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DIY Light Table

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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  

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36 Responses to DIY Light Table

  1. 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?

  2. LisaB says:

    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.

  3. Neptune says:

    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!

  4. RENETH says:

    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..!

  5. Jon Young says:

    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

  6. Sara Smo says:

    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?! :]

  7. rtsbeacon says:

    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 :-)

  8. Julie says:

    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!

  9. Jon Young says:

    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

  10. Reanna Goodman says:

    I skimmed most of the comments, so this could be a repeat. The cheapest and easiest way to make a light table is to go to Ikea, if you have one nearby. They have white TRANSLUCENT storage containers. I got the largest size. (Don’t forget to buy the lid!) Then, buy LED puck lights from any department store, i.e. Target, Walmart, Walgreens… These are the ones that take batteries and you tap them to turn them on. The keys to making this work is that the container is white and will let light through, but it disperses the light and the LED light also disperses light instead of sending out beams of light. The overall surface of this light table is smaller, as it is the size of a large storage tote, but it’s also nice having a storage tote to put all of the items we regularly use on it inside.

  11. Angela says:

    I’ve been looking at some Ikea LED light strips that look just like your light strips, but have an LED light instead of fluorescent bulbs. Do you have any input on using an LED light strip. A good sized LED light strip runs about $20 at Ikea, rather than buying the fixture from Home Depot and then buying the daylight bulbs like you did.

  12. Ginger says:

    Did you purchase the plexiglass from the link you provided? The eplastic one? My hubby has the lights in, but now we are trying to find the plastic. Thx!

  13. Pingback: 10 formas de construir mesas de luz DIY | Tigriteando

  14. Andrea says:

    The plexiglass for the train table we are converting cost $78 us tax at Regal Plastics in Houston, Texas. It is 2447. They and other places we called have never heard of 2446.

  15. Pingback: 10 formas de construir mesas de luz DIY - Tigriteando

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