Fabrication Notes: Lightbox 2021
I exhibited at The Other Art Fair in Greenpoint, November 2021 for which I produced four new lightboxes. These were the first lightboxes I produced since Fall 2019. The objectives of the new lightboxes were:
-to create works as finished as possible, so as to be suitable for collectors' homes
-to express light paintings in a new size dimension (25"x25") -- previously, I created lightboxes sized 24"x48" (2017 - original Bushwick Lightbox), 40"x60" (2018) and 9"x9" (2019 - lightboxes for CADAF Miami).
-to embody technical improvements and best practices I have picked up since 2017.
My constraints were:
-very limited timeframe for production
-no immediate access to a table saw or wood shop
My solution was:
-to have the lightboxes fabricated by a professional woodworker
-to assemble the lightbox components in my studio
LIGHTBOX FRAME PRODUCTION
Production began with choosing the wood. It is important to choose good pieces of wood, as straight as possible.
After a consultation with the fabricator and purchasing the wood, the finalized the cut list and submitted it to him.
Then I anxiously waited for the lightbox frames to be made.
The frames were delivered and despite some flaws, I was generally happy with them. I was also happy with the conduct of the fabricator and the good communication between us, which built trust.
In this picture you see the 2017 lightbox showing a light painting in the dimensions that will be on the new lightboxes.
LAYING THE LED MATRIX
The total LED count per lightbox is 1024, so I ordered enough rolls of WS2812B LEDs for four lightboxes.
For the LED matrix panel, I used a piece of birch plywood.
I place the LED strips by hand, using only a ruler and pencil. I find placing LED strips to be very meditative.
Placing the LED strips by hand, properly, takes approx 4-5 hours.
In this iteration of lightbox creation, I really wanted to professionalize the design. This means design for ease of repair: in the event an LED or LED strip malfunctioned, I wanted the replacement to be as simple as possible.
Since 2017, the design that has worked well is having a power bus run vertically on each side of the horizontal LED strips. One side is power and one side is ground.
In the past, I have used 12 AWG wire as the bus, which worked well. However, in the event of a strip malfunction, to attach the new strip to 12 AWG - especially in a collector's house -would not be ideal, given my experience soldering 22AWG wire to 12 AWG wire.
As such, I went with screw terminals blocks, which could easily attach and detach with a screwdriver.
I wanted any repair down the line to require the most minimal amount of soldering.
Three terminal blocks on each side form two power buses on each side. They are attached with 16 AWG wire - hefty enough to carry a much larger load than they would be carrying. (The expected power requirement for the light paintings I was planning to show would not exceed 4A)
POWER SUPPLY UNITS
I originally installed a beefy Mean Well RSP-320-5 300W 5V Power Supply Unit, but after having the lightboxes around the house for a few nights, I realised the sound of the fan was super annoying. It would not be something I would want in my house, and I felt that a collector would feel the same.
So I swapped them out for CLASS 2 power supplies, which are lower current and fan-less. But I would have to ensure power consumption would remain within safe levels.
FITTING THE ACRYLIC PANELS
What I worried about the most was whether the handcut frames would fit the 24"x24" acrylic panels. As I suspected, the acrylic did not fit perfectly.
I resolved the problem by using a Dremel to shave off parts of the acrylic panel until it fit perfectly. This took an entire day for the four lightboxes.
The lightboxes came out very well, with a finish that I was proud of, and proud to sell to a collector.
Areas for improvement include:
-finding higher grade material than plywood for LED matrix panel
-having LED matrix custom fabricated having some out-of-the-box solution that ensure consistency and saves time (so I don't have to lay them by hand)