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We have all seen a movie or TV show where someone opens a treasure chest or brief case and the gold or diamonds inside are so shiny that the container is glowing as soon as it is opened. I thought that this would make a great effect for Christmas presents. So in this project, I am going to show you how to make a glowing treasure chest.

Here is the basic design. A switch is mounted to the side of a wooden box with metal brackets (because I didn’t want to mess up the felt lining). This switch is then wired to a set of lights that will turn on when the box is opened. You can also add sound effects if you want.

Project Steps



Wooden Chest (or other box)

Normally Closed Momentary Switch

Thin Sheet Metal

Battery Powered Lights


A Small Piece of Card Stock

Sound Record/Playback Module (optional)


Tin Snips

Needle Nose Pliers

Hot Glue Gun and Hot Glue Sticks

Wire Strippers

Select a Box to Use

For this project, I wanted to create the imagery of a treasure chest filled with glowing treasure. So I chose a decorative wooden box that was in the same general shape as a classic treasure chest. However, any container can work. You can use a brief case and make a prop replica of the brief case from the movie Pulp Fiction. Or you can just use a plain cardboard box and make a creative Christmas present.

Select a Switch

For this project, you need a “Normally Closed” (NC) momentary switch. This means that when the button is not pressed, the contacts are connected, but when the button is pressed, the contacts are disconnected. This switch will be used to turn the light on when the box is opened.

There are a lot of different types of switches that you can use. The simplest option is a basic push-button switch that you can purchase at Radio Shack. You could also use refrigerator door switch. Another option is a normally closed magnetic reed switch. However for this project, I am using a snap action switch because it had a large flat side that made it easy to mount. But any normally closed momentary switch will work.

I made one modification to the switch before installing it. This switch had a roller lever. It wasn’t necessary for this application and made the switch a little larger than it needed to be. So I cut it off with a strong pair of wire cutters.

Cut Out Small Pieces of Sheet Metal For the Mounting Brackets

For this project, you need to make two small metal brackets. One is used to mount the switch to the box. The other is used to press the button. I made these from small pieces of sheet metal. But you don’t need to go out and buy sheet metal from the hardware store. There are a lot of ways that you can salvage sheet metal from stuff that you have lying around your house. I was able to get all the metal that I needed by cutting up a can of fruit.

I used a can opener to remove the two end pieces. Then I used a pair of tin snips, to cut the can into a long rectangle of metal. I used a second can to help bend the metal flat.

In one corner, I traced the outline of switch. On the side where the button sticks out, I marked another line that was offset by the same distance as the thickness of the side of the box. Then I drew a third line that was offset from the second line by about 1/4 of an inch. I cut the piece along the outer most lines. Repeat this process to make a second identical piece.

Bend the Sheet Metal to Shape

Now you need to bend the metal pieces into the appropriate shape. Each metal piece has two lines drawn on it. Using a pair of pliers, bend the metal up at each line. This should make each piece into a “J” shape. Try to fit each piece over the side of the box. They should fit tightly enough to hold themselves if place without scratching the box. Make adjustments as necessary.

Mount the Switch to One of the Metal Brackets

We want to mount the switch to the inside front corner of the box. Position one of the brackets in either of these corners with the longer side inside the box. Then hold the switch up to the side of the bracket. You want the button to stick up slightly above the sides of the open box. Make a mark to indicate how the switch lines up with the bracket.

Then remove the bracket from the box. Apply glue to the side of the switch. I used hot glue. Then press the switch onto the bracket in the previously marked position. Hold or clamp it in place until the glue sets. When the glue has fully cured, mount the bracket back on the side of the box.

Cut and Bend the Top Bracket

The second bracket mounts to the lid of the box and is used to press the button on the switch. Mount this bracket to the side of the lid above the switch. Mark where the button lines up with this bracket. Using your tin snips, cut a slot in the longer side of the bracket that lines up with the button’s location. Then bend this tab down so that it is flush with the adjacent side.

Place this bracket back on the side of the lid above the lower bracket. When you close the box, the bent tab should press the button on the switch. Make any necessary adjustments so that everything lines properly.

Connect the Switch to the Light

Now that the switch is mounted in place, you just need to connect it to the light. Connect one wire to each of the two terminals of the switch. If the switch has multiple sets on terminals (such as a SPDT switch), you only need to connect to the normally close terminal and its common terminal.

Take two small pieces of wire and strip the insulation off of the ends. Then connect one end of each wire to the two terminals on the switch. You can solder the wires to the terminals, or use quick disconnect terminals.

To connect the switch to the light, take the free end of one wire and wrap it around the spring of the negative end of the battery pack. Then place a small piece of paper or card stock in front of the spring. Place the free end of the second wire on the other side of the card. Lastly insert the battery. The pressure from the spring should hold the wires in place. The card separates the battery from the terminal so that the switch is the only way to complete the circuit. This is the simplest way to add an additional switch to the light without permanently modifying it.

Once all the parts are connected, you may wish to secure everything in place so that they don’t slide around when the box is moved.

Optional: Add Sound Effects

To make the effect even better you can add sound effects. To do this you need a simple sound player. I am just using a cheap sound recorder module that I got from Radio Shack.

Before connecting the player, you need to see how the play button is wired up. In most cases one side of the button will be wired to ground. The other side of the button will be wired to the play pin on the IC chip and to a pull-up resistor. If this is the case, all you need to do is connect the ground of both circuits and connect the play pin to the switch.

The easiest way to connect the ground lines of both circuits is to connect the negative terminals of both batteries with a small piece of wire.

To connect to the play pin on the module, look for any open pin holes on the circuit board that are connected to that side of the switch. If there are no available pin holes, you will need to solder to the surface of the button connectors. After connecting a wire to the board, you need to connect the other end of the wire to the switch terminal that is not connected to the battery.

Here is how that all worked with my setup. On the battery pack of the lights, there are two wires connected to the spring on the negative end. One goes to the switch and the other goes to the play pin on the recording module. On the opposite side of the separator card, two wires are connected to the negative terminal of the light’s battery. One wire goes to the switch and the other wire goes to the negative terminal of the sound recorder’s battery.

Whenever the box is opened, the lights will come one and the pre-recorded sound will play. You can make up your own sound effects or you can find a lot online. Just play them on your computer, and hold the recorder up to your speakers.

Finished Glowing Treasure Chest

Now you have a working glowing treasure chest. These work great for Christmas or birthday presents. Or you can use it for everyday storage containers such as a jewelry box.

There are a lot of simple modifications that you can make to this design. You can add a reflective material to the bottom of the box to help reflect more light (I recommend chocolate gold coins). Instead of a wooden chest, you can use other containers. For instance, you can make a replica of the brief case from Pulp Fiction. Use your imagination and have fun.