The Easy Light Up, Animated Table. No Electronics Skills Needed!




Introduction: The Easy Light Up, Animated Table. No Electronics Skills Needed!

It is easy and super cool to make. Yeah, Yeah, I know that there are some other Instructables out there on how to build a light up table, but this one is different. The table is based off of mrgalleta's Instructable, but you don't have to have any electronics skills to build it.

Like I was, you are probably thinking, "Wow, those tables are so cool, but how am I ever going to be able to build one? I don't know how to work with micro controllers, IC's, and other complicated electronics" That is why I decided to build this table.

First off, I have no micro controller programming skills, so the table needed to look cool while still having the ability to do some animations. Second, I am very lazy and impatient, and did not want to spend a whole day soldering a hundred individual led's to a bunch of wires. Third, this project needed to be a relatively quick project that i could work on while i was at home during a break from college. Finally, as I am in college, and the table needed to be cheap.

Here is the finished project with the "random" animation feature turned on:

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Step 1: Supplies

Without these, there is no table.

The brain - 100 led Christmas light string with nine function controller (make sure that it has the controller, otherwise you would be out of luck on the non-technical reason for building the project. I got this strand from Deal Extreme led Christmas lights. $9.30

The innards - 3/16 inch thick foam board (the kind with shiny poster board on both sides with foam in the middle). I got mine at a Hobby Lobby.

The top:
Clear 1/4 in thick Plexiglas
3 plastic diffuser sheets (also from Hobby Lobby)

Table frame:
4x3/4 inch piece of wood for the top frame
2x2 wood for the legs of the table
A dark oil-based wood stain
Wood screws

Table saw for cutting grooves in the wood
Band saw for cutting the strips of foam board
Chop saw for cutting the legs and part of the sides
Cordless drill for drilling the holes for the LEDs
  Biscuit Joiner for cutting holes for the joining biscuits

Joining Biscuits
  3/8Inch drill bit
Hot glue gun
Hot glue
Box cutter
Straight edge
Safety glasses

For the optional step:
Soldering iron
Extra Wire
120v rated Switch

Step 2: The Lines, They're Everywhere!

Be warned, this is probably the most tedious and boring step in this project! Mostly because it is repeating the same thing over, and over again until the board that you have is filled with a bunch of lines.

First, on the long part of the board, draw a tick every 1.5 inches followed by another tick 3/16 inches from that line, and repeat until you end up with ten lines.

Next, on the short side of the board, draw lines going across every 2 inches until you get to the bottom of the board.

Finally, draw a dash every inch inside the skinny 3/16 inch lines all they way down. This is the line to which you will be cutting slots in each piece.

Do the same on the second piece of foam board, but only draw four or five strips. The one or two extras may come in handy later on.

On the bottom of the second half, draw a square that is 17 1/4 x 17 1/4. This will be used for the base that the LEDs go in.

Step 3: Ooh, Power Tools!

So, after you have played some video games. watched some television, it is time to start using power tools! Calm down, keep your cool. I know that they are power tools and you are excited about using them, but remember that they are not toys, and can do some really bad damage.

The first thing you need to do is take a guide and set it two inches from the blade of the band saw. Make sure that the guide is straight and not off at an angle otherwise your strips will come out thick at one end, and thin at the other. You don't want this happening because you will have to draw new ones on a new piece of board and no one wants to have to do that twice.

Next, cut the grooves out that you had drawn before. Cut out the 3/16 inch wide lines down to the one inch mark that you drew in the last part of the second step. Use a box cutter or razor to cut the bottom of the tab out. Once you are finished, you should have a stack of 18 evenly cut strips, each with nine evenly spaced grooves.

Now it is time to put the grid together. Slide the strips you just cut into the grooves with 9 strips horizontal, and 9 vertical.

Step 4: Holey Crap!

This is a crucial step. If the holes that you are about to drill are not lined up good, your table will have circles in the top from the LEDs.

First, draw lines 1/4 of an inch from each side, this leaves room for the base to slide into the wood. Mark a dot 3/4 inches from one of the lines you just drew and 3/4 inches down from the line next to the previous line, and then every 1 1/2 inches across 3/4 inches down from the lines you just drew until you reach the other side. There should be ten evenly space dots. Move down 1 1/2 inches and repeat what you just did. Continue to do this until you get to the bottom. Once you are finished, you should have 100 evenly spaced dots spanning across the entire square of foam board.

