Introduction: Lightbox Shelves
Anyone who likes to showcase their glass pieces or other lustrous decorations knows that they deserve good lighting, which can be hard to achieve in some houses. If you have the garage or workshop space to build them, these lightbox shelves will light up anything you put in them!
This project is meant to implement systems thinking: builders will utilize their understanding of manufacturing with wood and wood tools as well as an understanding of electronics with LED lights.
To make this project, you will need:
Skilsaw or table saw
Power drill with bit set
2 sheets (2'x4') 1/4" plywood
3 boards of 0.75"x8"x8' pine wood
Wood screws (1.5" long)
Strip LED strip lights with power supply
Paint or other wood finish (optional)
Step 1: Cutting the Boards (Sides)
You will need to cut a total of 5 sections from your 8” pine boards. We will start with the sides.
Measure out 2 sections of your pine board, each one 47 ¼” long. Mark a line with your squaring tool at 47 ¼” to cut along with your saw.
*Tip: It helps to label your pieces so you know what to keep and what to toss.
Step 2: Marking the Boards (Center Support)
Next comes the center support for the shelves. It is shorter than the sides because it will not touch the floor (see the final product). Measure out 1 section of your pine board that is 43 7/8” long. Mark a line on your board with your squaring tool to cut along with your saw.
Step 3: Marking the Boards (Top)
For your top piece, measure out a section of pine board that is 32” long. Mark a line at 32” with your squaring tool to cut along with your saw.
Step 4: Marking the Boards (Bottom)
For your top piece, measure out a section of pine board that is 30 1/2” long. Mark a line at 30 1/2” with your squaring tool to cut along with your saw.
*Note: I noticed the board I was cutting my bottom piece from had some unsightly cracks. Nothing to worry about, I just flipped the board over so they wouldn't be seen.
Step 5: Marking the Boards (Shelves)
Mark out 2 sections of pine board, each one 14 7/8" long. It is a weird number, but it will make sense when it comes time to assemble. Mark a line using your squaring tool to cut along with your saw.
Step 6: Marking the Boards (Plywood Back)
You should have 2 sheets of 2'x4' plywood, 1/4" thick.
Using your squaring tool, draw lines so you can cut them down to 16"x45"
Step 7: Cutting
Before you cut your board sections, take the time to place painter’s tape along each of the lines you drew, and make sure it is on the side of the line you are saving. Taping will protect your piece from splintering as you cut it.
Make sure to secure your board to your table with a clamp, and it may help to cushion the clamp with something to avoid marking your wood. I used a folded paper towel.
Carefully cut along your taped lines with your saw. When you’re done, you should have 5 pieces of pine board. You may remove the tape.
Step 8: Marking and Drilling Holes (Sides)
To join these boards together and build the frame of your Lightbox Shelves, you need to pre-drill some holes for screws. Screwing the wood together without pre-drilling holes can drive the wood apart from the inside, causing splintering and warping.
For the sides, designate one end to be the top and one end to be the bottom of each side. The top end faces will have 2 holes drilled in them for screws.
On the top face of each side, drill 2 holes, each 2" inches from edge.
On Side Piece 1, mark a line 18" down from the top using your squaring tool. Along this line, drill 2 holes, each 2" inward from the edge.
On Side Piece 2, mark a line 18" up from the bottom using your squaring tool. Along this line, drill 2 holes, each 2" inward from the edge.
On the bottom end of each side piece: measure 3" up the board from the bottom and mark it with a line using your squaring tool. Along this line, drill another two holes, each 2" from the edge.
*Tip: If you don't know what size bit to use when pre-drilling, hold the bit up to the screws you are using. If you can see the threads poking out from behind the bit, it is the correct size. If you see nothing of the screw behind the bit, the bit is too big and the screws will not have enough grip.
Step 9: Marking and Drilling Holes (Top)
Your top piece will have a total of 6 holes drilled into it: 2 securing it to each side, and 2 securing it to the center support.
On either end where the top piece will join to the side pieces, measure 3/8" inward from the ends and mark a line across the board using your squaring tool. Also draw a center line at 16". Along each line, mark and drill 2 holes, each 2" from the edge.
Note: The marking in the photo says 1 5/8", which is a mistake. It should say 2".
Step 10: Marking and Drilling Holes (Bottom)
On your 30 1/2" long bottom piece, draw a centerline that bisects the board just as you did with your top piece previously. Along this line, mark and drill 2 holes, each 2" from the edge. On both end faces, mark and drill two holes, also 2" from the edge.
Step 11: Marking and Drilling Holes (Center Support)
Your center support will be very similar to your side pieces.
Mark and drill 2 holes on both end faces, each 2 inches inward from the edge of the board.
On the side face of the center support, mark a line using your squaring tool that is 18" from the top. Mark another line that is 18" from the bottom. On each of these lines, drill two holes, each 2" inward from the edge.
Note: In the photo, the marking for the top left hole is only 1" from the edge. It should be 2" from the edge, as should the other 3.
Step 12: Assembly (Bottom and Center)
First, secure the bottom piece to the center support. The center holes of the bottom piece correspond to the holes on the bottom end of the center support.
If you are having trouble connecting the two pieces, it helps to drill the screws into your first piece until they poke out the back a little, then lining it up to the second piece.
Step 13: Assembly (Sides)
Add the sides to the assembly you just made. The holes on each side piece that are 3" up from their bottom end correspond to the holes on each end face of the bottom piece.
Step 14: Assembly (Top)
Secure the top piece to the side pieces, but for now, do not secure the top piece to the center support. The center support needs to be loose so you can fit in your shelves.
Step 15: Assembly (Shelves)
One by one, secure your shelves to the assembly. Depending on how you chose your side pieces, one shelf will sit 18" down from the top, and one shelf will sit 18" up from the bottom (as shown).
Once your shelves are secured to the sides and the center support, you may drill in the top screws to secure the top piece to the center support.
Step 16: Nailing the Back
Take both pieces of your 1/4" plywood, which you have cut to 4'x32", and line them up to the back of your shelf frame. They should meet along the center line (as shown) and the seem should rest on the center support.
With your detailing/paneling nails, nail the plywood to the back of the frame, taking care to hammer them directly into the frame so that they do not poke out the other side.
Step 17: Stringing the LED Lights
Drill a hole into the plywood back that is close to the bottom shelf. Feed the wire through it from behind (as shown).
Also drill a hole towards the top of your shelf assembly through the plywood back. Do this for both halves of the shelf assembly.
Run the LED lights up from the bottom hole, behind the shelf (between the shelf and the plywood), and out the top hole of half 1. Thread the LED lights into the second top hole - this time on half 2 - down and behind the shelf (between the shelf and the plywood back) and down to the bottom of the shelf assembly. All sections of your Lightbox Shelf assembly should contain LED string lights, and the power supply should hang out the back of the bottom hole (as shown).
Step 18: Light It Up!
Fill the LED power supply with batteries, or plug it into an outlet depending on which kind you have, and watch it glow!