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:
- 1/4 in plywood
- 1x4 Pine BoardsWhite Spray Paint (I used an old lousy can, but I'd recommend this brand!)
- LED Lights
- Frame Mounting Hooks
- Wood Glue
- Brad Nails
- Walnut Stain
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.
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.
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 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!