I have always wanted to try putting LEDs in minimates, so having this website is a perfect excuse to do it! Prior to this weekend, I hadn’t touched a soldering iron in over eight years. I decided my first project would be to light up the Human Torch from the Invaders set. It was definitely a learning experience, and there are some things I would do differently the second time around.
I picked up a pack of 20 LEDs at Radio Shack for $2.39. I also bought two switches for $1.99 and a soldering iron kit for $7.99. I had some wire at home, so I didn’t need that. My original plan was to put one LED in the Torch’s chest, a second one beneath his feet in the base, and a third underneath the bottom of the base.
I wanted to hide all of the wires, so they would have to run through his legs and down through the base. I started out by drilling holes through his legs and up through the hip piece. This destroyed the leg joints, so I superglued them to the hip piece when I was done. I used a drill bit that fit perfectly into the peg hole for the feet. This was large enough to run the wires through.
Then I started hollowing out the base. I used the same size drill bit to go from the bottom of the base towards the top. I used a larger drill bit to go from the top of the base down to the first tunnel I made. I had to run the drill through both sides several times to remove all the excess material. Now I was ready to begin wiring. First I laid everything out and tested it. Then I started threading the wires through the Torch’s legs.
The LED from Radio Shack was the exact size of a chest peg, so it not only fit the hole perfectly, but the figure retains full wait articulation, because the chest rotates on top the LED. I soldered the ends of the LED to the lengths of wire. I made sure the wire was long enough to run all the way down the base and still give me some room to spare, since I would be doing more soldering later.
I put the second LED in the base beneath his feet, but all of the wires would not fit down the narrow shaft of the base. There was only enough room for the wires from his chest LED. I did not want any exposed wires running outside of the base, so I decided to only put two LEDs in the figure: the one in his chest, and a second one beneath the base.
I used a larger drill bit to make room for the second LED in the bottom of the base. I ran the wires through the base from his body and soldered them to both the LED in his base, and two more lengths of wire that would run to the switch and the battery (3V per LED). I had some help from my friend Timbo with this layout. Each LED has a positive and negative side. In order to keep two LEDs at the same brightness, the electricity must be flowing to both of them at the same time and rate. So you end up with a “Y” shape, where the wires from the battery split off at a single point to go to both LEDs. If I had used a third LED it would be a fork shape instead of a “Y”.
The switch actually has three settings, but for this custom I only need two of them, on and off. Another option could be adding a different color LED, and switch between one color, the second color, and off.I might try that with a different figure some day.
I put all of the wires into my black base, which is actually the top of a paperclip dispenser. I cut a hole in the side for the switch. When I curled everything up, I lost the connection from one of the wires to the switch, so I had to re-solder that.
As you can see, I had to solder the wires to the battery three times before I got a good connection. The first two times the flux got in between the wires and the battery as I soldered it.
I am happy with the final result, but there are some things I would do differently next time. Timbo told me there is thinner wire available at Radio Shack where I could probably fit three LEDs like I had originally planned. Also, he sent me a few LEDs that he got on eBay from a seller in Hong Kong. They are at least twice as bright as the ones from Radio Shack. I would use these next time.
I will post more tips about using LEDs as I get some more experience under my belt.