Introduction: LED and Pallet Wood Panel

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For my cousin birthday party I decided to build a wood panel with her name on it with a LED backlight. It would be a nice touch to decorate the room and it could be used as background to take pictures during the party.

The overall size of the panel is about 120 x 45 cm (47 x 18 inches), and I made it so it can be reused by changing the letters.


  • Pallet wood
  • Wood glue
  • Black paint
  • Spray varnish
  • 5m LED strip

Step 1: Taking Apart Some Pallets

No surprise for the first step, if I want to build the panel, I will need raw materiel and therefore to collect wood from several pallet. Everyone has his technique, mine is to use a hammer and a crowbar to take apart long planks without damaging the wood. The long planks will be needed to build the back panel as well as the frame where the LED strip will be fixed.

Once it is done, I'm selecting the best wood which will be used for the lettering and the rest will make the part that will either be painted or hidden.

Step 2: Gluing Planks to Make Panels

I set up my planks to make panels and glue them together with wood glue and clamps. In total I made three panels, two are for the letters ( 20-cm large) and the third is for the background (28-cm large). On the background panel, I apply wood filler where the nails were and in the cracks I had between some planks.

Once the glue has dried, the panels need some heavy sanding : 80 or 50 grit depending on the initial state of the wood. Then I move to thinner grit on the sander and went up to 120 so the wood is still a bit rough but has a nice aspect. There is no need to sand more the wood as it will be either painted or varnished and it is not supposed to be touched.

Step 3: Cutting the Letters

Here is the step that will take the more time, but on which you have to take time if you want a good finish aspect.

My hand drawing talents are not enough to get a good lettering by drawing the letter directly on wood so I printed them on A4 sheets of paper that I glued on the wood. No need to print twice the same letter, I will use one as a template for he next ones.

Pallet wood is easy to cut using a jigsaw, I'm also using a band saw which is more powerful and makes me gain some time on cutting the external shape of the letters. For the inside shape, there is no other option for me than using the jigsaw. I drill several holes inside the letter and use them as starting points for the jigsaw blade.

After cutting, I sand again the edges of the letters that could splinter otherwise. The last step to finish the letters is to apply several coats of clear varnish to protect the wood over time.

Step 4: Building the Support

This support is pretty basic, it could be a simple back panel fixed on the wall, but to integrate the LED strip I needed an offset from the wall.

The dimension of the black back panel is calculated to hang every letters with a 1 cm spacing between letters so its dimensions may vary depending on what you want to write. I designed the panel with the letters being only half on it for two reasons : the first is aesthetic, I found it prettier that way ; and the second one is that it reduce the size of the back panel hence the weight of the whole structure.

After sanding the back panel, I painted it in black, mainly to create a contrast with the light letters. Then I added four wood pieces behind the back panel on which the LED strip will be glued. Those planks are offset from the edge of the panel so the LED strip won't be directly visible.

Step 5: Installing the LED Strip and the Fixation System

Before installing the LED strip , I drilled two holes for the power cable and for the IR sensor. I thought about making it battery powered but the plug was easily accessible so it is not necessary for now.

I stuck the 5m of LED strip using the adhesive on the back of the strip, and I reinforced it using some hot glue on several location. I started from the hole where the power cable goes in and circle around the "box" to make as many turns as possible.

And finally, as a hanging system, I'm using a French cleat by cutting a plank with a 45° angle. One part is screwed on the wall and the other part is on the back of the structure, that way the weight is well distributed on the wall.

The letters are hot glued on the black panel, I used a piece of scrap wood to set the letter at the same height. The hot glue is enough so the letters won't fall and if I want to change them, I just have to heat it up to remove a letter.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Party

The LED panel is now done, I can light it up and change the colour to match the theme of the party.

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