A light box produces light from below a picture or graphic to highlight detail. Light boxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes from small portable units to entire lit table tops. Fluorescent bulbs give the most light while generating the least heat in the confined space of the light box, but many fluorescent bulbs generate coloured light depending on their chemical make up. It is vital to choose a fluorescent bulb that produces full spectrum light.
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Things you need
- 1-by-8 inch lumber, 8 feet
- Wood glue
- 1/4-inch plywood, 2-foot square
- Wood screws
- Phillips head screwdriver bit
- 1/4-inch drill bit
- 2-inch L brackets, 2
- 1 1/4 inch bolts with nuts, 4
- 1/2-inch drill bore
- White paint
- Decorator paint
- 3 wired light bulb sockets
- 3 compact flourescent bulbs
- 3 strap brackets
- Button switch
- Electrical tape
- Electrical cord with plug
- Frosted plexiglass, 2 foot square
- Silicone caulk
Cut two 2-foot sections of the 1-by-8-inch wood with a table or hand saw. Stack them and measure their combined width. It should be just under 2 inches. Subtract this amount from 2 feet and cut the last two lengths of wood to the new measurement. The length of the last two boards should be just a little bit more than 22 inches. This allows the outer measurement of the box to be 2 feet square.
Start three wood nails 1/2 inch from both freshly cut edges of one of the longer boards while the boards are lying flat. Pound the nails until they emerge from the underside. Apply a bead of wood glue along the freshly cut edge of one of the shorter pieces of wood. Standing the shorter board on it's side, lay one edge of a longer piece with the nails on top of the edge of the shorter piece to form a corner. Pound the nails into the edge of the shorter board. Place a bead of glue on the other shorter board. Turn the board on it's side and place it against the edge of the first long board, just below the nails. Pound the nails into place. Preset nails in the second long board and pound them in place to complete the square. You will have a 2 foot square, 8 inches deep.
Designate the top and front of the box. Lay the 2 foot square of 1/4-inch plywood on the back of the box, then screw the wood into place with the wood screws along the outer edge. If you choose wood screws wider than 1/4 inch wide, you may pre-drill pilot holes. Otherwise, the wood screws are designed to bite into the wood as they are screwed into place.
Lay the L brackets against the top of the inside of the box, so that the bend in each bracket is flush with the back of the box. Space the L brackets 3 inches from the sides of the light box. Mark the holes in the bracket and drill a hole at each mark. Bolt the brackets into place. From the inside, drill a hole through the bracket and the back of the box. Repeat with both brackets. These will be the holes you use to hang the light box on the wall.
Bore five 1/2-inch holes along the top of the light box for ventilation. Paint the inside of the light box a bright white. You can use primer or any high quality white paint. Since the bulbs are low temperature, it doesn't matter whether you choose an oil or latex paint. Paint the outside whatever colour matches your decor. Let the paint dry for at least four hours.
Building the Box
Screw the light bulbs into their sockets. Lay the light bulb sockets in the bottom of the box. Place two sockets facing down from the top of the box and the third facing up from the bottom. Make sure that the light bulbs do not touch. Trace around the sockets with a pencil. Remove the sockets from the box. Remove the light bulbs from the sockets and set aside.
Place all three sockets back on their marked spots. Secure them to the back of the box with strap brackets. Tighten the wood screws on both side of the strap with the drill. Check the sockets and make sure that they are secure. Pull both wires from each socket together and hold on one side of the box. The copper wire carries the power and the silver wire grounds the device. Gather the three copper wires together and secure them with electrical tape. Twist the exposed wires together and place them under the ridge screw on one side of the button switch. Tighten the screw to secure the wires. Repeat with the ground wires and the silver screw.
Drill a 1/2-inch hole in the bottom of the box. Thread the power cord through the hole. Tie a knot several inches from the exposed wire to prevent the wire from pulling out of the box. Attach the copper wire to the ridged screw of the switch and the ground to the silver wire. Install the light bulbs and plug in the cord. Test the switch a few times to make sure everything works.
Lay a line of clear silicone caulk along the top of the box. Place the frosted plexiglass on top of the caulk. Allow the caulk to cure for 48 hours before hanging the box.
Measure the holes on the back of the box. Place small nails or wood screws in the wall to accommodate the holes. The holes should be 18 inches apart, which is the standard stud width in most houses.
Wiring the Box
Tips and warnings
- Add a sheet of architect's or engineer's vellum to the inside of the box to further diffuse the light.
- When the light bulbs burn out, simply unscrew the back of the box to service the lights.
- Light boxes can overheat, which can damage artwork and become a fire hazard. Carefully monitor your light box and only use low temperature fluorescent bulbs.
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