Introduction: Repurposed Christmas Tree Lighting, Neon (Illuminated) Paper "On Air" Light Box

About: I'm an artist, designer and high school teacher. I teach digital media and graphic design. I love to create. I love working with wood, paper, clay, pen and ink, photography, videography and beyond. There is a…

ON AIR Warning Light for Home, Studio, or Kids Room


Approximately 10" Wide 4.25" Tall 5.5" Deep

Warning Lights uses 50 x red LED Christmas lights

We have had for years now, an old set of Christmas tree lights, that were just not being used. So repurposed them for a new project in the house. This first set, we actually found at a garage sale, still in the box, though they still sell these. I recently began recording again in the house and needed a few "ON AIR" warning lights, to let my wife know when to be careful with the noise. These units are actually voice-activated, as I hooked them up to smart plugs and the smart plugs hooked up to Alexa. "Alexa, I'm recording" turns on all of the "ON AIR warning lights, in the basement office, the kitchen and living room. "Alexa, I'm done recording" turns on all of the "ON AIR warning lights.

In the first image, you see how I laid out the multiple designs required to create the warning lights, that I have now also made to say other things, using other lighting units we already had in the house. I used adobe illustrator to cut the templates of the faceplates, backplate and a separate template for the lights themselves. All of these files will be available, (should you need your own warning lights like this) on my facebook group page. They are SVG files that can be used with the Cricut Maker or similar device/plotter.

Link here:

YouTube Channel:

Step 1: Building the Frontal Faceplate for the Neon (illuminated) Sign

After the pieces have been cut out, the pieces are cut backwards, so that we can glue a piece of paper onto the back of the faceplate. This is where the light will shine onto and glow red. The layers of paper that the box is made from will hold back the light perfectly. I piece of paper is carefully glued down. The image with the pink lines shows how the glue is placed onto the back of the faceplate, making sure you glue each of the letter "islands" which is what I call the floating centers of letters such as A,Q,R,O,P,D,B,4,6,8,9,0 (depending how you write these letters and digits. The glue and paper will keep all of the elements together when you lift the faceplate from the cutting mat.

Step 2: Making the Light Holding Template

I glue 2 or 3 hole templates together. This will hold quite firmly, the LED's into place, without issue, but I then run a small bead of super glue around the lights to make sure they do not move or fall out of place, once assembled.

This unit will be placed in the middle of the box when the box is assembled.

I flip the lighting unit over and tape the wires, so they are more tightly compressed, to help save space internally.

Step 3: Measuring Best Dimensions for the Lights of the Neon Warning Light

I turn off all the lights and arrange the lighting and the faceplate, to see what would be a good distance to place the faceplate away from the LEDs. I figured that possibly 3/4 to 1inch would work well, so with that in mind I then cut strips of paper, that will become the outer shell of the Illuminated sign.

Step 4: Placing Paper Strips Around the Outside of the Box

I cut 5 or 6 strips of watercolor paper, about 5.5" wide by about 24" long (which is the length of the watercolor paper pad 18"x24" Canson 140lb watercolor) I begin wrapping the paper around the backplate, which is where the power cable will be poking out of. I place the backplate flat onto a work surface and stand the wrap around the backplate, gluing as I go with a hot glue gun. I cut off the paper at the overlap, but truly there is no need to, as all you need to do later, is to keep wrapping around and around, till the wall thickness is around 4 or 5 layers thick of paper. I then place the power extension cord through the rear slot and hole provided in the adjusted artwork on the SVG. Once assembled, this will make the ON AIR warning light very sturdy indeed. My last layer, will begin in the middle on the bottom of the unit and end at the same place. This is purely for cosmetic reason, so I have a clean outer layer that does not show any seams or joins.

For now, simply use the single wall thickness, so you can build the rest of the sign, then add more layers later.

Step 5: Carefully Add the Lighting Panel of Christmas LED's

Place the lighting unit inside the box, placing it as deep as you figured would look good for this style of sign. I pushed mine around an inch deep, evenly into the box and glue into position, using hot glue.

I then make sure I add a bead of glue to hold the wires firmly in position in the rear, so they do not rip out at any point.

Step 6: Layering the Outer Shell (Case) to Add Strength

I make sure to add enough layers, to make the lightbox very sturdy. The finished box is very strong indeed. The resulting heat from the Christmas LEDs are no hot enough to make the box too hot. I wrap the outer wraps of watercolor paper onto the light unit using Cyanoacrylate glue, which dries in about 20 seconds. This glue is quite solid and unforgiving if you mess up, so be careful with your fingers.

Personally, I love this little warning box. I've called it a neon light because it is something many can relate to, though technically it is certainly not a neon light, as it does not use gases.

Step 7:

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure