Inexpensive Light/Tracing Table




Introduction: Inexpensive Light/Tracing Table

I've been drawing simple tattoo designs for people off and on for a few years now. I like to keep my original drawings for obvious reasons and I've been using a scanner/printer to give out copies. So I made up my mind and made an inexpensive and attractive light table. I aimed for a lap or table top sized box, something easy to plug in, use, and stow away. I believe I've succeeded. :D

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Step 1: Choosing a Size

I wanted to build a table that could accommodate regular 8X11 sheet and larger sketch sheets. This made choosing the plexi a relatively easy choice. After I chose the 18X24" size ($8) I wasn't sure if it was going to be stiff enough to draw on(it is, just fyi) but had an idea to cut it in half, double up the panes and not trim it down, keeping it at a healthy 12X18. This also had an added benefit of being able to add tracing paper for diffusion between the panes of plexi.

To cut it I used a band saw. I cut it a little wider (a FRACTION!) so it fit snug.

Step 2: Depth

To find the depth the box needed to be, I had to wire my lamp. I used a broken power washer's cord for my electrical needs. 8.5 ft to be exact. Length is a personal preference, I just like a little room to work. I went to Menard's to find my light and decided upon a ceiling fixture around $30. I simply took the cover off and used the plate it came on rather than take the plate off.

Take wire cutters, cut power cord to desired length, strip away cover, strip away wire coating leaving 3/8" of bare wire showing, twist ends of cord wire clockwise with wire at light (white to white and black to black), twist cap on (seen here in orange) clockwise, give both wires a gentle tug to ensure security, plug in, LET THERE BE LIGHT!

From there I held the plexi over the light to find the approximate depth, table to top. I found that 5" is pretty comfortable lighting.

Step 3: Building the Box

Luckily I had 1/2' plywood laying about. I honestly would have rather used particle board but I would have had to spend more money.

I routed the edges deep enough to accommodate 2 panes of plexi for sturdiness. The picture shows the extra space I left for the second pane. Being as the router blade is round, I had to go at the corners with a chisel to square the corners. For the first time ever chiseling wood I thought I did pretty darn good.

To compensate for the lip I needed to rest the plexi on and my jointing, I added a 1/4" to the length and width. I went with a little flair and "dove-tail" jointed the walls of the box. This actually turned out better than I thought, except that I made it too wide(measure twice!!) so I wasn't able to use a second pane of plexi but will soon.

I wouldn't recommend doing it this way I just felt like a challenge. This can simply be done with screws, staples or nails, butting the ends together and slapping it together.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Now that all the hard work is done I could finish it up.

I spray painted the inside of the box and bottom panel white. The bottom panel is just a piece of 1/4" plywood cut to size.

After I painted the panel drilled small holes for only 2 of the mounting screws and attached it. I just rummaged around till I found screws that fit.

I drilled a hole in the side of the box(outside-in) to feed the wire BEFORE I painted. This way when it splintered it could easily be fixed and painted over.

Plug it in, slap the plexi on, and Voila! A super awesome and affordable light table for just under $40(price may vary per person, i had a lot of free stuff around)!

You might be able to tell from the picture but since I couldn't use the other pane of plexi I didn't have the full "frosted" effect. In my humble opinion this maybe be beneficial because adding a diffusion element lessens the amount of light the picture receives. The only diffusion on there is the protective plastic on the plexi. It may be less attractive but way more functional.

Step 5: Product in Use

A drawing I did with the trace. :)

I'm also using it as a laptop table.

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    4 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I bought frosted glass spray "paint" to use on the lower panes of my bathroom windows, thereby eliminating the need for curtains. I imagine the same thing would work to diffuse the light on this. I checked the can, and it doesn't say anything about the effect of heat on the dried surface, but with a fluorescent light that might not be an issue.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    WoW ! Rreally nice..
    congrats on the dovetail jointing!
    I made one like this but, used a milky white aryclic as the drawing top.
    I put vent holes all around top & bottom as I had a heat issue.
    White Aryclic is used in the lighted sign making business.
    most sign shops would give you a "Drop" AKA.... a scrap for asking.
    Liked it,
    Mr. Steve


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome cheap way to make a great table.  The only thing I could add is to maybe place a light diffuser film on the top. That way you wont be looking right into the bulb on small tracings, and on larger tracings, the light would be more uniform across the whole drawing. The best place Ive found to get a quality diffuser film is at a local sign shop. It has just enough "white" in it to spread the light evenly across the entire workable area without giving you "hot spots".

    Thanx for the post. and I bet youll get  a ton of replies. Nothing better than a useful, easy 'ible.

    And if you wanted to "upgrade" this, just stop by a local glass cutter.  Yould be surprised how cheap a cut piece of plate glass could be if bought straight from the supplier.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    i would use glass but i wanted to take away all shatter possibilities. thats also one main reason you wont find many glass top tables these days. (dropping, pressure, weight, etc.)

    as for the diffuser, if you noticed i did state i left room for a second plate of plexi to sandwich a large piece of tracing paper in between(cheaper and readily available). I unfortunately made the table a 1/2" too big and cant use the smaller piece but i left the plastic on the plexi which diffuses enough. the light inside is only 8" in diameter so doing a small trace isnt difficult. i dont use scraps of paper to trace even small drawings for organization reasons so this set up is best for current needs.

    the only way to eliminate hot spots with this set up is to either make it taller, which would hinder portability and weight, or a structural change i may cover in another instructable.