Like many figure collectors, I own one of Ikea’s Detolf display cabinets. It’s a popular choice, and for good reasons; it’s compact, shows off figures very well, and most importantly, it’s ridiculously cheap. That’s not to say it’s perfect, however. It’s rather heavy, somewhat shoddily designed (like most furniture from Ikea, I find), and it doesn’t have lighting. While I can’t do anything about its weight or construction, I can do something about the lack of lights.
Here’s my Detolf on a typical sunny afternoon.
Yuck. A glass display case is sorta pointless if the contents are too dark to be seen.
There are a lot of ways to light up a Detolf. Perhaps the most prosaic and certainly the easiest to set up would be to simply shine a lamp into it. While it would get the job done, it’s a rather slipshod solution and besides, a lamp would take up valuable space that I need for more figures. Another way to do it would be to use Ikea’s Non light; it installs in the top of the display case. I didn’t want to do that for a few reasons: one, I really don’t like going to Ikea, two, it would only illuminate the top shelf, and three, if I remember correctly the Non light uses a halogen bulb. I’m not sure how hot it gets but I’m wary of putting a halogen light near plastic figures; I’ve already got problems with leaning and ankle warping, I don’t need to melt down the heads of my figures as well.
The solution I went with are LED strips. I got these from Oznium, a company that seems to cater to automotive hobbyists. There’s no reason why these lights won’t work for my purposes, however. I bought their Flathead LED Strips as they were cheap and come in a warm white color; I prefer a more golden-tinted light rather than clinically cold white light.
Oznium also sells power connectors, and I used one of these with a 12V AC adapter I had laying around (I think it came with one of my external hard drives). I hooked everything together to test it out.
Success! I’ve got my camera’s exposure turned down for this photo; the LEDs are a bit brighter than what’s shown here.
The pylons for the glass shelves make convenient and ideal attachment points for the LED strips. I ordered four strips, each twelve inches long, and I cut each in half. I used some twisty ties that I got in a box of garbage bags to tie the lights to the pylons.
Speaker wire is very convenient to use as hookup wire for these lights. I got a 75-foot roll of 24 gauge wire from Radio Shack for like four bucks. In retrospect I probably should have gone with a thicker gauge; the 24 gauge wire was very thin and a real pain to work with.
The power wires run inside the door, on the left. The long wire running to the top of the picture doesn’t actually power any of the lights in the display case.
It powers these lights here. I forgot that the top shelf doesn’t have support pylons above it and I didn’t see a way to easily mount the lights on the bottom of the Detolf cover, so I wound up with an extra LED strip. Having no use for it, I decided to mount it on the underside of this cheap plastic shelf. The bottom of the shelf is ridged, so I curled up the strip and taped it there. You can see how flexible these LED strips are.
Let’s turn off all other room lighting and see how bright these lights are.
They’re pretty dang bright.
I bought a spotlight from Oznium, thinking that maybe I could use it as an auxiliary light for my photography. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the results I got from it; I bought a warm white one which doesn’t look right in my photos. Lacking further use for this light, I decided to drop it in the hole in the top of the Detolf. It actually fits perfectly. However, I’m not getting good results from it in this role, either. Since it’s a spotlight, its light emission is very focused with little dispersion, and it doesn’t really work too well for wide-area illumination. Oznium does sell a floodlight in the same form factor, so I’m thinking about buying one and swapping it with my spotlight.
Close-up of how I mounted the LED strip to the pylon. I dropped the exposure on this picture so that the details of the LED strip are visible.
Another view. One of the cool things about these LED strips is that they’re self-contained; they’ve already got the appropriate resistors soldered on and you can daisy-chain power connectors. This strip receives power from the far connector (note to self: next time, use a more manly tape like duct tape or electrical tape rather than wimpy transparent Scotch tape). The close connector powers the LED strip mounted on the above shelf pylon.
This was a pretty easy project, but it was fun to do and I think the results came out pretty nice.