How to Build a Light Box for Tracing

Written by lisa parris
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Many projects begin with drawing or tracing a picture, a task that can be simplified with the use of a light box. Light boxes illuminate the original picture from behind so the image can be traced onto an overlying page. Whether you are creating 2-D animation or pulling together a new woodworking project, a light box can be a useful tool. You can make a light box from any type of wood and hard plastic sheeting. If you’re uncomfortable with woodworking, you can use cardboard, but the results will be less sturdy.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wood, 1 by 2 inches, 5 feet long
  • Wood, 1 by 4 inches, 2 feet long
  • Jigsaw
  • Wood glue
  • Nails or wood screws, three-fourths inch
  • Sandpaper
  • Polycarbonate plastic sheet, 18 by 24 inches
  • Paint for wood, any colour
  • Paintbrush
  • Fluorescent light and fixture, undercounter slimline style, 23 inches long
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver

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  1. 1

    Cut two 18-inch pieces from the 1-by-2 wood, using the short side of the plastic sheet to measure. Repeat this process with the long end of the plastic sheet. This will give you three 1-by-2 boards to use for the frame.

  2. 2

    Cut one 24-inch piece of wood from the 1-by-4 to use for the frame header.

  3. 3

    Place a 1-by-2 side piece on its end on top of the 1-by-4 header. Use a pencil to trace the outline of the smaller board on the top edge of the header. Remove this piece with a jigsaw.

  4. 4

    Glue the side pieces into the header. When the glue is completely dry, reinforce this joint with nails or wood screws.

  5. 5

    Glue the remaining 1-by-2 in place between the side pieces, at the opposite end from the header. Once the glue has dried, strengthen the joints with nails or wood screws.

  6. 6

    Smooth all surfaces and corners with sandpaper.

  1. 1

    Sand one side of the plastic sheet, making it cloudy and diffusing the light. Sand down the sharp edges of the corners of the sheet.

  2. 2

    Wipe down the frame to remove any dust or debris that may have accumulated.

  3. 3

    Paint the frame and allow it to dry.

  4. 4

    Follow the directions included in the packaging, and mount the light fixture on the inside of the 1-by-4 header board.

  5. 5

    Place the plastic over the frame, scuffed side down. Once the plastic is in position, fix it in place with glue or place a screw in each corner. Be careful not to overtighten the screws if you choose this method, or the plastic may crack.

  6. 6

    Plug in the light and turn it on.

Tips and warnings

  • Sanding is best done outdoors or in an open area, because it creates quite a bit of wood dust.
  • This light box works best when the underlying surface is a light colour.

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