Moving Light – Fab – Week5


Fabricate something using primarily two different materials.  Let’s say the project is roughly 40% one material, 40% the other.  The materials cannot be acrylic or plywood (unless you are gluing up your own plywood).  The work should be held together using fasteners of your choosing.


sliding mechanism made with clay and wood in two pieces of wood grooves separately, while connecting the start and end of the neon light

sliding mechanism made with clay and wood in two pieces of wood grooves separately, while connecting the start and end of the neon light
a box made with clay and wood in the middle on top of a turntable a box made with clay and wood in the middle on top of a turntable



  • Miter saw and sanding machine for cutting of the plywood
  • Laser cutter on plywood for designed shapes and personal branding: circles and “moving light by Yiting Liu © 2019”
  • Experimenting with different materials: ruled out cork(too coarse), styrofoam(too fragile and loses parts of the foam when being slided), thick foam (too light and too cheap-looking, although easy to carve out the shape I wanted) and metal(too expensive), wood veneer(more expensive than rubber and would just be for decoration rather than for practical reasons)
  • Molding with black polymer clay
  • Added heights with scrap wood from previous projects and glued them together
  • Assembles rubber inside and at the bottom of the arms of the Moving Light Structure
  • Painted with metallic gold paint and acrylic black paint to create an aesthetic outlook
  • Assembled two hinges together to create a hinge that can go from 0 to 100 degrees. [this is due to the thickness of the wood won’t allow just one hinge when experimenting the mechanism of the arms]
  • Inserted the lights onto the mechanism and the whole thing works
  • Used bendable wire to stabilize the EL wire.
  • I used wood glue for wood to wood connection and super glue for other mixed materials. I ordered JB Weld but it was shipped to the mail service in NYU and I didn’t have time to talk to them to get it shipped to school.


  • rubber
  • plywood
  • bendable wire
  • EL wire/neon light
  • polymer clay
  • metal hinges


I want to make light as the main focus of the projects since I was so happy with my lightbox. [p.s.: I now have the lightbox sitting at my place, plugged onto the wall. It looks so great!] I wanted to challenge myself to make the design flexible in a way that you can change the shape of the light. Therefore, I went on and purchased the 1-meter EL wire from Canal Bulbs.

neon lights hang on top of each other

It took me a long time to think of the mechanism. I experimented with several designs from the sketch below and finally thought of something complicated to challenge my skills as a fabricator.

drafts of various designs

I created two open-box with plywood with engraved and painted designs. They are connected with the metal hinge (created with two hinges) so that the arms can move approximately from 0 to 180 degrees. Within the arms, I created a sliding mechanism with a stopper on top and on the side. I used clay to hold the end of the light so that the clay and the end of the light as a whole can move within each arm. To make the sliding better, I used rubber at both the bottom and top of the bottom layer to make the sliding of the clay smoother and the moving of the individual arm easier.

drafts of various designs

Experimenting with Materials

I tried several different materials to fit the sliding mechanism within the open-box. They have to be smooth enough to slide background but also strong enough to fit the bottom and top end of the light. I first thought of using same wood that I used in the arms but it is plywood. To get other materials, I thought of using wood veneer. But it took long time to get either vinyl flooring film or wood veneer from the Home Depot or Lowe’s and I didn’t have time and more money to spend on the wood veneer. Then, i thought of smooth styrofoam since it will be smooth when it slides through the wood arm. However, after cutting the styrofoam into the 2.5” cube, I realized that each sliding takes off the part of the styrofoam. I don’t like the crumbs it slides off since it is not to my standard.

a girl heating the hex saw using blow dryerbars of styrofoam

I then went to Canal Rubber Supply Co. to get rubber for the bottom layer of the wood and also got thicker foam to put the end of the light. It slides smooth on the rubber and it is easy to be carved out to put the end of the light in. However, aesthetically, it still is not to my standard. I then moved onto black oven-baked polymer clay from Blick Art Materials. It took me a long time to create the mold for the holder for the end of the light since I used the template from the square metal stacked thin layers on top of each other to make sure it is firm inside.

an open metal cube as a template for the clayend of the light, black clay with middle part carved out

I then carved out the middle part of the top half of the mold shown as below. I used aluminum foil to make sure the mold won’t expand to ruin the shape of the carved out space.

shapes of two cubes with middle part carved out on a blue mat black clay baked in the oven

When they were baked, I realized that they were too short compared with the height of the created side panels. Therefore, I glued pieces of wood together, cut them, and sanded them. I then glued them using super glue.

shapes of two cubes with middle part carved out using baked black claya box made with three pieces of wood and thick black clay black clay on top of two pieces of standing wood glued wood made stable by the clamps

I then sliced pieces of rubber from 2 sheets of 12”/12” smooth rubber. They are around 2+1/4 to 2+3/8 inches wide. When I put the sliding objects/light holder inside the groove, they slide smoothly.

ruler on top of a rubber sheetutility knife, rubber, wood groove on top of a mat two wood grooves made with plywood with rubber layer inside

Later, I painted everywhere and added extra coats so that you can only see black and gold metallic paint. I then painted the hinges and connected them together using super glue. When I tried only one hinge, the thickness of the wood made it impossible to move from 0 to 180 degree. Therefore, I used two hinges to create allow the two pieces to move from 0 to 180 degrees. It not only allows more options for users to move the light but also is easier to transport since you can only have 20-in long of panels to carry with.

one hinge and two wood groovestwo hinges and two wood groovesthree hinges painted in black

When I inserted the light into the box-structure of one of the clay, I had to take out the wiring system in the neon light. It fits okay with the structure. I am glad that I left a lot of empty space below my clay design.

a disconnected light and its wire with the box made with clay and wood in the middle

However, the light does not function as well as I expected since there are some connecting issues with the power supply. I did manage to take some good documenting photos. But I will try to replace it with another EL wire.


I would like to make it smaller and more compact in a way that it is easier to slide. Or, I would create a mechanism that can slide through bluetooth/wifi/remote. I do like the design of my sliding mechanism and would love to improve by adding some automatic systems.

Published by Yiting Liu


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