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Stained Glass Light Box Experiments Conducted in April 2018

About a month ago, I designed and built my first LED lighted oak box to display a Bluebird stained glass panel.  I documented this project, including my Lessons Learned.....and you can read about this project here.

I selected an LED strip light for the Bluebird project.  I ended up wrapping the strip 3 times around the inside walls of the box, and using no light diffuser.  I used plastic hooks with screws to retain the LED strip so it would not fall out out of position (the peel-off sticky adhesive is not reliable over years of service).  It was very labor intensive to install the LED strips.  I also never found that mythical sheet of solid diffuser panel material either.

In the future, I would like to make some more LED lighted display boxes, but I would like to find a stand LED light and diffuser design that works with any stained glass panel.  The LED strip lights are too labor intensive.  I decided to run some experiments using an existing Massey Harris 44 tractor stained glass panel. I also read that regular plastic sheets can be sanded rough, and they will work as a diffuser.........and I want to try that also.

LED Light type selected for these Experiments

I went to Lowest and shopped their LED light department.  I tried searching online, but there are way too many different types of LED lighting for my brain to get a handle on.  I need to touch and feel them, plus see how large they are. Lowes basically had 3 types of LED fixtures that might work in this application of lighting a stained glass panel......

1. LED strips

2. LED Puck lights. These are round. You can get a single one, or they come in groups of 3.

3. LED under-cabinet bar

I decided to try the LED under-cabinet bar type fixture.  It is about 12 inches long, which is the shortest length one that Lowes stocked.

Experimental Wood Box

I took a cardboard box that was about 3.5 inches deep, and cut a hole in the top, just slightly smaller than the Massey-Harris stained glass panel.  I then gave 1 coat of white paint to the inside of the box, to make the light reflect better around the inside of the box.

This is a quick and dirty way to do some test work, versus building a wood box.

Plastic Panel for a diffuser

While I was at Lowes, I searched and found a small sheet of plastic.  I sanded both sides with 60 grit sandpaper, using my orbital sander.  I washed off the dust using water and a rag.

To hold up the acrylic sheet in the cardboard box, I made some 3/4x3/4 by 1.75 inch long wood blocks, 4 of them, to act as temporary legs to hold up the plastic sheet.  I cut a hole in the side of the cardboard box to run the plug-in out of .

Massey-Harris 44 Stained Glass panel

This is what the panel looks like in my window-well with partial sunlight........

The Experiments Begin

I did the experiments in a completely dark basement room.

I am using my digital Canon camera to photograph the test results.   But, I learned on my test work on the Bluebird project, that the camera is more sensitive to brightness levels than the human eye.  It was very easy to do this testing, using the cardboard box set-up shown above.


Closing Thoughts

I learned a lot about the use of LED lighting on the previous Bluebird project..........and I continued to learn more doing the Massey-Harris tractor test work.

It appears you get the best results when you shine the LED chips parallel to the stained glass panel, and not perpendicular to the panel. 

The LED light bars are definitely a big labor time saver compared to messing around with all the retaining clips required to hold LED strip lights in place.

I may buy 1 more of these LED light bars, and try having 2 of them to light an 8x10 inch stained glass panel.  I will put them top and bottom, or maybe try them on each side of the box.  Unfortunately 2 plug ins will be required, if I actually use this method on a real project.

If you are doing your first LED lit stained glass project, I would probably use the cardboard box method I used above, to make sure your wood box design with the LED lights gives you the effect you want.  It is very quick testing to do, to make sure your final project will be ok.


May 2018 update

A guy recently posted a very interesting youtube video on using LED panels to display stained glass.  You can watch it here.

I also received a Delphi stained glass supply catalog, and they now carry these same type of LED panels to display stained glass. You can see it here.