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Glow-in-the-Dark Table Top

February, 2010
I was inspired by this mention in the Make Magazine Blog regarding an article in another blog by FangleTronics to do something with Glow-in-the-Dark paint. The project looked incredibly fun and I thought I might do something like that as well. A while back I built my son a Wooden Railway Train Table which has a removable 3/16" Masonite board (hardboard) about 48" x 30". My thought was to simply take another board, paint it with this Glow-in-the-Dark paint and it would be a really fun surface to write on with LED pens or small flash lights. So what the heck...that's what I did.
The first step was to sand the hardboard with a 120-grit sandpaper and clean the surface thoroughly. Then two coats of primer were painted on the surface using a small sponge-roller. After the primer dried, two coats of high-gloss enamel white trim paint was used to cover the surface. The result was a smooth, hard surface with a clean white look. It is very important to make sure the surface is smooth an evenly painted as possible since the Glow-in-the-Dark paint is clear when it is applied and everything shows through. Now after the two coats of gloss-white were applied and dried it was ready for the Glow-paint application.
This is the piece of Hardboard I used which was cut to size, primed and painted pure white.
The paint I used is Glow-in-the-Dark by Rustoleum. It can be found in some big-box home centers (home Depot, Menards, Lowe's etc.), but I could only find small half-pint cans of it. It was plenty for this project, but if I would ever want to paint a wall or at least a portion of it, I would need to find someway to buy larger quantities which are less expensive (the half-pint can is about $8). Anyway, until then this will just have to do. I applied two coats of the stuff, again with the sponge-roller. As I mentioned the stuff is clear so it's a bit difficult to tell what has been covered and what has not. So just methodically cover the surface to make sure you get good coverage. I applied two coats just to be sure.
Once the glow paint was dried you can immediately see the results. But like others have found I figured it might be a good idea to protect the surface with some type of top-coat finish. For that I used a product called Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish. I have used this on many woodworking projects in the past and I think it's an excellent product. It goes on like thick water and is very easy to clean up. You get a nice hard shell finish once it dries. I applied three coats of the stuff just to make sure the surface was protected as much as possible. I figured a 5-year old could do a lot of damage if they wanted to.
Once the finish dried it was ready to be placed on the table. I think this turned out to be a great idea because it was very easy for my son to sit at the table and draw with his LED pens and various flash lights.
This is the "Wooden Railway" table which has been re-purposed for this Glow-in-the-Dark experiment. Note that the railroad track has been replaced by the new "Glow-Board".
Now was the time to have some fun with this. We turned out the lights and instantaneously you see the ominous green-glow which kind of looks a bit spooky, but very very cool.
After the "wow!" factor wore off, we decided to have some fun with the pens and a digital camera. I set up the digital camera with an ISO 1600 film speed setting and a 15 second shutter speed. Probably a bit excessive, but we had some fun taking the pictures anyway. We started by waiting for the "glow" to wear off and then just scribbled and wrote things on the table. The following pictures are some experiments we did. We had a lot of fun with this.
This is a sample of writing with an LED pen. It is a lot of fun writing on the board.
The interesting this is that after writing something kids typically want to try to "wipe it off" to erase stuff. It's kind of weird to think about waiting instead of wiping to erase something.
My son laid down on the table and I traced around him. It kind of makes a very cool outline.
This is just a bunch of random scribbles.
 In the future I might try painting some toys or other small objects with the stuff. I even would like to paint a portion of a wall in my basement with it and really have some fun. I also think experimenting with different base colors like pink, blue, red, etc. might also prove to be interesting.
Have fun!