Adding LED lighting in plastic models; static lights, blinking lights or coloured lights will enhance it and take it to a whole new level.
Mark Andrews has kindly written the below "How To Guide".
Whether you're thinking of illuminating a cockpit interior or bringing a rescue vehicle to life the size and simplicity of lighting rigs can leave admirers with mouth agape.
Explosions, smoke effects and even fire balls are all achievable; some modellers are able to create jaw dropping dioramas that propel their scale models into the premier league.
And yes, there are many times I've had to literally think, as I’m stood there with eyes popping out and mouth wide open: “Compose yourself!”
Model Lighting Solutions
Are scale model lighting solutions complicated and can they only be built by those with knowledge of the dark arts?
Not at all, they are simply two bits of wire, a battery and an LED bulb put together with an understanding of a simple wiring process.
When I started to build my Revell Tornado I knew what I wanted to create and I could visualise the effect.
However, electronics isn't one of my strengths, so shopping for the elements and making sure all the single components were compatible was giving me a headache.
Even asking the questions about LED lighting in plastic models on social media gave a multitude of answers.
“Don't buy this bulb they pop in 2 minutes”, “Make sure this LED is compatible with this amp battery”, “Whatever you do don't mix the wires up, you'll blow the planet up”.
You know what I mean?
So, if you're nodding right now we're on the same sheet because you're probably thinking; “I hope Mark gives me an actual easy to read and digest guide on how to do this”.
Of course, I certainly wouldn't tease you with all this and then not give you the simple solution.
The Solution To Led Lighting For Scale Models
The solution to LED lighting for scale models is to find a supplier who you can talk with to discuss your needs.
They have the expert knowledge and experience to guide you through the selection of correct parts or, better still, provide you with a ready purpose made kit.
This latter option takes all of the guess work out of the project and you can relax knowing that your kit will be "plug & play".
Jennifer runs Small Scale Lights. She offers an incredible range of parts for all of your scale model lighting needs.
There is also an extensive range of pre-made lighting kits for scale aircraft, model railway, Warhammer 40K etc.
If you are looking to incorporate sound and movement then Small Scale Lights also provides a number of kits.
"All You Have To Do Is Ask" - Give them a call and they will discuss your specific needs.
If you would like more information then please click on the link to Small Scale Lights PDF document which provides a guide to anyone who has never used LEDs or lighting kits before.
This document costs £1.00 to download and delves a little deeper into LEDs and resistors, how they work, and how they can be used in almost any lighting project.
I wanted to have two AIM-9 sidewinder missiles coming off the pylons on my Tornado, a cross between a "what if" and a beautiful piece of imagination.
I wanted them at different stages of launch:
The first just fired off and the second fired off a few seconds earlier so it gave the model more dimension.
After that began the research:
Sourcing all the materials.
Finding a suitable method for application.
Basically, how can I stick that to that, make it look smokey, & make sure it stays straight without drooping.
How to get the missile into launch location?
- Basically, I drilled a hole into the rear of the missile.
- I then got a length of stiff rod, I used 2mm brass rod, making sure that the rod fits into the hole at the back of the missile.
- I then identified where I wanted to attach the other end of the brass rod to. I opted for the inner side of the pylon in this case, as the Tornado pylons, which carry the external fuel tanks, also have a side rail that holds a missile
(That side rail is on the inside, closest to the air-frame, not the external side which is closer to the wing tip)
I also decided that I wanted a realistic smoke effect. You instantly think cotton wool, but I'd tried this medium before and I just couldn't get the desired look.
Not in a rush to complete the job I left it, knowing I'd stumble on the answer eventually.
I think a few days had passed and as I was putting my son to bed one evening he'd asked for his favourite teddy bear from the bottom of the bed.
I picked it up and noticed one of the legs was showing signs of wear at the leg/body joint and there was my answer.
This was like some Holy Grail moment. I lifted the bear up high in a Musaffa / Simba style aaahhhhaaaaaaaaaa ceremony.
Smoke = teddy bear stuffing.
The next day I gutted an old soft toy in my workshop and ripped out the white internals.
I then started experimenting with the fibres by sliding chunks of it on to the length of the brass rod. It worked!
A light airbrushing of colour; yellow, touch of orange, greys & blacks, added extra realism.
After giving it 24 hours to dry I gave it a light dusting of regular hair spray (wife still asks me if I've seen her can) to stiffen it up and there's my "smoke".
Experiment over I removed it all and used bits of small cut masking tape to tape the wire to the rod, with the LED bulb at 1 end and the bare wire at the other.
Then a new batch of stuffing went on again, following the same procedure as the experiment.
I left the last inch of the brass rod (at the bare wire end) uncovered.
That inch of bare rod got Superglued to the inside of the pylon. Even with the weight of the rod, wire, tape & stuffing, the rod stayed straight & true.
Instructions for LED Lights In Scale Models
Next was to follow the included instructions for LED lighting in scale models and how to connect those bare wires to the battery.
In the pack (Pack A, static white light) you get everything you need, including a separate on/off switch mechanism.
Using this saves battery and is a simple bypass on the wiring.
Instead of soldering wire to battery housing, simply solder to the on/off switch, then from there to the battery housing.
I used Superglue again to hold all the housings to the pylon with plenty of solder for rock solid connections.
I then touched up the smoke with a fine touch of grey & black through the BARTSHARP 186 Airbrush and finished the whole look off by pushing the AIM-9 sidewinder missile on to the end of the brass rod.
It's a great feeling of achievement managing a job like this, especially if you're new to the task and, yes, I stood back and admired my work... I then realised I'd got the other side to do!
I really hope that my guide helps you to try and install Led lighting in plastic models, the effect will be awesome.
Small Scale Lights is run by Jennifer who designs and makes all of the kits listed on her website.
If you need an individual kit then contact Jennifer by her "Contact Us" page; "All you need to do is ask"
Small Scale Lights offers a huge range of products including:
LEDs, LED Lighting Kits, Fibre Optics, Wires Switches & Connectors - all you could need!
Are You Looking For More Technical Detail
For Installing LED Lighting In Plastic Models?
This link provides a detailed guide to a 7 point step by step guide by Gizmologist.
Introduction to LED Lighting (with downloadable PDF)
1. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan (with downloadable PDF)
2. Parts Is Parts (with downloadable PDF - Soldering Comic)
3. Math - A Guide To Working With Bare Parts (with downloadable PDF)
4. Start Carving - Placement of LED Lights and Wiring (with downloadable PDF)
5. Testing (with downloadable PDF)
6. Final Fix (with downloadable PDF)
7. Go Win Some Contests