Introduction: Make an LED Acrylic Sign

I made this LED Acrylic Sign for my neighbor, who is the owner of "Rob's Wood Shop - Daycare for Adults". Check out my video and follow these instructions to make one yourself!

Step 1: Design a Logo and Carve It Into the Acrylic.

I designed the logo in Photoshop, then imported it into the free Inventables Easel application. I flipped it horizontally to reverse the logo, so that I could carve it into the back of the sign. I used a Shapeoko2 CNC machine to carve the logo about .01" deep.

Note: If you do not have a CNC machine, you could try to scratch your logo into the acrylic by hand using a rotary tool. This would require a steady hand and bravery! Or, just search YouTube for Shapeoko2 or X-Carve to find lots of people who could carve the sign for you.

Caution! Acrylic scratches really easy so handle it carefully. Any scratches will show up in the sign and they are hard to remove.

Step 2: Buy an LED Light Strip Kit

Search eBay or Amazon for an LED Light Strip Kit with self stick backing. Make sure to get an RGB kit with a remote control for maximum fun. They cost about $15. You can find them here on Amazon LED Light Kit or on eBay LED Light Kit. It helps if you have the light strip first, so that you can make some measurements for building the sign base.

Step 3: Make a Base for the LED Light Strip.

I cut a 3" wide strip of maple that is about 3" longer than the sign width. I used the X-Carve to route a groove in the center of the sign that is about .5" less than the width of the sign. The LED strip will need to fit in this groove so make it a tad wider than the light strip.

Since the groove is shorter than the sign, the bottom corners of the sign will rest on about .25" of wood on each side with the LEDs recessed underneath.

Drill a partial hole in one end of the groove, then drill a hole from the rear of the base to meet up with the first hole. This is for the electrical wire, so make sure the hole is wide enough to feed the LED strip through it.

Step 4: Add a Frame to the Base to Hold the Sign.

I cut two strips of 3/4" walnut that are the same length as the width of the sign. I glued these onto the base on each side of the groove so they are centered on the board. Squeeze the sign in between them so they are glued at the correct width. The groove in the bottom board should be centered under the sign. Cut two small decorative end pieces and glue them on to complete the frame.

Note: There is no good way to clamp the frame into place, so you may need to just hold them for about 15 minutes until the glue sets up. (It helps to have a cold drink with a straw nearby while you are a human clamp.)

Step 5: Add the LED Light Strip.

Cut the LED light strip in the correct spot according to the manufacturer's suggestion. Feed the strip through the hole and remove the protective backing from the self-stick strip. Press the light strip into the groove so that it is centered and stuck down firmly. The plug should be sticking out of the rear of the base.

Step 6: Plug in the Remote Receiver and the Power Adapter.

Plug the remote control receiver box into the light strip. Connect the power adapter and use the remote control to turn it on. If all goes well, you will have a really cool light up sign!

Tip! Make sure the bottom edge of the acrylic is smooth and clear so that the LED light can shine through nicely. I used micromesh sanding pads to sand it up to 12,000 grit and polished the edge. Sanding the other three edges with 80 grit sandpaper can give them a frosted look, which will make the sides light up too.

Thanks for checking out my Instructable. Please visit my website at The Carmichael Workshop for more fun projects.

Comments

author
honeycuttj made it! (author)2017-01-17

Once I received my laser engraver, I knew I wanted to do this project. I love doing theses acrylic projects.

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author
Johnmartin321 (author)2016-11-23

Its really cool and easy way to make acrylic sign. For affordable and reliable sign services, feel free to visit our site: http://www.signrepairny.com/

author
tariq sadiq (author)2016-01-07

It really cool! can't wait to make my own one. I am going to make a name card like that.

author
GeoD4 (author)2015-12-19

You have me upset here. You got ahead of me on this one. I am building a very similar project for a house number. Anyhow thanks for confirming that it is do-able. Great project.

author
Seeed Studio (author)2015-12-11

It really cool! can't wait to make my own one. I am going to make a name card like that.

author
steinie44 (author)2015-12-10

Good job Steve. I like that. Are you doing your logo?

author
Dave w2 (author)2015-12-09

Entirely too cool!!

