Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some suggestions about bi-pin bulbs

I hung three chandeliers yesterday, in a fit of electrical activity :) Sometimes doing wiring is really frustrating, but the 12v gods were with me for some reason (in spite of a very big stupid thing I did).

For anyone who is confused about 12v dolls' house lighting (I certainly was) I thought I'd just give a little breakdown of the kinds of lights I've encountered myself.

I bought three chandeliers for the ground floor -- two four armed ones and one large six armed one.  The large one uses lovely slender little bulb/candle units that screw in. The smaller ones use bi-pin bulbs.  I have another kind as well in the house -- the wall sconces in the dining room use screw-in bulbs.

1:12 scale lights that use the screw in bulbs seem to be cheaper and less in scale (especially for fixtures mimicking candle light)  than the others because the bulb is quite large and very bright, if you're not using a dimmer.   The bi-pin bulbs and the bulb/candle units are usually more expensive but worth the cost because the light is generally softer and the flame looks more in proportion.

The screw in ones, whether the bigger bulbs or the daintier bulb/candle combinations, are pretty easy to work out.

But when I bought my first fixtures with bi-pin bulbs (the Tudor floor lamp and Tudor chandelier) I was a little nervous about installing the bulbs.  How short should I cut the wires? Should I cut them at all?  The whole thing looked very fragile to me.

So I took a few photos while setting up my bi-pin chandeliers just in case anyone else feels a little diffident or nervous about bi-pin bulbs :)

The chandelier is in the photo above.  Here's a bi-pin bulb, with a correctly trimmed wire:

Man, they're small!  They made me nervous because they are so small, look so fragile and the wires have to go into very teeny tiny holes :)

Hold the bulb, gently and slightly separate the wires and line them up with the holes in the fixture:

Gently press the bulb in.  If the wires are not too long, straight and lined up with the holes, it will go in very, very easily.  That's it!

Usually when you buy a fixture with bi-pin bulbs, the bulbs are packaged in a little bag taped to the wire.  These bulbs already have their wires trimmed to length.  If you're replacing a burned out bulb, then the bulbs in replacement packages need their wires trimmed before you can install them.  I had temporarily misplaced one of the packets of bulbs that came with my chandeliers (lord knows where it is), so I was glad to have a couple of spare packages of bi-pin bulbs at hand!

With any kind of electrical thing -- fuses and bulbs especially -- always buy lots of spares :)  You won't regret it!

The end of the wire is stuck down in these replacement packages.  You can either cut the bulb unit out or pull gently (on the wire, not the bulb) until the wire releases.  Then trim the wire to about 1 cm long (a little over 1/4")  If you've left it too long, then you'll notice the bulb won't go all the way in.  I confess I don't know what happens if you trim the wires too SHORT (and how short is too short for the bulb to work) -- I should be scientific and experiment with that!

And here's the chandelier in place, showing one of the few downsides to bi-pin bulbs -- they will bend!  See how some of the flames look as if a strong breeze is blowing from the right?  :)  Before you photograph your lovely light fixtures, do make sure that all your bi-pin bulbs are upright!

I'm busy taking some better photos of the light fixtures (most of the ones I took yesterday are rubbish), so more tomorrow, I hope!


  1. Nina,

    Thank you for this post!!!

    I have not wired a house yet and know nothing about doing it. I have several of those bi-pin blubs and fixtures that use them (in waiting for my project).

    I wonder how easy it will be to change those blubs when one bulb burns (out after the fixture is hanging in the doll house)?

    I also don't know if you glue a chandelier to the ceiling. ??? I admit I am totally ignorant about how they stay up there. Is the wiring holding it up all by it's self?

    Your house is looking so good Nina! I love what you have done with it.

    Catherine XXX

  2. Like Catherine I have never wired a house, but am fiddling with making a wired chandelier. I'm waiting on some parts that may help it go together. Thanks for showing us. And regarding Catherines query, I remember seeing somewhere recently there is a fitting you can put in the ceiling so the chandelier can be plugged into it. Must check that out.

  3. Hi Nina! Those are beautiful chandeliers! (I kind of think the wind-blown flames have a bit of authentic flair to them!) :) So far I have only used screw-in bulb type lamps... and they are often pretty bulky and not really to scale... but I have recently bought a couple of tiny bulbs that are screw-in types.... I am making a couple of home-made fixtures so we shall see how they turn out!
    As for attaching the light to the ceiling, the ones I have used have some sticky paper attached which is not really strong enough to attach the lamps. Once the wires are inset in the walls (or ceiling) I used some super glue to hold the light in place. I am operating on the assumption that I will not be re-doing any of this any time soon!
    As usual Nina, you are working at the speed of light! :) :)

  4. Thank you for such a timely post! I have just bought some after hearing of them for the first time a few weeks ago, but haven't had a chance to play yet so it was great reading your experiences, most illuminating!
    It all looks wonderful as usual. :)

    Re hanging chandeliers, this is from reading not experience, apparently tacky wax is really good to use. :) I am finding it good for so much more than I expected generally (and should be on commission for all the recomendations I give. D)

  5. I'm so glad this is helpful! It really was something that made me feel uncertain the first time I encountered it, so I hoped that someone else could use some reassurance :)

    Catherine, it's very easy to replace the bi-pin bulbs -- easier, I think, than the screw in ones.

    Margaret -- yeah, I've read about those easy fitting attachments for chandeliers. Are they just for tape wired houses? I can't remember. Let's research that!

    Daydreamer -- I can't wait to see your home made light fixtures! I'm obsessed with learning how to make a multi-light fixture, actually -- I suspect it must involve welding and all kinds of keen stuff.

    The little sticky pads are totally useless. I glue some of mine into place (when I'm pretty confident that they're going to stay, as you say :)) or use sticky wax as Christine suggests.

    I installed two of my chandeliers into ceiling roses, and that made the installation a little different. I've got a post coming up about some ideas for installing in those circumstances ...

    Thanks you all, so much, for commenting!

  6. oooh, now we're getting into scary stuff!! i can't get my head around the lighting.... i have partly wired my large triang, very basic (as it would have been originally) and i've bought the transformer, but, now i have hit a brick wall!! well, it's more like a brain spasm. i think all work is now at a standstill until normal (brain) services resume!! i will be watching and reading and rereading, for much needed tips!! :-)

  7. Sorry Nina, I should have left you to answer it :) Sometimes my excitement at actually knowing something runs away with me!

  8. Nina, I'm in a bad way with electricity, which cut off all the strings of lamps and glue them to the ceiling "not working" ...
    I am a hopeless case, however: thanks for the explanation.
    Again your work is amazing e. .. enlightening!

  9. Okay, I'm going to take lots of photos of the electrical stuff on the WAHM -- it's really SO easy (if a bit fiddly at times) to wire up your projects -- seriously, if I can do it, anyone can do it!

    Flora -- oh, lights are so pretty! I'll come to Italy and fix your lamps :)

  10. Gracias por la explicación, parece más secillo despues de leerte.
    Hasta ahora las he comprado hechas o las escondo cómo luz indirecta. Ya veremos si me atrevo cómo tú.
    Besos Clara.


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