On the heels of another project we recently did, we thought it would be cool to do another backlit LED project. The first project we did utilized the LEDs shining through the negative area of an image to create a lit silhouette of the image that had been cut out.
This project utilizes the LEDs shining behind a positive object and casting a silhouette onto a piece of acrylic in front of it. We decided to go with the New York City skyline for this, since it is an iconic thing that most people would recognize, plus we thought it would look pretty neat on our kitchen wall. It kind of gives off that dark cafe vibe.
Get the NYC Skyline Pattern – free and non-scalable
Get the printable PDF plans – no patterns (PDF)
Make sure you watch the video as it shows a lot more of each step much better than the images do.
Pattern & Prep
We used 1/8″ MDF for the New York City skyline. We use it a lot for stuff like this, mostly because it’s cheap. As with all scroll projects, we laid down a layer of painter’s tape, glued the pattern down with a spray adhesive and then covered it with clear packing tape.
After the pattern was fixed in place, we trimmed it down a bit on the band saw just to make it easier to manage on the scroll saw.
We used a thing spiral blade for cutting out the skyline. This makes it a bit easier to navigate the lines since there isn’t as much turning involved. Once we had the scrolling done we cut the bottom straight line on the band saw.
Prep & Paint
Once we ripped the pattern off, we attached a dowel to the back of the New York City skyline piece so it could stand up. Then, we went straight to a technique we have been using quite a bit when scrolling with MDF; the blow torch technique. Scrolling MDF leaves a lot of fuzzies around the edges, so to save on sanding, which would be very difficult in the first place, we burn the edges. It works well, especially since usually a project involving MDF will be painted. After that we just hit it with a coat of flat black spray paint.
Making The Box
The box is simple and consists of a panel of acrylic that was sprayed with a frosted glass spray and a frame made out of ripped 2x4s that were jointed and mitered. Slots were cut in the inner edges of the frame to receive the acrylic.
I don’t want to detail measurements on this, because it will depend on the size you are going for with the skyline pattern. You can see in the video how we assembled the box, it’s pretty straightforward.
Adding The New York City Skyline
I added two blocks to the back of the New York City skyline piece with wood glue. Then I glued and clamped those in place in the back of the box, making sure the skyline was back about 1/4 from the acrylic, that way it would cast a better shadow.
Adding The LEDs
I didn’t want to detail this step too much, since the brand of LEDs we used are unknown and are a set we just had laying around that we had picked up at a dollar store a couple years ago. It’s fairly simple, however, and just consists of a battery box and strand of lights. There are many versions of this on both Amazon and eBay and most of them work wonderfully for stuff like this. To attach them we just used hot glue.
There isn’t much to this project other than cutting out the pattern and building the box, both of which take little time. I think I had about 2 hours in this project in total. It was super fun to make and it looks great in our kitchen. And it really does give off the big city, dark, smokey lounge kind of vibe. I like it, the kids like it and Amy likes; so I call it a success.
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