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Friday, February 10, 2012

DIY Light Table

The inspiration for this was taken from a combination of ideas from HERE and also our own findings. 

First off... let me tell you that converting a train table is not cheap!  LOL  It is cheaper than a light table this size purchased in a store but there is nothing cheap about it.  

I am going to explain what you need to make a light table in general... not necessarily a train table.  

1.  A table -  This can be a train table, a coffee table, a table you make yourself, etc.  

2.  White plexi glass - You can learn a little bit about plexi glass HERE.  We used #2446 3/16".  This will make more sense when and if you call a plastic place.  White plexi glass is hard to come across at a local hardware store.  You most likely will have to call a specialty plastic place.  

3.  A light source - There are a TON of options out there.  I know a lot of people have used rope lights but there is a HUGE difference in the brightness of light.  Please see pictures below to see the difference.  
We used daylight fluorescent bulbs.  There are all different types of tube lights.  They vary by size and length, and can be hard wired or plugged in.  The three different sizes are
T5
T8
T12
The lower the number, the smaller the bulb in diameter.  
We used T8 18" hardwire.  We chose this set up for a number of reasons.  

1.  They fit side to side the length of the train table.
2.   I was able to change them out with daylight bulbs
 3.  I am also able to change them out with black light bulbs.  I plan on converting this to a black light table as well with a piece of clear plexi.  
4.  My husband is handy enough to have them hardwired... that way we don't have to plug 4 lights in.

When you buy the lights they always come with a dim bulb. You have to buy an additional daylight bulb.  Daylight bulbs do NOT come in all sizes, at least at Home Depot anyway.  

If making the table yourself I would buy your light source first... and then build your table around the dimensions of the lights you are using.  If you are converting a table you have to do a little engineering and find sizes and lengths that will work with what you have.  Which is not always an easy process!  


Our finished light table!  This is bright!  We can use this with the lights on during the day and still get an awesome glow.  You can still use this as a train table as well.  Just lay the train table boards on top of the plexi.  


Rope lights... HUGE difference.  


How we installed the lights (These still need to be screwed down).  My husband cut a piece of plywood to set in the open space under the train table.  Since the boards were slanted, we could just lay this in without any hardware.  


Close-up of the light fixture we used.


Close-up of the bulb we used.  

RL  






29 comments:

  1. AWESOME idea to switch it out with blacklights. I'm going to tell my husband to get on this. ;)

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  2. Can you give a ballpark figure of the cost for materials? I have a smallish square train table and have been considering giving it a second life.

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  3. This is super cool..I just added this to my husband's "honey-do" list!

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  4. What a fantastic idea! Love the idea of converting an existing table, but I can see how that can get complicated when you source materials. Great idea though! And I agree with Amber...can you share just a ballpark figure of what it cost to convert the table you have?

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  5. http://kreativeactivities.blogspot.com/2012/01/light-table.html
    This is my light box - it was inexpensive and very easy to make! I do like your light fixtures - I may try them in my box!

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    1. I absolutely love this. Its way cheaper and I can make it for my son's birthday coming up in a few weeks. He will love it! Where do you get the plastic play pieces?

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  6. Ours was made in much the same way, except we used an old drawer - all we did was take off the drawer handle, lay a fluoro light diagonally in the drawer and screw the perspex to the top (oh, and drill a hole in the side for the light cord to come out). It is an interesting affect, a diagonal light, because you have a bright strip through the middle - dimmer on the edges. I like it cause the kids experiment and notice the different areas and how things look different if they move them around the box. Just thought this might be a bit of a cheaper option.

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  7. Oh I'm doing this... me! Not the hubby...stay tuned for news reports that read: "DC Woman injured in freak-ish workshop accident" :) Seriously though, this is really cool.

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  8. I think it was just under 200?? I'm not positive because my husband bought all the materials.

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  9. Can I ask you what are the pieces (translucent blocks? ) near the mirror. They are stacked into a shape. THey seem neat.

    Thank you very much in advance for the information!

