Adoption Map

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Project by BarrelBurl posted 06-01-2015 09:01 AM 2648 views 30 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife and I are expecting to bring home our adopted son from Tanzania in a few months. In preparing his room, I made this backlit world map for his wall to show his birth home and his new home in the context of the rest of the world, as well as act as a nightlight if needed. His birth home (Tanzania) and his new home (Houston) are highlighted in the form of pinholes that let additional light through when the map is lit. I may widen these later to draw more attention to them. I had to take some creative freedom on the more complex geography (sorry southeast Asia).

The continents are made of 1/2” birch plywood and are mounted off the back panel using dowels. I found that a gap of 3/4” between the continents and back panel gave the desired light spread. The back panel is made of pine boards edge joined with dowels and painted to match the wall color. As my vehicle couldn’t fit a full sheet of plywood, this gave me a good opportunity to practice joining long boards along their edge. The frame is pine as well, mitred and glued at the corners. All surfaces were finished with a vinegar and steel wool mixture followed by paste wax.

The lighting used are warm LEDs from the LED tape lighting system offered by Lee Valley, which I highly recommend. I added a dimmer as well. Some supplemental soldering was required. Other tools used were a dozuki, mitre box, scroll saw, drill, and ROS.

22 comments so far

View Grant Davis's profile

Grant Davis

760 posts in 3326 days

#1 posted 06-01-2015 10:27 AM

That is really cool and a great way to keep his birth place alive in his life. CONGRATS to you and your wife also.

-- Grant...."GO BUCKEYES"

View JoeinGa's profile


7360 posts in 1425 days

#2 posted 06-01-2015 10:36 AM

Nice job. I doubt that anyone will even realize that you took liberties with the shapes. Once they see the US, South America, and Africa, it becomes readily apparent that it’s a “flattened” world globe.

And congrats on your new son!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View sras's profile


4363 posts in 2547 days

#3 posted 06-01-2015 01:58 PM

Great project – and now I know where Tanzania is!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Buche's profile


69 posts in 2367 days

#4 posted 06-01-2015 02:57 PM


but the penguins will likely not like you (i.e. lots of liberties in Antarctica) ;-)

View HokieKen's profile


1519 posts in 557 days

#5 posted 06-01-2015 04:20 PM

That is a beautiful map and an awesome gesture for your new son! I’m certain in the future when he’s old enough to appreciate it that his gratitude will be obvious. Congratulations to you, your wife and your son!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View David's profile


66 posts in 1445 days

#6 posted 06-01-2015 04:51 PM

Great Project! Beautiful Idea! Congratulations on your new son. Blessings

-- "A man that works with his hands, knows his soul" " Have Fun, Go Fast, and Take Chances for Christ's Sake!!"

View bruc101's profile


1075 posts in 2960 days

#7 posted 06-01-2015 05:08 PM

Awesome job but the most awesome thing is you’ve adopted a kid and now has a real family.
We adopted our daughter Punky from Russia when she was 7 years old. Now 15 and a huge joy in all of our lives.
Good luck!

-- Bruce Free Plans

View PhillipRCW's profile


382 posts in 683 days

#8 posted 06-01-2015 07:05 PM

Congrats on the adoption! Our daughter has lived with us since October. We went through our local DHS office. The distance may not be as great, but it’s definitely a whole new world for her just like it will be for your child. I wish you the best of luck with it. Great map also!

-- Phillip- Measure twice, cut onc.... Hey look, it's rustic.

View Grumpymike's profile


1885 posts in 1733 days

#9 posted 06-01-2015 07:45 PM

My gosh, incredible job on this map of the world, and the distortions are OK in my book, (After spending two years in Southeast Asia, I could not draw the shape either).
The light splay from behind is just spot on (puns intended).
Congrats on the new family.
And by the way, I vote not to enlarge the holes, it’s a reminder of how small and insignificant we really are compared to the rest of the world.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View bbasiaga's profile


730 posts in 1413 days

#10 posted 06-01-2015 08:02 PM

From one adoptive parent to another….great job.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 2489 days

#11 posted 06-01-2015 09:21 PM

Hey, wait a minute…did you just upgrade Greenland to continent status and wipe Antarctica from the face of the earth?

Looks great though; nice job!

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View RootandBranch's profile


240 posts in 523 days

#12 posted 06-01-2015 09:22 PM

Congratulations on the new addition to your family. Very cool. And I love the wall hanging. That LED tape looks like just the ticket for the under cabinet lighting my wife has been after me to do for a while now.

-- Don, -

View robscastle's profile


3293 posts in 1622 days

#13 posted 06-01-2015 10:19 PM

OK OK Hold the phone ….where is Tasmania?...thats the humour over now,

LED lighting is the way to go absolutley brilliant.

I would be interested to see a diagramatic layout of the position and quantity of the LEDs the type they are (they must be up market ones if the are dimmable) and the spacing you used to set off the world maps from the backing/base board.

From the photos I see back lighting from the frame,is this off set too or are there more leds there also

-- Regards Robert

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

641 posts in 1571 days

#14 posted 06-02-2015 12:41 AM

Very cool!

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View BarrelBurl's profile


4 posts in 1040 days

#15 posted 06-02-2015 03:30 AM

Thanks all for your encouraging comments. @robscastle, I used the lowest LED-concentration of tape lighting from Lee Valley, which was 30 LEDs/meter (roughly 1 LED/inch). That particular tape is able to be cut in 4” increments, so I cut a bunch of 4” sections and arranged them around the perimeter of each continent (and Greenland too, Antarctica didn’t make the cut!), between one and seven sections based on the size of the landmass. I soldered 22 gauge wire to connect these tape sections together on each landmass. All in all, I estimate about 30’ of tape lighting was used, most of it being in the frame.

Once all landmasses were mounted (~3/4” off the back panel), they were connected in a configuration called a “loop-back” behind the back panel. This allows for a constant voltage drop among all landmasses, which allows for a constant brightness. I don’t have a diagram, just did it as I went, but the wiring basically makes a rough loop behind the back panel, poking through the panel when it comes to a landmass. A single wire tapping into this loop-back travels behind the wall to a power supply plugged into a wall outlet. The neat thing about these lights is that a dimmer can be added ($25) between the LED array and the power supply with no upgraded lights needed. There are lights running around the frame, which is offset 3/4” from the back panel as well.

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