2 sheets of drafting vellum ($1)
-Small finishing nails and screws ($1)
The total cost should be about $35 if you buy everything new. I was able to scrounge up or repurpose a lot of these materials though and only spent about $15 on new materials. Everything listed is available at hardware stores, expect drafting vellum, which is carried at art stores like Dick Blick.
Step 2: Preparing the Sides
1) Cut your board down into four sections, two 14" pieces and two 12" pieces. These will be the sides of the box. We'll finish the miter joints in a later step.
2) Rip your four boards down to a width of 4" on a table saw.
*Remember your PPE! Glasses and earplugs go a long way when you're using power saws.
Step 3: Cutting the Grooves
1) Measure the thickness of your glass, including the drafting vellum, and back panel. For me this came to 1/8" for the back panel and 1/4" for the glass front.
2) Set the blade height on your table saw to about half the thickness of your board (between 1/4" and 1/2").
3) Leave a 1/4" between each groove and the edge of the board. Any thinner and it could break off.
4) It may take several passes, but adjust your cutting guide until you have a 1/4" groove on one edge and an 1/8" groove on the other edge of the board. Check out the pictures if this is confusing. When you're all done, your backing and glass front should rest easily in the appropriate groove.
Step 4: Miter Joints
1) Start by cutting one edge of each board at a 45 degree angle. Make sure the grooves are on the 'narrow' edge. See photos for clarification.
2) To figure out where the next cut will be, rest your piece of glass in the groove so the edge of the glass just meets the end of the groove. Now take one of the other pieces of wood and use the 45 degree angle as a guide. When you're all done, the whole length of the groove should be the length of the glass.
Step 5: Backing
Step 6: Light Socket
1) Mark the center with a pencil.
2) Drill a pilot hole with an 1/8" bit all the way through the board.
3) Now, using a 1/2" bit, drill a hole from the outside of the board about 1/8" deep.
4) Drill from the other side using a 3/4" bit until you meet the 1/2" hole.
I found that this method of drilling lets the oddly shaped light socked sit comfortably.
Step 7: Reflective Backing
Step 8: Electric
1) Open the switch by the small screw
2) Cut the wire in the center, and feed the socket into the hole. Use hot glue to secure the socket in the hole.
3) Strip the two ends of the wire where it was previously cut, just enough to reconnect the copper.
4) Wrap the copper around itself and secure with insulating electrical tape.
5) Place it back in the switch housing and replace the cover.
6) Test with a lightbulb.
I chose to use a daylight (white) CFL bulb with a wattage equivalent of 80 W. The brightness and color are up to you, but the CFL bulb is important in such a small space. This isn't an easy bake oven, and the CFL bulbs give off much less heat than a standard bulb (and the use less energy and last longer!) I chose a bright white because it didn't give a yellow tint to my negatives, and the 80 W equivalent brightness wasn't too harsh once it passed through a diffuser.
Step 9: Gluing It All Together
1) With the backing in place for alignment purposes, glue two joints together.
2) Use masking tape to hold everything in place.
3) After about an hour, put finishing nails in the two glued joints. I drilled small pilot holes to ensure that I didn't crack the wood.
Step 10: Light Diffuser and Finishing
Finish by putting the last side on the box and securing it with two removable finishing screws. Give it all a good sanding and cleaning and it's ready!