How to Make A Light Box For Stained Glass

Make a Light Box in 15 Minutes

A light box is crucial to high quality stained glass work if natural light is not an option. They allow you to assess the colours of the glass at different stages in your project.

Many of us don’t have the skills or tools to make a more traditional lightbox. The good news is that now you no longer need them; LED Flat Panel Ceiling Light Fixtures are the answer!*

With these fixtures you can create a large or small light box in 15 minutes with just a few tools.

*Big thanks to reader Ron Dinsdale for providing this tutorial to share 🙂

Things You Need

  • LED Flat Panel Ceiling Light
  • A workbench with a surface you can cut a hole into. This is to accommodate the Electrical Box which stands proud at the back of the Panel
  • Drill
  • Jig saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Wiring
  • Wire connectors and a plug 

How To Make a Light Box

1. Buy a LED Flat Panel Ceiling Light fixture of a size to fit your work bench.

The ceiling light panels are available from hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowes in the US and Canada and B&Q in the UK .
A 24 in. x 48 in. panel costs C$99 or US$83 and around £63 in the UK. (24 in. x 24 in. start around $50).

2. Lay the panel upside-down on the work bench in the position you want it. Make sure the electrical box is closest to your wall socket.

3. Pencil a line on the workbench along the edge of the panel matching the width of the electrical box. Then slide the panel away from that line.

4. Measure the length of the electrical box and copy the dimensions of the box onto the work bench, adding 1/4″ on all sides for fitting. Add an extra 1″X 2″ piece on the appropriate side for the box connector which will jut out from the electrical box. 

5. Cut a hole in the work bench per Diagram 1, below. Drill out each corner with a drill bit larger than the jig saw blade to give yourself starting positions.
Cut each side with the jig saw set at less than 90 degrees so the cut-out can be dropped back in place if the light box is removed.  

6.  Wire the electricals per Diagram 2, below. It is recommended to use a 3-prong plug and ground wire. Connect the other end of the wiring to a plug.

Disclaimer: this should be performed by a qualified electrician.

Image of rear of light box showing the wiring that you must get an electrician to do

7. Screw the cover back on the box, to look like Diagram 3, below.

showing the cut hole and wire

8. Turn the panel face up. Lay it on the work bench and thread the wiring through the hole per Diagram 4.  

How the panel fits onto the worktop

9. Slide the panel into position so the electrical box falls into the hole in the work bench per Diagram 5. The panel will sit flush with the work bench. Connect the wiring to the wall receptacle.

The finished home made light box

10. Optional. To protect the Panel surface from scratches and damage, overlay a matching piece of clear acrylic sheeting (Plexiglas) per Diagram 6.

Optional plexiglass on top of the light box you have made to protect it from scratches

To show the benefit of the light table, below are photos of my ‘Homage to Joe Average’, a Vancouver, Canada artist. Go to https://joeaverageart.com/ . With his bold lines and strong uncluttered images, Joe’s work just cries out for stained glass interpretations.

Why Do I Need A Light Box For Stained Glass?

You need a lightbox for a few different reasons:

  1. To trace your patterns.
  2. To help select your glass for your projects. A light box enables you to check if the colours go together and the balance of light and dark is pleasing. (see ‘Last Thoughts’ below)
  3. To cut your selected glass out on. This is especially effective if you’re using the ‘English method’ of cutting transparent glass. Simply trace the shape onto your glass and cut it out on the lightbox.
  4. To lay your cut glass pieces out on the pattern for a last check before assembling. This is good practice as it gives you an opportunity to change out any obvious colours that are jarring or not fitting together accurately enough.

Last Thoughts on Lightboxes For Stained Glass

It’s worth noting that natural light is nearly always better for selecting glass than using a lightbox. This is because we normally see stained glass with natural light behind it. Light boxes are a very good compromise when there is no natural light source.
You should always aim to choose your glass by holding it up to the same type of light that it will eventually be displayed in.

To help you see lots of different glasses up together you can construct a strong easel in front of a window. You can also use the technique of Lead Lining for a final check once the glass is all cut and ready to be assembled.
Read more about Lead Lining here.

8 thoughts on “How to Make A Light Box For Stained Glass”

  1. I like to repurpose whenever I can. We were replacing a refrigerator and one of the vegetable drawers had a glass top. Whenever I need a small light box, I put a work light in the drawer and voila, works well for cutting patterns. Not ideal, but it does the trick for me

    Reply
  2. I feel I must make a response to the latest regarding light boxes. I have in the past made a temporary light box for specific projects and can whole heartedly support your comments on the tremendous asset they can be.

    I am based in the UK and use three UK type LED light panels to illuminate my workspace. As overhead lighting they are unbeatable. I have not however come across the type of panel Ron has used, I am positive that these somewhat industrial looking panels are of American origin. Virtually all UK produced panels do not have such a bulky or complex wiring systems. They do however have a short trailing lead extending from the back of the panel which has a ‘plug and play’ socket which is attached to a small very neat LED driver (power supply), the driver unit has a length of quite thin cable to attach either to a lighting circuit or to a 13 amp plug /socket, the 13 amp plug option is entirely a DIY task.

    Perhaps more significantly Ron’s option of placing an acrylic sheet over the panel is far from an option. UK panels have a slightly flexible surface which would scratch extremely easily, but more than that the panel would not withstand anything being worked upon directly on its surface. The pressure of tracing or cutting glass would very rapidly destroy the panel. A protective acrylic sheet, (Plexiglas / Perspex) would be an absolute must. On that tack, a 60cmx60cm (2ft x 2ft) 4mm thick sheet would cost in the region of £25 + postage.

    Sorry to be quite so negative but would not wish to see UK glass makers destroying their lightboxes unnecessarily.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your considered comment Steve, I appreciate your time and your viewpoint. On the back of this, if you’re from the UK – or anywhere other than the USA – choose your light panel with care, make sure it’s suitable for this type of use.
      Ron does mention the protective acrylic (#10 above) as an option but it could be a prerequisite with a less robust panel.

      Reply
  3. I built my light box on a Kreig stand, then added castors so I could roll it where I wanted it, then roll it out of the way for the day.
    I used a piece of tempered glass (30” x 40”) that I found on Facebook marketplace for $10, that I sprayed a glass frosting onto.
    LED light strips are attached under the glass.
    I’d love to send a photo of it, but there’s no way to attach it here.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your tip Patricia, it sounds great. I hope it’s okay but I’ve emailed you so that you can email your photo.

      Reply

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