Intro: Color-changing Shadowbox Light
After the holidays, we ended up with an overage of unused shadowbox frames from Ikea. So, I decided to make a birthday present for my brother out of one of them.
The idea was to make a battery-powered, illuminating feature with his band's logo and name on it. This way, he could hang it up anywhere, without worrying about having to plug it in.
Step 1: Materials
The materials needed for this project include:
- Shadowbox frame (as I mentioned, Ikea has these for $8 apiece)
- Small piece of plexiglass
- Carriage bolts (4) (1 1/4" long I believe...)
- Nuts (4)
- Nylon spacers (4) (these are found in the specialty hardware at Lowes or Home Depot)
- Coin cell battery holders (2)
- Slow color-changing LEDs (4)
- 10 ohm resistor
- SPST switch
- Frosted spray paint
- Silver spray paint
- Contact paper
- Hot glue
The tools used for this project included:
- Dremel tool with router bit
- Razor and straight edge
- Soldering equipment
- Exacto knife
Step 2: Prep the Frame
Take the backing out of the frame, and decide how big a floating piece you want in it. Cut your plexiglass down to the size it will be, and dry fit it on the backing (mat board and all). Next, lay out where you'll want the bolts to be. I found it easier to just set the plexi on the four nylon spacers, and then mark their locations on the mat board.
You can now drill holes in the backing for the carriage bolts, and for the LED leads just inside each corner. Be sure to keep all layers of the backing (i.e. mat board, paper, backer board) alligned when drilling holes through them all.
The next part is tricky and frustrating. Set your plexi back over the nylon spacers, and mark where you'll drill holes for the carriage bolts. Then, CCCAAARRREEEFFFUUULLLLLLYYY drill holes in the plexi. The first time, I drilled the holes too small, and attempted to widen them with a larger drill bit. This sent 3 out of 4 corners of the plexi flying off, rendering the piece unuseable (after frosting it nonetheless... OUCH!!!) Just be sure the bit you're using is of adequate size for the carriage bolt. If it's too small, DON'T use a larger drill bit!!! You'll have to square the holes for the bolts anyways...
Drill/route a hole in the frame to accomodate the switch. If you solder leads onto the switch, you can go ahead and mount it to the frame and hot glue it on the inside.
Step 3: Wire It Up!
Start by soldering the two battery holders together, and then hot glue them to the back of the backer board.
Then, insert the LEDs into each of the four corners, and bend their leads out to either side to keep them from sliding in and out.
Since it would not be feasable to wire the LEDs in series, I wired them in parallel. Thus I wired the lead from the switch/10 ohm resistor to each of the positive leads on the LEDs. The other pole on the switch goes to the positive terminal on the battery pack. The negative terminal was then wired to each of the negative leads on the LEDs.
Once everything's wired up, test it to make sure it's working properly. This is also a good time to make any final adjustments to the angle of your LEDs before securing them. I pointed each one a little off of the nylon post diagonal from it, and aimed it slightly away from the mat board.
Step 4: The Feature
This is certainly the tricky and tedious part.
The holes on the plexi have to be squared off to accomodate the heads of the carriage bolts. The best way I found to do this was to use the Dremel tool with the 'multi-purpose' routing bit. Work a bit at each corner of each hole, and you should end up with an adequate square hole shortly. Test fit the bolt often, as it's always easier to take a bit more off than to put any back on.
Once the plexi is drilled and routed, spray both sides with the frosted spray paint. Use several coats, as the more frosted it is, the better it will diffuse the light.
On to the tedious... Print out a mirror image of whatever logo you want on the glass. Then, trace it onto your contact paper and cut it out with your exacto knife. Depending on how intricate a logo you choose, this could take a while...
Once the logo is cut out, stick it on the side of the plexi you want facing towards the back of the frame. This should look like a backwards picture of your logo. Proceed to put down several light coats of silver (or any reflective-colored) spray paint. I stress light coats here, because I ran into trouble with paint building up and running underneath my stencil. I then had to go and scrape out certain parts of the logo. This gave it a rough look which I kind of like, but could make a clean project real dirty, real quick. Another good idea (in hindsight) would be to mask off the front of the plexi, so it doesn't get any of the silver paint on it (which mine did). Let the paint dry thoroughly, and then remove the stencil. If all went well, you should have a nice logo on the backside of your plexi.
Step 5: Mount It Up!
Assemble the floating plexi onto the frame backing, and then close it up! I also put a dab of hot glue on the ends of the carriage bolts so they wouldn't scratch whatever wall they were on. Congrats, you now have your own portable mood lighting!
Find a nice place to mount it, step back, and take it all in. It's very calming, and could go good in a bedroom (nightlight), bathroom, dark hallway, or dungeon.
Thanks for checking this out! Enjoy, and have fun!