Wednesday, February 15, 2012

D.I.M. (Did It Myself) Light Table!!!

I was so inspired by Deborah's Teach Preschool post about light tables this week (why link it? You already saw it all over the blogosphere and Pinterest, right??? NOT linking is me tipping my hat to you, Deborah!!!*), and ever since, I've had light tables on the brain.  I got into one of my stubborn moods and drove to Home Depot to buy some supplies.  Stubborn comes into play here because I have no carpentry skills but insist on taking on these building projects.  Turned out pretty good, though, wouldn't you agree?

Was I blessed with a miraculous yet fleeting spell of carpentry expertise? No, no, no.  I just figured out a way to make it a very easy, low-risk process.

And it all cost me under $50.

I will try to give you the best DIY instructions possible, just in case you are a not-so-handy person like me.

Start with an already measured shelf set. The front of it should be the size that you want the top of your table to be. I used this:

Assemble the above shelving unit (or one of your choosing) but put the bottom shelf on the very edge so you end up with a complete rectangular frame. 

You also need some thick polycarbonate (a.k.a. plastic!) sheeting like this (find it in the window aisle at Home Depot) that is at least large enough to fit over the front (ie. top) of the frame:

I chose a .93 gauge so it was thick enough not to be too flimsy.  To cut it, trace the shape of the frame and then, using a straight edge, take a razor over one of the lines a few times until you have a nice groove.  Now line up the plastic on the edge of a table and snap the unwanted piece off. Do this to adjust the length and width of your plastic. Your plastic top should fit your frame so all edges are flush.

Next, you'll put a piece of 1"x1" pine (or other cheap wood) in your plastic to hold the plastic in place:

Cut the wood (hand saw comes in handy here) so that it just fits the inside edges of two parallel sides of your frame.  The shorter it is than the inner edge, the more your table top will slide around, so try to make it pretty precise and err on the side of "tight".  

Put the plastic on top of your frame, and mark where you'd like to attach the wood and the plastic. You'll need four short screws or nails.  With a drill bit, drill holes (slowly!) through the plastic:

Once you have your holes, fasten the wood to the plastic table top. Don't try to screw or nail right into the plastic--it will crack!!! 

Now your plastic will fit, wood side down, into your table:

See how the wood fits right in? Nice.

There's your blogger friend, Stephanie:

Oops, are your corners too sharp? Just snap off little pieces with the razor until they aren't too sharp. We don't want the kids cutting themselves on your state-of-the-art light table, right?

You'll need a hole on the bottom of the back side of your table so your electrical components can inconspicuously exit the light table.  Drill one or  two holes in the back (I used a spade bit).

Lastly, I painted the inside white on the sides that weren't already so I'd have maximum reflective power.

You'll need a shop light or other lamp that will fit into the light table:

We started out with some colored lights: 

But since we don't want to see the lamps, I used wax paper (and later changed to parchment paper), taped well, to turn the top from transparent to translucent.  This will be something I need to problem solve later on. Don't they make some spray paint that makes clear glass look smokey? I wonder if that would work.

Total time, including the Home Depot trip: 3 hours!!!

Since I think I've used up my photo quota for one post, I'll post more photos in a separate post.

*Here's that Teach Preschool light table link, in the off chance you didn't see it!

I linked up at:
Playing With Words 365


  1. Plan white spray paint works awesome! That's what we used on the one we made out an old end table a few years ago.

    1. Goodness, I should proofread! That should be Plain not Plan. Geesh!


Thank you for the comments! Always appreciated : )

Yes Day

There are many reasons for me to say no to children's various requests. Safety concerns, schedule and time limitations, limited supplie...