Civil Defense Art Gallery

Polarized Light Box Display/Project

Original Civil Defense Polarized Light Display Box. April-2009
In March of 2009 a lady sent me an e-mail asking me about an original polarized display box that her and her husband had in their possession for a number of years. They were going to sell it on ebay and wanted some information about the display box. I told her that the original display boxes like this are pretty few and far between. I wasn't able to get into some eBay bidding war over it at the time so I asked her for some photos of the box for the site and she was kind enough to send some photos of the box for the CDM.
Thanks Cindy for taking the time to send the photos!

Polarized Light Box With Transparency On Front Light Box Showing Hinged Front Bottom
Inside Light Box Showing Motor, Light and Polarizer Wheel Tech-Rite Company Label

This original box has a bottom-hinged front frame that swings down to put in the transparencies, a polarized film wheel, clock motor, round florescent lamp, ballast and starter inside. See my project description below for more details about how it works.

My Polarized Light Display Box Project. December-2006

I spotted a couple of polarized light displays back in mid-2006 at a local Goodyear auto repair shop while having a tire patched. The Goodyear displays were animated showing coolant going through an engine, shock absorbers in operation etc. I instantly thought about the CD display and asked the manager to let me look inside the displays. The displays worked just as I suspected with the circular lamp and the motorized polarizing film spinner between the light and transparency.

The transparencies have polarized film on the back in the desired locations to make the parts of the artwork shimmer and appear in motion as the polarized light coming through the wheel changes direction as the wheel spins. The process is explained better here on this page


I let the idea sit until I went back to the Goodyear with another tire problem in November 2006 and noticed the displays were all gone from the sales area. I asked the manager where the displays were and he said the motors got noisy in them so he put them in the back. I asked him if I could take a look at them again and he offered to give me one of the small wall displays. Of course I took him up on the offer. My own Civil Defense light box was now a possibility!

I had Garland Sheetmetal, in Garland Texas, build a box to the guesstimated size for the one transparency I had because the Goodyear display box was the wrong size. A new motor mount had to be fabricated and I had to get a smaller bulb as well but it was a pretty straightforward build. I also ended up having had to get a smaller polarizing film spinner wheel. I found Frank Woolley Co. in Reading, PA that manufactured polarized displays and called them about parts. As it turned out they were just a few days from going out of business and I got the last 2 spinners they had in stock. Luckily one was small enought to fit my box. Finally I'm able to display this transparency as it was meant to be displayed! See the video link at the bottom of the page to get an idea of what it looks like in operation. Also I have links to videos of other lightbox transparencies on the Art Gallery Main Page.

My Light Box Display With My Transparency On The Front My Light Box Display Inside

Here is my completed display box with the transparency in place and removed to show the spinner, light and motor assembly. Instead of a hinged front frame I went with a slotted front with the transparency being held between 2 sheets of clear plastic. Maybe some day I will be able to get a hold of the whole transparency set. That set is shown on the Art Gallery Main Page.

My Polarized Light Box Video On Youtube

Here's a video of the lightbox in operation with some background music. The song is Fallout Shelter by Kevin Shegog

More polarized light box video links on the Art Gallery main page.
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