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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

      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

      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

      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

      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

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

    6. Step: 6

      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

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

    8. Step: 8

      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

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

    10. Step: 10

      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

      Remove backing and stick on USB lights.

    12. Step: 12

      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

      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

      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

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

    16. Step: 16

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

    17. Step: 17

      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

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

    19. Step: 19

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

    20. Step: 20

      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, on March 6, 2017

  • 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, on March 7, 2017
    • 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, on March 7, 2017

  • 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, on March 7, 2017

  • 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, on March 7, 2017
    • The frosted look helps disperse the light more evenly (IMO) and prevents the bright direct light.
      By Rogue Engineer, on March 7, 2017

  • 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, on March 25, 2017

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Battery Powered Light Table

by Rogue Engineer
Feb 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.

Project Steps

  1. Step: 1

    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

    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

    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

    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

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

  6. Step: 6

    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

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

  8. Step: 8

    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

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

  10. Step: 10

    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

    Remove backing and stick on USB lights.

  12. Step: 12

    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

    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

    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

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

  16. Step: 16

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

  17. Step: 17

    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

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

  19. Step: 19

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

  20. Step: 20

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