Introduction: Wall Mounted Light Box

Build a 27 3/4" x 23 3/8" exterior (22 1/2" x 18" illuminated area) wall mounted light box... I worked at a print shop a long time ago and pulled some negatives of a bat out of the garbage one day. That was about ten years ago. I finally got around to building light boxes to display the images. But you could use the same box to display any number of different things, including drawings on rice paper, negatives, inkjet prints on mylar... pretty much anything that light goes through, you know.

Step 1: Get the Materials

i made three of these, but you could make four with a little extra hardware.

4x8 sheet of 9/16" chipboard - $11
4x8 sheet of 1/8" clear plexiglass - $53
4x8 sheet of 1/8" masonite - $11
three 24" "preheat" fluorescent bulb holder thingies - $9.50 each
three 24" fluorescent tubes - $4 each
three power cords with no ends - $6 each
three switches - i used cool looking push button ones - $3.80 each
three packs of hook closer thingies(eye hooks with little arms) (3 per pack) - $1 each pack
four packs of 1" hinges (three per pack) - $1.75 per pack
three packs of 1/4" weather stipping (17') - $1.87 per pack
two foam brushes - $0.75 each
three 1x2x8' pine boards - $3.40 each
one tube of construction adhesive - $2.30
three sheets of rice paper (i didn't look at the size) - $2.50 each
two packs of 50' picture hanger gear (two sets of eye hooks and hangers plus wire in each pack) - $2.25 each
three bags of 1" corner braces (three per bag) - $1.75 per bag
adhesive felt pads - $3.28

total - $195.04

that's a lot of dough! but it really makes pretty much four lightboxes of this size. you'd just need a few more hinges and whatnot. there's enough of the big stuff (plex, masonite, chip board) for four.

Step 2: Cut Strips for the Box and Face

Cut nine 4.5" x 48" strips from the 4'x8' sheet of chip board for the top, bottom and sides of the boxes and six 2 5/8" x 48" strips for the face.

To get good, straight cuts from the sheet, I clamp down a straight pine plank to use as a fence. The blade on my circular saw is 3 3/4" from the left edge of the blade's metal housing. I add 3 3/4" to all of my measurements for the placement of the fence and cut away. This helps me get straight, consistant cuts without a table saw. Thanks, Justin!

Step 3: Cut Box and Face Strips to Length

I used a 10" chop saw to cut these strips to the correct length.

From the 4 1/2" strips, cut six 27 1/2" pieces and six 23 3/8" pieces.

From the 2 5/8" strips, cut six 18" pieces and six 27 3/4" pieces.

Step 4: Router the Ends of the Box Strips

i'm not sure why i do this. i think it looks nice, i guess. and it helps to keep the whole thing square during the building process. it may take away from the overall strength of the box. skip this step of you don't have access to a router, but be warned that it will throw off all of the measurement that i'm providing. but you didn't really want to build a light box the exact same size as mine, right?

i routed a chunk about 5/16" tall and 1/2" deep from the 23 3/8" side panels of the box.

from the top and the bottom strips, i routed a chunk about 1/16" tall and 1/2" deep.

but measuring router stuff is pretty much impossible in my opinion and it always seems like a crap shoot. this is what my edges ended up looking like. your milage may vary, but keep in mind again that the amount of your router effects all of the measurements on this bad boy.

Step 5: Sand the Edges

this is an idea time to sand the edges on the box pieces. i just smoothed them out a bit and eased the edges slightly.

Step 6: Assemble the Box

i marked all of my side pieceswith a line 3/8" in from the edge. i marked that line 1" in on each side. these are my screw marks. the finished piece looks nicer when all of the screws are in the same spot.

i predrilled these marks with a tiny drill bit so that i had a starting point. then i set the box pieces on edge, lined the corners up tight and predrilled again into the "receiving" piece. i'm sure that there's a better way to explain this. hopefully the pictures help. once i had a hole drilled, i'd drive a screw in. i would only predrill and screw one hole at a time to make sure that the joint was tight.

once you go through that process a few times, you'll end up with the box frames!

Step 7: Add a Back

measure your box and cut some masonite slightly smaller. i think i went 1/4" smaller in both dimensions, making the masonite piece 1/8" smaller than the frame exterior all around. same cutting technique here as with cutting the chipboard strips.

before i screwed my masonite on, i ran a strip of weather seal all around the back. this will prevent light from leaking out of the back edges and distracting from the beauty of whatever you stick in the front of this thing.

the masonite back is going to give your box strength and shape. make sure that your box is square before you put in too many screws. to make sure the box is square, measure from corner to corner in both directions. if the measurement is not the same, your box isn't square!

