Looking after the wires
When deciding on an electrical system for this Tudor to Jacobean model, I summarily rejected the copper wire method so, as far as I could make out, it was going to be wires or nothing. And, for a long time it was going to be nothing as it all seemed too stressing to a novice builder and one of little brain. Instead I thought I might light the rooms with spotlights or LEDs from the outside. But the time came when the shape of things to come became more clear and an internal system was going to have to be the thing.
What do I think I’m playing at?
In order to avoid a possible spaghetti stage with electrical gubbins, even when they ran between the layers of a double wall built for the purpose, I’ve been keeping the wiring safe from glues, each other, general chafing against edges, dirt etc, by sheathing the wire with heat shrink cable tubing on its crucial vulnerables.
I’ve found it particularly needful where it has to make a bit of a bend, or where it sits with others of its kind in a sharp or narrow space, or where it runs close to or is embedded in something that’s going to be glued down (such as on a pillar – and yes, I’ve been a bad ‘un as, in some cases, I’ve got a light that can’t be removed without removing a balk of timber).
I bought the tubing in two un-shrunk widths; a white and a black at 1.6mm and a black length at 2.4mm, with a shorter, wider length of black just in case. Never used it before for anything that I could remember, but me, I wurx frum ‘da pikturs’. Basically it’s:
“flame retardant, … heat-shrink tubing … suitable for a wide range of applications including electrical insulation, strain relief, cable bundling, … .Also suitable for electrical and electronic components and mechanical protection … “
But I don’t shrink it, having bought it narrow in the first place. I did try with the widest but found the results patchy and only wanted it mostly to keep the wires from tangling with each other, the construction and the woollies wrapping my freezing arms.
Buying the two colours is useful for the different areas and occasionally for having on show. For example the homemade 5 light in the Great Hall has a wider piece of black tubing housing the gathered 5 sets of wires rising up a length so that I could get my fingers to them to splice them and then on through the ceiling before they emerge threaded through into the area above.
I’ve also used very small pieces where wires go through the MDF onwards and upwards towards command and control.
Small pieces, either still in the round or split into strips, were useful to infill the angles on the central light, to dress other bits and bobs and to put over sharp, unfinished edges where wires (sheathed or not) are going to run.
I’ve remonstrated before, in passing, re the subject of attaching the plugs to doll’s house wiring (heading – ‘Total side issue’) so you can guess how overjoyed ‘meself’ feels when I find that there are lengths of wiring that have somehow magically acquired a plug but really should have had a ‘safety sheath’ added pre pluglet. Some short lengths of tubing can be split and slid over the offending wire, but for others there’s no alternative – the plug must go and then … yes, the plug must come back. Though thankfully not on all. Some lights have been selected to go forth and ‘flicker’ and the wires will be bare-ended and screwed into the flicker unit.
To flicker or not to
I quite like the idea but not for all lights and not throughout the building. Corridor lighting or those in smaller spaces I think I prefer static. Some of the fireplace units have their own built-in flicker mechanism but those that don’t have been selected to dazzle the eye using the unit. Otherwise my choices are based on where in a room the light is situated. Present thinking is that some lights at or towards the back of a larger space will flicker, whilst those central and at the front won’t. Reckon there’s probably a limit to how much flickering my human eye wants to be party to and a little flicker may go a long way and hopefully give the general appearance of candle. It’s more than possible the resulting look may set any viewer wondering if some of the lighting is working to spec; but we’ll see.
Plugs can always be added afterwards – oh, joy.
There are, at present, two sets of wiring controls. One in the main building and one in the removable section which makes up the extension to the Great Hall and the upper ‘committee’ room and traveling guild members dossing space.
Well, that’s simple. Cost and projected space. As much as I adore the bare wire units such as those from Micro Miniatures space is of the essence in this model. Micro Miniatures units give individually switchable connections and each unit can be expanded by another from its 6 or 12 light size onwards. I think they’re wonderful, doing away with the dratted plugs etc, but I’m cheapskate as well as probably short of lighting controls space, so I’m doing a hybrid thingy. The flicker unit is from them (they do both candle and fire flicker units) but the plugs are going into the standard fused 12 strip long and narrow item available from most places. It may come to buying into the plugless method in time and given better allocation of space so that I can use extender boards, but in the meantime plugs it is.
All plugs, once they get into my hands, whether they are pre-loathed or not, have the ‘let’s enlarge the holes a little’ treatment. Bradawl or similar in hand, I jiggle the pointed object forcibly in the holes provided for the pins/copper ends. Not to grow them so big that everything falls out, but just enough so that no muscles are seriously ruptured in the wiring of said plug.
The Downside of Tubing
New cable/wiring tends to come either wrapped around a small drum shape or a flat card. or, on ready wired lighting it’s wrapped around itself in the packaging and often threaded through at the end. A recipe for producing heavily kinked wire if ever there was one, and it’s worthwhile spending time smoothing it out before attempting to thread it through the very narrow sheathing. If you’re already a dab hand at heat shrinking or fancy a go then wider tubing would be the answer and then shrink to fit, though I suspect that getting the wiring flatter would still be needed.
The sheathing itself needs storing carefully to avoid squash memory or bending as the wire you’re likely to be threading through it is often a little floppy and doesn’t push its own way easily.
The artisan built lighting I’ve bought has tended to be packaged with the wiring more loosely stored and is also more sturdy and amenable cabling than with the mass produced lights.
You can write directly on the tubing, if you have amazingly small writing and good eyesight, or you could use bits of a wider, brightly coloured length and colour code as well as label. My fancy is for a little yellow and possibly a little blue to help pick out the upstairs from the downstairs.
- The Many Uses For Heat Shrink Tubing (home-expert.org) – General info
- Re: Cheap tools for shrinking heat shrink tubing (eevblog.com) – A community forum
- Dolls’ House Parade – Hints and tips on lighting