Now you get to drill through each hole using the cordless drill and the 3/8 inch bit. Be careful not to drill through your finger. Especially since when you are drilling through the top of the board, you cannot see the bottom of it. Drill bits through your finger bleed all over everything, you would have to go to the hospital, and this would turn out to not be a cheap project.

Step 5: It's Hot and It's Glue. I Wonder What Could It Be?

This is the step where you can be creative! Arrange the string of lights however you like on the foam board. After many combination, i settled on running the lights up on side, moving over a row, and going back down. This created a cool, easy wavy pattern.

After you have the lights laid out like you want them, hot glue them so that the tip of the light is barely sticking out of the foam board. Since the yellow lights are probably going to be dimmer than the reds, blues, and greens, glue them with most of the LED sticking out of the foam board.

Step 6: Judo Chop

Now it is time to chop up all of the wood you bought.

First, we will start with the legs. Take your four 2x2s and mark them at 17 inches. Take your chop saw and without it turned on, bring the blade down and line the edge of the blade with the line. Turn the saw on, and making sure no body parts are close to the blade and the piece of wood secured, saw through it. After you have cut all four pieces in this fashion, you might want to line up all of the ends on the saw and shave off a small bit of the other end of all of the pieces at the same time to ensure an even length to the legs.

Now it is time to move on to the rest of the frame. Take your 4x3/4 inch board and draw a line at 18 1/4 inches. Then draw another line 18 3/8 inches from the first (the extra 1/8 is to account for the width of the blade) and the same distance two more times to end up with four sections to be cut. You may be asking why is the second line further away from the first than the first is from the end. Well, you have to account for the width of the blade in the saw in your next cut to the first piece is not longer than the rest. After you have drawn all of the lines, follow the same cutting process as with the legs and cut the board into the four sides of the table.

Tired of cutting wood yet? well, too bad, it's time for some final cuts. Take each of the wide boards you just cut and mark lines at 45 degree angles at each side of the board. Make sure you mark the lines so the boards look like a long trapezoid ( /____\ ) and not a parallelogram ( /___/ ). Believe me, If you get this wrong, and cut the board wrong, you will not be a happy camper. Turn the saw to a 45 degree angle and secure this position to the arm of the saw can't swing back and fourth to throw off the angle. Using the same procedure as before, cut the corners off of the wood again, checking to make sure the finished boards look like trapezoids.

Step 7: Get in the Groove...

Remember the table saw that was mentioned in the first step? It's time to put it to use.

Take the adjustable dato blade, and set it to 1/4 inch dato, and make sure the top of the blade is 1/4 an inch from the top of the table. Adjust the guide so it is 5 1/4 inches from the closest edge of the saw blade. Measure both ends of the guide and make sure they are the same distance from the blade, otherwise you grooves will not be parallel to the bottom of the board. Turn the saw on and send all four boards through the saw, so each board has a 1/4 inch groove in the same place on each board. Adjust the guide to it is 3 1/4 inches from the closest side of the blade. Run the boards through again, making a second groove in each of the four boards.

Now,set your guide 1 and 3/4 inches from the edge of the blade when the top of the blade is the closest to the guide. Run your boards through for the third and final cut.

Step 8: Blade II

More sawing? You betcha!

Set the same dato blade as before so that at it's highest point, it is 1 inch from the top of the table. Adjust the guide so that it is 1 1/2 inches from the blade, again making sure both ends are the same distance from the blade. Run the four 2x2s across the blade on one side, and then run them through again on an adjacent side to cut a groove out of two sides.

After the grooves have been made on each leg, remove the guide. Run the leg through the same blade, except this time shifting the leg a little so the blade cuts more out towards the shorter end. Keep on running the leg through and shifting until you have taken out all of the wood from the original groove to the end. Flip the leg to the other side you cut the groove on and apply the same technique as the first, removing all of the wood until you reach the short end.

