November 6, 2004

Build A Lighted Tracing Board

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Build a Lighted Tracing Board

Last weekend I needed to procure a tracing light box.

My old one has dissapeared into storage, but it wasnt that good anyway. It was an old plywood box with a 15w appliance bulb inside. Franz gave it along with 50 year old darkroom equipment to my sister and me years ago. I kept the lightbox as rent for having to store the equipment in my garage as sis finished grad school. I had to replace the cord because of age, and the surface would get rather hot while using it.

So I went to Menard's and acrylic plexiglass just happened to be on sale. The thin stuff seemed too flexible-I would have to stack it to be stiff enough to lean against while calliging. I paid a little more ($24) for the the .250" sheet, but I wanted the layers to be stiff and very strong.

Here's what I did:
1. Decide what size tilt board you want, and measure. Out of a 24x48 sheet, I got three 16x 24 pieces. I kept 2 and gave 1 to Dad to fix the window in his extra beater car. No, really.

2. Purchase a plexiglass cutter (under $3). Use a metal ruler to get your first groove cut. Keep slicing along the groove a few times. Flip glass over and repeat. With the ball of your hand, press gently on the cut. (Do this on carpet so it can bend a bit) You should start to hear cracks and pings--move your hand up and down the cut and it will break apart.

3. Peel off protective plastic wrap. Clean dust off, and stack the 2 slices together. You now have 1/2" thick piece of plastic. Tape all four sides together using tape, I used clear duct tape.
4. Purchase an under cabinet flourescent light. Be sure you get a unit with a normal plug and not the kind meant to be hard wired to the electrical line. The boxes do indicate this. The plug in kind came only in 18" long, but was a reasonable $8.

5. To use, lean your plexiglass board upon a stack of books to make a comfortable angle to work on. Place the light underneath, and voila! You now have a large working easel, with a cool bright light underneath!

What I noticed while using it, is that acrylic attracts static. If I rub the paper against the plastic, it sticks and doesn't slide off on its own--very handy!

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