author

Thanks Dave!

author
Joepie555 (author)2015-12-09

Very
nice project. Looks great. What I do see is that the intensity of the LED light
diminishes as the engraving is further from the light source. In LCD’s, a sheet
(of acrylic?) is used to diffuse the edge lighting evenly across the display –
one of the comments below – this is called a light guide. The sheet is actually
just a flat surface in which tiny “dimples” are made. These dimples either get
deeper or larger as their position gets further from the light source. The
pattern of the dimples is sometimes also tuned to the light emission pattern of
the light source. In the case of this project, getting a better lighting uniformity
of the engraved (bottom lit) pattern, I think it would suffice to program the
engraving apparatus to machine the material deeper as it engraves further and further from the lit edge.
This would of course have to be done in a linear fashion from the lit edge of
the panel to the unlit edge of the panel and would exclude any means of doing
this by hand.

author

I will try this and see how it looks. I can raise the top edge off the cnc surface with a few business cards, so that the cnc cuts deeper as it moves toward the top of the sign. Thanks!

author
wolfkeeper (author)2015-12-09

Pro-tip: for the glue problems, if you apply the main glue, and add a couple of spots of superglue somewhere unobtrusive; the superglue will set up in a minute, and then you can let go, and it will hold it till the main glue sets.

author

Great tip! I've done that before, so not sure why I didn't think of it this time. I've got CA glue too.

author
bob3030 (author)2015-12-10

Nice!

author

Thanks Bob!

author
Akin Yildiz made it! (author)2015-12-09

i made a tiny one with individual rgb leds neopixel, you can program to any color combo or visual effect..

great post with amazing pictures.!!!

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author
Jedi_zombie85 (author)2015-12-09

really nice idea, great results too

author
TimoR3 (author)2015-12-08

Yu wanna know where you can find cool pieces of acrylics for these? Go to recycling dumyard, pick one flat screen display and demolish that. Inside you can find 10mm thick acrylic, which has a cloud-printing in the back to make light more even. I made an artist "draw-trough-table-box" of that kind of acrylic sheet with clear ledstrips all around the sheet

author
christine828 (author)2015-12-08

Nice project! You do a great job of clearly & simply explaining and demonstrating the project. Great video also. I've subscribed to your channel - can't wait for more ideas from you. THANKS!

author

Thank you so much Christine! I appreciate you subscribing. I have over 120 other project videos and will be making more.

author
TheCarmichaelWorkshop (author)2015-12-08

I tested a few different things and they all work. You just have to scratch the acrylic somehow. I did the first T with a knife. The E is 150 grit sandpaper. The S is a dremel tool. The last T is with a screwdriver. The line at the bottom is dremel tool. I had the best control with the dremel. Also, I carved these on the front of the glass and you can see a reflection behind it, so I think it looks best if you carve it on the back in reverse.

Test1.jpg
author
NickGriffin (author)2015-12-08

Excellent! Back in the 80's I sold my Sand-carved glass made into artwork and then lighted them from the bottom edge using a fluorescent tube in a box designed by my woodworking Brother in Law. The box was designed to accept any piece from my line so as to be interchangeable. I wish easily accessible LEDs would have been around back then!

author

Thanks Nick! I like the fluorescent light idea. I forgot to mention that this one can be swapped out with other designs.

author
mitsosfoufoutos (author)2015-12-08

It's a very nice instructable!!!

Another idea if you want to use glass (colour or transparent) than acrylic, you can

make a stencil (printed and cutted paper for example), put the stencil (mirrored on

the back side, normal on the front) on the glass with water-soluble glue

and with a small painters brush (or something else) put some of

"Armour glass etching cream" (have a look on ebay).

Let the cream 2-6 minutes or so to etch the glass, clean it with water, remove

the stencil and your sign (or whatever) is ready.

See this video as an example:


P.S.: By the way, how much cost the cnc machine?

author

Great suggestion! I knew there had to be some way to do etching with a chemical.

author
srsantafe (author)2015-12-08

Thanks for this instructable

author

Thanks for checking it out and commenting. I appreciate it.

author
kjlpdx (author)2015-12-08

carefully with a torch you can polish the bottom edge

author

Ok, thanks for the tip. I have some scrap pieces I could practice on.

author
xabungo made it! (author)2015-12-08

Nice Project, i do the same with a laser machine.
I use acrylic in base too.