Once you have finished with both sides, if you look lengthwise from the end you just removed the wood from, you should see a 1x1 inch square sticking up 1 1/2 inches from the end with a width of 1 inch on two sides of it.

Step 9: Biscuits (hold the Gravy)!

You may be fixing to use biscuits, but you shouldn't eat them (unless you want to eat glue and wood)!

If you don't have a biscuit joiner, you can just nail the sides of the table together and skip this step, and the gluing of the next step. In nailing the sides together instead of using the biscuits, then you will need to fill in the holes created from the nails with wood filler before staining.

Using a biscuit joiner, scoop out a hole a little larger and the radius (of the skinny side) making sure you do not cut through the other side of the board. To do this, set the correct depth of your hole, place the biscuit joiner against the side of the board, with the blade perpendicular to the angled face on each side of the board making sure each hole is the same distance from each side on every board so they will all fit together easily.

Step 10: I'm Glued to You (or the Other Boards)

Now it is time to glue the main frame of the table together!

Start by squirting wood glue into one of the pits you just cut for the biscuits. Insert a biscuit, and then put glue in a pit in another board and slide it onto the other end of the biscuit you just inserted into the other board, making sure the three grooves you cut in each board line up. Clamp these two boards together making sure they form a 90 degree angle. This is easier to achieve if you are able to clamp  them with a Quick-Grip (tm) or similar devise with a corner attachment. Let the glue set.

Do the same to the other side of one of the boards you just connected, and join with a third board. Again, make sure the grooves are lined up. After the glue has dried, slide each of the craft board panels you cut earlier into the grooves, making sure the board without the lights is on the bottom groove you cut earlier (the second groove from the bottom. Then, slide the board, with the lights facing towards the third groove (the one on the very edge) into the middle groove. The wires connecting the LEDs should be in the middle of the board "sandwich."

If you would like to do the "Advanced Electronics" option (step 16), do it now. Otherwise, forget you just read that and keep on chugging.

Finally, apply glue and biscuits to the final board, sealing in the lights, and completing the box. Make sure that the cord to the lights is hanging outside so you can actually plug your table in. There is no use having a light up table if it cannot receive power and light up!

After the glue dries, make sure the corners of the table are flush. If they aren't, gently tap the edges of the boards towards the corner with a hammer. Doing this will force the corners together, providing an almost seamless effect.

Step 11: The Four Legged Creature

More glue?! Of course!

Now, It is time to attach the legs to the body of the table. Take the wood glue and apply a hearty amount to the part where you cut out the wood. Clamp the leg to a corner (of the bottom) of the box you just glued with the 1x1 square in the inside of the corner and the outer sides flush with the outside of the box you just glued and let dry. To make sure the leg is straight when the glue sets, tape two squares, one on each side of the leg to ensure it is sitting at a 90 degree angle.

After the glue sets, preform the same operation as before to the other three legs. If you want to secure the legs even more (which I recommend), use screws through the legs into the outer portion of the table to secure the legs. When using the screws, make sure they are short enough so they don't pierce the outside of the table.

Step 12: Fill 'er Up...

Are there gaps between your legs and the table? Have no fear, wood filler is here!

No, seriously, if there are gaps between the legs and the table, you can fill them with wood filler . Filling the gaps will make them a lot less noticeable when you are staining the table. The same filler can also be used if you still have gaps in the edges of your table for the same effect.

Step 13: Nothing Gets This Stain Out!

Now, it is time to stain your table (just don't stain your clothes)!

In order to stain your table, you will need a sponge brush, stain, Polyurethane, and something to wipe away the stain with (an old t-shirt works great for this). To stain the table, apply one layer to one side at a time, wiping the excess stain away. The longer you leave the stain on before you wipe it off, the deeper the colour will stain.

After the stain has dried, coat the whole table in several (3-4) coats of the Polyurethane to give the table extra protection and water resistance allowing each coat to dry before applying the next coat.

If you desire the bottom of the table to be a different colour than the colour of your foam board, spray paint to your desired colour. When you do this, make sure you seal off the rest of the table with newspaper and painters tape so you don't mess up the awesome stain you just let finish dry!

Step 14: All Taped Up!

You are almost there!

