If you're like me, then we both enjoy finding ways to make things that either don't exist or are way less expensive (but equally cool!) than what you can buy from somewhere else. This Instructable will show you how to make a super striking piece of art, super clear signage, and night-time illumination--all in one!
By etching any design into mirrored acrylic and then edge lighting it, you will find the image pops out at you quite magnificently. I will show you two methods here, one without the need of any special tools, powered by a small battery. The other one can be made more elaborately with a laser engraving machine and remote controlled color-cycling LEDs you plug into a regular outlet.
Read on to see how I crafted these...
Step 1: The Materials - What to Buy & Where to Find It
Take a look at the picture below for the 5 items you'll want to buy:
1. Mirrored acrylic sheet, about 8inches square, Quantity = 2
--8 inches square, 1/8th inch thickness is what I found ($2.50 each)
--TAP plastics (they will even cut it into any shape to save you time): http://www.tapplastics.com/
--other online sources for acrylic exist, may be a little more $$ though.
2. LED flexible strip (any color you like!)
--best to get the thinest possible, or close to the thickness of your acrylic
--I found a sample that was about 18inches in length, 3/16ths inch wide, 12volt DC, $2.00
--online at: http://www.hobbypartz.com/79p-10198.html
3. small camera sized battery
--this needs to match your LED strip's voltage
--found a pack of 2 for $5 at RadioShack (model# 27A): http://www.radioshack.com/
4. a battery holder
--will need to fit the battery you buy
--also found at RadioShack, model "N", part# 270-405A, $1.20
5. plastic glue
--best to find one for acrylic specifically, some types silicone should also work
--$3 at a local hardware store
TOTAL cost = $16.20
Step 2: The Lineup -- Tools You Will Need to Use
These are the tools I used, and should be easy to find (borrow from a friend if you're missing one!) anywhere.
A. Phillips screwdriver
B. Exacto knife (or any thin sharp blade will do)
C. Wire snips (regular scissors will work, since they are very thin wires)
D. Tape Measure
E. Brain (not pictured)
ALTERNATIVELY: If you have access to a dremel type rotary tool, it will speed up the next step of engraving your acrylic.
DOUBLE-BONUS: Getting your hands on a laser engraving machine, or a CNC router will make your engraving super slick, and FAST! [see example LAST step]
Step 3: Engrave Your Artwork Onto the Acrylic
This is the best part, seeing your image come to life on the mirror! You must flip the acrylic over so the dull gray side is facing up. Don't try to engrave the clear reflective side, else you'll end up with a Ghost Image--which is a completely different type of effect (and a different Instructable, I presume).
IMPORTANT!! -- your image must be flipped (mirrored) to look correct from the front side. For Example, etching a word like "DOG" will come out backwards & confuse your poor pup.
You have several options for this step: draw something yourself with a marker; tape a black&white printout of your image onto the acrylic; send a digital image to a place that does engraving (check out Ponoko): http://www.ponoko.com/make-and-sell/design-it-yourself
Then, the fun part, grab your exacto knife or screwdriver (better yet, borrow a dremel tool!) and scratch away the lines on the back of the acrylic. I had a simple line art logo that only took me 20min. The screwdriver is good for removing large areas quickly, but not as accurate as the exacto for thin, fine curves. I'd suggest practicing a little to get your technique down before tackling a complicated image.
Wrist hurting yet? The laser engraving is sounding better & better now, isn't it?
Step 4: Cut the 2 Border Pieces
This step can be eliminated if you have your acyrlic vendor pre-cut the pieces you buy from them. I will go over the exact measurements here though, so you know what to ask for. If you want to do it yourself using a dremel / jigsaw, by all means, feel free DIY'er!
My artwork was 6inches in diameter, so I had that disc cut out, but kept the remainder. You use this piece with the big hole in it to cut out an OUTER ring that's exactly 2inches greater in diameter.
Then your 2nd piece of untouched acrylic will become your INNER ring. Craft this one by laying your artwork disc (or draw a 6inch circle with a dashed line to represent it) onto the acrylic & draw a larger circle centered around your artwork that's 1inch greater in diameter. Take away the artwork disc and then draw an inner circle that's 2inches lessor in diameter, than the prior circle you just drew. So you're left with an INNER ring that overlaps both your artwork disc, and the OUTER ring. This INNER ring hides the LED strip....which is our next step!
Step 5: Stick It All Together!
In this step, you must follow this sequence:
1. glue the OUTER ring to the INNER ring.
2. stick the LED strip inside
3. glue the artwork disc to the INNER ring.
see the pictures for specifics
Step 6: Attach the Wires to the Battery
The pictures explain it all, use your last remaining piece, the battery & holder. Glue it on somewhere it doesn't cover your artwork lines & connect the wires.
Step 7: Glow!
Flip over your creation & find a place to put it!