Light Up Names

This isn’t a new idea. I got the idea (and a whole load of help) from @g_wizzard who in turn got it from @bensonworkshop.



Front Step 1 – Use the text tool in vCarve (or similar) to draw out your chosen name. You might choose to adjust the text-spacing or weld the letters together for a different effect. Choose a font that holds the centre bits in place like Bauhaus 93. We’ll call this path the inner outline.

Front Step 2 – Use the offset tool to create a small large offset around 30mm. This is going to be the outer outline. It will be used for all three panels unless you put lights around the outside of the middle.

Front Step 3 – Use the outer outline and the offset tool to create a small offset of 3mm. In this example it would be a 27mm (30mm – 27mm) inwards offset. We will call this the Acrylic Lip or Recess. It is the recess on the rear of the front piece that the Acrylic is mounted onto / sits into. Calculating it from the outer outline means all the awkward bits are already gone.

Front Step 4 – Now place your 8mm dowel circles. Leave some allowance for another offset in the middle.

Machining The Front – When you machine the front you will need to do it back to front. Assuming you are using 18mm MDF the depths are (I would also cut in this order):

  • Dowels = 10mm
  • Recess(Acrylic Lip) = 18mm – frame depth at front. Something like 10mm would give you a 8mm frame
  • Inner outline – full depth
  • Outer outline – full depth

Machining The Back – The back is the easiest to machine. You need the outer outline and dowels. You do NOT need to reverse the image to machine it.

  • Dowels = 10mm
  • Outer outline – full depth

Middle Step 1 – The middle is probably the most complex. First create a small outwards offset of around 2mm from the Acrylic Lip – this will be full depth and be the shoulder that the LED ribbon is attached to. We will call it the LED Lip.

Middle Step 2 – For the middle outer we have a choice. If we are only having LED ribbon running around the inside of the light it can be the same as both the Back and Front and we can just use Outer Outline. However, if we want LED ribbon running around the outside as well we want to reduce the outer outline by about 2 mm. In the image below the two pink dotted lines are the paths we would want for the second option – the larger Outer Outline and Acrylic Lip paths have been left to show the dimension shift.

Middle Step 3 – Now create a slot that will allow you to pass the cable and LED ribbon through. 4mm x 12mm deep should be sufficient. If you position it where there is a rise in the lettering then the cable will not affect how the light sits.

Machining The Middle – All the paths on the middle are done full depth except the cable slot. Although if you want to get the cable right to the back you will need to reverse the whole part and machine it back to front.

  • Dowels = 19mm
  • Cable Slot = 12mm
  • Inner outline – full depth
  • Outer outline – full depth

Profile – The following image shows the profile. Blue is rear and Green, Red are centre and front respectively. Create shoulder recess for the acrylic in the red front. Repeat the process in the green centre so the LED ribbon has a guide. The green dashed line shows the reduced outer offset if you want to run the ribbon around the outside.

I have not shown how I use dowels to help line everything up. drill holes in front and rear (from the correct side) and all the way through middle. I glue front and middle together before prepping, sanding and spraying. The back is completed separately so it can be removed and reattached.

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