Coops experiments with LED's, batteries, lights and lighting

Look for Lithium Polymer batteries, there are thousands in all shapes and sizes, mayeb somethuing like this…

Charge with any suitable LiPo charger, maybe something like this…

Google Adafruit USB LiPo charger


OK, I have what I need to make progress with this now…

Lilypad, LED’s, batteries and the studs are bag protectors. The things you might stick on the bottom of a sports bag to stop it getting scuffed up on the floor. The idea is to rip out the tabs in the middle, drill a 5mm hole in the top and you have a light shade. They were a couple of quid for 20.

The LED 's are bang on. They are 5mm diffuse, colour is 3300 Kelvin (warm), 3-3.6 volts, 20-30mA. Perfect.

See the comparison here between the 5mm warm white on the left and the 3mm clear on the right. I’m really impressed, they really match the colour of an incandescent bulb.

If anyone in interested, I got them from …you can buy direct but they also have an ebay UK shop too. Delivery took 5 days over the Easter weekend.

Anyway, all the bits I need, so should have something put together later.


First the shade. The purpose of the shade is not really cosmetic …it wont actually be seen. It’s to create a downward cone of diffuse light and to prevent the bright bulb of the LED from being seen directly.

The metal of these studs is very thin and easy to work. I started by pulling out the tabs with pliers. They came out easily. Then I sanded off the rolled under lip to give a clean edge. Then I made a mark on the top where the centre looked to be. Then I drilled a series of holes, starting with 1mm up to 4mm. I finished the hole with a small round file so that I could adjust the centring.

Then I gave the outside a quick spray with black primer…

Push an LED into the hole to check for fit…

Seriously, how cool is that? :smiley:

These things would work great as industrial lights in a factory with a bit of chipping and rust …or security lights outside a building.

Now to work on the Lilypad.


That looks amazing! Even if the shade is not supposed to be cosmetic, as you say it’d easily fit as a light in a factory/industrial setting or something

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I’m quite pleased with the shade, it has a lot of possibilities.

OK, the Lilypad…

The best way to attach the LED is to use your soldering iron to heat up the solder pads on the board itself first. Get your iron good and hot, then touch it onto the pad for a few seconds, then introduce the solder and get a good blob on there (sorry if I’m teaching my grandma to suck eggs here)…

As you can see, I’m rubbish at soldering, but it’s not a beauty contest.

Next, bend the legs of your LED so they line up with the solder pads. Be sure to take note of the longest leg (the +ve) and align that with the +ve terminal on the Lilypad.

Then just heat up the solder blob you put on the Lilypad and when it melts, push the leg of the LED into it. Take your iron away and hold the LED till the solder cools and sets. Then do the same on the other leg and you’re done.

Then I just sanded off some of the primer on the shade to make a good glue key with the LED and ran a bead of superglue around the LED.

The only thing remaining is to break out your acrylic black paint and paint the back of the LED black.

Some quick scenic pics…

I’ve got to paint the back of the LED again as I still have a little light bleeding out the back, but you get the idea? Some double-sided tape and you can stick these things onto any flat surface or ceiling. You can see the nice smooth cone of light, no artefacts or shapes in the beam due to the diffuse LED, a nice warn colour, plenty bright enough to be effective even in daylight, nicely atmospheric, all you see is the beam, not the harsh light of the LED itself, easy to turn on/off, easy to swap batteries, easily swapped between different models and cost about £2.50 each.

I’m calling that proof of concept. :smiley:

Seriously, I’m really happy with this. Providing the battery run time tests return 6 hours or more per battery, I’ll be making a handful of em.


I’ve never soldered anything in my life, so while I can’t speak for anyone else, I’m certainly appreciating the detail :slight_smile:
Seriously though, that looks amazing. Looking forward to seeing what you make now the proof of concept is done!

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Coop, thank you for the marvelous lesson on LEDs and adapting them to terrain building. Please continue to do so. There is no such thing as too much detail in explaining things.

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I never felt the urge to play around with LEDs before, I’m loving your thread. Not sure if I’ll ever do anything like you’re doing, but it’s VERY tempting.

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That is great, I’ve also never soldered before so the extra information was just what I needed!

I love the shades, that works so well. Bit of green paint and rust and it’d look like something off Salvage Hunters :laughing:

Very much looking forward to seeing where you go with this, and seriously going to think about adding it myself in future.

