Step 2: The black letter mask

The key to making the clock look nice was making the glossy black letter mask.  I thought of several different ways to make the letters, such as silk-screening on the back of the glass, or having a custom black sticker made, but eventually I settled on printing black onto transparencies - see the attached PDF file.

Since there's a lot of black ink, I had my transparencies printed at Staples for something like 50 cents a piece.  The ink wasn't quite black enough to completely block out light, so I printed 2 of them and stacked them.  Depending on how dark your ink is you may need more or fewer layers to get an opaque black.

Cut off the clear parts of the transparency so only the black square is left.  Align the letters of the two layers and tape the layers together with double-sided tape on the top and bottom black regions - see photos 2 and 3.

Note: the viewable area of the Ikea frame is 8.5" square, but unfortunately you can't print all the way to the edge of the transparency. Therefore you need to cut a piece of construction paper to form a border and fill the gap - it also adds a nice touch of color.  Cut a piece of construction paper to be 9"x9".  Mark lines 0.5" in from each side forming an 8"x8" square (photo 4).  Use a utility knife to cut out the inner square leaving a 0.5" paper border (photo 5).  Tape the transparencies to the back of the border (photo 6).

Now, cut out a square piece of the black garbage bag big enough to cover all of the letters.  Tape this on the inside (back) of the letter mask to help diffuse the LED light and make the letters a dim gray when not illuminated.  Also, put a piece of black electrical tape behind each of the non-used spacer letters to make sure no stray light gets through.

(Edit 8/1/10: Added a better description of the construction paper border and more pictures)
letterLayout3.pdf(612x792) 62 KB
cvaast3 years ago
Scottbez, in what did you make your template & what are the font and size of your text? Because I am trying to make a dutch one and I already have my lettertemplate, I just need to pour it into a printable form like yours...
Same question here!
cvaast got an answer yet?
Moab4 years ago
Hello Scottbez, which font and size did you use, please ?
Chiefston5 years ago
Do you think it is feasible to use a clear transparency for the top layer and a frosted transparency for the back layer, to create the diffused light effect? Instead of using the black trash bag? I was considering printing onto the glass myself, or as you also mentioned, using an acrylic sticker or something. Your transparency idea worked great though!
scottbez1 (author)  Chiefston5 years ago
Yeah, that would probably work alright. The main purpose of the black garbage bag is to diffuse the focused/directional light from the LEDs and "dim" the un-lit letters. The garbage bag happened to be the first thing I came across that worked well, but I'm sure plenty of other things would work just as well. I'm a little worried though that the frosted transparency might be a bit too light, so there would be less contrast between the lit and unlit letters. If you try it definitely post back and tell me how it goes - I'm about to start making another one of these, so any improvements would be great!
you say "black garbage bag"
How were you able to apply the material and get the edges clean cut without destroying the letter template.

Also I have yet to see methods that people are using to secure their front glass/plastic panel to the frame. the factory one uses magnets.

Thanks !
bvbernard4 years ago
Another option for a diffuser is to use parchment paper (from the grocery store) instead of the garbage bag. I've used parchment paper and it works very nicely. Wax paper would also work.