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  10. this is another great idea...! i love it and now my excitement growing as i have train table that i can use for this "unending fun". the children do not use the train set for they want the floor to build their tracks anyways...oh yeah..!

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  12. My wife showed me this the other day...Now it my new project for the boys. I have a couple questions...

    What size Plexi glass did you use?
    How big is the train table?
    How far away are the light from the Plexi glass?

    I am going to be making this from scratch and wanted a better idea of what I am getting myself into.

    Thanks...

    Jon

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  13. I'm having an awful hard time locating white plexiglass. Any ideas? I have all the fixin's for an awesome light table & have called every local glass shop. Help?! :]

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    1. My friend gave me the idea to use clear plexi glass and frost it :) We're doing it this weekend with something like this:

      http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_SPM1847779203P?sid=IDx20110310x00001i&srccode=cii_17588969&cpncode=26-110385654-2

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    2. Holy Moly! Thats pure genius. I had no idea they made such a thing! Looks like i have a project ahead of me tomorrow! :D Thank you thank you!!

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    3. Hi I see you are in RI.. I am in south eastern MA. The shop I used was Palco Plastics in Whitman. But I just googled plastic and acrylic sheeting and there are lots, probably many closer to you. I paid $75 for one that was 3/16" thick.

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    4. I am in the process of making this from scratch. They table and all... I bought a 3/4 in piece of Clear Plexiglass from a local shop that was about 2x4 ft for $100. I sanded one side to give it a frosted look. I used really fine sanding paper with an orbital sander but it was still to transparent. So I ended up using 100 grit and it turned out really nice. I used the thicker plex because my boys are wild and I am sure they will be standing and jumping on it. I will post pictures when I am done... Might want to try the sanding technique...

      Jon

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  14. I just made one of these for my kids... thanks so much for your post! I actually found the exact train table that you have on craigslist! For others out there who are curious as the cost, I called several glass/plastic places to compare prices and I was able to get the top for $75. We are using the bulbs that came with our lights (also the 18", but a generic brand from HD, not hardwired, just plugged into a power strip). But I am going to buy one of the daylight bulbs and see if there is enough of a difference for me to buy them all. My daughter is in the other room playing with it for the first time!!! Also finally found magna-tiles in stock, and they arrive tomorrow. I think I am more excited than all my kids :-)

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  15. What are the stacking toys that are pictured on the back of the light table? They seem so familiar, yet, I can not figure out what they are!

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  16. I was just curious about how bright it was? I don't want to hurt my little guys peepers! :)

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  17. Ok here is my finished project for my wife and kids. This was built from scratch using plans I had to customize to fit all the additions . I stained the top and trim with cherry and polyurethane coat and painted the sides with magnetic and chalk board paint. Take the top off and you will find a 1/2 piece of fogged out plexi glass with 4 18 inch fluorescent lights hard wired to an adjustable switch. I made this for my wife and boys. And of course I got carried away with all the details that need to be added... ha ha. If you have questions feel free to ask. Boys love it. Thanks for the inspiration...




    http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/581473_3263401177844_1051671002_4102636_1242494841_n.jpg

    http://a1.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/562615_3263470539578_1051671002_4102657_1658041001_n.jpg

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    Replies
    1. Wow, that's really cool and pretty. Way to go!

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    2. How much did this cost you Jon?

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  18. This is such a neat project. I wish we had one of these. I just love your blog and will be back as often as I can. Come by and visit us on our family blog at
    www.feedingnineonadime.com

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  19. I posted a link to this DIY in my blog on light table explorations :)

    Such good ideas should be shared! :)

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  20. We did this, using your advice. You can see ours here. http://www.mama-hen-jenn.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-light-table.html?m=1

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  21. I used your light table as my inspiration for the Winter Pinterest Challenge. Thank you for all the details about the light fixtures you used and the kind of plexiglass to buy. It was very helpful! http://this-sold-house.blogspot.com/2013/03/winter-pinterest-challenge-completed.html

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