Light Blocking/Sealing for Plastic Model Buildings – the Molly Way

I could title this entry in the way every other DIY or ‘life hack’ article on the internet is at the moment: “She Arranged Tea Cups and a Flashlight and You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next…” Except that would make me want to poke my own eyes out not just because of the mixed tenses, but because those are intensely and annoyingly nonspecific, and the odds are pretty good that I will not only believe, but not be particularly impressed by what happened next. Oy vey.


Spending all that time Photoshopping tiny saints for my cathedral and then running to and fro with paper and transparencies and making the copy shop people think I’d lost my marbles with odd requests (I do that to the guys at the lumber yard relatively often, as well…) inspired me to want to light my little cathedral from the inside. So, I stuck a flashlight under it and turned the lights off to test it out. My stained glass looked awesome, but the walls and the door glowed, and the roof leaked light terribly, and the bell looked like it was preparing for takeoff. churchuc


Tim thinks these two pictures are hilarious side-by-side. He says, “The church without the Holy Spirit… The church with the Holy Spirit is go for launch!”

I posted a question about it to my “cache of grandpas” on the model railroading forum, and they said pretty much tear it apart again spray the inside with black, then do a better job of gluing it, then caulk the holes. I had never torn it down completely for fear of snapping off the flying buttresses, and the roof was kind of bent and wouldn’t fit exactly perfectly anyway, so I went looking on the internet and found the Light Block Kit from Woodland Scenics. Then, I kludged my own.

I got some brown window caulk from True Value (the kind that comes in a roll, not a tube, and brown because they didn’t have any black). Next time I do one of these, I may try some “butyl tape” instead, because I did a lot of fiddling with the caulk, smoothing it in to place and using a tweezer to poke it in to tiny cracks where it didn’t flow. Nobody around here when I ask in the hardware and farm stores knows what “butyl tape” is, though, so I’ll have to order it off Amazon, I imagine.

To cover the thin walls, I used a thick coat of the Apple Barrel black acrylic paint, then let it dry and light-tested it (with the flash light and a dark room, again) and then touched up a couple of places.

undersideThe other thing I did was add a little square of translucent plastic under the bell as the floor of the cupola, then paint a square of black in the center of that, to kind of mask the inside of the bell but show off the tower. It is a little bright with the flash light test, but I think it will be just fine with the less-intense twinkle lights that go in these things.

That whole process actually worked quite well. I will use that method again, I believe! Although it’s not as elegant as the “kit”, it cost about half as much and the only people who would be looking at the inside of my models are looking for something to complain about, anyway…


Whenever my little LEDs and switches arrive, I will get some heavy black card stock and make it a little ‘base’ to block light in the bottom, but I don’t want to do that until I know what the lights are going to look like. Also until I know precisely where on the layout everything will go, because you can’t really temporarily place lighted buildings any more than you can temporarily lay wired track.

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