Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Lighting the way

In my last post I showed the light sconces I had made for the customer service side of the North Pole Postal Service. After painting them white, so they would "pop" against the red walls, I went looking for something to use as "glass" inside the sconces. Since I didn't want the "glass" to be completely clear, I had a number of options running through my head. I thought that perhaps I could use clear acetate then line that with either parchment paper or waxed paper to provide an opaque look. So, I went to my stash to first find the clear acetate. Yes, I had lots of small pieces but....look what I found:

Isn't that perfect??!!?? I always knew there was a perfectly good reason for buying cookies in the bakery section of the grocery store. Sure - that's why I but them - for the mini supplies!

So - most of the rest of this post is to discuss how I hooked up my lights - for the benefit of anyone out there who is new to the hobby and would like to learn how to do it themselves. For those of you who have been doing this for a while, hang in there - there will be some eye candy at the end of the post!

So, I now had my sconces and the faceted acetate to line them with. I gathered all the supplies I needed to bring on the light. I had already planned (yes, I know that's not a concept you hear from me very often) where the lights in the front room were going to go. I drilled small holes from the inside of the walls to the outside to feed the wires through, and I used my Dremel tool to create channels from the holes down to the bottom of the wall so I could run the wire down the channels.

I purchased several LED nano chip lights from Shelley at Freedom Miniatures for the sconces.

These lights are very tiny, although they provide a good amount of light. What I really like is that several can be connected to a single 3V button battery/switch. Here you can see the light (the tiny yellow dot at the end of the wire I am holding) and the battery that will be used to power them.

To hook things up I was also going to need some additional wire, some heat shrink tubing, and a Sharpie marker. Yup, a Sharpie - you'll see. I know I have a coil of dollhouse wire somewhere and it will show up when I least expect it but, for now, I used what I could find - a package of dollhouse "extension cords".

Again - for any beginners out there - to remove the "plug" end of this wiring, all you have to do is pull out the 2 brass pins. The way the plug works is that the wire is fed up through the centre hole of the plug, separated and the ends stripped a little bit to expose the wire for a connection, then bent back on itself with one side each being fed back into the holes on either side of the centre hole. When those two brass pins are shoved into the side holes it allows an electrical connection to form once connected to a battery or power source.

I mentioned that I had drilled holes (Okay - I asked my DH, Bruce, to drill the holes) to feed the wire through from the nano chip lights. These lights are so tiny that they could easily pull right through the little holes drilled so the first thing I did was to feed the wires through a tiny clear seed bead. The bead was just big enough that it wouldn't go through the hole and small enough that the nano light wouldn't pull through it. Then I fed the wiring through the hole to the outside of the wall. In the following picture I have the building on its side and you can see the wires from one of the lights sticking out at the bottom of the channel I made for it. Although it is hard to see, if you look closely you will see that there are two wires for every light - a red wire and a black wire. The red wire is the positive wire and the black wire is the negative wire. This is very important!

The battery pack also has red and black wires so that makes it really simple, right?? Not necessarily! In my case, I needed to add length to the wire, hence the white wire from the extension pieces. There is no "positive" or "negative" to this wire until you hook it up, then it is important to identify it, hence the Sharpie!

Once I removed the plug end, I used my jewellery wire cutters to cut the additional length of wire I was going to need for each light. I split the wire for an inch or two using the very clear division between the two halves. Then I stripped some of the white covering from both ends of the additional piece (2 pieces on each of the two ends) in order to expose the bare wires. Now you need to designate which half of the wire will be which. I use a red sharpie and colour about a half to one inch on one half at the end of the wire. Then I very carefully follow this half of the wire to the other end and colour it in the same way. Before you colour the other end, make sure you have not mixed up the two halves of the wire or your lighting will not work.

So, the steps to attaching it all together:

1. I attached the white wire extension to my light by first cutting an inch-long section of red shrink tubing (it doesn't matter what colour you have as long as you keep the wires identified), and slipping it onto the red wire from my light.

2. Then I twisted the wires sticking out at the end of the red wire from the light, to the wires sticking from the side of the white wire I had coloured red.
3. Once twisted together I folded the wire back onto itself (in the direction away from the shrink tube, then I slid the shrink tube down to completely cover the section of twisted wire. Using the flame from a lighter held a little way below the shrink tube, I heated the tubing so it would form itself to the wires it is protecting.
4. I then repeated those steps with the black wire and the other side of the white wire at the same end already used. I used a small section of black shrink tube slid onto the black wire from the light before I started to twist the ends together.

