Light Blocking Merchant’s Row – Experiment #2

My little LEDs finally arrived and I finished the light-blocking on the cathedral.

I cut out a bit of black card stock the size of the base, and then cut a square hole in the center of that just big enough to get my fingers in to maneuver. With a little finagling, I reached inside and ‘caulked’ the bottom edge to the cardstock. Initially, I just put one LED inside, but decided that after all that work, it looked much better with a little more light coming out, and added a second!

I did try to take some finished-product photos, but they didn’t turn out at all because I was trying to use the wrong camera for the job. (See previous post…) In person, it is subtle and totally cool. I’m sure the new owner will enjoy it.

So, on to the next project!

While I was working on the church, I found some stuff on Amazon that seemed like it would work better than the caulk I ended up getting at True Value, but I wasn’t willing to order 30 feet of the stuff, pay to have it shipped, wait for it (mostly the waiting), and then discover that it didn’t work. Really… I should have just ordered it in the first place.

After being mostly-displeased by the caulk, I got a roll of black butyl tape… And discovered that it’s brilliantly useful for light-blocking models and helps reinforce corners while it’s there. It’s flexible and a little sticky without being ridiculous, and doesn’t ‘run’ once it’s in place (so far) but can be re-positioned if necessary. I don’t know how it performs in the long term, but it’s meant as a sealant for windows and decks and boats and other outdoorsy situations, so I imagine it can handle the basement. I ordered the narrowest ribbon I could find, which ended up being 1″ wide. For my purposes, I cut a chunk of about the length of the shortest wall I’m working with, and then cut it lengthwise with an Xacto 4 or 5 times as I’m going along.


The next model I tried was the Merchant’s Row II kit that has been on my workbench since January. I had this model partially assembled before I decided to attempt to light-block it, so the back-painting is a little messy where I tried to sneak under and around already-installed window glass. It seems not to have as much of a glowing-walls problem as the cathedral did, even with the spots I missed.

The model does have some serious “holes” in the construction, though, namely above the front doors and at the bottom of the tower. I blocked the tower with a bit of card stock and a wad of butyl tape, and actually left the holes above the flat doors because I thought the light radiating through there looked like a recessed stoop light.

frontinsideI glued this model and tore it back apart several times in the process of building it, so my corners were not as nicely flush as I would have liked them to be. Other weak spots in the model like where the doors are connected and especially the corner door were very helpfully reinforced by the butyl tape.

When I was testing the cathedral, I stuck a flashlight underneath it and rested it on some tea cups to get the effect without having to hold it. That was not going to work for this model due to both the size and relative fragility. Additionally, it would be nice to get a better idea of how it looks with lighting and sitting flush with the table to avoid the ‘launching rocket’ effect.

I happened to come across these little guys in a checkout aisle:


They’re about an inch by an inch and a half and have a click on/off so I can set them down. The light is a little directional and stronger than model lighting, I’m sure, but they’ve proven quite handy for testing so far! The following photos were all taken using them positioned upright underneath, and a mostly-dark basement…




That looks pretty cool. I particularly like the roof-at-night one, but I’m excited about my “custom roof.” There is a lot of opportunity for customizing the lighting in here by either building internal walls or blacking out select windows, or both. I left the entire inside open for now, so the final owner could light or not as he chose.


You’ll also notice my attempt at both custom window decoration and stained glass. I’m not enormously pleased with these, but they’re not glued in, just tucked in place, so they can be removed easily enough if unwanted. I would like the stained glass to be a lot more brilliant, and think the lettering could do with a more substantial look as well. Next time, I think I’ll try printing the transparency twice. I can’t make the original any darker. The best situation would be to be able to print it with some sort of paint or plastic, I suppose, but I do what I can with what I have.

Highlighting the lollipops was achieved by painting the backside of the transparency with white acrylic (like you do for signs painted on glass in the real world) and the lettering really needs it as well, but I simply don’t have the steadiness of hand to back-paint typeface that small!

Slowly but surely, I’m getting the hang of doing a model up “right!”

The first stained glass and light blocking post is here: 

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