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Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Perfect DIY "container" light box



I am a light table/light box snob. 

I am. I'll admit it.

When I first learned of light table/boxes through a website called Play at home Mom, I was really impressed and intrigued. I wanted to find out more! So I did some research on light tables to find out more of what they are about. I decided fairly quickly to purchase one for my Twins! I looked at a lot of options. Most are very pricey. If you want a good quality light table with good lighting, you are going to spend some money...bottom line. I ended up getting a light tracer II from Amazon.com, even though I really wanted to buy the Ultra thin portable light panel by Constructive playthings. We used the light tracer II for a few months but I was unhappy with it and it's light quality. The light tracer II is not a terrible light table option. It just is not top quality. The light table II is meant to be used as a tracing box for an artist, not as a light table. It is made with fluorescent lighting, which is rather hard on the eyes after a while. I found myself wanting to dim the light somehow. I ended up putting a piece of clear contact paper over it, or using a clear plastic box over it to play. It worked out well though. We played with water beads, magna tiles, and many other awesome toys on the light tracer II. I just was not happy with it though. Christmas came around and I ended up going ahead and buying the Ultra thin portable light panels by Constructive playthings. I bought two, that way my twins would not have to fight for space on the light table. If you have more than one child playing on the light table, you want to provide ample space, it just isn't an optional thing.  Once they arrived in the mail, I saw a world of difference, I had made the right decision. The Ultra thin light panels are simply amazing! They are a top quality light table.

My Twins having fun and playing with magna tiles and action figures at our light table set up, using the ultra thin portable light panel by Constructive Playthings. 
You can see more photos of our light table set up here!

Before I tell you about the Perfect DIY "container" light box, ya know... the one that this post is about. I want to tell you more about light tables and playing with light.

First, I want to direct you to this post on Rhythm of the home
In this post you will see how the Play at home Mom team introduces myself and many others to the world of playing with light.

Second, I want to direct you to this post in which the Play at home mom team explains a light table and what it is all about. I did not even know about light tables before I found their blog, so I will let the experts show you where I got started.

RL, of the Play at home moms made a really nice DIY light table from a train table after one of their fans showed photos of theirs. I love it and It is an awesome idea!! It gives a lot of space and just simply looks amazing! However I sold our train table a few years ago, and it was not as nice as some train tables out there. It was a cheaper train table with not many great features on it. I also would probably have a big struggle with space if I were to buy and make a train table to light table conversion. Maybe in the future, who knows!

OK so now for the reason of this post. I made a DIY  "container" light box, and it's not just a DIY "contaner" light box..... IT"S THE PERFECT  DIY  "container" light box!!

I have always turned up my nose at DIY "container" light boxes. I just don't like the quality of the light that they project. They always look spotty, uneven, and they are hard on the eyes. I think they are a GREAT idea, specially for someone starting out with no way to purchase a quality light table. They get the job done and they are not trash, I just prefer a high quality light table.  Don't mind me though seriously, I am a light table snob. I am also a music snob but that is a whole different post.  haha. 

So, I was browsing blogs one late evening and I came across a post made by Kara of Kara's classroom. She had made a really simple DIY "container" light box. It looked amazing!!! I was truly impressed!! You can see her post here. She wanted to find the perfect container to make a DIY "container" light box with. She searched for months. She did not want to use a box that was completely transparent. She wanted something better. She worked hard searching for this perfect container, and she found it!!!  She found that the SNÅLIS  box at IKEA was THE PERFECT container!! She was right!!  IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You can see this magnificent box in all of it's glory right here on the IKEA website. After I saw Kara's post about the light box she made. I had to try it...  just to experiment!!! I plan to use ours for messy light table play, since I don't have a protective cover built for our light tables.

Why this box? It is partially opaque/frosted. It's perfect! When making a DIY light box of any kind, you want the top to be partially opaque or frosted. You also want the bottom half to be frosted as well or even completely opaque. You want the light to be held in the box and evenly dispersed, this can not be fully achieved with a clear box. With a clear box, you will have a light box but it won't give you the real light table/box/panel evenly dispersed light quality.

While picking up the SNÅLIS box at IKEA, I also bought a completely opaque black container there too with an extra SNÅLIS lid. I tried it out at home but did not like the way it looked as opposed to just using the SNÅLIS box and lid together. I plan to use that black container for another awesome DIY project that I am currently working on!

Now I will tell you about the lights I used for this Perfect DIY "container" light box.

I really like what Kara did on her awesome post, but I was not happy with the lights that she used. I noticed in her photos that the bottom half of the box looked amazing but on the top.. where all of the action happens, there were blue-ish circles. 

The blue-ish circles were made by the battery operated LED lights that she was using to create the light for her DIY "container" light box.

This would not work for me. So I had to find a better lighting option, and I just happened to find it!!!! I found it at.......  wait for it........... Wal Mart?????  

I can't believe that Wal Mart has better battery operated LED lighting options that Oh so Posh Target. I don't even like Wal Mart. I prefer Target!! Oddly, I keep finding more of what I am looking for at Wal Mart lately, so I guess I better pipe down about my non-love for Wal Mart.

So here is the light... and guess what... IT HAS A CLICKER!!!! Yes, that's right it is remote control operated!  Oh and best of all, even though I am using two of these lights, one remote will control both of them simultaneously!! w00t w00t! I bought two of them. I might go back and get a 3rd one eventually but to be quite honest, it is not even necessary. It works great with two! If you want a little extra light, add 3-4 of the $4 incandescent tap lights they sell at wal mart.  In these photos, I am using 3 of the tap lights and two of the LED strip lights with the remote control, all from Wal Mart. You really don't need the tap lights though. By the way, the lights all come with "stickies" to fasten them down! 

Update: I added two more of the remote controlled LED lights.
We are loving it even more with four in it! Oh and I removed the tap lights, they were really not necessary with four of the LED lights. 

full view, so pretty!!


top view with some fun light table manipulatives on it!


pretty!
Please be sure to check out my light table/playing with light board on Pinterest! It is a great way to see some of our awesome light table posts and each pic will link you back here to the post it was from on this blog!!





**Update** IKEA has unfortunately discontinued this fantastic storage container. However they did have similar designs. I recommend taking the led strip light with you to IKEA or the container store and testing out the boxes they have there.   TROFAST flipped upside down is an excellent alternative.  Thank you The Four H's Housewife for the Trofast tip!!


Trofast Box: put on lid, turn upside down.


If you do not have IKEA near you but you have a wal mart, this box (or one of another size) could work.. You would paint the bottom half white on the inside, then add some battery operated LED lights in. Then for the top you could use glass frost spray paint. It is sold in wal mart with the spray paints and it is to frost glass, not to make it totally opaque. You want the top to be frosted, not completely see through but not totally white and opaque.



                                            A suggested box
 *this shows a set of 6, one of them would be much cheaper*






So, if anyone has a light box that you are not totally thrilled with the top, try frost spray paint. You get that paint usually to frost a window, like at your front door so that people can not see in but you can still get light through the windows. Same concept with the home made light boxes. You want light to go through but not full light. Looking down at full light on a light box is not only bad for the eyes but does not really evenly distribute the light into what you are putting on top of your light box. It takes away from the magic of the light box. You should not be able to see the outline of a set of lights or an LED light. when you are looking down at objects on your light box. I know some people use parchment paper but in almost all cases, it makes the top of your light box cream colored or yellowed. Not only can that be hard on the eyes over time, it just doesn't look pretty and takes away from what you are examining on the light box. Please do not take offense, I know that everyone does the best they can with what they have, I am merely making a suggestion.



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