To make the finished table look cleaner, you can tape the top of the grid of foam board. After you insert the grid inside of the table, on top of the LEDs, you can use white electrical tape to clean up the edges and top. To do this, lay the tape along the grid, cutting it at the corners and folding down the sides of the grid creating a smooth surface on the top of the grid. If you have light bleeding through any corners of the sides of the grid, you can also tape those up.

Step 15: Finish Him!!!

You made it! Just a little further!

Place the three plastic diffuser sheets cut to 17 1/4 x 17 1/4 inches on top of the grid you just layed down. Then, place the Plexiglas (or real glass) cut to the same dimensions as the diffuser sheets on top of the sheets.

Now, you just have to plug in your table and enjoy! Congratulations!!! You just made a light up table with 0 electronic skills used!

If you want, you can continue on for some electrical enhancements to your table if you feel brave enough to do so!

Step 16: Advanced Electronics (optional)

Here you will improve your table by modifying your control board.

***CAUTION: Never work on electronics with a power supply connected, the risk of electrical shock can cause serious injury or even death!!***

To do this, you only need a 120v rated switch, extra wire, and of course a soldering gun with solder. You will probably want to upgrade the wires going to the wall outlet since the ones with the lights are very thin.

First, desolder the push-button switch on the board (making sure you mark the leads) and the main wall cable. Next, cut two holes in the bottom of your bottom board: one hole for the push-button, and another hole for the on/off switch. Insert both switches into each of their respective holes.

Next, solder one lead of the new (or old if you kept it) outlet wire to one of the original pads for the outlet cable on the board. Solder the other wire to one side of the on/off switch. Solder another wire to the other side of the switch and to the other pad on the board. Then, take more wire and solder the leads of the push-button switch to their corresponding pads on the main board.

Cover all of the connections thoroughly in hot glue to ensure they do not pull off or out of place, stuff the box between the two foam layers, and proceed with the rest of step 10.

Now you have the table without the ugly white box, and an on/off switch so you can leave the table plugged in all the time!

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    39 Discussions

    Because its plexiglass does that mean I can kick it over and use it as a shield?


    Reply 4 years ago

    Yes that is exactly what you should use it for


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I've seen the table and now I've gotten to see the instructable. Nice job, now I'm going to do my best to outdo you.


    6 years ago on Step 5

    This structable Sucks! Way to not go into the most important part... lights!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just picked up a frosted glass top table at garage sale (yard sale,if your an American) for $5, start project tomorrow.
    Where can I get the foam for mounting the leds into (Sydney,Australia) or can anyone suggest an alternative ?
    Would heat be an issue ?
    Great instructable,easy to follow, Im inspired !


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just a question about the lights from Deal Extreme. If you switch them to one mode and them unplug them from the wall and them plug them back in later will they be in the same mode? Or just stay off until you hit the button again. I want to order a similar set from DX. but only if they will work when connected to a timer.

    Excellent instructable! I love that it's something I could make without Josh's help.


    9 years ago on Step 15

    i want to build something like this years ago, and i have forgotten about it untill now, but i was wondering sinde i doubt that i can find those diffuser sheets can i put white plexiglas instead of diffuser sheets and clear plexi??


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    You can buy 'opal' plexiglas / perspex, then you would not need a separate diffuser sheet.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    yellowcatt is right, you could use opal Plexiglas instead of the diffuser sheets, you would get soft edges on your LED boxes. I personally like the boxes to have a hard edge, and that is what the thin diffuser sheets allow you to do. If you use the opal Plexiglas, each box will have edges that fade out creating more of a blend between boxes instead of the sharp lines.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for the replays guys, i will try to find that opal plexiglass....


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The opal plexiglas/perspex is available in different grades offering various degrees of diffusion, it should not be too much problem to track down, it is used by sign makers in some illuminated signs. Another idea would be to use 'frosted' plexiglas/perspex.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This is totally mind-blowing and it will be even more so when I challenge my nemesis to a game of chess on a table like thissss, mwah-ha-ha!! 8x8 though, with a null border. What a brilliant idea!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Love it already looking forward to build a coffe or couch table with your idea for the lights. this is really awsome and i like your instructions i hope im gone be able to put something like this together in here.

    Awsome idea thanks Andy!