If someone need a laser engrave acrylic for his own project, just send me a comment or visit my website www.co2br.com.
I love to help people to build things.

monarch1.jpg
author

Wow that looks really nice! I need a laser engraver too!

author
kirk thill (author)2015-12-08

I'm thinking you could also sand blast the LOGO into the acrylic or plexiglas, or glass for that matter. I think that would work.

author
BPACH (author)kirk thill2015-12-08

If you sand blast acrylic, use low pressure and slow speed. If you dont, you build up too much heat and the sand will embed in the acrylic.

author
ac-dc (author)BPACH2015-12-08

Salt blast for the win. Translucent and dissolves in water.

author
BPACH (author)kirk thill2015-12-08

If you try and sandblast acrylic, make sure you use low pressure and go slow. If you build up heat, the sand will imbed in the plastic.

author
charlessenf-gm (author)2015-12-08

Love the Sign! "Day Care For Adults" Priceless.

What is your business model? I'd like to do something of the sort here. Have a web site?

author

Thank you! My neighbor came up with that slogan...pretty funny. He always has visitors at his huge shop. My website is www.thecarmichaelworkshop.com and I make youtube videos on my channel - https://www.youtube.com/user/carmichaelworkshop

author
TheCarmichaelWorkshop (author)2015-12-08

I will do a test one with a pocket knife and dremel tool tonight and upload a picture here so we can see how they look.

author
Annobis (author)2015-12-08

With a pocket knife, I seriously doubt that the result would be convincing. There are probably other ways to draw your logo by hand, but the easiest will be by using a dremel-type of tool with a diamond drill.

author
caryf300 (author)2015-12-07

For me the acrylic is the easy part. Thanks for the instructions for the base. That is the part that I need the help with.

author

I had to think about it for a while, but finally came up with a simple way to do the base. I think the little white remote receiver box is kind of unsightly I thought about concealing it inside the base, but then it would need to be a really bulky box. A longer cable between the sign and remote box would be nice.

author
technologyguy (author)2015-12-07

I was a shop teacher and used a lot of clear acrylic in a myriad of projects with students. I had forgotten the "edge lighting" property of the material until your project reminded me. Very cool! I will definitely be using your idea. The LED strip is a brilliant way to uniformly light the sign. Thanks for the inspiration.

author

Thanks! This was my first time using LEDs. I just ordered 4 more light kits for a few more signs.

author
zattaara (author)2015-12-08

he looks like biff from back to the future movie.

author

Ha ha, I haven't heard that one before. I'm nicer than him though. lol

author
dollarseed (author)2015-12-08

You can frost the plexiglass using a soda blaster. This uses baking soda instead of sand, and does an awesome job. We have a vinyl plotter we use to create the design, then blast/frost the lettering, etc. With a little practice, this can also be done using just a dremel with the pattern printed and placed below the surface of the plexiglass you want to impose the design on. One thing not mentioned in the video, but that is important, is that you always want your design on the back side of the plexiglass for best effect. This may mean that the design needs to be printed in mirror format to reverse the lettering, etc. I do now have an X-Carve CNC, but haven't been very successful in keeping it running, and am now in the middle of building my own.

author

Thanks for the soda blaster suggestion. I think that would be a good alternative for people without a cnc. I see there is one at harbor freight for $99. You might already know about this, but Inventables has a good forum with solutions to just about any issues with the x-carve.

author
Yonatan24 (author)2015-12-08

Nice! Now you're making me want a CNC machine!

author

Thank you! The CNC is fun to use. It's a nice addition to the shop to be able to personalize projects.

author
BPACH (author)2015-12-08

Or cut a template out of MDF and then use a router.

author
Annobis (author)2015-12-08

You can scratch your logo by hand, you just need to be very careful.

This one is made by hand and looks amazing too.

https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-An-LED-Emblem...

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Bio: I'm a woodworker who makes fun woodworking projects on my wife's side of the garage!
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