Simple LED Muzzle Flare Tutorial

This is my simple tutorial for adding LED muzzle flares to miniature weapons. The photos show this technique applied to an Ork Kommando pistol, but it can equally be applied to any other firearm.

I strongly recommend reading through the entire tutorial before starting work, just to make sure you have the necessary skills and tools required and that you’re not going to run into an unexpected barrier halfway through. If you need to know where to buy tools and consumables for this type of project, I have recommendations here. As well as general hobby tools supplies like glue and modelling putty, you will need the following special components as a minimum:

I already have another LED muzzle flare tutorial here, but this tutorial that you are currently reading is version 2, the “simpler” version. I’ve tried to make it more accessible for people of all hobby abilities, so this new tutorial has less cutting, less drilling and offers alternatives to resin casting.

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  1. This technique works best with a 32mm diameter circular base or larger, as this will be large enough to completely hide the battery holder. Shown below are the battery holder, CR2032 battery, slide switch and 100 ohm resistor next to the 32mm base.

2. Cut out the top of the base, as shown below. An easy way to do this is to drill holes around the inside edge of the base and then cut between them with a craft knife. Insert the battery into the battery holder and the place the battery holder and switch into the base as shown below. The moving part of the switch should be facing down, as should the battery. This means that they will both be accessible from under the base once the model is complete.

3. It’s time to start soldering. Don’t forget that if you’re new to soldering then I have a soldering tutorial here and you can find soldering supplies here. Begin by soldering the 100 ohm resistor (this will have been supplied with your LED if you bought from Small Scale Lights) between the positive terminal and one leg of the switch, as shown below. The resistor can go anywhere in the circuit, but this is a convenient way of holding all the components together.

4. Next we need to start preparing the model itself. I’m using Ork Kommando 17 from the Octarius set, but these techniques can be applied to any miniature. You will need to create a path through the model for the wires to run from the LED in the gun to the battery in the base. Start by drilling through the leg. I tend to use a 1mm drill bit, but 1.5mm or 2mm would also work. It’s always best to choose the straightest leg on the model as this will be easiest to drill straight through.

5. Drill a hole through the side of the torso where the arm that holds the gun will meet the shoulder.

6. The next stage is to prepare the arm. You will need to drill through from the gun barrel to the shoulder joint. Again, a 1mm drill bit is most suitable. You may find it easier to drill if you make strategic cuts in the arm. Look for places to cut where the cut will be less noticeable, such as at the edge of wristbands, as shown below.

7. With the arm separated into two sections, you can drill straight through the upper arm.

8. Now you need to drill through the barrel of the gun and down to the wrist. This is to allow the wires of the LED to pass through the gun and into the arm of the model, and then ultimately into the torso and the base. I found the best way to drill the gun was to drill a hole through the barrel and keep going until you are level with the rear hand grip, then drill diagonally up into the the gun from the wrist until this hole meets with the first hole. The path of the LED wires are shown in the image below.

9. If you are using the Yellow/Amber 0805 Chip LED (3V) from Small Scale Lights then this will be supplied pre-wired. Feed the wire through all the holes you have made, starting with the gun barrel, as shown below.

10. The next stage is to solder the wires onto the battery holder. Connect the negative (black) wire to the negative terminal (seen on the right-hand side of the image below). Solder the positive (red) wire to the unused terminal of the switch. This is a good time to test the circuit. If you have done everything correctly then the LED should light up when you operate the switch. If it doesn’t then double-check your soldering connections and the polarity of the battery.

11. Assemble the rest of model, pulling any slack wire out through the foot. Apply modelling putty, such as Milliput of Green Stuff, to the base to hide the battery, resistor and spare wire. Try not to get too much putty around the edge of the battery itself as this may make it harder to remove later when you need to change it.

12. Now you need to add texture to the base and prepare for miniature for the undercoating process. IMPORTANT: You must cover the LED during the undercoating process. This is extremely important, otherwise you could ruin all your hard work so far! I recommend using a small scrap of foil wrapped around the chip, as shown below.

13. Once you have painted the gun you can start work on the muzzle flare. Make sure LED is positioned so it is facing forward and upwards, as shown below.

14. Start sculpting the basic shape of the muzzle flare using the Water Splash Effect Gel from Green Stuff World. This is best applied with a metal sculpting tool, thin plastic rod or stiff length of wire. When you apply it, the gel will initially appear milky white (as shown in left-hand image below), but will dry clear (as shown in right-hand image). If you’re not sure what shape to scultp, Google is an excellent source of muzzle flare reference images.

15. Wait for the initial application of gel to dry (this can take up to 24 hours) and then continue to apply successive layers until you are happy with the shape.

16. Once you are happy with the shape and the gel has completely dried, you can paint the muzzle flare. You only need to apply a light glaze – this will not inhibit the light of the LED and will also make the model look good when the LED is switched off. First I applied a shade of Citadel Fuegan Orange (left-hand image below). Once this had dried I applied a yellow glaze using Citadel Lamenters Yellow (right-hand image). Alternatively, a 1:4 glaze of Yriel Yellow to Lahmian Medium would also work.

17. That’s it, you now have a finished model! If you’ve followed the tutorial correctly you should now be able to access the switch underneath the base to turn the model on and off whenever you want, and to change the battery when required.

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