Backlit World Map Coffee Table




Introduction: Backlit World Map Coffee Table

I'd been inspired by a combination of things I'd seen online, one was a large, backlit world map, wall mounted in an office, the other was a glass top table where a stationary company had used coloured pins to "draw" a picture of a Stormtrooper from Star Wars. I decided to combine the two.

Step 1: The Parts

Not wanting spend loads of money I opted to base the table on a standard IKEA lack table, and cut the world map from a 6mm MDF sheet. The parts are listed below...IKEA Lack coffee table (£16): Off Fixings 17X27 mm (£1.99 each, I used 6) LED Outdoor Battery Fairy Lights (£9.59, 2 sets, explained later) glass table top, 6mm toughened glass, 900x550mm (to match the table top), 6 holes drilled. This cost £40 from a custom glass supplier.Dowel rods, cut into 2cm lengths (a few £ from local DY store)1 sheet of 6mm MDF (£7) handful of screws and a couple of off-cuts of wood, plus some old paint we had from a recent home project.

Step 2: The Map and Supports

I found an outline world map on the web, and printed it to the proper scale, and taped the sheets together, then glued it to the MDF sheet and used my scrollsaw to cut it out. A bit of sanding and all the continents and islands were ready for their paintjob.

I had to obviously not use some of the smaller islands, and also combine some island ranges into one piece of mdf. Still, islands like Ireland and Tasmania proved to be very small.

For the supports for each piece of MDF I started to hand-saw 2cm lengths of dowel, but very quickly realised I would get a much better and quicker result by using my bandsaw.

Step 3: Adapting the Table

I knew IKEA tables had solid corners to support the legs, but thin top and bottom pieces sandwiching a card/paper honeycomb pattern. I scored the underside of the table, then pried the bottom bit of hardboard away, then I had some assistance to remove the cardboard and leave a hollow base.

On the top side I marked the holes for the glass table top stand-offs (using the glass itself as a guide) then secured the stand-offs. When I was deciding the placement of the stand-offs, I deliberately put them in the corners, so there is good purchase from the long screws, in to the corner blocks that support the legs. For the two middle stand-offs, I glued some old scrap blocks in between the table top's thin surfaces to give it more security.

Step 4: Putting It All Together

I laid out the world map on the table top, and drew around them, then marked where I wanted the dowels to site. I glued them in and once dry, I then marked the locations of the LEDs. I originally figured I'd need about 70 lights, but got carried away adding them and when I counted them up realised I had about 160!

Luckily I had ordered 2 sets of the 100 LEDs (thinking that I'd perhaps make another table after this one). I realised therefore that I could just wire them together to give me enough bulbs.

I drilled all the holes from the top, to give the cleanest finish, and then pushed the LEDs in from underneath and secured them with my hot glue gun.

I made sure I kept testing the lights, as I did not want to get to the end to find them no longer working.

The final assembly was following the IKEA instructions to complete assembly of the legs and lower shelf, then gluing the (now painted) land masses to the dowels.

Finally, the glass was secured to the table using the chrome screw tops of the 6 stand offs.

Step 5: Review

Things I would do differently:

1. The dowels were 2 cm long, too long in this case (too easy to see some of the bulbs underneath). I would halve this next time, as this was still plenty to clear the LED bulbs.

2. I'd work out the alignment of the land masses better and not use hot glue to secure them, simply because there isn't the time/scope to re-adjust before the glue cools and goes hard enough to prevent fine adjustment.

3. I'd use fewer dowels, and even smaller (narrower) ones to avoid them being seen.

So, I hope you enjoyed the project, I certainly did, and I have plenty more ideas now for what to put under the glass.



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    15 Discussions

    Great job, thanks. However, my thought is that you could eliminate the work of fixing dowels and the map parts by sticking the map to the underside of the glass (a mirror image map attached to the top surface of the glass would define locations), and then use short glass stand-off mountings. Just a thought!

    1 reply

    Yep fair comment, however I think there would be too much chance of seeing whatever glue etc that was used to attach it. Also I wanted the flexibility to change the "subject" under the glass so I wanted the glass independent.

    Thanks for the feedback though, much appreciated.

    Wow! What a genuinely stunning project! I have an "old maps" theme in my study and will be trying to adapt your work as soon as I'm able to do so. Kudos for your 'ible, but especially for your beautiful and inspiring project!

    1 reply

    Thanks very much, it's great to see it so well received

    When I have a first look on this project I think it made out of cnc, but it wasn't. You did a really fantastic job. Seems like a carnival begin in the whole world.

    1 reply

    Thanks very much. I think a CNC would maybe have been a little easier for the tiny islands!


    Question 22 days ago

    Great project. I have a couple of questions: How did you finish the bottom of the table? Did you cover the cavity?

    Did you use corded lights? If so, where did you run the power cord to the transformer?

    Again, great project.

    4 more answers

    Hi, thanks for your comment and questions. I should have taken a picture of the underside, but I actually didn't cover or close it off, so if you turn it upside down your just see all the led cables.

    In terms of the LEDs, they are battery powered, so there is a little battery box glued under the table and a remote control to control the lights.

    I deliberately choose a battery powered LED strip to avoid having to run a wire to the mains.

    I just popped out to take a snap of the underside of the table showing the wires and battery box. Hope that helps.


    Thanks for the extra picture... So you don't get any downlight from the LEDs? That's why I assumed you added a flat cover on the underside. Perhaps you could add four or six t-nuts with stainless steel cap or acorn nuts to hold a flat cover on for easy access (

    There's no down light at all, because the whole part of the "bulb" is just proud of the top surface. If I thought there was going to be any glow underneath then yes I'd have saved the panel I cut out, and used some simple catches to fix it back on.

    Great results on this project. Nice that you added what you'd do differently as part of the Instructable.


    1 reply

    Thanks very much, yes overall I was really pleased with it, but as always I identified bits I'd have improved on, in case it helps anyone else.