Shelf layout lighting

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Nazgul, Oct 10, 2008.

  1. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    Hello all...
    I am getting ready to start my new shelf layout and I have a question about room lighting.

    Here is a pic of the room. I have drawn the shelf location on the right hand wall. It is a narrow room with two fluorescent lights centered, about 6 or 7 feet apart (only one is visible in this shot).


    The shelf will be 21ft long and 1ft deep. Even though the room looks well lit in the picture, the shelf will definitely need additional lighting from above.

    Here is the deal. I am looking for the cheapest way possible to do this.
    All of my research points to placing some 4ft fluorescent shop lights (1 tube fixtures?) end to end above, and partially in front of, the shelf. I don't know if they need to be butted up to one another or if some spacing is ok. If I can have some spacing, I could eliminate a light or 2.

    Am I right?.......sombody know something I don't? (it wouldn't be the first time) :winker:

  2. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Steve...I don't pretend to be any kind of expert..but...What I did was put up a light valence screwed to the ceiling, about 18" wide (could be less...) and on two sides (L) of the room, placed two 4' incandescent strips on each leg, but on the third side I used sockets with 4 fluorescent bulbs. I like the bulb lighting better since the light is reflected off the valence, and at a fraction of the cost of the strips...!!!

    Good luck....!!!! :thumb:
  3. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    Thanks Gus....
    I was planing on putting a valence are you saying to go with socket lights with fluorescent bulbs as opposed to strips? How far apart can they be?
    Thanks buddy
  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Steve, with a valance, you should get good results with three 4' fluorescents, either single or double (I don't think that the doubles are that much more than the singles, and with light, in my opinion, you can't have too much).;):-D Place one in the middle, and the other two each about 2' in from the ends.

  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    You might also consider bringing the lights down closer to the shelf. You might need more that way, but could get away with the singles, as less light will be "lost" to the room. One other advantage of doing this is that you can create another shelf above the lights that might be useful.

  6. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    My 2 cents - pay the slightly extra cost and use either "full spectrum" tubes with a CRI of 85 or better, or get the "daylight" compact flourescent curly bulbs. The color difference is remarkable. We proved statistically during the long winters in Alaska that the full spectrum tubes reduced our discipline problems with our young military technicians compared to the older, buzzing flickering, blue or yellow flourescents. They became known as "happy lights" after that. Remember that flourescents take a few minutes to warm up and come to full brightness and color.

    If you use the tubes, get thinner T8 tubes with electronic ballasts, not the older, thicker T12s with the "humming" ballasts. The electronic ballasts are much more efficient, (most) don't make any noise, but do cost a little more at Home Despot. The tubes will give a somewhat better quality light than the daylight CFLs, but a bank of the latter on a valence are an adequate and easily installed solution.

    If you use tubes you will need to put them end to end or you will have annoying shadow areas between tubes. If you can or are able to wire them, wire and switch one tube in each fixture to each other rather than both tubes in a fixture together. This allows you to switch on one tube in each fixture, or both, depending on your lighting needs, with 2 switches.

    Similarly, if you use CFLs, use 2 or 3 switches to link every 2nd or 3rd light together. Also, paint the valence white or use aluminum foil to help reflect and even the light between CFLs.

    my thoughts, your choices
  7. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    This really is excellent advice. I could not stand fluorescents in school or my place of employment. Employers and schools must use the cheapest tubes available. Then, I moved into an apartment that had CFLs, and noticed they were much better. CFLs are all I use in my house now.

  8. seanm

    seanm Member

    Not sure if this helps or not, but I used these sockets and some Romex and 18w CFLs( incandescents swapped out after pictures). Works well for me. The sockets are about $1.50 and the CSLs were about $45 for 36 bulbs. Total lighting for my current 14'x14' layout draws about 480w.


  9. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Steve...I placed mine about 3 feet apart....That gives a nice even lighting....And they don't have that "Dr.'s office" whitish glare...
  10. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    Well now I'm really confused!:gaptooth:

    Just kidding!:winker: Thank you EVERYONE for your replies!:thumb:
    I am going to Home Depot or Lowes tomorrow to buy a new toilet, so I'll look around then.....hey, I have my priorities! :twisted::winker:
  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Another thing to keep in mind is the actual light output of the bulb or tube. I have some of the full spectrum fluorescent tubes, and while the quality of the light is much nicer than that of the Cool White tubes, the quantity is significantly less. I opted for the Cool White based solely on the quantity of light output, although, if I had my choice, I would still double the number of fixtures. Most digital cameras will correct for light colour, so the choice comes down to your "in person" preference. Fluorescent light is very "flat", and a lot of detail can disappear under it, although the camera will find it, including dust and other flaws. :rolleyes::-D I'll not comment on CFLs. :twisted:;):-D

