Step 1: Get the Materials
4x8 sheet of 9/16" chipboard - $11
4x8 sheet of 1/8" clear plexiglass - $53
4x8 sheet of 1/8" masonite - $11
three 24" "preheat" fluorescent bulb holder thingies - $9.50 each
three 24" fluorescent tubes - $4 each
three power cords with no ends - $6 each
three switches - i used cool looking push button ones - $3.80 each
three packs of hook closer thingies(eye hooks with little arms) (3 per pack) - $1 each pack
four packs of 1" hinges (three per pack) - $1.75 per pack
three packs of 1/4" weather stipping (17') - $1.87 per pack
two foam brushes - $0.75 each
three 1x2x8' pine boards - $3.40 each
one tube of construction adhesive - $2.30
three sheets of rice paper (i didn't look at the size) - $2.50 each
two packs of 50' picture hanger gear (two sets of eye hooks and hangers plus wire in each pack) - $2.25 each
three bags of 1" corner braces (three per bag) - $1.75 per bag
adhesive felt pads - $3.28
total - $195.04
that's a lot of dough! but it really makes pretty much four lightboxes of this size. you'd just need a few more hinges and whatnot. there's enough of the big stuff (plex, masonite, chip board) for four.
Step 2: Cut Strips for the Box and Face
To get good, straight cuts from the sheet, I clamp down a straight pine plank to use as a fence. The blade on my circular saw is 3 3/4" from the left edge of the blade's metal housing. I add 3 3/4" to all of my measurements for the placement of the fence and cut away. This helps me get straight, consistant cuts without a table saw. Thanks, Justin!
Step 3: Cut Box and Face Strips to Length
From the 4 1/2" strips, cut six 27 1/2" pieces and six 23 3/8" pieces.
From the 2 5/8" strips, cut six 18" pieces and six 27 3/4" pieces.
Step 4: Router the Ends of the Box Strips
i routed a chunk about 5/16" tall and 1/2" deep from the 23 3/8" side panels of the box.
from the top and the bottom strips, i routed a chunk about 1/16" tall and 1/2" deep.
but measuring router stuff is pretty much impossible in my opinion and it always seems like a crap shoot. this is what my edges ended up looking like. your milage may vary, but keep in mind again that the amount of your router effects all of the measurements on this bad boy.
Step 5: Sand the Edges
Step 6: Assemble the Box
i predrilled these marks with a tiny drill bit so that i had a starting point. then i set the box pieces on edge, lined the corners up tight and predrilled again into the "receiving" piece. i'm sure that there's a better way to explain this. hopefully the pictures help. once i had a hole drilled, i'd drive a screw in. i would only predrill and screw one hole at a time to make sure that the joint was tight.
once you go through that process a few times, you'll end up with the box frames!
Step 7: Add a Back
before i screwed my masonite on, i ran a strip of weather seal all around the back. this will prevent light from leaking out of the back edges and distracting from the beauty of whatever you stick in the front of this thing.
the masonite back is going to give your box strength and shape. make sure that your box is square before you put in too many screws. to make sure the box is square, measure from corner to corner in both directions. if the measurement is not the same, your box isn't square!
Step 8: Assemble the Face
i cut six pieces to 21 3/4" and six pieces to 23 1/4" with the chop saw.
next, i marked my 2 5/8" face strips with lines showing me where the pine strips should go. i placed my pine strips 3/8" from the interior of the frame.
i centered the 21 3/4" pine piece lenght-wise on the 18" piece of chip board along the lines i just marked and put a screw on each end to hold it in place. then i butted a 27 3/4" piece under the pine strip, held it tight and added a scew. i repeated this process on the other side and all around, really. again, hopefully the photos will make more sense than my explaination. point being that it's this pine frame that's going to give strength and stability to the face of youe box. again, measure it to make sure it's square before you add too many screws.
you should sand this now too.
Step 9: Seal It
think about things that are important to you between coats. like how little your job means to the world or the real value of a good beer. i'm a pabst guy, myself. but good beer cannot be underestimated.
me - i thought about girls.
Step 10: Cut and Install the Plex
peel the paper off of one of the sides of one of the pieces of the plex.
put a bead of construction adhesive inside the frame and press the exposed plex into the interior frame. put some weight on it of need be. make sure it sits tight against the front.
Step 11: Assemble Your Light Strips
get one of your cool boxes, a cord, your switch and your light strip together for assembly!
Step 12: Mount the Switch
i mounted mine 3" from the bottom of the box. i drilled a hole slightly larger then the "collar" around the switch into the side of the box. but, as you can see, the switch isn't long enough to go all the way through the box. so i took my 1 1/4" spade bit and bored the hole out on the inside of the box. you've got to be pretty careful when doing this, because you're going to be super pissed if you go all the way through the side of your box. i left about 1/8" of material.
the "body" of the switch fit perfectly into the bored out hole. i put the collar on the outside nice and tight.
Step 13: Mount the Light Strip, Insert the Cord and Do the Electrical
i screwed my light strip centered onto the bottom of the box and drilled a hole to the left of it for the cord.
i put a few wire bundles around the power cord to make sure it wouldn't slip out of its hole and tear apart the rest of the electrical connections.
i connected the white wire from the power cord to the white wire from the light strip.
i connected the balck wire from the power cord to one of the wires from the switch. i connected the other wire from the switch to the black wire from the light strip.
i put wire bundles on the pairs (i think i was just having fun with wire bundles at this point) and little caps on the connections.
one i thought i did it right, i put a bulb in, plugged the plug into a power strip and fired it up. it worked. i felt like a king.
Step 14: Attach the Face to the Box
this was harder than it looks. you've got to make sure that everything's good and even so that the face closes evenly on the box. if the gap us uneven between the box and the face, the face is going to hang crooked on the box. and that will make your box look lame. and you don't want that.
Step 15: Attach the Hooks for Keeping the Box Closed
i used three per box.
after i put these in, i put weather stripping inside the front face of the box to prevent light leaks.
Step 16: Mount the Back Piece of Plex
i used 1" corner braces to accomplish this.
i measured difference from the top of the plex to the top of the pine board. i marked that measurement onto the corner brace, put it in a vice and trimmed the brace with a hacksaw. i then screwed these modified braces onto the pine frame, holding both pieces of plex tightly against the front of the frame.
Step 17: Create a Reflector
to attach the foil to the box, i found a strip of scrap masonite and loosely screwed it toward the front of the top of the box, making sure there was a gap between the strip and the box top.
i then inserted aluminum foil into the gap and tightened the screws. this held the foil to the top of the box without trying to tape it to the chipboard.
i pulled the foil down and tucked it behind the light, using tape to hold it to the masonite back.
Step 18: Attach Hanging Wire and Felt Feet
Step 19: Enjoy
you can't really see it in these photos, but i used a nice cool blue bulb, which really adds a nice light to the room. it's almost like a natural light, really. it the boxes are too bright, you can add more rice paper between the sheets of plex or add something inside the box nearer to the bulb to diffuse the light more.