So you’re about to start building the flagship star destroyer from your favorite sci-fi series. Or maybe you’re planning sprawling model towns or a scale car. Either way, it’s time for some lights! Scale model lighting can turn simple projects into exciting, lifelike décor that puts your passion on display.
While the actual process of adding lights varies from model to model, the same scale model lighting tools can generally be used for most projects. To help you get started, we’ve assembled a list of useful tools that will get your hobby room glowing with help from Evan Designs model lighting supplies.
The Lights of Today: LEDs
Before we go over hardware, let’s talk lights. Generally, your best bet is LED lights. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) beat old incandescent bulbs with strong epoxy lenses, cool temperatures while lit, and a variety of sizes and colors.
Your project will determine the size you need. Sizes range from .6-millimeter z-scale lights to the mega 5-millimeter size for O-scale model trains. Fortunately, Evan Designs has a handy LED size chart to get you started.
For scale models requiring many little lights, choose fiber optics. These clear little tubes diffuse the light from one LED to many tiny spots. They’re perfect for lighted windows on ships and trains and control panels or stars in sci-fi dioramas.
Create an uninterrupted stream of light with side glow fiber optics. They can be curved or left straight to highlight areas of scale model projects with colored or white light.
To bring it all together, attach lights to fiber optics with a fiber optic connector. This plastic tubing can hold one LED and numerous pieces of fiber optic tubing. By concentrating the light into a tunnel, your fiber optics will shine bright.
Now that you’ve determined which lights you’re using, make sure you have the right tools to secure them.
Small Hand Tools
Whether your scale model lighting is simple or complex, you’ll need:
- Drill bits
- Small knives including hobby, utility, and precision knives
- Wire strippers
Once again, your specific model will determine your tool set, but generally, you need tools can that cut, bend, and make holes in plastic.
Outside of small hand tools. you’ll also want plenty of wires to hook everything up. Evan Designs offers:
- Tough magnetic wire
- Connection wire to join lights and power supplies
- Durable twisted Kynar wire for extending connections
To protect wiring, you can cut EZ shrink tube to fit over any connection.
Hobbyists often look to model glue and hot glue guns to secure lights and fixtures. With LED holding wax, you can affix lights to your model and hold wires in place. Because it stays pliable for a while, it allows you to move lights and connections as you survey your creation. After a week, it hardens into a permanent solution. By drying clear, holding wax is perfect for affixing lights into oversized holes.
If you’d rather not use adhesives around LEDs, mounting clips hold lights from the back. These work particularly well for metal models and cars.
Unfortunately, LEDs don’t light themselves. You’ll want to match your lights to the appropriate power supply.
Evan Designs has convenient battery holders for AA batteries, AAA batteries, and coin cell batteries with switches and wires attached to run 3-volt LED lights.
If you rely on 9-volt batteries, battery snaps connect power sources to lights with just two wires. For a lot of lights, it’s a good idea to solder your connections in place and protect wires with tape or shrink tube.
For larger projects, connect all of your lights with 12-volt or 3-volt wall adapters. Each can run up to 100 LEDs while the 12-volt option can run incandescent lights, as well. To get it running, all you have to do is connect the wires to your lights and plug it in to the wall. You can even order these with on/off switches already attached.
Switches and Sensors
To turn lights on and off, you don’t want to have to disassemble parts of your model to disconnect wiring. With the right on/off switches, sensors, and timers, your freshly-lit project can thrive for years.
An on/off switch may sound standard, but you can get them in a variety of styles:
- Almost invisible, touch sensor wires or small disks
- Turn lights on only when a button is held on a momentary switch
- Control different sets of lights with a 3-position slide switch.
- Knife switches and lighted push buttons for retro mad scientist aesthetics
Sensors and timers
To add a wow factor to your display, you can control them with a number of sensors:
- Programmable timers that work automatically
- Motion sensors for models that light up when you enter the room
- LED photo sensors that activate lights when it’s dark
Maybe you’d rather keep control handy. With a wireless hookup and remote control you can set scale model lighting to on, off, or dim. Whether you want simple control or an impressive, hands-free response, there’s a whole world of switch options available.
Enjoy Your Scale Model Lighting!
Now that you’ve brought it all together with this list of scale model lighting tools, watch your dioramas, trains, cars, boats, and fantasy worlds glitter with life! We hope Supportive Guru has helped you build scale models with flair and helped you find the modeling tools you need. To find more ways to enhance your hobbies from video games to travel, be sure to check out the rest of our entertainment series!