LED Tilt Light Box




About: Well, I feel like I am a pretty regular guy... I work in the Entertainment industry. I love to create things, and build things so this site is one of my regular places :) I also enjoy going out doors, play...
This instructable will show you how to make a simple circuit board with a mercury switch (tilt switch) and LEDs, and then a little wooden box with a window to put it in.

Step 1: Parts Needed, and Where I Got Them

Alright so here is the list of materials that are needed for this project, everything can be found at local stores but online is cheaper...

Wooden Box (found at Micheal's arts and crafts)

Project board (I bought at www.besthongkong.com, also at Fry's Electronics)

LEDs (I bought at www.besthongkong.com, also at Fry's Electronics)

Resistors for my project I used 150 ohm resistors, but whichever kind you need for your LEDs, how I have found out is by going to http://led.linear1.org/led.wiz which is a LED calculator, you plug in your information and it tells you the array and what resistors to use. (I bought at www.besthongkong.com, also at Fry's Electronics)

Mercury Switch (found at Fry's Electronics, but I am sure Radio shack has them too)

9V Battery plug (found at Fry's Electronics, but I am sure Radio shack has them too)

9V Battery (found just about everywhere)

Fogged hard plastic (Home depot, Lowe's)

Step 2: Making the Wooden Box

First you need to decide the size of window you want, I just ended up going half inch in on all sides, in this part you can get as creative as you want, you can cut different size holes, maybe in quarters so there is four windows, however you want to do it....

So I marked my cuts with a pencil then used a drill and drilled some holes big enough to fit my little saw blade into. I have a hack saw blade that I used for this, but if you have a jig saw it would be much faster. So just cut out the shape you want on the front of the box, once cut out, don't forget to do a little sanding to make sure everything is looks good!

After the hole is cut out, measure the inside of the box and then mark the dimensions on the Fogged hard plastic. Then proceed to cut out the Plastic so a nice square will fit right into the top of the box. To attache the piece of plastic I used double sided tape, but you can used glue or whatever you choose.

Step 3: Making the Circuit Board

Alright so here we go with the solder of the circuit board. It is kind of hard to explain in words so I took pictures and made a diagram of how the circuit works... Some things to know before starting the soldering.

Make sure not to solder the LEDs really close to the board, you do need room to bend them outward, if you don't bend them outward then you will get big spots, and not a nice defused light.

Do the same thing with the Mercury switch, you will need to bend that so it will turn on and off at the angles you want them to.

With the Resistors I DID solder them so they were on the board, you don't want those to get in the way or break off, so keep those nice and clean.

On the underside of the circuit board you can see I just laid rows of solder instead of adding wire to connect each component, it doesn't matter how you want to do it, I chose this way because it looks nice and clean when it is all done.

Step 4: Installing the Circuit Board

Alright so the last step, putting the circuit board and the battery into the box. This part is nothing fancy, for mounting the circuit board all I did was use some electrical tape and fold it into a loop with the sticky side out and and placed two of those loops on the back of the board and stuck it into the box. As far as the battery, I just used double sided tape and stuck it against the wall... my original idea was to actually mount the board with some screws so it is suspended a little of the wood, but I just didn't have the time to finish that part :)

Step 5: Finally DONE!!

Alright so now it all works! When it is standing up the LEDs should be on, and when you lay them on their backs they should turn off, please let me know if you have any questions, and please if you make one of these or a variation of them let me know, and or show off a picture of them! Thank you for taking a look, and I hope this explained it good enough!



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    118 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    oh my god, I have this project on my notebook for a year ... and I never realized ... how about applying this concept ... the cube? Put a cube with 5 internal cardboard for 5 different color (the sixth side to switch it off) depending on whose side you will support it a different color ...

    2 replies

    Reply 11 months ago

    but this type of til swithes doesn't work like this it is possible but not like you think :)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    heh, weird.
    I've been planning to do that exact thing for quite a few months now but never taken the time.
    I was thinking about making the cube out of clear acrylic and putting white paper on the inside.
    I was gonna use pretty bright LED's (one or two for each color turned toward each side of the cube) and use ping pong balls cut in half to try to disperse the light evenly over the interior surface. 


