Tutorial: Building a glowing coffee table
Okay, this is a rough tutorial on how to create a glowing coffee table like the one I built. I'll try and explain the steps the best and simplest way I can.
Step 1: Grab a cheap coffee table at a thrift store. Remove the top of the table. If the top is too thin it might get destroyed in the process, like mine did, and you'll need to make a new one from plywood. Take all your measurements, making very sure the sides of the table are deep enough to house the lights. If you need it deeper you'll have to extend it with pieces of wood.
Step 2: You'll need to make a bottom for the table to create a lightbox. Measure your plywood so the edges are flush to the outer sides of the table. In order for the bottom to fit you'll need to cut out notches on each corner so the board will fit around the legs. Once you've cut and attached the bottom by using screws and/or glue (preferably something strong like Gorilla glue), you'll want to seal any cracks/holes so light will not escape. I used wood filler to fill in any gaps. Finally, spray paint the entire table the color you want it to be.
Step 3: Now cut out the panel holes from the table top. The top drawing involves cutting into the top with a jigsaw or round saw. I tried and failed at cutting a perfectly straight line, so I did like the bottom drawing, where you cut the table top into pieces with a table saw and put them together to form perfect angles.
Step 4: The panels will need a lip to rest on so that they are flush with the table top. Measure as needed and either take two pieces of wood and combine to make an L shape, or use an auger to cut an L-shaped groove into a piece of wood. Attach the lips to the underside of the table top. Now spray paint your table top.
Step 5: Measure and outline on the table bottom where the panels are. This helps you place the lights correctly.
Step 6: Place the lights where you are going to secure them. If you are going the DC (battery powered) route, get those small 6" flourescent lights and you can attach them to the table bottom with velcro (so you can replace the batteries). If you go the AC (power cord) route, you'll want to get two long lights and secure them with screws. Make sure you have enough clearance inside the table with the table top on (if you measured correctly in Step 1 you should be okay)!
Step 7: If you go the AC route, you'll need a switch to turn the lights on/off. Because I didn't use AC power, I can't go into detail on exactly how to wire it up, but the drawing shows how it would be done.
Step 8: You probably want to secure the power cord to the side of a leg. A fancy way would be to cut a groove into the leg and place the cord in there.
Step 9: The panels could be glass, but plexiglass/lucite is far cheaper. You want to spray them with glass frosting spray so they are opaque with the lights off but allows the light through when turned on. You want the frosted side facing down on the table.
Step 10: If you want a colored light, get some big sheets of theatre gel and lay them over the lights. Flourescent light won't generate enough heat to melt them. If you can't find sheets, you can use a bunch of smaller gel squares or even colored saran wrap. The more layers you use the darker the color will be.
Step 11: Assemble the table!