Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Night at the Gecko

It's not a model, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. It gave me a low stress way to fiddle around with micro-LED strip lights. I've used a couple of small strips on some other projects, but nothing in a big way.
I bought a 5m reel of LED strip lighting from LEDMontreal. It runs on 12v dc, and as soon as it arrived in the mail I plugged in a 12 v dc transformer to see if it lit. It did. Turns out it will also light up with a 9v battery, and the lead photo uses one to light up the strips.
To use it, you just cut off a piece from the reel to the length you need - the only proviso is that you can only cut it where it's marked - and solder on some power leads. I used some shop scissors for the cutting. The strip is coated with a rubbery, clear plastic - the strip is meant for use in under cabinet lighting in kitchens, so the coating makes it water proof - and you need to cut it away from the terminals so some power leads can be soldered on the little + and - dots that get exposed. A little careful slicing with an X-acto knife worked for me.
That clear rubbery coating might come in handy one day. I tried a little test where I used a Sharpie pen to colour the coating. It goes on smoothy and doesn't attack the plastic.
The ink doesn't make it opaque and when lit, there's a nice coloured glow. It suggests there's no need to buy coloured strips for special effects, just use a Sharpie to colour whatever strips are needed. I didn't make use of coloured strips on this project, but it's nice to know.
Here are all the strips cut and with leads soldered on. The four long ones are for the under eaves perimeter lighting, and the short one in the middle is for the lobby.
This is the underside of the roof. I used a piece of corrugated styrene to give the outer surface some texture. I built up a groove for the light strips under the eaves from plastic pieces. The strips are self-adhesive so I didn't have to worry about figuring out what sort of glue to use to hold them in place. I'm not sure if this is the best way to wire them with 4 separate leads that were eventually soldered together in parallel. I could have soldered them into one long series strip, but I thought, well, if one of my solder joints isn't so good, I could lose light in most of the strip. Time will tell.
The lobby insert is just a little box built up from pieces of sheet styrene.
The side walls were covered with brick paper, the back was painted blue to match the logo on the back wall, and carpeting is piece of grey paper. I cut an interior door into the right wall.
A record company wouldn't be complete without some gold records for the wall. These ones are built up from thin plastic. They're crude, but they'll likely only be glanced at once installed so there is no need for superdetailing. The records were made by using a paper punch on 0.010 in styrene.
And there they are glued to the left wall in the lobby. At this point the lobby is done except for lighting. 
The lobby light strip was attached to a thin piece of styrene, which was glued to those black plastic pillars that were attached to the lobby sidewalls. They hold the light panel suspended above the clear plastic ceiling.
This picture gives a better idea of how the light panel was installed in the lobby. The ceiling has an embossed block pattern to help obscure the light strip.

At this point the lobby insert was glued into place behind the front doors. The inside of the building and the outer lobby walls were painted black to help block any stray light from leaking out.
Before embarking on final assembly, Debra prepared a dinner of omelets and bisquets; cheddar cheese and chive bisquets to fortify me :-)
Turns out, the job wasn't that hard. I reinforced the roof a bit with hefty styrene strips to help keep it flat. The inside of the roof was then painted black, and a terminal strip was glued to the inside floor. The roof light leads were soldered together and to a power lead that was then connected to the terminal strip. Leads for external power were cut and then connected to the terminals.
The roof panel was attached to the walls with double-sided tape. For some reason I was paranoid about getting it stuck down properly and stacked some heavy books on the whole thing and left it to set up over night. It worked and and that is that. I'm now looking for a location for Gecko Records on my layout.


  1. Its shaping up to be quite the stylish streetscape.

    1. Thanks Riley. Gecko's seems a little out of place for anything to be seen in Toronto, so finding a good place for it is going to be a little tricky - but that's part of the fun.