Light-Activated Display Cabinet





Introduction: Light-Activated Display Cabinet

About: I'm a senior at Harvey Mudd in Claremont California. This past summer I worked at Make Magazine. I love working out and eating well, and I enjoy concocting healthy recipes for not-so-healthy dishes (though u...

I made this cabinet for an english class as a final project. It's based off of a sculpture called "Birth of a Jalapeño", made by a latino artist, which our english teacher showed us in class one day. The original sculpture was a box with a mirrored top, and a pair of forceps resting on the top with a wooden jalapeño in the jaws. It was supposed to be very metaphorical and everything, symbolizing stereotypes and self image and many other english-teacher-ish ideas. The whole time in class that day, all I could think about was how I would make my own, because the actual structure of the box was intriguing to me. So, I naturally jumped to this idea when our teacher assign an 'open' final project.

Like I said, my cabinet is based off of the sculpture, but it also has some other interesting aspects. Mine is wall-mounted, has a door and a shelf inside, and has imbedded electronics which control the one-way mirror. The idea is: you put an object in the box which symbolizes your true identity, and an object in the 'forceps' (mine are actually salad tongs) which symbolizes what other people see you as. When the light level is high in the environment (like, the room that the cabinet is hanging in), the glass pane acts like a mirror. However, when you turn the lights down in the room, the light sensor in the cabinet triggers a MOSFET which turns small lights on inside the box, turning the mirror into see-through glass, and letting you see the object inside the cabinet. 

The metaphorical implications are endless, and so it was not only fun to build, but also got me a great final grade in the class because my english teacher loved it. 

The cabinet and door frame are 4/4 walnut, and the veneer inside is elm burl. I finished the entire thing with danish oil.

The build time was about a week, working in the evenings after school. The cost for all the materials was probably a little under 100 dollars (walnut ain't cheap).

Step 1: Design

First I designed the cabinet in sketch up. (any graphics geeks out there will get the object references).
The small switch on the side will choose between 3 light settings: off, on, and 'light activated'. 
The cavity in the back will hold the electronics and battery pack.

Step 2: Cabinet Construction

Step 3: The Electronics

Step 4: Finishing

Step 5: The Door

Step 6: Try It Out!

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    9 Discussions

    I admire people with great hand skills - your cabinet looks beautiful. Great job!
    BTW that's the 4 legged IC in your schematics? (Comparator?)

    1 reply

    thanks! yeah its an op-amp that I'm using as a comparator. I just updated the schematic so hopefully it's easier to follow now

    This is a great project, I'd like to do the exact same thing with an Ikea wardrobe with frosted glass doors. I also want to light a stairwell this way, so that lights installed under the lip of the tread activate when the stairwell is dark.

    This is a gorgeous project. I can't access your smaller note boxes inside the schematic, though.

    1 reply

    I just fixed that, thanks for pointing it out.
    Also, there should be a better schematic on the way soon...

    Nice job!

    I built a box and trim to fit between the 2x6's in my wall. I was going to make it into a typical glass-front shadow-box. But, now that I've seen your work, I'm going to convert it into a 2-stage shadow-box by incorporating your design.