8.16 Fluorescent "Shop" Light

This is something I've wanted to model since the very early 2000s, but the technology wasn't ready. With the advent of white 0201 SMD LEDs—particularly pre-wired ones—I had at last the raw materials to realize my vision: a scale shop light. This thing (yes, it's only four N Scale feet long) was insanely difficult to make, taking nearly an entire day just to make one, with many reject parts. As far as the look, I've pretty much nailed it (I just forgot to make ends); it's the illumination effect that still needs a little more work. But overall I've made it to the 90% mark, and now I'm reasonably confident I can take it all the way.

It requires drilling eight #83 holes, four each in the ends of a rectangle of 0.010" thick sheet styrene bent to make the shade. Each of the wires of four 0201s are threaded into these holes. The LEDs are very carefully positioned to face inward, and secured in place with CA. Then, two lengths of fiber optic material are cut to exactly wedge between the pairs of LEDs; then their ends are touched to a droplet of CA and positioned. This process can take many, many tries, since the fibers must be precisely the right length. Once everything is in place, additional CA is applied to hold everything together. Finally, the styrene is painted black on the back side to make it light-tight, then the whole assembly is sprayed flat white.

The effect when lit was less than adequate. When I scraped the white paint off of the "tubes" and sprayed them with clear matte finish, it improved greatly. Then I was challenged by a fellow modeler to make one lamp flicker—he was trolling me good-naturedly. What he didn't know is that it was trivial to do just that...

Two of them hang in the windows of Cody's Hardware Store.


These lights have been around a long time. Here's a genuine 1950s unit.

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