I wanted to to light up some 1/6 scale figures easily without having to flip switches or replace dead batteries.
The Soap Reactor is the go-to solution for this but it’s expensive and hard to buy so I decided to go the DIY route with a little help from a Facebook post, some coworkers, and friends.
Pros and Cons
Before we get started, let’s look at the tradeoffs for each of our power supply options.
|Pros||wireless, easy setup, included out of the box|
|Cons||tedious to turn on/off, risky to leave in (corrosion), need to be replaced eventually|
|Pros||easy to turn on/off, nice looking battery cells, easy setup, no battery replacement required|
|Cons||wires, hard to buy in US (I honestly couldn’t figure out how to buy), expensive base unit, requires purchase of additional battery|
cell replacements, limited number of terminals so additional base unit required to power more cells
|DIY power supply|
|Pros||easy to turn on/off, no battery replacement required, materials available online, cheaper than soap reactor, essentially unlimited cells, more flexibility with cable management, fun project (if you’re in to that kind of thing)|
|Cons||wires, More difficult to set up, more expensive than batteries|
What You’ll Need
- JST connectors
- JST crimp tool
- electrical wire
- wrapping wire
- terminal blocks / terminal strip
- conductive tape
- adapter with led barrel connector
- super glue
- tweezers – useful for setting JST connectors and installing battery cells
- project box
- Phillips head screw driver
- wire stripper
- power drill
- 1/8 cable sleeve
Building Your Own Power Source
Here’s What I’ll be Powering:
|War Machine||4 x 3 x 1.5v||Head, Hands x 2, Chest|
|Iron Man Mark34||4 x 3 x 1.5v||Head, Hands x 2, Chest|
|Hulkbuster + Jackhammer Arm||8 x 3 x 1.5v||Head, Arm, Jack Hammer Arm x 2 Chest, Legs x 2|
|Other stuff in the future||???||???|
I needed to power 16 cells (or 48 batteries total). Each terminal holds 3 x 1.5v batteries (for a total of 4.5v). They vary in size of batteries but I don’t really care about that because they’re all the same voltage and I’m making my own replacements that I can cut to size.
The Power Supply
I’ll start with an adjustable adapter set to 3v (this one came with a led barrel connector) – It probably wouldn’t hurt to set it at 4.5v but I’m staying slightly under powered just to stay under the full rating. Batteries aren’t going to output a full 4.5v either. Ideally I’d set it at 4v but that’s not an option on this adapter and I didn’t have much luck finding a 4v adapter.
I ended up purchasing a 3.3v adapter and a separate led barrel connector so I’ll have 2 in case I want to take any of the figures out of the display and power them separately; this has been really useful for reposing and maintenance.
From the barrel connector, I run electrical wire to a JST connector. I put JST connectors at every link so I can plug/unplug different parts quickly and easily and I don’t have to twist wires or solder anything.
JST connectors require a special crimp tool that cost me $30 so if you opt out of the connectors and the tool for another connection method, you can save around $40
I used terminal blocks when I need to split one wire out to 3 or 4 – with the exception of the Hulk-Buster where I needed 8; this would get ugly with a terminal block so I got a strip instead.
I ended up using a terminal block for each of the suits (with 4 connections) and one in the display cases to split the wire coming in between the middle and top shelf. From the terminal blocks/strip I connected a short length of electrical wire with a JST connector that will connect to the “last mile”
for the connections between the terminal blocks/strip and the battery replacements, I twisted blue and black wrapping wire using a power drill.
Just connect one end to a doorknob and the other to a drill and pull the trigger. I cut the twisted wire in to strips long enough to allow for cable management. You’ll want to hide your wires and tuck them in where you can so it’s not a straight line to from the battery to the terminal.
For the battery packs, strip the end of the wrapping wire and cut off a thin strip of the conductive tape for positive and negative. Wrap the conductive tape around the wire in to flat squares, then superglue them to a plug (or whatever you use) that you’ve cut to fit in the socket. I always glued positive (blue) to the bigger end for consistency. You’ll want a JST connector on one end for connecting to the terminal and a battery pack on the other.
For the Figure
I took advantage of any opening I could find to weave the wires through the figure so they were well hidden. Then I used scraps of the black wrapping wire to twist around groups of wires to keep them neat before wrapping them in a 1/8 inch sleeve.
Don’t worry about the screw on battery covers; most of them won’t accommodate the wire sticking out and they’re hidden by outer panels. I ended up with a bunch in plastic baggies when I was finished
Display Cable Management
To hide the terminal blocks, I used a couple of black plastic project boxes. I drilled a hole in both ends for the wires and used some rubber rings to make them look clean. Then I carefully crammed everything in and closed them up.
Turning it all on
What fun is a single power supply if you can’t turn it on with the click of a button? The last step was plugging the power supply in to this wireless remote control outlet.