  12. seanm

    seanm Member

    Let me put in another plug for my method of individual bulbs. You can easily add bulbs or lower or raise watts for a given area you want to highlight. If you are going flourescent anyway, are really flexable and cost competative.
  13. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Doc has some very good points. As an experiment, I replaced the 60 watt bulbs in the overhead fixture in my to-be train room and office with "daylight" CFLs a couple of months ago. My initial reaction was that the light was way too "flat", and I wasn't going to repeat that experiment again! Especially since the daylight CFLs were a dollar more per bulb than the warm white variety at Home Despot.

    But I have come to really prefer them to the mix of warm white CFLs and incandescents in the rest of the house. It looks much more like outdoor light, and is certainly a much "brighter" room at night.

    I recommend just trying a couple of different tubes in your existing room fixture, and perhaps some table lamps with different CFL bulbs before you commit to anything. See what color temperature range you prefer, and what style of bulb suits your fancy. As Doc said, digital cameras are easy to "tune" (most do it automatically), so you want to suit the light for you while you are working on the layout and operating trains. Note that you may want 2 different lighting scenarios for layout work and operation.

    And if you get really fancy, you may want to add a bank of easily dimmable incandescents with a valence and possibly rope lights at the top and or base of the backdrop for special lighting effects.

    just my thoughts and experiences, your choices
  14. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    I did what Fred has suggested. I mixed a few incandescents with the fluorescents, wired through a dimmer, to make "night" operations possible. I turn off the fluorescents, and dim down the incandescents to a point where I can see (but just...), and the effect is really awesome. Running trains at "night" adds another dimension to modeling..!!!!
  15. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Lighting is a fascinating topic. I was one who saw two types of flourescents - warm and cool - until I had a discussion with a co-worker who is a huge lighting nut (he's an aquarium guy). I now have a mix of daylight (6500 Kelvin), sunlight (5K Kelvin) and normal cool white.

    Theoretically, the 5K bulbs should be best (in my mind anyway), but I'm leaning towards the 6.5 K. Cool white is a little bit too blue for my tastes. That said, get one and stick to it. You'll get used to it (and make color corrections if needed for photos). Mixed bulbs, such as in my basement now, are a little disturbing... :)
  16. e-paw

    e-paw Member

    Now there are dimmable fluorescent ballasts that you could use. They do require a magnetic dimmer to work. The romex with the lamp sockets scares me ,,, how did you continue the ground wire? A 4 inch round box with a porcelain lamp holder would meat code and be a lot safer. When working electricity please be careful, don't burn down your house or get hurt.
  17. seanm

    seanm Member


    The lamp sockets are designed to hook onto insulated paired wire. There are not from lamps, but have a screw off back which crimps over the insulated wire. No wire stripping at all. Using Romex give me the advantage of extra insulation. There is no grounding at all, but then again there is no exposed metal at all except the switch box which is grounded.
  18. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Steve -

    I'd love to tell you exactly what type of lighting I'm using above the timesaver shelf layout, but I can't recall at the moment...:p

    Anyway, I can tell you it IS a pair of flourescent fixtures, the base model you can get from Home Depot or Lowes. Two fixtures with two tubes each, end to end. I'd guess they are between 3' and 4' above the layout. I am not happy with the current distance from the wall...they need to be farther out to avoid some strong shadows. A valance will probably help that also.

    My fixtures come with a 4' cord attached. With only two it is easy to drape one cord across the other and plug them both into an extension cord with a 3 outlet end. This is plugged into an outlet strip to make turning on the lights simple. In my garage there's an outlet on the ceiling with one port for the garage door opener and the other free. I can see where the previous owner had screwed eye hooks into the ceiling to channel a cord away from that outlet over to the wall. I have had plans to do the same but hunting down the right length extension cord has not been high on the priority list!

    To muddy the waters, consider also your backdrop. If you have a pre-painted or printed background that will be a factor in how warm or cool the lighting may need to be. If you are painting your own then be sure you are happy with the lighting temp. It may be worth painting a couple small panels and setting them on the shelf to gauge the color difference, to find one you are happy with.




    Found these pics while looking for a shot of the lights themselves. The first illustrates the overall lighting look (hard for me to describe because my monitor is wigging out...losing the red color, usually). The next two the difference in shooting from above or below an object, at distance and close up. None of these used flash, all on existing layout lighting as described above.

    Glad this project is gathering some steam! Keep us posted!

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