Now you have your light connected to any extended wire you need, you just have to repeat these steps to attach the other end of the extension to the wires from your battery pack. Make sure you slide your shrink tubing onto one of the wires before twisting! I forget to do that every once in a while then have to take the wires apart again so I can get the shrink tubing in place.

So - there's a lesson on how I wired the LED nano chip lights. I also had two more nanos that I used in the bathroom which I fed across and wired along with the three lights on one of the side walls to a single battery. Remember the smaller sconces I couldn't fit in the bathroom before? I came up with a different solution. First, I found a small wooden channel piece, then I sanded a groove at the back of the sconces and at the back of the baseboard in the bathroom. You can see how things ended up when we get to the pictures at the end of the post.

But first, I wanted to talk about the lights for either side of the front door because these were a whole different ball of wax. I bought two really nice, bright red lanterns from Grandpa's Dollhouse, to go on the exterior on either side of the front door. I love these little lanterns however, the day after I was just trying them out to see how they would look, this is what I found on the hallway floor as I came out of my bedroom in the morning.

Luckily, once I spliced the wire back together the light worked fine. Good thing or there was going to be one sorry little kitty in this house! Well, probably not since she would have no idea why I was upset. Jodi H. from My Miniature Madness was absolutely correct when she said that God made them so cute so we wouldn't kill them!!

So, while new technologies have opened the door to all kinds of new little LED lights that take very little power and can run on a variety of different kinds of batteries, many dollhouse lights, especially those with removable bulbs, are 12V lights and should not be hooked up to battery power - - unless you do it right! These lights are normally wired to a power bar which is wired to a transformer which plugs into a normal electrical outlet. This is certainly a more bulky solution and one that requires your project to always be placed near a power source if you want it to be lit. But, there is another option. In the picture below you see two different kinds of batteries:

On the left is a standard AA battery. These batteries are 1.5 volts. You don't need a lot of math skills to figure that you would need 8 of these batteries connected to supply 12V of power. Yes, you can get a battery pack that would hold that many AA batteries but it would be quite bulky - not easily hidden in your room box. And that is for one light only. I had two 12V lights going on the front of the post office and do not want to be committed to plugging into a wall outlet. There is a solution! The batteries on the right of the above picture, even though they are much smaller than the AA battery, are actually 12V each. In a double battery pack, pictured above next to the batteries, that is 24V - exactly what my two front door lights add up to. Now, I won't go into the issue of the slight loss of power over the length of wiring, or by operating singly or in tandem. Truth be told, any reduction in available power would not be significant enough to worry about for the purpose of wiring these two beautiful lanterns. I did have to order the holder for the batteries online through amazon.ca as I couldn't find a local supplier. The battery pack has a switch already attached as well.

So I had already created two channels on the outside of the front wall, on either side of the door, to fit the wires into. LIke the wires from the indoor sconces, I used a technique that Lea Frisoni describes in her book, The Big Book of a Miniature House. She describes how she runs a channel for her wires then covers them by laying a strip of tape, sticky side up and covers that strip with two strips sticky side down that meet in the middle of the central strip. What that leaves is a non-sticky area directly over the wire channel which allows for the wire to be pulled out if it needs to be fixed or exchanged. Of course, you would attach the new wire to the end of the old one before you started to gently pull so that it would pull the new wire along the channel while the old one is being pulled out. Does that make any sense?? If not - get the book. You really should have that wonderful book anyway! It's my favourite.

Back to the lights - I temporarily taped the lanterns to the wall since I can't install them permanently until the outdoor wall finish is completed. I ran the wires into the channels and used the masking tape technique to cover them. Then I painted the whole wall, including the masking tape area, white since I will be applying white blocks to the wall and I worry about little bits showing through occasionally. You can see the tape to the right of the door. It is painted over on the left.

Since the bulbs in the lanterns are replaceable, they were held together with little sticky white foam circles on the bottom of the lantern to allow easy access to pull out the bulb if necessary. Since the lantern will be hanging, not sitting, I replaced the white circles with red foam squares instead. Much better.

So, now to the pictures of the inside lamps in place:

As for those little sconces for the bathroom - I couldn't fit them on either side of the wall cabinet so I had Bruce drill 2 holes through the floor on either side of the door, painted the channel I showed you earlier so it would blend into the wall and hide the wires, and hooked the lights up on that wall instead. I like it!

I hope I didn't bore too many of you with all the description about lighting. I do hope anyone reading this post who is newer to the hobby has learned something - which was my aim this week.

Until next Tuesday, I will be thinking about what to use for lighting in the back part of the building. Hmm - got my thinking cap on now! Until then, keep safe, keep healthy and keep on mini-ing! TTFN - Marilyn D.


