Instructables
Picture of Under $30 Light Table
How to build a light table for under $30 for all your light table-ing needs
 
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Step 1: The "Table" part

Picture of The
First I had the wonderful idea of building a light table, then I went about it in the simplest way I knew how. I got a table!
This table was $10 dollars from a reuse center

Step 2: Aquiring Plastic

Picture of Aquiring Plastic
I decided that I didn't want to be tracing on glass because I tend to break all things glass so I made the tracing area out of plastic.

I found this nifty 11x14 sheet of .25 inch clear plastic at Home Depot for $3, it seemed a good size for the drawings that i'll be doing.

Step 3: Measure Once Cut Twice!

Picture of Measure Once Cut Twice!
Proceeding headlong into the project, I measured the center of the table, and then traced out the dimensions of the plastic sheet to be inserted into the hole. Then I took the plastic outline and brought all four sides inwards by a quarter inch (0.25 inch) so that the plastic would have a lip to sit on when I was done.

Step 4: Circular Saw

Picture of Circular Saw
CutBorder.JPG
I used a circular saw (to cut a rectangle, go figure) and cut out the inner lines (leaving the 0.25 inch extra from step 3). Using a circular saw didn't get me perfect corners so I used a screw driver and dug out the corners to my liking.

Step 5: Router? No i'm not talking about the interweb.

Picture of Router?  No i'm not talking about the interweb.
I borrowed a router, which is a tool like a drill but instead of bits that are meant to go into things vertically, this is meant to spin and be pressed horizontally against things and the sides of the bit are used to create lips and such for banisters or what have you.
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SaveOurSkills8 months ago

That dog'll hunt. Good job

thank you!! simple & effective
Great job!
I built one using an old Xray light thing I salwaved from a hospital I was demo-ing...
jfox163 years ago
Tip ....

If you are not handy with saws or just do not have any use a heavy duty plastic storage box or plastic bucket.

If the sizing is off you can easily heat an old knife over the fire to make holes or cut through the plastic.

For looks you can simply glue some fancy wrapping paper, wall paper or paper grocery bags over the plastic container just go light on the glue.

After the paper is applied you could go a step or two further and paint it or add
a pen and pencil holder.
ChrissyCola4 years ago
batvans, BRILLIANT suggestion for portable light box... i'm about to go dig all of that out of my garage right this second. Thanks for saving me a trip to home depot :)
I made a portable one, it was the top of a scanner ,a cardboard copypaper box ,and a fish tank light fixture.
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That is an awesome idea!
batvans464 years ago
instead of frosting, you can purchase a large self healing frosted cutting mat for 20 bucks online. i have one on my homemade table and it is amazing.
hierarchy6 years ago
this is neat! but instead of a table can u make a portable box? with a light that can be plugged in?
see my post earlier about the portable light table.
Hey. Went to a local computer repair shop, got a free broken scanner, took the guts out, got a small light at Lowes that had a removable cord, installed it in the scanner using florist gum, (you can use any sticky thing that will allow you to remove it if necessary for service), threaded the cord through one of the empty ports, frosted the glass with tracing paper, then put it back together. Cost 8 bucks. If possible get a light with a cord switch so you can turn it off instead of just unplugging it. Hope this helps.
terren2726 years ago
The way to get the corners is with a chisel and hammer. It doesn't take very long. The other way is to round the corners off he plexi glass with a file... or woodblock+sandpaper. This will take longer than the chisel, but you get a rounded corner look that might impress.... someone. :)
 No, the way to get the corners is with a jig saw. 
GraffitiBatman (author)  fiducianullus4 years ago
I really need to get one of those!
try harbor freight if theres one in your area, or craigslist. they come in handy for tons of stuff.
Really awesome idea. My dad has one of these at his work, except it's kind of those ones that he won't give me. He works for printing and stuff. It's about double the size of the plastic thing you have-no double but double again, quartriple (is that how you spell it? Firefox doesn't agree.). Yeah, it's pretty big, and I want it real bad, but he needs it, so I might try this. Awesome Instructable. +1 rating. (added to favorites)
GraffitiBatman (author)  GorillazMiko6 years ago
That sounds kind of amazing. Nothing I ever draw is that big (I smear even 11x14 drawings) but the idea of a twin bed sized table just for arting with lights and what not makes me all tingly.
Hi GraffitiBatman, Try drawing with your whole arm while standing at a table or holding a large pad. It will keep your palms off the paper and give you much cleaner lines (believe it or not! ;). -Adam
GraffitiBatman (author)  ghostis4 years ago
ha! Those actually aren't my hands but a friend of mines. You're right though! Palms on the paper both add smudges and nasty hand oils to the paper.
GraffitiBatman (author)  GorillazMiko4 years ago
Thanks so much!
Hi Gor! I think you were looking for "quadruple." I hate it when you know something isn't spelled right, but you can't get close enough to see it in the list ;-). My brother and I are thinking about making a larger portable LED-based light table. Maybe I can get an instructable up before summer! -Adam
Cool. If you do, I look forward to seeing it!
12Hippos5 years ago
What a beauty! Mine is a bit different. I had a broken 32" plasma TV. So I took out the screen out, leaving only the back light. Then, i put it on a synthesizer stand and it is bright enough to go through 6 sheets of letter sized paper.
GraffitiBatman (author)  12Hippos4 years ago
Wow, NIce work! I love to see broken TV's re-used because there are so many in dumpsters around me.
batvans465 years ago
for people wanting a portable light table, find a drawer from a dresser or something in a dumpster, whatever size you like you can probably find. then find a cheap lamp of some sort, i used a fish tank lamp (again, from a dumpster lol), mounted the lamp inside the drawer and drilled a hole for the power cord, and used a picture frame to secure a small sheet of plexiglass to the top. and yes, the plexiglass and picture frame came from a dumpster too. cost me 85 cents for the screws.

of course, you can do the exact same thing without dumpster diving, if you are squeamish about such practices you can easily procure the parts by other means.
GraffitiBatman (author)  batvans464 years ago
Hopefully this is a pro dumpster diving audience on instructables. Your idea sounds like it would work quite well!
hmmmm... mebbie if u just made a clear plastic box, drilled a hole in the bottom, and inserted a plug-in light bulb fixture...
GraffitiBatman (author)  fancypenguin8454 years ago
That sounds like it would work too! I did it this way to maintain the tables use as a table and give me a large space to work with.
 amen - but some of us would like a more permanent fixture.
lordbot4 years ago
i really like this design!
Hey replace the white paper with the thing in sid broken cood lights /\/\/\/\/\/\/\\/\/\/\/\/\/\ - plastic """""""""""""""""""" - white stuff /\/\/\/\//\/\\//\/\/\/\/\/ -plastic tada
 What?
piemaster895 years ago
I think tracing paper would work just as well if not better since it's more translucent.
kariswg15 years ago
I did this a couple of years ago, but had my brother do all of the cutting and routing. I tried to buy white plexiglass but couldn't locate any so I taped tracing paper onto the back side of the clear plexi. I found a clamp type lamp to use on the underside of the board. Like minds think alike......
bluefly12155 years ago
Good choice of light source. I made a portable one in 1996 my sister won't give it back. i should make a new one. The only tools I had to use were hand tools, not the easiest when the saw was a kids saw. Guess you use what you have. Very nice, I like the table you found!
feltonite5 years ago
You can also sand the plastic with fine grit sand paper.
obdan5 years ago
White spray paint does the trick much faster and more effectively
You can also buy a spray especially for frosting glass/plastic/acrylic that has many fascinating applications.
When I was a kid, I would just put the papers up to the television screen or a window...seemed to work okay and it was free.
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