DIY Changeable Light Box - Building Plans

Friday, November 11, 2016 -
How to build a wood light box with changeable signs - FREE building plans!

Happy Friday guys! Today's project kills two birds with one stone. Well, actually more like 4 or 5 birds. 

I've been working on making over my twin boys' bedroom. It started with the Shoe Storage Nightstand and a couple weeks ago I shared the Modern Bunk Beds that I built for them. I wanted to come up with a cool nightlight that I could hang on the wall, and as everyone knows, the holidays are creeping up faster than a starving cheetah. Lately, I seem to struggle to find Holiday decor that matches the modern-ish style of my house and I'm also kinda lazy when it comes to holiday decorating.

I've seen DIY light boxes or marque signs before, but never ones where you could switch out the saying easily. I came up with a pretty simple lighted sign and changeable acrylic slides that you can customize anyway you'd like. Don't like typography? You could get fancy and create your own design. Leave the light box up all year and switch out the slides for each holiday. 

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Materials List:

Cut List:
  • (2) 1 x 2 @ 15-1/2" (long point to long point, mitered 45 degrees both ends)
  • (2) 1 x 2 @ 12-1/2" (long point to long point, mitered 45 degrees both ends)
  • (2) 1 x 4 @ 14"
  • (2) 1 x 4 @ 12-1/2"
  • (2) 3/4" square dowel @ 11"
  • (2) 3/4" square dowel @ 1-1/2"
  • (1) 1/4" plywood @ 15-1/2" x 12-1/2"

1. The first step is to cut all your pieces down to length. 

2. Next, you can construct the face frame. I drilled 3/4" pocket hole screws on each end of the frame pieces and attached them with glue and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws. If you don't have a pocket hole jig, you could simply clamp the face frame together while the glue dries.

3. Next, assemble the inner frame. Drill three, 3/4" pocket holes along one long side of each 1 x 4 x 12-1/2" board. Drill three pocket holes along the long side of one, 1 x 4 x 14" board, as well as two additional pocket holes on each end. 

Attach the bottom plate between both side pieces, making sure it sits flush with the bottom ends. 

4. Align the edges of the frame with the face and attach with glue and 1-1/4" screws. 

5. To hold the acrylic sign in place, you'll need to attach runners on each side of the frame. Create a 1/4" gap from the backside of the face frame and place a long piece of 3/4" dowel vertically. Secure in place with wood glue and finish nails. You may need to pre-drill if you are using hand driven nails. Align a short piece of dowel horizontally, flush with the side runners. Attach with glue and more nails. 

6. Place the remaining 1 x 4 x 14" board on top of the slides, but don't attach it to anything. 

7. Lay the plywood panel on the backside of the frame and align the corners. Pre-drill four holes along each edge and screw in place using 3/4" screws. 

Use a 1" forstner bit or a small drill bit and jigsaw to create an access hole. 

8. With the box built its time to make the slides. I found my acrylic pre-cut into 11" x 14" sheets at Home Depot. Actually, I was able to find the non-glare kind for the same price as basic 1/8" acrylic (around $4.50 each). 

If you have a cutting machine like a Cricut or Silhouette, you can cut your lettering stencil out of vinyl. If you're a cheapskate like me and are cutter-less, no fear. I cut my lettering from self adhesive shipping labels. 

9. I saved each saying as an jpg and flipped it into a mirror image using Photoshop. 

*If you guys would like a free copy of the reversed images that you can print at home, just comment below and I can make those available to you. 

VERY IMPORTANT! Leave the protective film on both sides of the vinyl sheet at this point. Trust me, I learned the hard way. Center the label and stick it on top of the protective film. Use a ruler and X-acto knife to cut around the lettering. Use enough pressure to cut through both the paper label and the film, but not so hard as to cut into the vinyl. 

10. Once each letter is completely cut, carefully pull back the protective film, taking the remnant of the label with it. Leave the protective film on the opposite side. 

11. Spray 3 coats of flat black paint over the lettering and allow it to dry for a few hours. Then, spray three heavy coats of frosted glass spray.

12. While the slides dry, you can add lights to the box. I love to save money but yes, the lights have to be LED. The old fashioned kind get too hot. 

Remove the plywood back and string the Christmas lights through the access hole. I drilled my hole in the middle. but I wish I would have placed it off to the side. 

String the full length of lights back and forth across the plywood. Make sure to avoid a 3/4" strip around the perimeter. 

13. To hold the lights in place, hammer coax staples over the wires. I found mine in the electrical aisle of Home Depot. 

14. Screw the plywood back on the frame. Push up on the top plate to pop it out. Drop a slide in place, and plug the cord in. Boom! Soft glowing light box. 

This "Give Thanks" slide is about as much decoration as my house is going to get for Thanksgiving this year. 

When it's time to change up the sign, all I have to do it pop off the top place and switch the plates. 

I think the "Holly Jolly" sign is my favorite : )

After the holidays are over, I'll add a couple sawtooth hangers to the back and mount the light box on the wall of my boys' room. I think it will make a perfect nightlight. 

This is the kind of holiday decorations I can get behind. The kind you leave up all year! Ready to build your own? Pin the image below to save the idea for later! 

how to make a DIY wood lightbox with changeable holiday signs

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  1. What a terrific idea!!!! Especially being able to change the signs. I am excited to do this project. Thanks. I will be sure and credit back to your site.

    1. Thanks so much Charisse! I would love to see what you come up with!

  2. This is really really cool! I can see this being all kinds of fun to switch out. One question though, don't you have to remove the self-adhesive letters once the black paint dries? Or did I miss something?

    1. Thanks Annet! Yes, you are absolutely right. You do need to remove the self-adhesive letters but I would actually recommend doing it shortly after spraying your last coat of black paint. You'll have less chance of the paint chipping that way. I'll go update the tutorial right now! Thanks again!


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