Designing And Building An 8 Foot Long River of Light

Art & Sculpture CNC & Machining Craft & Design Digital Fabrication
Designing And Building An 8 Foot Long River of Light
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I’ve disliked the under-cabinet light in my kitchen since I moved in years ago. Unfortunately, replacing it has just been one of those tasks I’ve kept putting off over and over. I finally came up with a concept that I thought would be a good replacement, and took the dive to get it done.

I was inspired by all the “River Tables” that I’ve been seeing online. Though I personally have a distaste for colored epoxy pours, there’s no denying that the organic shapes of the “river” are appealing. I’ve been playing with faux topography on the cnc router for a while and I had this idea to create a river of light through a mountain range.

Material choice

The first thing people have been commenting on is that it is basically unfinished pine. They’re not wrong. It would look better as something else. I initially wanted to do maple but found the price of all the wood I’d need to be a bit more than I wanted to spend for what is basically an experiment. This light sounds cool, but will I like it in place? I don’t know, I didn’t want to shell out the cash to find out. Even with pine, there’s over $100 of wood there.

Now that I’ve made it, I think I’ve learned enough that I could re-make it better with nicer wood. I’ve learned that I don’t need as much wood and even the design could benefit from being less extreme (more flattened over all). I may build another, I may not. Only time will tell!


The second most asked question I get is what the light is made of. This is a super diffused LED strip and I think it is gorgeous. I intentionally went with the warm white to accentuate the wood, though it comes in a multitude of colors. You can find it called “LED Neon” or “Neon Rope” on Amazon, Adafruit, and Sparkfun.

just a tip, don’t cut it while it is lit. You might think that it would look cool on video, but if you bridge the contacts you’ll fry the box and have to buy another one… like I did (see in video 2 below)

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For those that are interested in replicating this kind of faux topography, I’ve made a deep-dive to explain exactly how I created it in Fusion 360. I also explore the CAM settings I use to mill it out of a block of wood.

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Physically creating the light wasn’t as simple as plopping it into the cnc router and just hitting go. I had to create these massive butcher block chunks of wood, and then deal with a multitude of machine issues and user error.


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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

View more articles by Caleb Kraft