Lightboard Coffee Table and Art Display




Introduction: Lightboard Coffee Table and Art Display

About: I'm a man of many hats. I'm an undergrad researcher, amateur carpenter, creator, and tinkerer. My main focus is material science and nanotechnology but I'm just a big nerd. I like to make things and share my p…

This project had a lot of "Winging It" involved. I am immensely happy with how it turned out but several things went sideways, which you will see. I'll tell you how I did it and then tell you how to make it better and easier than I did.

This project does use UV LEDs so it's best not to stare directly into them. Have the same caution when using this that you would using a blacklight. I don't plan on sitting directly over it or even leaving it on for significant periods of time.

It was also designed to be built by a college student with only access to a car and a maker space. So all the lumber fit into my car and the tools were all found at my local maker space or I had the same tools at my home such as the drills.

Step 1: Skills and Equipment Needed

Skills and equipment
CNC and CAD experience(Fusion 360)



Hand Router


Soldering Iron and Basic wiring ability

Pocket Hole Jig

Table saw and sled

If using the arduino



Jumper wires

Step 2: Supplies

    Here's the supplies I used. You can use this list or more preferably, use the modification at the end.

    The Easier Method

    Replace the Arduino, Relay, Breadboard, and Momentary pushbutton switch with a simple latching switch.

    I bought a button switch without realizing that it was a momentary switch. So I had to use the Arduino and relay to control when power was on. Save yourself the trouble, buy a latching button switch.

    Step 3: Wood and Dimensions for Cuts

    You'll need to cut the boards as followed

    From the first sheet of particle board you'll cut

    • 1 24x38 inch sheet, this will be the base
    • 2 4.5x 24 inch planks

    From the second sheet of particle board

    • 2 4.5x36.75 inch planks
    • 2 4.5x22.75 inch planks(Inside Dividers)

    From the third you cut the legs from(Use all of the tabs, you can never have enough)

    From the pine you'll need

    • 2 8.5x17inch planks
    • 2 4.5x23inch planks
    • 4 4.5x8.5inch planks

    Step 4: The Box

    I used glue and nails to make the box, then used hand chisels to inlay the hinges.

    You'll want to put the dividers inside at this point as well, they should be about 19-20 inches apart. I added mine after painting.

    Step 5: Build the Legs

    After designing the legs in Fusion 360, I cut them out and used the dowel rods to keep them in line and add a little flair.

    Step 6: Attach the Legs to the Base

    You're probably wondering why those holes with bearings in them are there. Well, it's because an earlier design allowed the legs to move and change the height of the table.

    I used wood glue and nails to mount the legs, then removed the bearings, leaving the holes. I kind of like the look of it.

    After you make the legs appropriately spaced then use a saw to cut off the excess.

    Step 7: The Pine Top

    I made pocket holes in the wood then glued and screwed them together.

    I measured the dimensions of the outlet and CNC'ed it out.

    Step 8: Hold Thy Chisel Close and Thy Router at a Safe Distance

    I used a hand chisel to cut an 1/2 inch wide and 1/8 inch deep shelf on the pine top, this lets the plexiglass sit flush with the surface.

    I also used a hand router to round the edges out.

    Step 9: Paint and Stain

    3 coats of black semi-gloss paint on the body

    1 coat stain on pine top

    3 coats of polyurethane

    Step 10: The Electronics

    Measure the inside of the box and cut the LED strip to length. I used the end with the power jack so I didn't have to solder anything.

    I glued the strip around the top of the box, hidden under the overhanging. This keeps the lights(Directly) out of your eyes. The LEDs don't need to be in direct line of sight with the panel to illuminate it. The UV photons simply bounce around the inside of the box and out through the top. This is why I didn't need to use edge illumination.

    If you learned from my mistake then you'll have bought the latching switch and you'll just need to wire it with the power source and the UV strip.

    Otherwise you'll need to wire in a relay, the Arduino, and a lot of wires. It looks rough, I implore you, buy the latching switch.

    For the extension cord, the hinge between the box and top left a small gap which let me slide the cord through it. So no more drilling hopefully.

    Step 11: The (Semi)Final Product

    This coffee table gave me a lot of issues but I'm thoroughly happy with it.

    I call this the semifinal product because I left a lot of room to modify it at a later date. I'll eventually replace the then plexiglass with either thicker plexi or solid glass. Probably glass, I'll either buy tempered glass or normal glass to chemically treat it myself. I'll make the shelf deeper as well.

    I'm going to swap out the momentary switch and Arduino with a latching switch.

    Finally, I'm going to make art for it. I used one of my early Cowboy Bebop engravings as an example. Anything in the future would be either UV ink or phosphorescent paint like bags of powder I have in the pictures.

    Step 12: Strange's Tips for Not Screwing Up.

    Pic 1:Shows two holes, I made the hole for the button too close to the power outlet so I had to make a second hole at the bottom. Lesson 1, Always model or measure faceplates before drilling holes.

    Pic 2: I didn't have enough tabs on the leg and it came loose on the cnc, you can see how far it got before breaking free. Lesson 2, Particle board has no grain orientation, if you need tabs, use A LOT of them.

    Pic 3: Instead of being smart and using a sled for crosscuts, I had it kickback at me. Luckily, I have a strong grip. Lesson 3, Always use the sled for cross cuts, don't be dumb.

    Pic 4: And finally, pick the right hardware. I used a momentary switch and had to use software to compensate. It has wires everywhere and looks rough. Lesson 4, do proper research on your hardware before buying it.

    Pic 5: The wiring for the Arduino. Lesson 5, If you mess up, don't give up. There's a thousand ways to solve a problem, if you're clever, you can still solve it. Like using software to compensate for hardware.

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      Tip 3 years ago on Step 12

      You could also add a mirror facing up to the ground and use some mirroring "sun-blocker" foil on the underside of the plexiglass. You can get the foil for about 20 bucks in a local store (here: Lidl). It then mirrors the LED strip a thousand times and you get a nice 3d effect with the lights. If you want. :)


      Reply 3 years ago

      You.....I like the way you think.... I'll remember it if I make a variant version later.


      Question 3 years ago

      You mention "chemically treating" the glass on your next build, but you don't say anything about treating the plexi in this one. Did you do something to it, or does it just provide a surface for day-glo markers? Is that what you use to draw on this?


      Answer 3 years ago

      Oh good question, I didn't do anything to the plexiglass, it's just normal uv resistant plexiglass. I used neon dry erase markers, more or less the same as the day-glow markers. Over time the plexiglass should degrade so it will need replacing, which is why I mentioned using glass. The reason I was going to treat the glass was to make it more shatter resistant, I'd buy and cut my own glass then chemically temper it, but that's a project for another day.


      3 years ago

      That looks cool mate.
      Going to have to get myself an arduino and learn the basics of electronics


      Reply 3 years ago

      Don't do it, once you start you'll never stop. First you'll be programming the Arduino then next thing you know you'll be building a giant robot to fight bears, lions, or lawyers. Really though, do it, it's a great skill, push yourself.