I have a Forgefiend
mini from the Wizkids Rise
of the Runelords set. Because it's basically a
furnace/torture chamber/golem, I thought it would be cool to put
an LED inside it so it would light up. Here's how I did it.
(You can click of any of the photos for a larger version.)
|Step 1 was to pop him of his base. They're designed so
the base has pegs that fit into each mini's feet. It's not
too hard to pop him off the base if you apply a little
force. I broke the right foot in half when I did it
(oops!), probably because the feet are so small compared
to the size of the peg. Not a big deal, as when I
reassemble it I'm going to need to attach it firmly at the
|A pin vise—basically a metal stick with a clamp on
each end that you can stick a drill bit in. I could have
started with my power drill, but I wanted to be extra
careful at first and drill a pilot hole by hand.
|Once the pilot hole was done, I'd use larger and larger
drill bits to make a hole big enough for the LED. The
leftmost drill bit is about a 1/16th" bit, the largest is
the 1/4" bit from my power drill.
I'm using a 2.1 volt LED and a 3 volt watch battery... which is more than what the LED can handle long-term (I suppose it's more likely to burn out if exposed to that voltage) but I didn't have any resistors handy to reduce the battery's voltage, so I'll just have to deal with it.
|I drilled the holes in the bottom of the mini. As it
turns out, the mini is hollow (makes sense, saves some
expense for the plastic). Which is good, because it means
I don't have to worry about too much light diffraction
from the LED, and I don't have to worry that the drill
would create a rough opaque surface inside the mini that
would mute the LED.
After working my way up to the 1/4" drill bit, I cleaned around the edges of the hole with an Ex-Acto knife.
|A test of an LED inside the mini. The lip at the base of
the LED is too big to fit into the hole, which means the
bottom half of the mini (which is painted metallic gray,
but not thick enough to block the light) shines more than
the top half.
|This is what it looks like in the light. With the LED at
the base of the mini, you can barely see its light in the
upper part of the mini. Unacceptable!
|I used my Ex-Acto knife to carve the hole a little
wider, allowing me to fit the entire LED inside the
|... which means I could push the LED all the way into
the mini's chest cavity.
In doing so, I discovered a problem: the hollow nature of the mini means the LED shows up as a focused bright light at a specific point instead of a diffuse light illuminating all of the interior (the picture shows this problem).
What I needed was something to diffuse the light better, but not obscure it.
I ended up cutting a long strip from the clear plastic wrapper around a bag of microwave popcorn. After cramming it into the mini, I put the LED back in and got a satisfactory result.
|The next problem was the power source. I'm using a 3V
watch battery (Radio Shack CR1025), and I needed a way to
hold it in place on the mini's base so it wouldn't fall
out with tabletop movement. Fortunately, Radio Shack had a
"button" battery holder, which has a little spring clip in
it. The power leads are on the bottom of this thing and
point straight down, so I bent them horizontally (so it
wouldn't have to rise as high above the base of the mini).
|I soldered some flexible wires to the power leads, mixed
up some brown Apoxie Sculpt, and affixed the battery
holder to the mini's base. The Apoxie Sculpt doesn't cure
for about an hour, giving me plenty of time to fiddle with
the battery holder and mini on the base.
I was going to attach a sliding switch to turn the LED on and off, but I realized (1) that would be one more annoying thing sticking up out of the base, and (2) the on/off "switch" could just be me installing or removing the battery. So I ditched the idea of a separate switch.
|I inserted the LED so it was aligned with the mini's
chest cavity, then bent the leads outward so it wouldn't
slip into the mini and be forever stuck.
|I applied more Apoxie Sculpt to the base to create an
elevated area where I could put the mini. Because it's
very squat and low-slung, its butt is low enough that if I
didn't do this, the mini would be almost to the front edge
of the base, which would look silly and make it easier to
tip over. I bent the wires upward to give me plenty of
room to attach them to the LED's lead wires.
|And then I realized the problem wasn't just the mini's
butt, it was that the battery holder was too wide.
Fortunately, most of the battery holder is just plastic,
so I scored the edges with my Ex-Acto knife and broke them
off, creating a much skinnier profile.
|I reattached the battery holder to the base, redid the
Apoxie Sculpt on the rest of the base, placed the mini,
and tried to find a good way to connect the battery wires
to the LED leads (which are on the bottom of the mini,
barely 1mm above the Apoxie Sculpt). I ended up yanking
the mini out of the Apoxie Sculpt, soldering the battery
wires to the LED leads, then bending the wires into place
when I put the mini back on the base.
I'll paint the base black when I'm done with this project.
This is a pic of the illuminated mini in bright light. Not bad.
|A view of the battery holder on the back of the base.
Ugly. I think the second iteration of this project will be
me taking apart the battery holder to just use the spring,
embedding it directly in the Apoxie Sculpt and saving a
lot of horizontal and vertical footprint on the base. I
should be able to cover most of it with Apoxie Sculpt or
black paint, leaving only the top of the battery showing
(necessary for it to conduct electricity, duh).
|This is the illuminated mini in dim light. Pretty good!
|And here's the mini in darkness. SpoooooOOooky!
LEDs last a long time on even a very small battery. I'm going to leave this one running just to see how long it lasts (I'm guessing a couple of days).