How to make a Wooden Star Map Nightlight

We just had our first child and being a space nerd I wanted to commemorate it with a print of the night sky the day she was born. You can purchase prints like these online, but I wanted to take it a step further and make it light up! Here are the materials and tools I used to make it:



Step 1: Create the Star Map Image

I used the Inventables X-Carve to drill out all the stars. To do that I need to download the star map on the day and time my daughter was born. There are several sites online that will create prints like these for you, and I used Greater Skies. I did have to pay for the print, but unlike other companies that do the same thing, they allow you to download the PDF for around $30.

Once I had the map I then:

  • Imported the file into Adobe Illustrator and did an image trace (using the logo setting)

  • Expanded the image trace, ungrouped everything and turned the stars from white to black

  • Added my daughter's name, birthday, time and coordinates at the bottom.

  • Exported the file as a .svg

From here you could send your file to a CNC in a few different ways. Since I'm using the Inventables X-Carve, I wanted to get the file into their free software Easel . I found that my file was too large to import directly, so I first brought it into Vectric's V-Carve and then exported G-Code to then import into Easel

Step 2: Cut Out All the Stars Using a CNC

This step took a looooong time. All in all, there were a little over 2000 holes that it took the Inventables X-Carve 6 hours to drill!

I used a 1/32 bit to get the stars(holes) as small as possible. One thing I wasn't able to replicate was the varying star sizes in the original print, but the result still was great.

After the stars had been cut out, I spray painted the top white. I painted the sign before carving out all the words so that the wood color would show through the top coat of paint.

The words were then cut out in a separate CNC operation using a 60-degree V-Carve bit.

Step 3: Build the Frame

The frame was a simple 2 part construction.

Part 1

After trimming the final sign to size, I first made 1x3 strips of construction pine for the walls. These were butt jointed together with wood glue and brad nails. I took all my measurements directly from the finished sign.

Part 2

I finished the frame with additional 1/3 strips, this time I used a crosscut sled to create 45-degree miters. You can also make these cuts on the miter saw. The top frame was again put together with wood glue and brad nails. The brad nails served as a clamp so I could keep working as the glue dried. There is a half inch overhang on the inside of the frame, this is what the sign will attach to.

Step 4: Adding the LED Lights

I used cheap LED lights from Amazon. These DO NOT come with a power supply so make sure to purchase an adapter when you get the lights....or you will be waiting to plug it in like me ;)

The lights have an adhesive back that I wrapped them around the inside of the frame. I then used a 1/2 Forstner bit to drill a hole in the side of the frame to route the end of the LED cable through.

NOTE: If I were going to make this again I would have put the plug flush with the side of the frame to keep the wire from dangling from it when not plugged in.

Step 5: Attach and Seal the Sign to the Frame.

The sign was attached with wood glue to the inside of the frame. I was worried about light leaking through the edges so I sealed everything with caulk. This was probably overkill but seemed like a good idea, ha!

I finished the frame by sanding it down to 220 grit and then applying 1 coat of stain.

Step 6: Attached the Back

I sealed the entire frame with another sheet of 1/4 plywood. I cut this out using my crosscut sled on the table saw. The back was attached to the frame with brad nails. I didn't use glue so that I could remove it if I needed to get inside.

Hanging hardware was mounted to the back.

NOTE: If I made this again I would have made the frame so I could slide the back into it. This would allow it to be easily removable.

And Finished!

And that's it. This was a fun project to make and I got to try a bunch of new things. We love having a cool way to highlight the birth of our daughter!

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Brandon Cullum