Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lighting for Mels dining room

It took me a long time to figure out what to do for lighting this thing. For some buyers, the kit box might be a little misleading because it shows an extravagantly lit building, and it might be interpreted as a message that the box contains all the parts necessary to produce that sort of lighting. To get to the box top state requires some creativity from the builder. My stab at it is hardly perfect, but hopefully it’ll cheer the place up a bit because I think the kit would look a little dark and dreary without some lights. Maybe if there is a second edition of this kit, a photo of the actual painted and assembled building on the bottom of the box would be good so the buyer knows what they’re getting.
[Inner ceiling is the top piece, and the outer roof is the lower. The ceiling piece was spray painted white.]
For the dining room I settled on two small strips of micro-LEDs. This is the first time I’ve used these types of lights. I bought them for $1.50 each (this is probably high priced from a bulk purchase point of view, but it’s an economical way to buy these things if you just want a couple to play around with) from Caboose Coffee Hobbies at the Victoria model railway show. Basically, all one needs to do is connect a 9v battery to the terminals. No figuring out what resistors are required, and they’ve got an adhesive strip on the back, so attaching them to a structure is clean and easy.
[Here the leads have been soldered to the terminals on the LED strips, snaked through holes I drilled in the ceiling, and are ready for inserting through corresponding holes I then drilled in the building's walls.]
[A shot of the interior before installing the ceiling. A couple more figures were added after this picture was taken. As well, a number of advertising posters - which are supplied in the kit - were glued to the windows at this stage.]
The trickiest part was getting the ceiling attached to the dining room’s circular wall. There are 37 holes in the ceiling and they have to be carefully lined up with the corresponding poles and posts that make up the wall. In preparation, I  raised the building up with some books so I didn’t have to contort myself while fiddling with the pieces, and then shone a bright light over the ceiling so that light came though any of the holes that weren’t secured into the wall frame. I then started at one end and carefully used a pair of tweezers to move each post and pole into its corresponding ceiling hole, gently pushing down on the ceiling to secure each as it was set in place. The kit is well engineered, so everything does line up in the end, but it takes a little patience to get it all together.
[The power and wiring is in need of some organization so I can get everything neatly into the main building. I'm using battery power so I can move the building around and not be dependent on an external power supply.]
The box states Mels is a level 3 kit and I agree. It doesn’t have a lot of parts or complex assemblies, but the dining room’s circular wall is a tricky structure to get right, but as I mentioned earlier, the kit is well engineered and the parts fit together well unlike the AMTronic, whose manufacturer also rates it a level 3, which I think is because it seems that every single part requires special filing and fitting – so much so that I’ve lost my patience with it for the time being and it’s gathering dust on my workbench.


  1. There's something to be said for paying a little more for lighting if it comes ready to power, vs. having to do all the calculations, find the resistors, order them, wire the whole shebang, figure out how to mount it, etc.


    1. Yes, I agree. It was nice to just solder on some leads and stick down the lights. I think though with one of the LEDs I'm putting in the 'Enterprise' part of the roof I'll need to dust off my slide rule and figure out what size resistor I'll need :-)