In late 2013 I bought a 16-foot strip of LED lighting as an experiment to see if I could use it for lighting my layout. I have an article about how I used 8 feet of that to light up the closet in my room. Other than the fluorescent lights above my layout, I have no other lights in the room. My pull-out work bench drawer comes out into the room, where it is quite a bit darker. That makes working on fine details rather difficult. I have been wanting a more serious light for that situation, but I came up with the idea of using the remaining 8 feet of LED strip to build a small task light. I found a 12"x6" sheet of styrene (0.040" thick) that has some N-scale grooves in it that I have had for over ten years and it hasn't been used yet. So, I figured there was no harm in using it for this project. I cut the 8-foot strip into 8 one-foot strips (there are spots in the strip where you can cut in between the LEDs without damaging the circuitry).
Next, I roughed up the styrene a bit, marked where the strips were to be glued, and I applied Aleene's Tacky glue to the styrene. I removed the paper cover of the LED strip's adhesive backing, and applied it to the glued surface. I then put some metal weights on each strip until the glue was dry.
The LED strip allows for back-to-back connections using convenient soldering points. I cut a bunch of small red and black wires and soldered those to the points (each are clearly marked with a "+" and a "-"). When it was all done, I found a left-over 12-volt, 1-amp wall-wart power supply and soldered its wires to the first strip.
And this is what it looks like when it is powered. It is extremely bright. These strips can be very handy for installing some localized spot lighting, such as under layouts, above drawers, in cabinets, etc. No need to worry about heat.
And here is my contraption. A simple, portable work bench light.
This photo shows the LEDs under the styrene cover.
This is my actual work bench! This is all the space I have available. The light fixture has counter-weight bases that slide under drawer slide opening of the cabinet. It uses up the most minimal space on the work bench, yet provides lots of overhead lighting for my projects.
The bases were made out of a couple of pieces of left-over balsa wood. I glued two 12-inch wood dowels to them, which I later reinforced with a counter-sunk screw (glue alone proved to be too weak). At the top, I fabricated a structure from 1/4" styrene strips to make sure the 12-inch wide sheet with the LEDs stayed flat. I drilled a hole in the top of the wooden dowels and glued a piece of brass tubing into it using 5-minute epoxy. A hole was also drilled into the styrene, and the whole thing was glued with lots of 5-minute epoxy.
Here's a close-up photo taken under the light of a model car. Looks pretty good for a quick shot, I think. You can even see the dust on the car's roof!
I took this quick shot right before updating this web page. I am getting ready to build three more trees. I can quickly turn on or off the light using the extension cord on top of the wall-wart. I used superglue to attach the wires to the wood dowel on the right, to prevent it from accidentally ripping the LED strip from the styrene. The light fixture is definitely fragile, but it is effective, and only took me a few hours to construct.
Update: After a year and a half of use, the rather fragile assembly shown above did indeed take a hit. So, I removed the legs, trimmed the square styrene at the top where the legs were mounted to it, and built a new stand. Since the styrene sheet I used is 12 inches wide, I cut a piece of leftover Masonite hardboard to that length, and made it 4-3/4" wide. I then wanted to increase the height of the LEDs, so was looking for something that was at least 16 inches long. All I had left in my scrap pile was two pieces of 1/2" thick MDF, so I cut those to 4-3/4" wide and 16 inches long. I then glued those to the Masonite hardboard piece. The styrene sheet with the LEDs I screwed to the MDF once the glue was cured. As you can see from the photo below, the Masonite bottom sheet slides under the slot of the drawer opening. The increased height, from 12 to 16 inches, makes it so the visor on my head doesn't hit it as often, which was always kind of annoying. All-in-all, this new version is a lot more sturdy, a bit heavier, but it still does the task I need for it to do: light up my work area while using the smallest footprint possible. Still to do is to route the wire over top of the styrene sheet and lightly glue it in place to prevent an accidental pull from ripping the LEDs from the sheet. My power socket for the wall-wart is to the left of the workbench. I may also paint the MDF white for maximum reflectivity.