Step 8: Assemble the Face

i'm using the pine 1x2 as an interior frame to give the face strength and to hold the whole thing together.

i cut six pieces to 21 3/4" and six pieces to 23 1/4" with the chop saw.

next, i marked my 2 5/8" face strips with lines showing me where the pine strips should go. i placed my pine strips 3/8" from the interior of the frame.

i centered the 21 3/4" pine piece lenght-wise on the 18" piece of chip board along the lines i just marked and put a screw on each end to hold it in place. then i butted a 27 3/4" piece under the pine strip, held it tight and added a scew. i repeated this process on the other side and all around, really. again, hopefully the photos will make more sense than my explaination. point being that it's this pine frame that's going to give strength and stability to the face of youe box. again, measure it to make sure it's square before you add too many screws.

you should sand this now too.

Step 9: Seal It

i put a few coats of polycrylic satin finish on mine. apply. wait. apply. wait.

think about things that are important to you between coats. like how little your job means to the world or the real value of a good beer. i'm a pabst guy, myself. but good beer cannot be underestimated.

me - i thought about girls.

Step 10: Cut and Install the Plex

take a measurement from the interior of your pine frame. you'll want to cut two pieces of plex slightly smaller than this size. if you're making multiple light boxes, make sure to label your frames and plex pieces, because they're all going to be slightly different and it will really piss you off when you go to put them in and they don't fit.

peel the paper off of one of the sides of one of the pieces of the plex.

put a bead of construction adhesive inside the frame and press the exposed plex into the interior frame. put some weight on it of need be. make sure it sits tight against the front.

Step 11: Assemble Your Light Strips

put together your light strips according the the really horrible directions that they provide you with. it's not rocket science, but hopefully yours will come with slightly better instructions than the totally nonsensical diagrams that came with mine.

get one of your cool boxes, a cord, your switch and your light strip together for assembly!

Step 12: Mount the Switch

determine where you want your switch. i'm using a funny push button switch.

i mounted mine 3" from the bottom of the box. i drilled a hole slightly larger then the "collar" around the switch into the side of the box. but, as you can see, the switch isn't long enough to go all the way through the box. so i took my 1 1/4" spade bit and bored the hole out on the inside of the box. you've got to be pretty careful when doing this, because you're going to be super pissed if you go all the way through the side of your box. i left about 1/8" of material.

the "body" of the switch fit perfectly into the bored out hole. i put the collar on the outside nice and tight.

Step 13: Mount the Light Strip, Insert the Cord and Do the Electrical

i honestly don't know anything about electricity. most of what i learned came from the "mad scientist light" instructable and a little pep talk from my old man. so maybe you should consult somebody on this step before preceeding.

i screwed my light strip centered onto the bottom of the box and drilled a hole to the left of it for the cord.

i put a few wire bundles around the power cord to make sure it wouldn't slip out of its hole and tear apart the rest of the electrical connections.

i connected the white wire from the power cord to the white wire from the light strip.

i connected the balck wire from the power cord to one of the wires from the switch. i connected the other wire from the switch to the black wire from the light strip.

i put wire bundles on the pairs (i think i was just having fun with wire bundles at this point) and little caps on the connections.

one i thought i did it right, i put a bulb in, plugged the plug into a power strip and fired it up. it worked. i felt like a king.

Step 14: Attach the Face to the Box

i used four 1" hinges to attach the face of the box to the frame.

this was harder than it looks. you've got to make sure that everything's good and even so that the face closes evenly on the box. if the gap us uneven between the box and the face, the face is going to hang crooked on the box. and that will make your box look lame. and you don't want that.

Step 15: Attach the Hooks for Keeping the Box Closed

i used three eye hook closure thingies to keep my boxes shut, but they're a myriad of options that you could use. these seemed secure enough, cheap and easy to operate and install.

i used three per box.

after i put these in, i put weather stripping inside the front face of the box to prevent light leaks.

Step 16: Mount the Back Piece of Plex

i sandwiched my negative and some rice paper between two pieces of plex inside the frame. but i needed something to hold the second piece of plex tightly that was also easily removable in case i decided that bats give me nightmares or something.

i used 1" corner braces to accomplish this.

i measured difference from the top of the plex to the top of the pine board. i marked that measurement onto the corner brace, put it in a vice and trimmed the brace with a hacksaw. i then screwed these modified braces onto the pine frame, holding both pieces of plex tightly against the front of the frame.

Step 17: Create a Reflector

without something to reflect the light forward, your box is going to only be bright at the bottom. i used aluminum foil for this task.

to attach the foil to the box, i found a strip of scrap masonite and loosely screwed it toward the front of the top of the box, making sure there was a gap between the strip and the box top.

i then inserted aluminum foil into the gap and tightened the screws. this held the foil to the top of the box without trying to tape it to the chipboard.

i pulled the foil down and tucked it behind the light, using tape to hold it to the masonite back.

Step 18: Attach Hanging Wire and Felt Feet

get some heavy duty hanging wire and string it up to the back. put some little felt feet on the bottom too to protect your wall from this thing scratching it.

Step 19: Enjoy

remember that beer you contemplated in step nine? now would be a good time to enjoy it!

you can't really see it in these photos, but i used a nice cool blue bulb, which really adds a nice light to the room. it's almost like a natural light, really. it the boxes are too bright, you can add more rice paper between the sheets of plex or add something inside the box nearer to the bulb to diffuse the light more.

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