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Battery Powered Light Table

  • February 20, 2017


The idea for a light box came from a reader. I thought this would be a great project for my kids, however I didn't want them to be attached to a wall outlet. Even thought they are very young, they are accustom to a "wireless" world. So I set out to come up with a light table that was just the right size and one that had an integrated battery that could easily be recharged. This is what I came up with.

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  1. Project Steps

    1. Step: 1

      Large 98dd29a5 0399 4721 a2df ec6252257920

      Cut the 1x3 board down into 4 pieces, 2 at 15" and 2 at 12". Miter both sides at 45 degrees. These will make up the sides of the box.

    2. Step: 2

      Large 3a5c33d9 2580 4d59 ae9a 9e345e6da003

      Using a table saw cut a 1/4" deep groove about 3/8" from the inside top edge of each side. This groove must be wide enough to accept the polycarbonate sheet (.093").

    3. Step: 3

      Large d13601af 29a2 46cc 9eac bc3e1ea7f7ba

      Starting 1-1/4" from the bottom inside edge, cut a 1/4" deep groove wide enough to accept the 1/4" thick plywood panel.

    4. Step: 4

      Large 7deaa5dc 6b71 4140 9883 a68c8c662fb9

      Using the table saw, cut a 1/2" deep rabbet on the bottom inside face of each side. This rabbet must be deep enough to accept the 1/4" bottom panel.

    5. Step: 5

      Large 6de4be9e 55e3 4966 9976 88bb01d1d6e6

      Round over the inside top edge with a palm router or sand paper because it won't be possible after assembly.

    6. Step: 6

      Large 631c9d90 f3c3 4a65 8985 3d494135deeb

      Cut the mid panel (11 x 14) and the bottom panel (11-1/2" x 14-1/2") from the 1/4" plywood.

    7. Step: 7

      Large ef2254ad d3e1 40c3 9531 853703c261ff

      Remove the top cover of the switch and mark where it will go on one of the sides.

    8. Step: 8

      Large 1185ee3b a47e 4339 ad8c f0636852a133

      With a drill press and a forstner bit set, drill out the recess for the switch body, deep enough so the switch will slightly protrude. Then, drill out the slot for the switch itself and a hole for the flush mount USB port.

    9. Step: 9

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      Clean up the pocket with a chisel and sandpaper as required.

    10. Step: 10

      Large 94f049c8 1741 40a7 951d a7ae3d809aa8

      Glue three sides together using wood glue. I find it easiest to tape the pieces together while laying flat and even coat the miters with wood glue before folding up into position.

    11. Step: 11

      Large 4781150c 0d0b 456c 976a 7e53c6b49d33

      Remove backing and stick on USB lights.

    12. Step: 12

      Large ebc3d27a af34 4403 9d5e 904a7e7d9307

      Paint the middle plywood panel (11x14) with 2-3 coats of gloss white paint or cover with a reflective material. Then apply wood glue to center groove and insert the panel.

    13. Step: 13

      Large 9d711ab5 7b75 4736 86d2 0b18b4df4387

      To give the polycarbonate sheet a frosted look, simply sand one side with an orbital sander until you get an even scuff across the entire sheet.

    14. Step: 14

      Large e6809017 e1f3 4668 9282 e17b8d15d660

      Insert the polycarbonate sheet (sanded side down) into the top groove, adhere the remaining light strip to the final side and glue in place.

    15. Step: 15

      Large aca8b110 337a 4799 974c e948e1803eab

      Round over all edges with a palm router and a 1/4" round over bit.

    16. Step: 16

      Large f4027fdd 0baa 44c8 8494 8cdb2e470e44

      Sand all surfaces with a fine grit sandpaper for an even finish.

    17. Step: 17

      Large 190e2baf 0e4e 40ad a1cc c481056d75ba

      Finish the box as desired. Since my box was built from walnut I chose to use a boiled linseed oil to finish. If using stain and polyurethane the polycarbonate sheet will need to be taped off.

    18. Step: 18

      Large 7ceb2478 746f 4eaf a2d6 f897845ad3aa

      Lay out all the components as shown and hot glue them in place.

    19. Step: 19

      Large f745a8e4 b37e 47ba 9955 e302d617f1bd

      Pre-drill and screw back in place with #6 x 1/4" wood screws.

    20. Step: 20

      Large 14d70913 7419 4d77 8dab 508fc1a34892

      Time to enjoy the new battery powered light box. This is great for tracing or playing with translucent shapes.

Comments (9)


  • Another fantastic Rogue Engineer project. This is definitely on my to-do list.

    By grover959

  • Just a suggestion, you might want to replace the USB connector Type A receptacle to the more standard (on this type of item) Micro-B or Mini-B. That way you could use standard chargers and cables, rather than a Type-A to Type-A cable (which isn't all that common in the charging world.)... Anyway, great design, and I love the "simulated" frosted glass.

    By ARudzki
    • Thanks ARudzki! And yes, I agree with the charging port idea and did look for one but wasn't successful in finding one. If you know of a Micro or Mini USB port I'm sure other would appreciate a link below. Thanks again!

      By Rogue Engineer

  • An option to try would be Samtec: http://suddendocs.samtec.com/catalog_english/scrus.pdf They are a bit pricey (a bit? LOL), but you could also use their wording to do Google searches to maybe find cheaper versions from someone else.

    By ARudzki

  • No question is a dumb question, right? So why this step: To give the polycarbonate sheet a frosted look, simply sand one side with an orbital sander until you get an even scuff across the entire sheet. Thanks for a much better option than the one I cobbled together with what I had on hand.

    By MichelleO
    • The frosted look helps disperse the light more evenly (IMO) and prevents the bright direct light.

      By Rogue Engineer

  • That is a great idea. I have been wanting a light box and this will be just the thing. I do a lot of adult coloring and was trying to come up with a way to color with out the outline showing and this is just the thing.

    By schnauzerman

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