I got a new puppy this Christmas.
I’m not doing this just to brag, honest. There’s a point. Up until then my painting setup was perched on the end of my computer desk. It was cramped, the only light was a little one clipped to my screen, and i had nowhere to put things. I got a lot of paint on my keyboard, too.
With Sif in the house that room was pretty inappropriate for him, so I migrated to the kitchen. The light was better, at least, but it’s obviously not a long term solution. I needed a portable setup, and I wanted good lighting, something I’ve never had.
I had a few requirements:
I have a 4×4 table in the library (not as posh as it sounds (Exactly as posh as it sounds -Ed.)) in my house. It’s mostly for gaming, but I do also have my work desk in there too. I wanted something that would sit on but not use all of the 4×4, and was small enough that I could shift it off and onto my desk for when we want to game. Ideally, 2×3.
I also wanted a light arch. They give excellent all around lighting, and let me paint deep into the evening if I want, which I often do. I shopped around for tutorials and found a few, but none was exactly what I wanted, so I decided to wing it. And now I’m writing a tutorial, so that if anyone else wants to do this they can, I guess? I didn’t take any WIP photos though, so I’ll just have to get shots of things in place. Ignore the organised chaos on top of my setup, this is just the way I live. Only God can judge me. (It’s somehow even worse in person. There are minis where no minis should be. -Ed.)
I couldn’t find a tray exactly the size I wanted, so I decided that bolting two together would do. In terms of light, you want something that’s pure white light, so it doesn’t pollute the colour. I think you also want a dimmer switch, as the brightest setting is atrociously bright. From Amazon (boo hiss, I know) I bought two of the following:
In terms of tools, I used a powerdrill (not absolutely necessary, but your arm is gonna hurt like hell if you don’t.) I also used a powered screwdriver (not necessary, but I’m fat and lazy), and a pindrill (with a paper-clip sized bit, for guide holes).
We used some small self-tapping screws, and a few longer countersink woodscrews.
The boring step, really. The tea trays are held together with countersink wood screws. The tea trays have barriers around the edge, so I drilled pilot holes for five screws in all – three originating in one tray, and two in the other.
The holes should be slightly smaller than the screw you’re going to put in. To make sure the screws are flush with the wood I just used the biggest drill bit I could find on a slow setting to make the shallow hole needed for the head.
Onto the arch itself. We have four flexible aluminium strips with metal lips. Starting with the first pair, drill a hole in the aluminium bar at each end with a stainless steel bit. The hole should be slightly smaller than the self-tapping screws you’re using. Now, drill a second hole, slightly above the first, in one end. The end with two holes screws to the inside corner of your tray.
The pilot hole for the self-tapping screw into the wood I just drilled with a pindrill. Attach both bars to opposite corners of the tray, but only use one screw for now. It’ll make it easier to manipulate the bar and line up the join in the center.
The second hole you drilled in each bar should now line up with the other bar. Drill pilot holes with the pindrill and then use self-tapping screws to screw them together. There should be two screws, one at the end of each bar. Now, go add the second screw attaching each bar to the tray.
Repeat the process with the other two bars. The result should be a pair of arches that meet in the middle. The final screw will go through the centre of the arrangement, and attach both arches and all four bars together.
Using a block of wood to support the centre, take your powerdrill and drill a hole that goes through three of the four bars. Make a guide hole with your pindrill in the fourth bar, and then run a screw through all four to join it all together.
After this, I clipped the ends off the screws. It’s not strictly necessary, but I would recommend it.
Now, LED time. The first LEDs you lay will have the power connector, so bear that in mind when you start this. The LEDs have an adhesive strip on the back – I’ve read that the heat of the lights will weaken the adhesion over time, and I’ll come back and amend this if that’s the case, but for now I’ve used this strip to stick them to the bars.
Starting with whichever corner you choose for the power cable, run the LEDs from corner to corner on the inside of one arch, and then along the side of the tray and corner to corner the other way. I just attached the spare lights to the inside of the tray at random intervals. The dimmer goes on the end of the LEDs, and connects straight to the power.
And that’s it! I have to say I’m surprised at quite how much more light I get now. Here’s a few photos taken under the lights!