Introduction: LED World Map From Wood

Three years ago I got a wood router for Christmas. This was the beginning of my favorite project today.

I wanted to create a nice modern looking world map, made from wood with a fancy LED backlight that looks good at night and day. I saw a project like this one before but there was no instructable for it only the final product, ready to buy. I remember it being pretty expensive, so I decided to give it a shot myself and build this map for an affordable price.

You don't need much if you already own the proper tools (like the router :D) and a lot of time...

A list of the needed components is written below.


  • Plywood board for the background (120cm x 80cm, but can be larger or smaller)
  • Plywood for the continents (same size as background if possible)
  • A strip of LEDs (1-3m, depends on your plywood)
  • Wallpaper in wood optics
  • Spray adhesive or paste
  • White paint for the continents


  • Drill
  • Router
  • Stapler
  • Projector
  • Sandpaper

Step 1: Crayon the Continents

For the first step, you need to find a proper template for your map. I made one for you to download, but since I couldn't find my original version from earlier, it's without the Antarctic :(

To get all the outlines from the continents on the plywood, I had to either become a pretty good artist or get a visual representation of the map at some larger size onto the wood. To get this done I asked a friend of mine to help me out with his projector, so we can throw the image of the world on the wood. With this help, you can outline the continents as I did in the picture.

As soon as you're done, you can proceed with the next step:

Step 2: Cut the Continents

Now begins the fun part. With the router, you can route your way around the shores of the world in a matter of seconds. Jokes aside, with my router and my Plywood I had to cut every line twice since my router wasn't strong enough to get through the wood in one step. If I tried, it began to smoke and stink and the edges began to roast and got black.

I could have gone with a different thickness of the wood, but I wanted it to be at least 1cm for the look.

So after hours of routing and a lot of dust - You should wear Safety Glasses and a dust mask - I had 5 pieces of nicely looking wood.

After some sanding, You can apply some paint. I went with white paint, which gave the wood a glossy look, but I had to paint at least 3 times until the paint looked great.

So it's time for the background!

Step 3: Build the Background

I wanted to give the Map a nice contrast after painting the continents white, so I decided that I will give the background a darker look with wallpaper. I went to my local hardware store and bought a wallpaper with a dark wood look.

That way the whole project is way cheaper than buying real wood with this darkness, like oak or walnut. And even after three years, I am surprised how stunningly real this wallpaper looks AND feels.

So I wrapped the Plywood in wallpaper and glued it with spray adhesive, which might not be the best choice since up-to-date the wallpaper is getting loose at some points. I also don't know, why I didn't use wallpaper paste primarily... At least the invented that stuff for a reason.

In the end, I also stapled the edges of the wallpaper at the backside of the plywood so it covers the sides of the plywood and doesn't get loose.

It's time to Join!

Step 4: Light It Up!

By now you should have:

  • 5 pieces of colored continents


  • 1 large background covered in wallpaper

To join these parts together I took the Plywood with the cut-outs in it and put it over the background. This way I exactly knew where to put the continents and Spacers.

The Spacers are necessary to fix the LED strips on them and attach the continents with a distance from the background. To connect the separate LED strips, I drilled a hole with a Forstner drill inside the background, where I led the strips to the next continent.

I drilled the spacers from the front onto the background and drilled extra holes through the spacers and the background. With these holes, I could fasten the continents from the background with a slightly larger screw. This screw should have the length of the thickness of the back plywood board + the thickness of the spacers + about half of the thickness of the continents. This way you don't see the screw from the front.

After connecting the strips and attaching all the continents, you're done with your world!

Step 5: Changing Colors

Maps Challenge

Participated in the
Maps Challenge