My wife and I gave my Mom a glass sculpture for Christmas. When my Mom opened it my brother piped up with "RadBear (well he actually said my name) could build you a light box!". He said this because as someone who collects glass I've built a couple of light boxes to display my collection.
However, since I'm not a carpenter some of my light boxes aren't pretty and since this is for Mom it has to look good. So I decided to reuse a wooden box I picked up in a thrift store as the basis for the project. This way Mom won't feel obligated to keep a piece of crap in her very nice home.
Step 1: Materials
This is what I made my light box out of:
* A wooden box with a hinged lid
* 1 piece of glass
* 1 piece of mirror (not pictured)
* 1 piece of cardboard
* 1 white LED
* 1 AAA battery holder
* 1 switch
* 2 Philips head screws
* Scrap wood (I used a chopstick)
* Metal duct repair tape
* E-6000 (or your favorite permanent adhesive)
I plan to use frosted glass spray paint to help diffuse the light, however with the current weather conditions this will have to wait a few months.
The mirror is not pictured as it was added after I finished the project. My wife suggested this addition and it is yet another reason why she is a kick ass human being.
Step 2: Tools
Here's the tools I used:
* Cordless Drill w/ 1/4" drill bit
* Hand drill w/ 1/16" drill bit
* Small flat file
* Small Philips head screwdriver
* Bench vise
* Hand Saw
* Soldering Iron
* Utility knife
* Tape measure
* Paper towel (or cleaning rag)
Step 3: Measure
Measure the the inside of the box to determine how large a piece of glass you'll need. Then measure the inside of the lid to determine what size of mirror you'll need. Then take your measurements to the hardware store and they will cut your glass and mirror for you.
While you've got your tape measure out measure your switch so you will know how large a hole you'll need for the switch. We'll talk about this in the next step.
Step 4: Switch Installation
Now we need to make a hole for the switch. Hold the switch up to the edge of the box to make sure it is long enough to pass through the box. Take this opportunity to make sure the hole or switch won't hit the hinges.
Mark where you want the switch to be on the box. Then use a bit that is slightly wider than the switch to drill a rough hole in the box (in my case it was a 1/4" bit). I had to drill three consecutive holes in order to have enough space for the switch to travel. Then use a file to clean up the hole.
With the hole finished off, center the switch in the hole and mark one end for a screw to hold the switch in place. Once the screw position is marked make a pilot hole for the screw on the mark. I used a precision hand drill with a 1/16" inch bit. Then secure the end of the switch with a a screw. Make sure the switch is still centered in the hole, and then repeat this process for the other side of the switch.
Step 5: Glass Supports
With the switch in place it is time to make the infrastructure that will support the glass. Figure out how tall you want your supports . Be sure to factor in the thickness of the glass panel that will support the sculpture. I chose a height of 1 1/4".
I marked 1 1/4" lengths on the chopstick then secured it in my bench vise and cut the chopstick with a hand saw. Once the rough cuts were made I used my file to clean up the supports. I then glued a support into each corner of the box.
Step 6: Tape the Inside of the Box
Once the glue has dried cover the interior of the box with the metal duct repair tape. This will help reflect the light. I just eyeballed the length and used scissors to cut the tape, Be sure to keep the tape below the level of the supports so the tape won't be visible when the box is finished.
Step 7: Wiring the Box
Now that the structural modifications to the box are complete it is time to install the light source. First choose a location for the battery holder. I settled on a location near the switch and test fit the holder. Once I knew it would fit I trimmed off a large section of the negative wire of the battery holder. I then stripped the insulation from the ends of the wires attached to the battery holder. I also stripped the insulation from both ends of the section of wire I cut from the holder.
I'm a very poor at soldering and don't do it often so I don't have alligator clips or a helping hands rig lying about. To keep the wires in place on the LED leads I wrapped the wires around the appropriate leads (positive to positive, negative to negative) and then used a drop of hot glue to hold them in place. Once the glue cooled I applied flux and then soldered the connections.
Next I hot glued the battery holder near the switch (without the batteries in it) and then soldered the negative lead on the LED and the negative wire on the battery holder to the connections on the switch. I followed the soldering process above except I didn't use hot glue to hold the wires in place. The switch connections had little holes in them that I used to wrap the wires around the connections to hold them in place.
Once the solder cooled I placed the LED in the approximate center of the box and then secured it in place with a whole bunch of hot glue.
Step 8: Cardboard Insert
With my first light box I just let the light flood up around the piece and all that light actually made it hard to see the piece and detracted from it. My Dad suggested that I use a piece of cardboard to block the light so it would only shine through the piece. And it worked so well that I've used this technique on many subsequent light boxes.
To make the insert I laid the piece of glass on a thin piece of cardboard. I then traced around it and used it as a cutting guide for my utility knife to ensure I cut the piece as exactly as possible. I then coated the side that will face down into the box with metal duct repair tape. The idea being the photons will be reflected down into the box and then be reflected a second time and up through the piece.
Once taped mark the center of cardboard. I then used a compass to draw a circle that is the same size as the base of the demonstration piece. If your piece isn't round use the base of it as a template to trace around. This will ensure that light only shines through the piece. After you've got the outline drawn cut through the cardboard and tape using a sharp utility knife.
Place the cardboard insert on the support and then put the glass panel in place. Check to see if your piece and the hole align properly.
Step 9: Mirror
Now verify that the mirror fits inside the lid of the box. Once you confirmed this smear E-6000 on the back of the mirror and press it into the lid. Allow the glue to dry over night.
Once the glue has dried clean the mirror and glass with Windex and papertowels. Clean the sculpture with Windex and place it in position. Turn down the lights and then flip on the light box and enjoy!