DIY Lightbox Repurposes Useless Scanner

[James] didn’t like losing detail when scanning in photographic negatives, so he repurposed an old scanner and turned it into a lightbox.

The Flickr set of the build shows [James] installing a compact fluorescent bulb in the body of the scanner. Aluminum foil reflects the light, and the scanner glass is painted white for diffusion. [James] is quite happy with the result, and is amazed by the detail seen in the negatives under magnification instead of scanning.

We’re trying to figure out [James]’s though process in deciding to build a light box, and the best we can come up with is the hackaday mantra of, “Of course I can do that myself.” Even though he seems happy with his project, we’re wondering how hackaday readers would improve it. Maybe several dozen red, green, and blue LEDs to adjust the color temperature? Post your ideas in the comments.

14 thoughts on “DIY Lightbox Repurposes Useless Scanner

  1. That LED idea is truly daft :)
    If you actually wanted to change the temperature I’d go with shoving in colored paper under the bulb maybe? LED are just too tiny a point and you’ll never get a uniform result.

    I also see no point in using an old scanner though. unless you really have an empty case in the house. then you of course might as in this case, but I’d not look for an old scanner for this purpose.

  2. White paint? I made one years ago, for a cartooning friend. He purchased the glass from Germany, double diffused on both surfaces clear in the inside. Rounded edges on the top so overhanging work don’t get creased.Two circular florescent lights 22w and 33w were co-centered in the center in a baking pan reflector.
    First you sketched up on regular paper for feel then the faint pencil lines would show thru art stock laid on top. The properties of the glass are important. Those faint lined stood out clearer with the heavy stock on top, for inking in the final cartoon. It was a popular strip in the Purdue Exponent.

  3. I was going to do something similar using an old scanner I have with a defused cold cathode light in the lid. After removing the light from the lid to mount inside the body I dound that the inverter was bad. Rather then play around with the inverter to find what is bad I’m going to just order a kit with two lights and and inverter and use soemthing else to defuse the light.

  4. Few years ago I have build some thing like that from ascaner using the scaner cl bolbs (I have used 2 cl bolbs from 2 scaners) and add an opaque DCFIX on the glass as a defuser.

    It worked perfectly!


  5. my dad made one for hand drafting that was large enough for a 30″ x 42″ vellum print. Wooden box, 8″ deep, with a frosted glass surface that was sturdy enough to lean on. He used fluorescent tubes as the light source. This was in the early 90s, btw.

  6. I did this with a monitor that I got from a friend. It had the lcd cracked – removed the panel and mounted everything back and now it has a really nice natural white light ( and with a little blind guessing you can change the luminosity )

  7. I’ve made a similar light”box” (light panel maybe?) from the backlight and diffusers from an old LCD. It works really well for viewing slides and negatives, but it’s not so hot for scanning or photographing them. In order to get a dynamic range that’s even close to what’s in the original negatives, you want to have an extraordinarily bright light illuminating them, and most LCDs aren’t up to the task. The best solution I’ve found so far is to literally use the sunlight in an open window as the illumination source.

  8. I’ve gone done this so many times. Actually just the other day these kids beat up a copier and after chasing them out of my neighbors parking spot, in fear they where going to leave broken tire popping bits. I looked through it like I usually do when I see some thing instant parted like this and discovered the tops of copiers are way better and bigger light boxes than scanners. this one had a nice swing up thing to, which made it super thin and wide.

  9. Same idea, different wavelength. I’ll need one of these as a DIY PCB UV box. Old scanner shell: check. Dismantled Philips UV lamp complete with reflector: check. Spare time to actually do it: …ummm, what’s that?

  10. Yesterday I bought a light box that hangs in a doctors office for viewing xray prints from the local reuse center. It’s about 18″x24″, works, is in great cosmetic condition and cost $15

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