Introduction: Make an LED Light Box

You should know that a light box that can be used for a bunch of creative stuff, so let's get started!

The video helps to understand the whole process. :)

Step 1: Make the Box // Cutting All Pieces to Size

Picture of Make the Box // Cutting All Pieces to Size

We start by cutting the wood to the desired size you want the box to be. This box has 60 x 40 x 8 cm (aprox 15" by 23" by 3" tall) and you can make it any size you want but I recommend not making it too shallow so you can get a better light refraction inside the box.

For the material I am using 10mm plywood that is going to be joined with 45º miters with internal splines for reinforcement but you can use solid wood or 1/2" or 3/4" plywood that you might have laying around.

To make the 45º angle cuts, I used a table saw sled made specially for this type of cuts and you can see how I made it right here.

After cutting all the 4 sides to their final size, you will want to create two rabbets all around. One is for the backer board to seat properly later and the other one is for the white opaline acrylic sheet (translucent) slide in and out if someday you need to replace it. I used 3 mm (1/8") opaline acrylic sheet.

One of the sides is a bit narrower than the other three. That will allow the acrylic sheet to slide in and out in the future. I mistaken this part when making this light box and I fixed it all up in the video so you might want to check it out first!

Step 2: Reinforce the Miters and Glue Up

Picture of Reinforce the Miters and Glue Up

Since we are using tall miters, it's quite important to reinforce them and there are several ways to do so. The one I chose and found out to be very efficient and easy to make is with hidden long splines.

It's so quick and easy once you put a stop block on the 45º table saw sled that makes the process a real pleasure.

After all the slots are cut, we need to make some solid wood splines from a strip and tune them up just so they become just a little bit lose in the slots to allow some space for the glue.

We can now glue the 4 sides with the hidden splines and a picture frame clamp really helps. Make sure everything is square and that the acrylic sheet seats nicely in its rabbet.

Step 3: Make a Top Frame to Close the Slot

Picture of Make a Top Frame to Close the Slot

Now you need to create a barrier so that the acrylic sheet stays trapped inside the groove.

You can easily do that by making a border frame with solid wood strips after cutting some miters so they look nice since this is going to be pretty visible.

Don't forget that one piece of the border needs to be thicker to match the final height of the light box (remember on Step 1 when I talked about my mistake on the video?). That is the piece that won't be glued and be able to come out if you need to remove or replace the acrylic sheet.

Before gluing up, it's a good idea to cover the edges of the acrylic with some plastic wrap so that the glue squeeze out doesn't fill the groove and also don't stick to the sheet. Be patient when removing the sheet with the plastic wrap. It will come out nicely if you take some time.

Step 4: Apply Finish and Reflective Material

Picture of Apply Finish and Reflective Material

It's time to give it a light sanding to prepare the box for finish. I used wood sealant and spray lacquer but you can apply your favorite protective finish.

Once the outside is done, we need to concentrate on the inside and make it as reflective as we can. A really good choice is to stick aluminium tape to the interior of the sides and also (very important) to the backer board (I'm just using a piece of thin MDF).

Step 5: LED's and Closing the Box

Picture of LED's and Closing the Box

We are getting closer and closer to the end!

Now we just need to stick some LED strip to the sides the farest possible to the front acrylic sheet so that the light can spread more evenly and close the box. The closer the LED strip is to the acrylic, the more evident the bright line will be. And if you stick it to the backer board, you will also get bright light stripes, which, in this case, I don't find particularly good for the purpose. Unless you apply lots and lots of strip covering the entire backer board, you will always get those visual bright lines when you look front to the light box. That's why I found that applying them on the sides ends up getting a better result. But if your box is very very big, you will eventually need lots of strip so minimize the middle darker area or perhaps using an ultra bright and powerfull LED strip might work.

After closing the box and attaching some wooden holders on the bottom, you will need to drill a few holes to insert screws from the front on the movable border piece.

Now you just need to plug it on and make cool stuff with it!

Step 6: More Projects!

If you enjoyed this project, you should check out more videos on my channel and don't forget to subscribe!

http://youtube.com/gethandsdirty

Comments

onlylivemusic (author)2016-03-16

Awesome work, your video production is as good as your woodworking!

Dwargh (author)2016-03-09

Good work on this one! I like your video tutorial a lot! Now I want to have my own light box! :)

dougstrickland (author)2016-03-06

You are a very talented young man. Very inspiring!

LeslieKretchmar (author)2016-02-11

Wow!! You are such a PRO!! Thanks!

N3TQV (author)2016-02-10

IMHO you are an excellent woodworker and craftsman, fortunate to have all the tools to do the job right. You have also done an excellent video presentation, professional quality. Kudos to you for your hard work.

nightshift911 (author)2016-02-09

Do you find that 1/8" for the acrylic is strong enough to resist bowing inward while tracing?

I'm currently using a converted laptop with a piece of glass over the "screen," but it is not big enough and I am collecting ideas for building a box that has a better size and portability.

Depends on the size of the box. For this one (60 x 40 cm) it flexes a bit but no big issue. If your light box is bigger I recommend using a thicker sheet, though I may want to keep in mind the thicker the acrylic the less light will come through.

Seeed Studio (author)2016-02-10

Nice job. The video is really cool.

Syrus7808 (author)2016-02-09

Just one word ! " Awesome " for - work - video - workroom ( so jealous!!) detail to explain everything- keep it up mate & u will go far!! Looking forward to more instuctables...

