Simple display case lighting

My main model display case is situated in our hallway, where it doesn’t get much natural light. So I have always had my eye out for a way of lighting the display to better show off my models!

The display case itself is an old piece of furniture with no fitting for lights. In addition, there is no wall socket nearby so any wired-in lighting would be complicated and require the expensive services of an electrician.

So I was really pleased when this week I spotted a range of Nouveau LED Strip Lights at my local Mitre 10 store (a New Zealand big-box hardware store – you’ll probably find similar products in overseas stores). I snapped up three of them to see if they would do the trick.

Each strip is one metre long, and contains a line of tiny LEDs. The strip has a self adhesive backing so that you can just stick it above the shelf.

Power for each strip comes from a battery pack that contains four AAA batteries. These packs have both a manual on-off button and a motion-sensor – though the sensor only works when it is dark.

I stuck the three battery packs just inside the sliding door of my display case, as you can see above. This way I can easily access the on/off buttons just inside the door. I may later paint the battery packs black to make them a little less obtrusive.

The effect when the three light strips are switched on is incredible. They produce a lot of light, so the miniatures look as if they are in a museum display.

Here are a few pictures showing some of the units in the display case, demonstrating how well they come up under the lighting. First are some 18th century British. The lighting shows off their red coats extremely well, giving the figures a jewel-like quality.

My landsknechts look really brilliant under the lights. The multiple hues of their clothing just pops out! All that colour would be wasted without proper lighting!

Even the dull camouflage colours of World War Two come to life under effective lighting, as you can see here with my 1940 Dutch forces.

And my miniature navies look better under lighting, too. As a serendipitous side-effect, the light from the shelf below gleams up through the translucent blue plastic to make the sea sparkle.

I also bought some LED lights for my other display case. This time I didn’t use strip lights, but individual LED lights. The effect isn’t nearly as spectacular, but still much better than no lighting at all (see the unlit case below).

One neat feature these lights have that the strip lights don’t is a remote on/off switch. So you don’t have to open the doors to turn the lights on. Just like magic!

All in all, I am really pleased with the massive improvement that some cheap battery-powered lighting has made to my display cases.

I can now sit and gaze at my miniatures for hours. And every visitor to our house who wants to use the loo must pass by the display case, so the lighting should attract some attention!

6 thoughts on “Simple display case lighting

  1. Looks excellent. With your modelling skills you could build some special pieces of “architecture” to house the battery packs with ready access to change them when necessary.

  2. Brilliant use of technology. Your figures and terrain are genuinely put to best advantage for viewing with this system. Well done.

I hope I've given you something to think about - please do leave a comment with your thoughts or reactions.

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