Oh my goodness, this is my 100th post on this blog!! To my very patient readers, I have to say this has been a very busy summer (I’m looking at you, “Essentials of Epidemiology” class!). I hope to be getting more free time soon, and I have been itching to do some real crafting.
Per request, this post is mostly a primer on LED lighting for dollhouses :-).
Growing up with a father who is an electrician, I spent a fair amount of time in “wizard’s rooms,” or tucked away alcoves for wires and electronics. The mill cottage has two of these spaces carved into the foam base, one for each of the circuits (one flickering for the candles and one solid glow), which is home to the batteries and switches. My plan is to eventually hide them in the landscaping, under grassy trapdoors. You can thank my Dad for a lot of the useful LED factoids in here.
The first step that I don’t have good pictures of is the planning step. You have to decide where you want lights, and then how you are going to get them to their power source. I had to have a good deal of this figured out way back when I was first cutting out the walls. You will be hiding the wires somewhere, and gatorboard is great because you can hollow it out without making it lose its shape.
The most important point about using these LEDs is that they should be hooked up in parallel, not in series. This is because a light emitting diode (LED) will only pass current in one direction. If it is wired backwards it won’t hurt anything, but there won’t be a flow of current to make it glow. In parallel, if one connection stops working, the others should still work, unlike in series (remember those old Christmas lights where if one bulb blew the whole strand went out?).
The simplest way to do the parallel circuit is to run your wires to a common place (I did it near where my batteries and switches lived). All of your black (or green) wires get twisted together and all of your red wires get twisted together, easy as that. Evan Designs, where I got all of the LEDs and parts, has nice heat shrink tubing to go over the wire connections, and I’d suggest the thinner, 1/16th inch tubing if you are using the really tiny LEDs. My hairdryer was enough for the job. The Evan Designs website also has a lot of useful pointers, and I have always found the people to be a joy to work with. I used their 3V 1.8mm and chip LEDs (pico and nano size) for this build, and the chip LEDs are particularly nice to work with in this small 1:24 scale.
As for stripping the wires, you can (carefully) use normal wire strippers for the thicker ones. For the tiny wires that come with the smaller chip LEDs (my Dad refers to them as “froghair”), the best way to strip them down to the copper is to gently pull them through a piece of folded sandpaper.
Moving on to the light fixtures, I wanted the candles and oven fire to flicker, and I did this by making use of a neat trick that would otherwise probably be considered a fault of LEDs: they are very sensitive to changes in current flow. My “master” flickering LED began life as a cheap 3V battery-operated tea light leftover from Halloween, which I dissected out of its home, glued to a scrap of wood, and connected to some wire (bottom left). It glows orange, and will be hidden inside the tiny cast iron stove I plan to build around it.
One LED programmed to flicker impacts the flow of current to the others in the circuit. When the flickering LED glows brighter, it drains power from the other lights, causing them to dim, and vice versa, so you actually get a reverse of the flickering pattern in the remaining LEDs.
The candles themselves were a fun experiment. My friend (the same one who had the cool doorknob beads) let me have a couple of her neat dog bone beads that looked just like tiny pewter candlesticks. I placed a thin layer of cold porcelain over the LED wire (though any air-dry clay would have worked) and then it came time to find something waxy and translucent to give the effect of a melted candle. As I was walking past my desk one morning, I saw my unkempt glue bottle and realized the dried Elmer’s glue was just the thing. It’s a hard to capture on camera, but they look very realistic when lit. They are so tiny! The windows are about an inch tall.
This lamp doesn’t have a bookshelf to rest on or a shade yet, but it is made of a black Czech glass bead that is probably the same age. I coated some of the LEDs in resin to make the glow a little more diffuse.
In other news, I have been making tiny pastries when I have been able to steal bits of time, and so far I have croissants, hot cross buns, madeleines, and the first members of a horde of pastel macaroons. I am open to suggestions for what a French baker would stock in his shop, and more is to come!