Introduction: Wooden Shadow Box Nightlight

My wife, who works 24 hour shifts in a fire station, wanted a nightlight to add a little ambiance to her sleeping quarters. I found some really great shadow boxes here on Instructables, but I wanted something a little more durable. So I made one out of 1/8" plywood. The majority of the light was made of hacked parts and stuff I had laying around.



1/8" plywood

veneer wood

LED strip lighting


12v power supply cord


Heat-shrink tubing

Wood Glue

Hot Glue


Laser engraver/cutter

Soldering Iron


wire cutter/stripper

Step 1: Choose an Image

I wanted a mountain scene so I did a Google search for "mountain scene silhouette", and came across the four bears. The word silhouette will give you the best type of images for this project. I know it's someone else's work, but we are going to make it our own by tracing everything and making some changes.

Step 2: Layers and Tracing

I used Google draw to trace my images that you see above. I did however, encounter some struggles when I transferred the images to my laser software, which is Corel Draw. I ended up redoing most of it using Corel to ease my pain.

That being said, it can be done with any software that will allow you to trace the shapes. Here are the basic steps for whatever you use

  1. Size the drawing canvas to what ever size you want. I chose 7 inches as my long side and used a Golden Ration Calculator to find the short side of 4.3
  2. Import the image and center on the page.
  3. Figure out how many layers you want and what features will go on each layer.
  4. Make a boarder layer with 1/4" on all sides, group them and duplicate as many as you need. This will also serve as the spacer between layers.
  5. Choose a closed line tool like polyline or curve. Polyline worked best for the sharp angles in my design. Trace the shape starting on the inner line of the boarded all the way around what you want to cut our and back to where you started to make a closed shape. Once you have a closed shape change the fill color to transparent. This will be your cut line.
  6. Anything you want to engrave, like the dark side of the mountains, will need to be a closed traced shape, with black fill.
  7. Ungroup the two boarder lines, then group the outer board with all the traced shapes, then slide the traces off the original image.
  8. Repeat with each layer.

Step 3: Cutting and Engraving

If you use Google Draw you will need to download each layer as a PDF. What ever software you use you will need to change all lines that need to be cut into cut lines and remove any unwanted/needed lines. This not an Instructable on using a laser so I am not going to get into that.

Step 4: The Moon

I don't know about you but this was my favorite thing about this project. I found an image of the moon, engraved it onto a piece of veneer wood, and cut it out. I cut two more disks with slightly smaller diameter and glued them to the back side of the moon to elevate it slightly off the back panel.

Step 5: Wiring Lights and Switch

I used two strips of 12v LED. One between the back panel and the mountains, and one between the mountains and the first layer of trees. My LED strip has adhesive tape, but I added a little hot glue to hold in place. Be sure to leave enough room for the spacer when gluing on the LED strip. I also used heat shrink tubing on all solder connections.

Step 6: Putting It Together

I did my wiring and glued the back, a spacer, and the mountain layer first and let it dry. I didn't think to make a jig to keep them straight and the first three were not so pretty. So for the rest of the layers, I used and old trashed box to create even edges. I put a layer of plastic wrap between the box and the shadow box. Still didn't get all layers perfect but it was way better. Don't forget to add a spacer layer between each layer of background.

Step 7: Trim and Finishing

I used a belt sander to even the sides. Then I used veneer wood to trim the outside edges. I finished the box with a couple coats of Tung Oil.

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