One of the coolest toys I ever came across while working in child care was a light box. We let the kids use it for all sorts of activities: tracing their names in sand, looking at x-rays, sorting, color mixing, etc - it really makes almost anything more fun. As much as I enjoyed them, I never thought having one at home would be an option - they are expensive! Then I started seeing quite a few DIY versions popping up on blogs and was so smitten with this idea that I shared it with Husbanie. He's pretty great, so now a couple weeks later we have this:
|suitcase light box|
The version he made varies quite a bit from the example I showed him so I asked him if he'd be willing to write up a tutorial of his own. With out further ado - my husbandie : )
Hi all...I'm pretty honored and excited that I get let loose on my wife's blog. Well, not really - the standard is pretty high around here, so I am actually pretty nervous; please excuse any stutters.
My tutorial will follow this format: material list (that I used), step by step tasks (the main idea of each step), and pictures that go with the appropriate step (which will have a caption giving more detail on what I experienced). So, here it goes...
- Suitcase (on hand)
- The choice of suitcase will determine much of the details and/or number of materials used and how they go together. But after having researched other similar projects, and now completed my own, I would recommend the following:
- wood-product shell
- lid fits around the bottom box
- no lid “hardware”, such as bars that extend straight to keep the lid open
- If these are a part of the suitcase you will be using, it can be accommodated as long as you realize that the transparent “table-top”, and the material that holds it up, will most likely need to change to allow for the hardware to fold back down into the suitcase.
- X-acto Knife (on hand)
- Painter’s Tape (on hand)
- White Primer Paint (on hand)
- Screw Gun (on hand)
- 1/2” bit [for light plug]
- 1/8” bit [for screws]
- (2) 6’ LED light ropes ($8)
- (2) 6’ light rope
- (6) rope clips
- (6) wood screws for clips, washers as needed
- (14) Machine Screws, one nut per screw (on hand)
- Ripped 1x Lumber, cut to length (on hand)
- Clear Acrylic Sheet, 0.22”x18”x24” (Optix from Plaskolite) ($28)
- Orbital Sander, 150ct. sandpaper (on hand)
1. Clean the inside of the suitcase.
2. Determine the desired height of the table-top within the suitcase and mark this level with painters’ tape around the perimeter.
3. Paint the inside bottom of the box with white primer paint. (This will help reflect the maximum amount of light.)
4. Once the paint is dry, remove the tape and plan out how your light source is going to be arranged/affixed to the suitcase bottom.
|i chose the place where the plug would connect to the|
light rope and used the 1/2” bit to make and widen a
hole for this connection. i kept this hole purposefully
snug so as to minimize movement without having to
resort to any kind of hardware.
|knowing where the rope was entering the box, I arranged the length of|
the rope in a circular pattern working toward the middle.
|i used the provided rope clips at the most strategic |
point of the pattern. as you can see from the picture,
the provided screws were too deep for the thickness
of the shell, so a few washers were needed.
5. Provide the appropriate supports for the tabletop inside the box.
6. Measure, and cut to fit, your chosen “glass”.
|i decided to use the thicker grade acrylic since i knew that our kids would |
be placing a lot of their weight on the tabletop, if not their whole selves.
the acrylic will also not shatter - a definite plus in a product for kids.
|we had two phases to this since one 6’ length of rope light did not|
provide the light we wanted. after trying it out with one, we added another,
just using the same process mentioned above to create more and closer
rings with the rope.
My work here is done. I will hand it back over to my lovely "wifie". If there are any questions or clarifications that would be helpful, please let her know and I would be happy to provide as much information as I can.
Didn't he do a great job! Since we had a lot of the materials on hand, he was able to do it for under $40 too - which is pretty good since a similar sized light boxes cost around $200. One of my favorite things about this light box is that since we used a vintage suitcase I don't have to worry too much about getting it out and putting it away. I can just close the lid and call it decor :)