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This past weekend I finished a project I have been working on now (weekends and whenever I could get time during the week) for the past 3 months. It is a Light Box for my Masonic Lodge, Pinal Lodge #30, in Casa Grande, AZ.

We have a light in our Lodge, that was either made or purchased quite some time ago, that for quite a while now we all have felt is an eyesore though no one had any ideas what to do about it. Well, a few months back I came into possession of a couple opaque panels with Masonic symbols on them, which I thought would make a great light box to replace this current light in the East. I discussed it a bit with another Brother in the Lodge who has some woodworking experience to see what we could come up with. Our first idea was to build a small shallow box with the two panels forming the front and back, with just enough room in between for a light, and suspend the box so it could be rotated to display one face or the other. This just felt too small and not robust enough for its placement.

Our Lodge was officially formed in 1922, and in that time there have been many fine pieces of furniture donated to the Lodge by its members. I wanted whatever piece I came up with to be on par with these previous works, so I set out to design something befitting its place in the Lodge.

The first issue I had was that I only had two panels, yet one had to be on the center line (if you will) of the room. So, I thought if I could find or make one more panel this would solve that problem, and was fortunate enough to find out one of the wives was very skilled in arts & crafts and was able to hand paint a third panel for me (this became the left-most panel). Now, with three panels, I turned to Google's SketchUp to begin drafting a few designs (screenshots attached). My wife and Father-in-Law made the comment I should try matching the design(s) of the other pieces in the room. And with that, the design pretty much snapped in place. I modeled it after the main podium, but put my own spin on it.

Without further adieu, here are some photos...

WoodtalkOnline Photo Album (8 photos):

Facebook photo album (36 photos):

The box is built from:

  • Pine S4S 1x2's - front face vertical and horizontal members, internal vertical supports
  • Pine S4S 1x3's - sides and bottom
  • Pine S4S 1x4 - top
  • 1/4" wood paneling - sunken panels in front face

    As I don't have a planer or drum sander, and to save some time, I went with the pre-finished S4S pine available at Home Depot. The 1x2's were all cut to length and I used the table saw to cut the tongue and grooves into them. I also found some nice pre-finished wood paneling there at HD which had some nice grain patterns. I cut the panels down to the 2.5"x3" squares to make the sunken panels in the face. I then cut the 1x3's to length, and routed a rabbet along the front edge which would cradle the front face. I joined the sides and bottom with a reinforced rabbet. In the bottom piece I used my radial arm saw to cut six dadoes for the internal vertical supports which would serve to support the front face but also separate the box into three compartments. The top was cut to length a bit longer than the box was wide to give some overhang on each side, and I used a couple pieces of pre-made "rope-like" trim to hide the seam between the box and top piece. The back is a single piece of paneling that was flat white on one side, which helps to reflect the lights.

    For the lighting I used the same mini-fluorescent lights you can put inside computers to make them glow different colors. I used four white bulbs per panel to make sure they were nicely lit up. To power them I found a couple old busted computer power supplies which I took out the internal power plugs because I needed those white plastic plugs as that's what the lights used to connect inside the computer. I then got three wall plugs like you use to recharge a phone, that convert the wall 120V A/C to the 12V DC needed by the lights. I clipped the ends off the wires of the power supplies and spliced them onto the ends of the plugs I took out of the computer power supplies. Lights

    For the finish I went with Minwax's Red Oak stain/finish. I liked the color of it, and thought it gave the piece a more distinguished look. Because the finished box was going to have a fair amount of nooks and crannies, I decided to apply the stain as I assembled the box. It turned out a little bit darker than I had planned, but I think it still looks good.

    [*]Stain/Finish: Minwax® Oil-Based Red Oak Wood Finish Interior Stain

    I decided on a French cleat style mounting for the light box as the thing was about 25lbs I didn't want to take any chances it could fall off the wall. Mounted it on the brick wall of the Lodge with mounting bolts, and there it stayed. The French cleat will let me take it down if need be, but otherwise it's on there good an solid.

    All in all, I feel pretty good about my first major project, and the first one I did for someone other than me. Looking back I think I would do a few things differently... maybe instead of just tongue and groove I might try raised paneling (like cabinet doors) to make the little squares look nicer, maybe make the individual compartments so that they could be opened up like doors for ease of access, etc. But you live and learn, and look forward to the next project, right? :)

    I give thanks to all those who helped me out by answering my questions and offering suggestions and advice. I am now interested in hearing feedback on what you think of the finished piece, and maybe what you would do differently if you were the one making it. Might be able to come up with a couple more pieces I'd like to make for the Lodge. :)

    -- Andrew

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