LedaLaters (author)2016-02-09

I actually made a lightbox myself using a broken photocopier, which had a detachable top part that came as a box with a clear screen and everything. But, I placed the LEDs down in strips on the backer board, and I was wondering how to get rid of the bright lines and make the light even, so thanks for the tip! It didn't help that the interior was black either.

Though, would LED boards be a viable option to even out the light? I have seen them being used in advertisement boards quite effectively (though I haven't seen any for sale).

gbeltrao (author)2016-02-09

An idea that can save us lots of time would be to reuse a portrait frame box without the screen and just work out with the acrylic and LEDs after.

gbeltrao (author)gbeltrao2016-02-09
vincent burgio (author)2016-02-09

would aluminum foil work as the liner

kcbaltz (author)2016-02-09

I chose to put my LED strips on the bottom and I just painted the inside white. It does have a striping pattern to the light, but once you put your tracing source material on top, it's very noticeable. I do think the "wrap-around" method here would be easier to wire as I had to cut mine into strips and join them with clips that were supposed to be no soldering required but I ended up having to solder every one.

Jonathanrjpereira (author)2016-02-05

I like the diffused light the acrylic sheet produces.

I built mine using a clear acrylic sheet and to make it diffuse the light, I sanded it with 220 sand paper on a random orbit sander. I choose to leave the "up" side smooth but you can get more diffusion if you sand both sides.

Yeah, it works really good for this purpose :)

JustinPhilpott (author)2016-02-09

love this video!! And your workshop!

snootyblaine (author)2016-02-09

Wow, that was some awesome precision woodworking! The ingenuity and simplicity of your work is astounding.

Your process and attention to detail is so inspiring; I would love to see your creations using other media!

Thanks

rring883 (author)2016-02-06

Great job on the video, too!

Get Hands Dirty (author)rring8832016-02-09

I appreciate that, thanks!

Mecher (author)2016-02-09

Nice work!

Get Hands Dirty (author)Mecher2016-02-09

thanks :)

Ehlers_TV (author)2016-02-05

Good Job !!! like it !!

Thank you!

SteveMann (author)2016-02-06

This is nice to see. I've already got a light table but it has a 9000 volt step up transformer (center-tap grounded) to run the tubes, so here's a good application of LED technology that can run on lower voltages.

Yeah, LED's are great! Thanks for stopping by :)

Yeah, LED's are great! Thanks for stopping by :)

Yeah, LED's are great! Thanks for stopping by :)

rjacomen (author)2016-02-09

Absolutely fabulous work. Your appreciation for woodworking is evident in your video. And the quality of your video is also excellent. Easy to follow steps.

Get Hands Dirty (author)rjacomen2016-02-09

Wow, thank you so much for your nice words! :)

jaysprague (author)2016-02-09

Very nice, showing the mistake and the fix was very instructive. Please keep on keepin on !!!

Thank you, I'm glad you appreciate it :)

The Mighty El Rondo (author)2016-02-09

Stellar work. I'm going to use this 'ible, hopefully this upcoming Summer/Spring, as I very much need one. Thanks for sharing!

Thank you and good work on your version of the box!

Chipper Bert (author)2016-02-06

Cool box! Much nicer than the ones I made 10 years ago when LED's weren't so readily available. In fact I've never worked with them, hence some seemingly dumb questions..

So it's time for an upgrade...

The dumb questions before I start...

1. What is the power source? There seems to be a power lead in the one photo?

2. Could one make it battery powered? I'm thinking portability here to where there isn't a close by power outlet.

3. Will the aluminium foil not oxidise over time and become dull? I just painted the whole inside of my box gloss white and it works OK but the foil looks like an improvement?

4. Is there any heat build up from the LED's? I used 4 x 8 watt energy saver bulbs which generated enough heat to have me retro-drill ventilation holes.

5. I will have to go back to the photos when I've finished this comment so maybe the answer is obvious, but how do you get back inside the box to replace anything? I made mine with a hinged top, which also made it handy to store the power cord in...

OK - two of my questions are answered in the video. You can get inside by sliding the acrylic out and the LED's work off a transformer.

I mostly use mine to transfer shapes to coloured glass for stained glass work so I would find the lip around the edge a bit limiting. I fixed mine with countersunk brass screws to make a completely flush top. And of course hinged top I can get into it

Hi! So,

1. The power supply is a 12v DC transformer, in this case 2A was enough for this quantity of Led's. They consume about 20W total.

2. I think you can, but you need to buy a fairly heavy and big battery, It won't work properly with small disposable batteries.

3. No, it won't oxidise at least for 7 years since I made my first light box. The interior looks great. I think that matt white paint ends up working better than glossy but I can't assure that. Anyway, the aluminium is a great solution, easy to apply and inexpensive.

4. You can feel veeeery softly some heat if you touch the acrylic but I had some light boxes with photographies on art exhibitions turned on everyday for one month and they still work perfectly without any ventilation holes.

5. You found it out ;)

atompkins1 (author)2016-02-05

Where did you purchase the LED strip?

On an illumination local store in Portugal so this isn't a reference for you. I know you can easily find them really cheap online on sites like amazon or ebay.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2016-02-04

Awesome light box!

Thank you!

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Bio: This is all about inspiring you to build stuff with your own hands! http://youtube.com/gethandsdirty
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