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Guys, I’m certainly no expert myself. I dont even own a proper electric soldering iron, just one of those butane thingies …works fine. I did a couple of very small projects about 15 years ago and that’s it. But it’s not a skill test, if it works, that’s all that matters and nobody will ever see it (unless you’re daft enough to post pictures on the internet :smiley: ). I do know a lot of people are very wary of it, but just get stuck in. There are a few basic pointers that helped me; solder wont stick to anything dirty, so clean your surfaces first. Solder doesnt like to stick to cold things, so heat the thing up you want to solder, rather than ‘drip’ it on. Working hot and fast produces better results than cool and slow. Keep a wet sponge handy to keep your tip clean (fnar) and use a small tip for small things and a big tip for big things and now you know as much as me. Seriously, I’ve seen the level of skill you guys work to, if I can do it, you certainly can. Dont worry if it looks ugly, it’s going to be hidden anyway and only you will know the ugly truth of what lies beneath. :smiley:

The ceiling downlighter is the only thing that needs soldering actually. The rest of the stuff I’m working on, you could just tie the wires onto the Lilypad. I dont know if I’ve pup people off with all the talk of resistors, but the end result is really just a battery, a battery holder with a switch already on it and an LED. Connect em together and that’s all there is.

Do it, do it, do it. It’s difficult to show in the pictures, but the atmosphere it adds is awesome. I said at the beginning, if it adds nothing it’s not worth it, but if you put a little though and effort into planning it, it adds so much.

I was watching the terrain tutors video of Salute and there were a couple of tables that had used cheap LED tea lights. All those hours work into painting models and making terrain and a cheap LED tea light is as good as it gets for them? We can do so much better than that. :slight_smile:

Thank you. I wasnt sure if I was wandering a little too far away from things. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. but if I share my legwork then others can cut straight to the chase if they are inclined to do something similar.

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Maybe not, but my zero experience really appreciates the extra information! :slight_smile:

I’m going to seriously give it thought. It’s an extra amount of planning I’m not used to but you’ve made it look achievable and the effect would be worth it! :+1:

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It’s difficult to convey how much. I apologise for using pictures of these models again, I know I’ve thrashed them but they are all I have that are suitable at the moment. But I’ll try and illustrate what I’m talking about. Just room light during the day …nothing wrong with it…

Same room light, but with one Light low dow to throw a hotspot…

same light, moved up higher and further back to make long shadows…

moved to the right…

You see what I mean? That’s just one light, but you can lift the models to the next level and create all sorts of drama. If you have half a dozen or more, you can vary which are on/off or move terrain around to create different atmospheres. You can create areas of bright light and deep shadow so reckless and cautious becomes more meaningful …you can ‘feel’ the stealth and the danger. Am I making sense? I’ve a feeling I’m just rambling. :smiley:


That’s really useful to know actually, I tend to take a more slow and careful/cautious approach when working on miniatures projects (which works a lot of the time, but isn’t always the best way to do something).

You don’t have to apologise for posting images of the same things again, they look great so we’re happy to see them! Besides, if you go through the thread I did for my minis you’ll notice it’s the same small brick building in all of them (though hopefully I’ll be able to finish a larger one some time next week).

It really does make a difference to have them lit up like that though! I’m used to seeing the tea lights that you mentioned and was kind of put off as a result, but the shadows and atmosphere you’ve achieved with your one mean I’m definitely going to give it a go at some point!

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You might be more interested in the next one I’m doing, which is exterior/area/work lights. The light I’ve used here is intended as a dedicated cieling light for interiors and overhangs and the like. On that point, this is what it looks like used as intended.

Attach some double sided tape and stick it onto the cieling of your building…

Then from tabletop level all you see is the shade and light.

I think it works really well. In order to actually see the Lilypad, you have to get below tabletop level and look up through the window. All you can see from level, is the bottom of the lampshade and that is convincing to my eye.

OK, enough of this one. I’m waiting on some stuff for the exterior lights, so it’ll be a little while before my next LED update.


It definitely makes the building come alive, a tabletop full of pieces like that will look amazing. Out of curiosity, what’s the life expectancy on the LED itself when used for things like this?

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I am definitely interested in that! Looking forward to seeing it :slight_smile:

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20,000 to 50,000 hours.

Ah cool, they’re unlikely to need to be replaced over the life of the mini then

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I think their life expectancy is significantly better than mine. :smiley:

You could use em 4 hours a week, every week for the next 100 years.

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Thank you for posting such a thorough guide and tips on how to set up lighting. It is very helpful. In addition, the lighting effects are aptly demonstrated in those photos.

One thing that I was thinking about was whether it is possible to make strip fluorescent lights. I was wondering whether you might have any ideas? I’m not sure that it could be achieved using LEDs and I can’t think of anything else that would work, but my skills with electronics are incredibly limited.