This project was inspired by my ‘Art Nouveau’ dresser. I was moving houses and had to pick the dresser up. These old wood dressers are extremely heavy with all their drawers even with nothing in them. So this got me thinking about what I could make to eventually get rid of the dresser when I had to move again. I came across the floating nightstand.
These nightstands can be priced from $200 all the way up to well over $1000. Most hanging desks are sold on etsy and are hand made. These floating night stands eliminate all the unused drawers, but leave room to place your glass of water at night, or charge your phone. Therefore, I modified this hanging night stand and added a stationary light with an LCD screen built in. I could always buy an LCD light and place it on this desk, but I wanted to build one.
The first things I did was CAD model what I wanted the light to look like. I assembled all the dimensions and figured out how I would want to use this. I then purchased a 5’x5′ piece of ‘Birch Plywood’ and started to see how big this night stand was going to be. I cut each piece of wood ~2-3 times for precision on a table saw for the width. Then I laid the pieces on a chop saw and cut them to length. I then painted and assembled the bottom and the two sides shown in the photo below.
I then focused on the top of the night stand. I wanted the night stand to have wireless charging but also have a strip of LED’s so I could see what I had put in the space contained by the night stand. These tolerances were kept tight by creating the tool paths and using a CNC router.
The wires for these components will be hidden behind a false back added in later in the design process. After this was designed the electronics needed to be finished. These would determine how big the false back would need to be, and how wide the light was going to be. For this part I hired the help of my partner who is an electrical/computer science engineer.
We first started out by using a raspberry pi zero along with a compatible 3.5″ RPi LCD. However, the raspberry pi zero ended up not working because its processor was not powerful enough to run raspian(the operating system needed for raspberry pi to function properly) in desktop mode. Therefore we settled with a regular raspberry pi 3b.
To plug the wires into the LCD from the raspberry pi, we had to unsolder the previous hat and change it to pins. This allowed the pins to interface with the wires that led to the raspberry pi. To figure out which wires went where on the raspberry pi and LCD, the schematics/chart below was used. These diagrams were necessary since the header sits on all the pins, but no all pins were used. Only 9/26 pins were used for the intended purpose.
The first step was to install Raspian(the operating system) onto the Raspberry Pi. Once this was done the driver for the LCD needed to be installed onto the Raspberry Pi. The drivers can be found: https://www.waveshare.com/w/upload/1/1e/RPi_LCD_User_Manual_EN.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3oS33DR0WYgpUAs7XFquGG72Rago0QFsEyFSdGtOds6OPFM43EItu9z8s.
With the drivers installed, the output to the LCD display could be tested. When the display was seen to be working the orientation of the screen had to be changed since the default was in landscape mode.
With the screen tilted the right way, Magic Mirror could be installed. Instructions can be found here: http://www.bujarra.com/instalando-configurando-magic-mirror-raspberry-pi/?lang=en&fbclid=IwAR3AHXetk9Ik3X9vx-vCX47Hh3hN8OajeBiy0c4ScwiUKCgI7JcVFP9LsLw. Magic Mirror is a DIY open source software used for specific applications involving time, weather, and daily updates displayed on an LCD.
To ensure that the Raspberry Pi auto-started, further software needed to be installed called PM2 (a production process manager). The instructions for this can be found: https://www.magicmirrorcentral.com/complete-raspberry-pi-magic-mirror-tutorial/?fbclid=IwAR1J253ZW9WdqrWyihqkUQtYlWjuQPaUn18frTAkcu-XfSfAa144pcaRqvU. PM2 is for node js applications, like magic mirror, used to ensure the program would automatically relaunch if the system crashed or shut off at any point in time.
After PM2 was installed and Magic Mirror successfully booted, configuration of Magic Mirror was needed. The default configuration of Magic Mirror needed to be configured since the size of the LCD screen chosen could not contain all the default programs. This was done by editing the custom java script and css files to make the font the right size and the padding smaller. This ultimately allowed the text to adopt symmetry. Another modification to the code was deleting a lot of the default and adding synchronized time and weather forecast. This was done by downloading new modules and pulling API keys from https://openweathermap.org/city/5574991?fbclid=IwAR2qfBTs1v-UuLWC8G1TvX5wMbv2Q7zLoGOM96pObqW6algdZKQgrkLtuYU.
If given more time, I would go back and try to get raspberry pi zero to work with my LCD. However, this would take a lot more troubleshooting and steps that are more time intensive than the time available.
Now that this was done, the light could be fully assembled with the right dimensions. This was done by making finger joints using a finger joint machine, router, and band saw.
The leather vinyl was then added, and everything was nail gunned and glued together.
Overall, this project was a lot more time consuming than I had originally imagined it to be. However, I am very proud of the end result.
5×5 Birch Plywood $60
Raspberry pi zero $10
Power chord $5
What Next? I created this project to hang on my wall at my new apartment complex. This apartment complex is very modern looking outside as well as inside. This is the original reason that I chose a white exterior desk instead of black. It is the exact reason I also chose the bronze and brown accents instead of metal since the inside of this apartment complex has a lot of wood accents.
My original project was a minimalist hanging night stand that got rid of all the useless drawers I never seem to put to good use. I wanted something that told me the time and weather. This light combined all of those things. I ended up with exactly what I wanted, just maybe not how I wanted it. I will end up redoing parts of the project now that I have a good idea of how to actually work with wood and finger joints.
The aesthetic for this project was a combination of ‘Art Deco’ and ‘Art Nouveau.’ These combine white with wood accents as well as bronze, symmetry, and a very hand crafted look. I believe I achieved all my intended aesthetic choices.
What I learned from this project is how time consuming something so simple looks. I thought the electronics would be the hard part and the wood wood be quick and easy. However, cutting, sanding, and etching the wood took way longer than I had expected. This class taught me what it is like to think outside of the box and do something that is challenging.
If I had more time I would figure out how to use the raspberry pi zero to save spaces, and get a free API to display the time it would take me to get to work every morning. If I could do this project all over again I would prototype more and draw less. Designing is a great step in the process, but sometimes building the product really shows what you really want and prioritize.
Acknowledgements: My dad, Jon Bork, for letting me use his machine shop and my partner, Maxwell Moroco, for helping with the electronics and programming.
Presentation on YouTube: https://youtu.be/_1Er7qREk2o