LED Lighting in a Miniatures Showcase

I’ve been answering questions about our new Extrabrite LED striplights and how to use them (and a picture is worth 1000 words!), so here’s the scoop:

LED lights are perfect for lighting up a display.

They are small, easy to install, and easy to keep out of the way; they are bright and use very little power; and they last a long, long time.  But the big advantage in LEDs inside a closed display is that LEDs turn most of their power into light – they make much less heat than incandesent bulbs so there’s no need for venting or fans.

How do I wire the LEDs?

LEDs attach to stripwire or solid wire using eyelets and an EL-66 electrification tool.  This project used stripwire, but it could have been done with solid wire too. I run stripwire thru the Electrification Slots in the Miniatures Showcase before it is attached to the foundation (the very next step).  I usually build with one coat of paint on the parts, sanded until the wood begins to show.  That’s a perfect compromise between painting and assembly… the paint and sanding is done while the parts are flat on the table, and the glue still has some wood to grab (glue doesn’t stick to paint).  The tapewire goes over the first coat, and after the wiring is complete, a very thin application of ‘light’ spackle makes the second coat of paint cover better. run stripwire thru the electrification slots
The Power Jack
Glue in the power jack a #247 Jack and an angled plug in the foundation of a MS-400 Solder a wire to the jackThe MS-400 and MS-600 have a foundation piece drilled for a #247 DC Power Jack (very handy).  I am gluing it into the hole.  When the glue is dry, a piece of wire is soldered to the connections with the copper wire on the center contact and the white wire on the outside contact. 
Connect the Jack to the Stripwire

The other end of the wire is inserted (copper to copper) into holes poked with the EL-66,  then secured with eyelets.  The EL-66 has a broad handle that makes it easy to push or pound the eyelets in.

The EL66 punched holes for the wire The EL66 is a perfect tool for inserting an eyelet
Keep “copper -to-copper”
Push or pound in eyelets with the EL-66 copper to copper and white to blue When wiring for LEDs, I am careful to always connect copper to copper.  The positive (+) side of the transformer has to be connected to the positive (+) side of the LED strip, and keeping copper-to-copper all the way thru the wiring lets me keep track of this. 

Attach the stripwire to the backer

These displays have angled Backers for the LED strips that aims them back and down.  I have a flap of tapewire hanging off the Backer for making the connection to the display wiring.  The Lightstrip is adhesive backed, and it is stuck to the backer and tapewire with the “+” on the lightstrip lined up with the copper lead of the tapewire.   Connect the Extrabrite LED to the tapewire with eyelets.

  Extrabrite LED, Backer, and tapewire flap  Prepare the backer for installation with a few brads>
Attach the Backer to the frame (or any valence)
pound the nails most of the way in to attach the LEDs and backer The flap from the Backer overlaps the tapewire for connecting Now the backer can be attached to the back side of the floor frames in the showcase (or behind a valence in any dollhouse).  I am driving in the brads most of the way, leaving a little so I don’t pound the LEDs by accident.The flap from the backer overlaps the tapewire, and is connected with eyelets.  Plug in the power supply to see if all the “+” line up ;^)
Connect the tapewire with eyelets and the EL-66 electrification tool
… Here’s the connection from the inside
 The flaps overlap for eyelet connecting
LED lighting in an MS-600
And here’s the lighted Miniature Display… Lots of light!Gary

4 Responses to “LED Lighting in a Miniatures Showcase”

  1. Gary Says:

    ExtraBrite LEDs use under 2 watts per foot, so the MS-600 shown above uses about 14 watts and is powered with a 20 watt power supply (12 volt DC). Make sure you allow for other wiring in your display when choosing a power supply (although you can always up-size later).

  2. Meredith Says:

    I would like to use your LED strips with a battery. any suggestions?

  3. gary_r Says:

    Alkaline batteries are 1.5 volts, so you would need 8 of them in series to get 12 volts, which is needed for the lights to be at their brightest. You can use a 9v battery for just a few lights, but they are small and won’t last long if you power very many lights with a battery, so this option will end up expensive in the end. I would use rechargable batteries, and would get battery holders from Radio Shack or somewhere similar. NiMH Rechargable batteries are often 1.2v, so they would use 10 (check the voltage of your battery). The size battery would be chosen to fit under the foundation.

  4. Phil Hall Says:

    Where do you find the DC power jack you mention?