  1. I LOVE the way your lanterns turned out and they look marvelous in the main room! I also love your solutions for the entry lanterns and for the bathroom fixtures! Battery powered lights are such a great way to go for smaller projects, and it's wonderful to have so many options nowadays!
    I am glad that kitty is not in too much trouble! It always seems like once my pets turn 3, they suddenly "get it" and you can stop being so "on guard" about everything. Until then, patience and prudence must prevail! Woodson will be 4 in September and we have really turned a corner this year! He is such a good and loving boy and I am so glad we made it through the puppy phase!

    1. I'm sure you're right, Jodi. Bridie won't be 2 until August and she still wants to play all the time. Mostly she wants us to play with her and if we don't, she goes looking for ways to get back at us! But - she is cute! - Marilyn D.

  2. Marilyn,todo una lección sobre iluminación! Yo también tengo el libro de Lea y me ha sacado de apuros varias veces,es muy bueno!!
    Es precioso ver tus faroles colocados e iluminados,me encanta su luz y la vida que le da a la estancia! Me alegro que Bridie no rompiera del todo los cables,a veces son agotadores con sus juegos,pero son tan bonitos,que se les perdona siempre!!!

    1. Gracias Pilar. Estoy satisfecho con la iluminación hasta ahora. Sí, Bridie es un puñado, pero la amamos mucho de todos modos. Ella sabe que puede salirse con la suya con casi cualquier cosa. ¡Grandes abrazos! - Marilyn D.

  3. Wow, Marilyn, this was a good tutorial of how to make the lighting in a dolllhouse! Your lanterns turned out wonderful, and every room/space needs lights, right? It makes a room more vivid. Great work over all!
    Stay safe, take care.
    Hugs, Ilona

    1. Thank you, Ilona. I was hoping it would be understandable to any people new to the hobby as sometimes people are scared of trying new things until they realize how simple it really is. Wait until you see what happened today - I guess you'll have to wait until my next Tuesday post. It seems I learn something new every day! Hugs. - Marilyn D.

  4. OH MY GOODNESS! Your light fixtures look absolutely PERFECT,Marilyn! The white housing against the rich red looks so right for both the bathroom and the main post office.
    I can't believe I'm saying this but after looking at this project, I am already in the mood for Christmas...
    only 6 months away!:D


    1. Oh my dear Elizabeth - I am ALWAYS in the mood for Christmas!! Bruce doesn't like any Christmas decorations up before the 1st of December but I usually start "sneaking" things in around the 15th of November then gradually build up until I finish everything by around the 5th or 6th of December. I won't start until after November 11th though, out of respect for our veterans. I think there should be no Christmas decorating until after Remembrance Day - then it's full throttle after that. I LOVE it!! Big hugs! - Marilyn D.

  5. Hi Marilyn,

    I've seen you commenting on some of my friends' blogs lately which made me curious about you so I dropped by to have a look. Well, you got me at once with "Northpole" and "Christmas"... and this post office project is exciting in itself but even more the way you're interpreting it. I'm looking forward to see how this is going to develop.

    For now let me thank you for explaining the lighting issues so very well. It still didn't help when it comes to me... *LOL* At the moment I'm wiring a house I'm renovating for the first time in my life (so far I've managed to find other solutions) and I'm using the system of Nalladris where you don't have to care about positive and negative wires, very handy. Your wall lights turned out awesome and I also like your christmassy door knobs.

    Greetings from Germany

    1. Thank you so much for dropping by, Brigit. I'm especially pleased to meet someone else who loved Christmas projects as much as I do. I must pop in for a visit to your site soon! Hugs. - Marilyn D.

    2. My apologies Birgit, for spelling your name incorrectly! I think I got it right this time. *smile*

  6. They look absolutely wonderful. The colors just pop against the walls. Those are some of my favorite lighting kits. I goofed up and blew some of them out by touching the wrong wires together testing things though. Lesson learned!

    And they're a pretty affordable little set of lights too. Which is always nice.

    1. I agree, Sheila - affordable, easy to use and easy to conceal. However, I'm also pleased with finding a holder for 12V batteries too since a lot of nice 1:12 scale lights are 12V. If I was doing a whole house I would definitely direct wire and use a transformer but for a room box, 12V batteries are nice to have. - Cheers! - Marilyn D.

  7. Las lámparas son preciosas, y quedan fantásticas como las has colocado !!!


    1. Realmente me gustan, Eloisa y estoy contenta de haber encontrado ese acetato especial para alinearlos. Parece vidrio grabado. ¡Ahora al próximo desafío! Abrazos.