After making the decision to pick up the resin USS Ares model, I started thinking about how the kit should be lit. Sure, the model can be built (and will look beautiful!) as a static non-lit display, but something about the design just screamed out to me and begged to be lit up from the inside. There’s plenty of room inside for LEDs, and those windows are nice and easy to open up with just a few minutes of work. But here’s my problem:
I suck at lighting.
Sure, I’ve done lit models before. I have a lit Enteprise C that I built out of the clear Yamaguchi years ago that is still going strong. There is a plastic K7 station that I went crazy with just recently. And the one I’m most proud of: a 1/1000 scale resin JJPrise that wasn’t REALLY meant to be lit up…but I managed to pull the job off for it. They look all right from the outside, but trust me: on the inside, they’re a tangled mess of disorganized wiring, bad solder joints, a little bit of spit, and a whole lot of luck. (In my defense, I get better with each build, but they’re still scary in there.)
So what do I do? Do I try making my own rig again? What about the amazing nacelle effects the Ares has? How do I replicate THAT??? Easy. Enter Tenacontrols, and their amazing 1/1000 scale lighting effects kit. It’s a little pricey, but I think you’ll agree once you see it that it’s worth saving up for. Let’s have a look.
The package arrived in the post packed in a manilla bubble envelope, with this clear plastic clamshell nestled inside. It’s enough protection as there are no super-delicate parts inside. Tenacontrols website states that they build each kit essentially “to order,” and I was happy that my order got to me in a VERY reasonable amount of time. Kudos to them about their shipping and their Facebook customer service.
Instructions are a little daunting, especially if you’ve NEVER seen a wiring diagram before. And even if you have (I fall in this category) a little experience, it’s still a tiny bit nerve wracking. But never fear! There are only a few things you’ll need to solder onto the board, most of this schematic is just for your reference.
Here are the guts of the kit. When you open the clamshell pack you’ll find a momentary switch, 9-volt battery clip, and a small amount of heat shrink tube in one bag. The other protective bag has two pre-wired LED spinners for the nacelles, and a control board that is already assembled with red and green blinking LEDs, plus a pair of constant-on white LEDs and the power connections meant to head to your momentary switch and battery cable. Almost everything is done for you. You simply have to solder the LED spinners to the board in the correct order, connect your power and momentary switch to control the fan speed, and you’re done!
A moment (HA! I KILL ME!) to discuss that momentary switch. Tenacontrols included it so you can cycle through three speed settings for your engine spinners. That’s awesome, but in order to use it you need to either (A) mount the button somewhere on the model, or (B) run the switch down into the base…essentially hard-wiring the model to the base and preventing any…..let’s call it “hands on free manipulation.” Also known as flying the model around the room, which I KNOW we would never do. Nevertheless, I find the idea of hard-mounting the model a little limiting. After discussing this with Tenacontrols, I learned 3 things. First, the dude is awesome. Seriously. His customer service is fantastic. Second, you don’t HAVE to use the momentary switch. Just cut the yellow wire and make yourself feel like you’re de-fusing a bomb, and the circuit will rotate at the default speed. Third, if you want to be adventurous, get yourself a few Normal-Open magnetic reed switches and wire one of those instead of the momentary switch. You can place a magnetic reed switch anywhere on the inside of the hull, and a touch with a magnet on the OUTSIDE of the hull in the correct spot will cycle the speed just like the button would. Except you can be all cool about it and act like it ain’t no thang when your geek friends come over and you show them how you can change the light setting on your model with, say, a flick of a magnet-tipped wand.
Guess which option I’ll be using.
In any case, that’s enough of me gabbing for a few minutes. Here’s some more shots of the lighting rig. I decided to photograph it first with the model it was intended to light – the TOS Enterprise.
The main board is nice and small, which it needs to be (you’ll see soon enough) and the soldered connections are very clean and well done. The spinners, as seen here in a 1/1000 scale TOS Enterprise, fit snugly in place even without any requested modifications that Tenacontrols recommends. I’d still go with his advice, though, and snip some of the internal tabs for the warp engines.
And here’s why. The board will barely fit in the secondary hull, but it DOES fit. To make it really work well, you’re going to have to remove all the inner bulkheads that make this a snap-tite model. I’m assuming that if you have the skill to attempt a lighting kit, you can probably build this as a non-snap model….so go ahead and grind those bulkheads out. Alternately, there is enough length on the spinners that you can actually locate the control board in the primary hull if you choose. I’ll most likely pick this potion if I get another lighting kit when the time comes to do my TOS E. Here’s a very short video of the red and green blinking lights when I test-connected them to power to make sure the board was working.
I’m not building the TOS model, however, so here’s how it’s going to look in the ARES!
As you can see, I have TONS of space to work with in here. I had to build my own pylons to make them hollow in order to run the ribbon cable, but I’ll get to that in another post. I will probably be running that magnetic reed switch somewhere along the spine of the secondary hull to make it easy to switch speeds. Just not so close to the control board, of course!
As you can see here, the spinners fit just as well inside the Ares’ engines as they do inside the Enterprise’s wee bairnes. And there was an added bonus to scratchbuilding my own pylons: the hollow channel means you can actually see the ribbon cable. Looks like power transfer conduits in the scale model…which they really are, if you think about it.
There’s a lot of work to be done on the model. And I will be posting build updates with the kit including the lighting effects in the near future. But if anyone is on the fence about getting the 1/1000 scale lighting kit for their Trek models, I think I can honestly say — don’t worry. Get it. It’s worth it. In parting, let me share a video that Tenacontrols put out that shows off the spinning domes. Good luck and happy modeling!