Turn an old picture frame into an illuminated message center!
In this Instructable, I'll walk you through how I made a light-up message board to leave notes or artwork on.
For more DIY crafty recycling, check out my blog at Ecoprojecteer.net
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Step 1: Tools and Materials
- 8x10" Picture Frame ($1 from the thrift store)
- Rustoleum brand Frosted Glass specialty spray paint
- Cardboard Box
- White Tagboard
- Tape, clear and electrical
- Recycled/Repurposed 12V LED Light Bar
- 12V DC Power Supply
- 2 half-inch wood screws
- Scissors & Knife
- Wire Strippers
- Pen or Marker
- Tape Measure or Ruler
- Phillips Screwdriver
Step 2: Frosting the Glass
To start with, flip the picture frame over.
Bend back the small metal tabs that hold the backer in place.
Remove the backer, print, and glass.
Save the print and backer to use for other projects. We won't be putting them back in the frame.
Wash the glass. It will most likely be dusty or have finger-prints on it. For the next step, the glass will have to be clean. Wash the glass in a sink, being extra careful, as glass is slippery when wet. Dry thoroughly.
Apply Rustoleum Frosted Glass (or similar product of another brand) spray onto one side of the glass, following the product directions. It applies quickly. One or two coats is plenty for this project.
Allow spray to fully dry.
Once it's dry, put it back in the frame with the sprayed side facing the back. Bend the metal clips to hold the glass in place.
You can now draw on the FRONT (non-sprayed) side of the glass with a dry erase marker.
You can get a sense of the finished project simply by holding the frame up in front of a light.
Step 3: Building the Box
The next step is to build a simple box for the back of the frame.
The light will shine onto curved white tagboard inside that box.
To get a sense of that, just curve a piece of tagboard, and pop it into the back of the frame, letting the spring shape of it hold it in place. If you look through the front, you will see a blurred version of the white tagboard.
Rather than get complicated making a box from scratch, I simply cut off the corner of an existing cardboard box that was going out for recycling anyways. The frame is 8x10", and the box happened to be 10" high. So, I measured an 8" diagonal, and cut that corner from the box.
I set the triangular box inside the frame to make sure everything lined up right, and the placed the LED light bar at one end. I then traced the light, and cut out that part so that the light will shine into the box.
Next, I placed tagboard inside the box and taped it in position so that it made a nice curve. I cut a triangle-shaped piece of tagboard for end of the box, and taped that in place as well, with clear tape.
I then had a triangular box, with a curved white inside, which would fit inside the 8x10 frame.
Step 4: Lighting
The light bar has a metal mounting bracket. I needed to mount the light and wire it up to a power supply.
First, I put the light in position, and marked the screw locations with an awl. I then moved the light, and pushed the awl in firmly to start holes for both screws. Alternatively, I could have drilled pilot holes with a very small drill-bit.
I put the light back in place and drove the two half-inch wood screws in place with the Phillips screwdriver.
The mounting bracket allows for swiveling the light. It is angled to shine on the white background BEHIND the glass, not on the glass itself. This gives a nice, even backlighting for the written messages.
Wire up the light to the power supply. The red wire goes to the + and the black wire goes to the -. I simply stripped a bit off the end of each wire, twisted the appropriate wires together, and covered with electrical tape. Using shrink wrap could make it look even nicer.
I did not install a switch on this project because I intend to use the light-up frame plugged into a switched outlet.
Step 5: Put It All Together
At this point, the cardboard box simply has to friction fit inside the frame.
The light illuminates the white interior of the box, for an even backlight effect.
This frame did NOT include a backer with a stand. Instead, the cardboard box also acts as a stand for the frame.
Stand the frame up, plug in the power supply, and dim the lights.
Step 6: Write Your Message!
The fun part is leaving messages!
It could be a note to your roommate or a romantic message to your wife, perhaps even a note to yourself!
The frame is bright enough to make a pretty powerful nightlight or to simply attract attention to itself at typical lighting levels.
You can use colored dry erase markers as well. When back-lit, they seem to turn brighter and more pastel-like. For example, red looks more magenta.
One of the best parts of this project is that you can use any frame you would like! Maybe you already have a frame you want to repurpose or have a set of frames so that your message lamp matches!
Easy variations on this project would be to make it battery-powered or to use color-changing LEDs!
Have fun when you make one, and be sure to post photos of yours!