A few people at the Three Rivers IPMS asked me to do a tutorial on simple LED wiring. First off, I am not an electrician. I have next to no electrical experience whatsoever. Basically, this means that if you have questions about lighting LEDS, I’m probably not the person to go to. That being said, I’ll say a few words then send you to sites that will help you better than I could.
What do you want to do?
First things first, you need to figure out what it is on your kit that you want to light. Is it some head or tail lights on a car or airplane? Eyes on a Gundam? Lamp posts on a diorama street? Where are you gonna put the batteries? Figuring these things out ahead of time will make the process easier in the long run.
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are much better for lighting models than bulbs for a number of reasons. First, your LED won’t burn out and need to be replaced. (unless you apply too much current) Second, LEDs emit little to no heat so you won’t have the worries of melting or warping your plastic kit. Third, they’re cheaper than you’d expect and come in a variety of colors and sizes.
You’ll need a power source for your LEDs. Since I know nothing about wiring up a plug, we’ll focus on batteries. Batteries come in a variety of sizes and voltages. Choose the battery that best fits your needs. Larger batteries such as D-cell will last a long time, but will be hard to find a space for. Smaller batteries such as hearing aid batteries will fit almost anywhere, but won’t last for an extended period of time. Also remember that more LEDs will pull more juice from the battery.
Gather your supplies
Once you figure out what it is you want to light up, the next step would be to gather your supplies. Ebay is a fantastic source for LEDs. You can get 100s for under $10.
To wire it all up, we’ll be using a wire wrap tool and wire wrapping wire. This is available at some Radio Shacks, but not all. In Pittsburgh, the Banksville Rd. location carries it for certain.
You’ll probably need some resistirs to prevent the LED from getting too much juice. Use the calculator link below to figure it out.
Here are links to sites that will help you out way better than I can. These are the sites where I learned how to wire things up.
Read this first. It’ll get you more familiar with wiring LEDs.
Calculate what resistors you will need (if any) to prevent your LEDs from frying.
This will help you figure out what all of those resistor stripes mean.
Lighting Effects with 4060 Chips and LEDs. This is what I used to do my AB Dioramas blinking lights. Also contains a tutorial on wire wrap. Read through SSM’s forums for more info on lighting kits.