Psychedelic Light Box

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What is this thing? I call it a psychedelic light box, but maybe it's called something else. I've poked around on the Internet, but haven't found anything quite like it. What I have found are light boxes called "color organs" or "light organs". However, these boxes appear to lack the middle light baffle as described below.

The first and last time I heard of this idea was way back (around 1982) in my junior high school shop class. I don't remember what I did with the one from junior high, but I recently decided to build another.

This page shows how I built the light box which was around 2016. But I'm currently calling this project a failure because my C7 bulbs are far too dim. It all looks okay in a dark room, but there's too much ambient light in my gameroom. I'm also thinking that I should have went with the prism clear diffuser instead of cracked ice white. The prism clear is more translucent and would have reflected less ambient room light. Click the image below to see a brief YouTube video shot in a dark room.

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--EXTERNAL LINK-- Click image to see a brief YouTube video.

The project comprises a plywood box with three panels. The rear panel supports a system of randomly flashing lights. The mid panel or baffle creates shapes of light. And the front panel displays the shapes projected from the baffle.

I started by constructing the box which is about 1' by 2' and made from ¾" plywood. The box could be any shape. I designed mine to sit on top of the refrigerator in my gameroom. I faced the box with molding to create a bezel for the front panel. I added six inner cleats to fasten the baffle. And I routed a rabbet around the back to support the rear panel. The box is 12" deep. The baffle is about 3" back from the front panel. The back panel is about 9" back from the baffle. I painted the outside of the box white and sprayed black on all the inside surfaces.

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Front view of the box.

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Back view of the box.

The middle light baffle is made from ¼" plywood with a random assortment of circles. Any shape would do. I stuck with circles because they were easy to cut with hole saws.

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Light baffle.

The front panel is made from plastic of the sort used to diffuse the florescent lights in a suspended ceiling system. First I tried prism clear. But the diffusion effect was too aggressive and the circles were too ill-defined. Next I tried cracked ice white which did a better job of displaying the circles projected from the baffle. The cracked ice white panel is attached behind the front bezel with a few beads of silicone caulk.

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Cracked ice white versus prism clear.

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Cracked ice white versus prism clear.

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Cracked ice white panel installed from behind with silicone caulk.

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Next the light baffle is installed to the cleats with screws.

For lighting I went on the Internet to a company called Novelty Lights and bought their "commercial grade" string of E12 lamp sockets. I wanted something of higher quality than what I'd find in the Christmas department at Walmart. The E12 socket corresponds with the C7 lamp.

I used incandescent C7 twinkle bulbs for a random light effect. Modern LED versions of the C7 twinkle bulb are also available. LEDs might be the smarter choice. But I like the color of incandescent bulbs and was afraid the LEDs might not look right. What's important here is that each bulb must flash independently from every other bulb so as to create a random light effect. An integrated light system that produces a recurring light pattern won't look right.

The rear panel is made from ½" plywood and includes a series of upper and lower vent holes since I decided to go with incandescent lamps. Each socket is secured with small screws and a pair of plastic staples of the sort used for house wiring. The sockets are spaced 12" apart so I snaked the wire back and forth to get a more compact arrangement. I used a total of twelve sockets and three each of red, green, amber and blue bulbs. Also note that the back panel includes a pencil tracing of the light baffle. No socket is mounted directly behind any baffle hole. I thought this might mitigate hot spots.

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Rear panel.

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Rear panel.

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Rear panel installed.

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Finished box.

As noted at the top of the page, my C7 twinkle bulbs are no good for anything brighter than a dark room. Where to go from here? This all seemed way cooler back in junior high. I don't think the C9 twinkle bulbs would make a significant difference. I don't think the C7/C9 LED equivalents would make a significant difference. Another option may be a flash button which would accommodate any standard bulb (up to 60 watts!). But that product looks to have disappeared. There are self-blinking LEDs to replace the #455 lamps. But I believe they only come in white and I don't think they would be bright enough. Any other LED would require some sort of external blinker circuit which is what I was hoping to avoid. I don't think bright color changing LEDs would look right because the circles wouldn't move around. My current thinking is that I need to go with bright LEDs wherein each LED is coupled to a corresponding solid-state automotive flasher. The flashers are relatively inexpensive and are specifically designed with LEDs in mind. Now all I need is some renewed motivation...