Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mels is done

I started this project back in the summer and finished it yesterday - the day we had the first snowfall of the '13/ '14 winter season. Yikes!
For lighting the sign's fibres, I made a simple illuminator from a $2 stick-on LED closet light fixture I bought at a local dollar store. I broke off the decorative outer cover to expose the 3 LEDs and switch. I glued styrene tubes over the LEDs for holding the fibre ends and then painted them black.
Even though I removed all the battery power gear for the other lights in the building, I kept the the fibre illuminator battery powered. It uses 3 AAAs. Although, if I were to do something like this again, I'd get rid of the batteries from this part too. To finish it off, I glued a styrene square to the bottom to make the whole thing easy to mount in the base of Mel's main building.
Here's the insides before the fibres were installed. All the 9 volt batteries and switches - except the one for the perimeter light because it was too tricky to cut off - were cut out. A terminal strip from my scrap box was set in the bottom and all the wires were connected to it. Two leads come out the bottom for connecting to external power. It's a lot tidier in there, but it could be much better if I had planned it properly in the first place.
And here's what it looks like with the fibres threaded into the sign's letter's. I used 0.5 mm diameter optical fibre. Installation is fairly straightforward, although a little tedious: drill holes into the letters with a drill bit held in a pin-vise, thread fibres through the holes and insert the end in an LED tube, and finish off by gluing the fibres against the inside wall. I used Micro crystal clear glue since it dries very clear and doesn't react with the fibres. No glue is needed to hold the fibres in the tubes. I estimate around 65 feet of fibre was used to thread the entire sign.
It turns out last weekend when I was working on this I was fighting off some sort of cold or flu. I took an antihistamine and my symptoms eased off a bit. I also follow the warning not to drive or use heavy equipment, but there was no prohibition against model building :-) Turns out once it fully kicked in, my coordination took a hit. That blue blob is one undocumented side-effect: I carelessly knocked over a bottle of paint that I was using too close to Mels. The shape doesn't look too bad actually, but it had to go.
I wiped and stained and painted and decaled and it eventually turned into this. Still not so good, but passable. In the right lighting, not too noticeable. So, note to self: next time, I'll just crash on the couch and not tempt the painting fates.
The roof for the rectangular building is built up from styrene pieces. It's more a caricature than a replica of something real, but it's serviceable.
This edge view gives a little better idea of the layering.
I need to go back and add some detail to the roof, for this build I figured I spend most of my time on the lighting.
To me, it looks better with the walls shorter than I had originally planned even though it was a bit stressful cutting them down when the thing was half built. Well, ya gotta take a few chances now-and-then :-) It's time for a burger and fries.


  1. I have really enjoyed this and the last post...good to see the model coming to completion, and I have learned much about lighting along the way. The finished, lit model has a great vibe!

  2. Thanks Iain! I was looking back at one of the early posts where I said I planned to build it as speedily as possible - I'd hate to see what would happen if I had chosen a leisurely pace :-)

  3. That is really good. First off, the building shape really stands out. Most model structures are strictly box-like, but the circular-ness really makes a statement. The texture of the tiles on the front is great too. And of course the lighting is fantastic. I think a lot of people would have left it at lighting up the sign, but the purple roof lights really sell it.

    1. Thanks titus! Although it took me much longer than I originally thought it would, it was fun to build and I was happy with the result.