Backlighting A Computer Desk

Backlighting A Computer Desk

Ever since I moved into my apartment a number of years ago, I’ve been relying on an old desk lamp as my office light. Since the entire apartment has absolutely no ceiling lights (whyyyyyyyyyyy), it was all I had at the time. Laziness prevailed and it remains in place to this day.

The problem I have is the two monitors shooting bright light into my eyes with a dark wall behind. Sure, playing a creepy game in the dark is great, but working on code or writing with a bright white screen doesn’t do me any favors. That’s when I found out about the whole back-lighting craze. I’ve seen people do it under their kitchen cabinets or behind their televisions, so why not on my trusty old computer desk?

I built this thing in 1998. I can’t believe it hasn’t fallen apart.

I took a ride over to my local electrical supply shop, told them what I wanted to do and they set me up with the necessary parts:

  • GM Lighting 30 Watt 120 Volt power supply
  • Dimmer switch
  • LED ribbon cable and connectors
  • Standard power cable

This was a bit more expensive than I realized it would be – coming in at over $200 – but my eyes are worth the expense.

Giving me wire crimpers and electricity is a bad idea.

I had the why and how pretty much down, but I didn’t think about the where. There isn’t much of free real estate on the desk for all of these components, but then I thought about it. These old 90’s computer desks always had a cabinet for a tower, but no one in their right mind would put a modern PC in these ovens. Seems like a great place to hide a rats nest of wiring!

I found a Trapper Keeper and some Crystal Pepsi in there.

Since I was going to need power for the lights anyway, I decided to mount a new power strip in the cabinet for both the lights and the items on my desk. I’ve never been a fan of leaving a power strip on the floor and I’m fairly anal when it comes to cable management, so this was a good excuse to finally do it.

When you measure making the power supply mount flush three times and still mess it up.

Working in this confined space was annoying to say the least, especially when the power supply just hangs in place. I decided to punch a hole in the supply and line it up perfectly (mostly) with the switch box for a clean looking installation. Trying to hold the wires in place, get the connectors crimped and keep the box in place resulted in a few beers being ingested afterwards.

I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea.

Once the power was set up, it was time to install the lights. Lining the top and bottom of the upper half of the desk seemed to be appropriate to attain that glow effect. I did learn a valuable lesson with these strips: get the polarity correct the first time. If you have to reposition the sticky LED strips after first placement, then they will never stick quite as well the second time. I ended up using some glue to hold them in place.

The strips don’t like sticking to old wood.

I spliced in some connectors between the upper and lower halves of the desk to make moving the desk easier. Once all the wiring was in place and measured correctly, I buttoned up the cabinet wiring and restored my PC and peripherals to their rightful locations.

I should probably grab a vacuum…someday.

I have to say, as annoying as the tight spaces of this desk made installation, I’m pretty excited about the finished product. All-in-all, this wasn’t in any way difficult to do. I know many people who are intimidated by electrical work, and rightfully so. Getting a zap is never fun. However, if you take the time to learn what you need to know and how to do it, then it’s not bad at all.

Oh man, that’s awesome.

One Reply to “Backlighting A Computer Desk”

Leave a Reply