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I had an idea to do multiple colors with separate switches so that rotating the box 90 degrees would have the effect of changing the color (I see a few others have mentioned that on the comments here).

    My original thought was to use 3 tilt sensors in a triangular orientation so that two will always be off...however, when I actually did a drawing with the box around the triangle, I can't seem to come up with an orientation where one of the switches doesn't end up horizontal. It's my understanding that the horizontal tilt switch may or may not stay ON...is it possible to orient 3 tilt switches in such a way that only one of them is ever on at a time?

    1 reply

    Reply 11 months ago

    Yes it is possible and simple if you make them as triangle in triangle

    (til switches must be in the middle of the site where it sits on not in corners)

    i hope this will help someone :)


    RGB LED's are a good idea too, but depending on what look you are going for it might not be the best choice for everyone.

    Glad you liked the project enough to build one! Thanks for the comment, but in the future please try not to put people's instructables down, thank you.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Mines basically done, but I'm waiting for the 9v battery plug to get here. :) I'll be doing the same thing as you circuit-wise, but instead of a square on the top, I'm cutting out someone's name with a scroll saw. :)

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    NICE! that sounds very cool, when you finish up you should post a picture, I would love to see it!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    A couple of suggestions: 1. ALUMINUM DUCT TAPE TO REFLECT LIGHT (found at most hardware stores) - It can be used for about any LED or lighting project like this. [WARNING: THIS IS METAL AND CAN SHORT ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS! SO, INSTALL IT CAREFULLY AND INSULATE ANY WIRING TO PREVENT IT TOUCHING THE TAPE! THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IN ANY DESIGN THAT USES HIGHER VOLTAGES AND POWER. IT CAN BE A FIRE OR PERSONNEL HAZARD. I RECOMMEND USING SOMETHING LIKE SCOTCH 33+ ELECTRICAL TAPE (600 V / wrap insulating capability) TO INSULATE USUALLY EXPOSED WIRING ANYWHERE NEAR THIS TO REDUCE SHORTING POSSIBILITIES!!!] (You don't want to short out and ruin any circuit anyway) - - -  The idea is to stick the very reflective tape inside boxes like the ones used in this and other experiments behind the LEDs to get more of your light output to shine through the translucent film.  You could just get some construction paper or other non-conducting material and size it to fit the length/width of the box and stick the tape to it and put holes around the LEDs and place it between the circuit board and the LEDs (remembering to insulate the LED leads from the aluminum tape). - - - - I've used this tape in many lighting projects to increase light output and it works fine.

    2. I had this in mind before seeing Mr. Bond having the same idea - Experiment by adding more mercury switches and having arrays of various colored LEDs so once the box is upright and on, you can move the box to the other sides and the mercury switches can be setup to turn off one color and turn on another. So, you could have green when the box is on one side, move 90 degrees and it will turn red, move another 90 degrees and it can be blue, and so on.  AND, it's rather easy to break glass mercury switches and the stuff is toxic and almost impossible to clean up, so the switches that use the rolling balls is a good idea!


    I would think so. A combo of colors for LEDs and four (or what ever your needs are) mercury switches, each in a different operational position. Turn the box, the currently on mercury switch shuts off and another turns on. You could do a 16-sided box with mercury switches for each side.


    I think that would work, but it wouldn't be a smooth fade because the light turn on and off instantaneously. Still sounds fun to try. :)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You can add a capacitor in parallel with the LED and the sinking resistor. That should give you some fade.


    I was thinking of each mercury switch/LED having its own circuit, sharing the power switch and power source. If you have a lot of sides (especially if fully 3D like a dodecahedron), then multiple lights might be on, depending on how the switches are aligned and the position you put the box in. 20-sided light-box dice, anyone??