Pirates and Piracy - LEGO Custom Light-Kits Review

Pirates and Piracy
Adding lights to our LEGO creations and MOCs is something a lot of us builders have dreamed of, but often it seems too complicated to actually carry out - plus you need to get the lights somewhere! But today we're going to take a look at a custom lighting kit from BriksMax and Lightailing and the effect on your pictures, and you can decide if it's worth it for yourself!

Of course there's a lot involved in lighting up your MOC - we'll be taking a closer look at all of that in a future review once I've got the whole of Captain Nordau's vessel ship-shape and lit up, both under the hatches and above - but for now we'll be looking at some close-ups of the pirate ship's interior and be checking out just what the custom lights do for LEGO interior pics. Along the way I'll be giving some tips and interesting details about the process that'll help show you how to get your sea-legs in the ocean of LEGO lighting. Avast!

So first things first - the lights. BriksMax and Lightailing were kind enough to provide all the lights and functions for this and the subsequent review, so I definitely want to thank them for that! Here are a few of the lights and accessories I've used in these shots - yellow and warm white dot lights, a battery box and the corresponding connections, a bunch of expansion boards and connecting cables and a F01 multiple functions board.

Of course, there are various ways to tackle lighting and LEGO builds. Either you could start with your lighting idea and build your MOC with that in mind (so, allowing for convenient places to hide the wiring and expansion boards, knowing where you want your lights and building accordingly), or you could be adding lights to an already existing MOC or project. I'm in that second boat right now (no pun intended!) as I already had this ship in the works for quite some time, so I'll get into what it was like to wire and connect the lights in an existing build, but I'll be building and incorporating the lighting together for the upper deck and cabin of the ship so I'll compare notes with this when I finish up!

So let's jump right in, shall we?

Second mate
We'll start off with the fore of the mid-deck, where the second mate keeps watch to make sure everything runs smoothly between decks. Here we've got a single warm white light in the lantern - and as you'll notice, aye, aye, sir! - the light effect is distinctly yellow. This has ever so slightly to do with the warm white light itself (it's a slightly yellow white, as "warm white" would indicate), but mostly it is the effect of the trans-yellow 1x1 round brick in the lantern - as you'll be seeing throughout this review, the warm white lights very much take on whatever transparent color they're ensconced in.

Next we move on to a midshipman, drooling over a pile of shimmering gold.

And rats. Rats everywhere! Of course, this is a pirate ship!

Time for lunch!
In the galley the cook prepares the mess to feed the hungry crew. A yellow light boils in the ship's cauldron (which turned out being quite a handy place to roll up the extra wires in, haha!), but yellow is really a bit of a misnomer - as you can see from the website, orange is more about right. It does give quite a neat glow to the stew, though I find myself wishing I'd included another lantern near the fish to get a little more light in this scene.

Don't let dinner escape!

The apple barrel
The cabin boy enjoyes a snack from the apple barrel behind the stairs - ever since Treasure Island an essential habit for cabin boys everywhere! This barrel might be a little too small to hide in, though...

Swabbing the decks
After letting Porky escape the cook was set to swabbing the gun deck to make up for his mistake.

...This is a good place to mention one of my favorite details about the light wiring - you'll notice that none of it shows up in this shot, for example, and very few in the rest of the pictures; that's because of the very convenient fact that the wires fit almost perfectly in the grooves of the brown floor tiles, which means that I can run them almost from one side of the ship to the other with very little problem at all! You'll have to be a little careful when you're bringing it out from under the tiles at the end to connect it - if you push down on the tile too hard and there's not much room to move it is possible to break a wire; thankfully even in this case it is possible to repair and make a shorter light (though it's not so sturdy as the original). This happened to me only once, with one of the farther lanterns, and so far it's been the only casualty. And given the amount of complicated wiring and pluging-unplugging so far I'm really happy with how the wires and lights have been holding up!

An interesting side-note is that there seems to be a kind of security system as when the wire did break, it suddenly popped the whole circuit. The downside to this is that if you've got a lot of lights on the same circuit it can be hard to tell where the problem is when the whole line suddenly shuts off! So my advice is to keep one or two separate circuits in your creation if you've got a lot of lights, and to keep track of which wires and lights you've been messing with recently (I had to go over almost all the ten lights I had connected at the moment before figuring out which one was the issue!).

One of the gunners practices firing across the still waters.
This is the only shot that I have edited any wires out of, as it's taken from the opposite angle that it is intended to be viewed from in real life. Still, not much wiring for such a large ship!

Stowing the cargo
A seaman rolls the barrels to stow them in their place in the hold.

A prisoner has escaped!!
Here you can see some of the effects of a lot of lights together when it comes to photography. I'm quite happy with the blues and yellows going on in the background!

Powder and arms
A young midshipman checks on the powder room to make sure all is safe and secure.

As you can notice here, each light has one side it shines towards in particular, although it does spread nicely even towards the back. It's definitely something to keep track of, though, especially if you're interested in taking pictures of your creations. I usually pointed the light towards the camera and at the black bar in the lantern to spread the light out a bit more (as you can see in the pictures above), while in this case it is shining straight towards the minifigure.

Treasure stash
The reason pirates are pirates! I wasn't sure how this idea would turn out (hiding lights in the gold piles and treasure chests), but I'm delighted with how it ended up. Totally want to try this on a really grand scale sometime!

The brig
A prisoner might have escaped, but not this one!
The lights are quite powerful. This is lit entirely with a single lantern (a warm white light) down to the bottom. You can see a hint of an expansion board on the side of the prison as well - turned out being a good place for it!

Taking a break
After a long day of work, there's nothing the cook likes more than a nice cup of coffee with his buddy.

Getting ready for bed!
Six bells!
This is one of my favorite shots - the yellow (orange) lights work so well for candles! And this picture shows too how well you can hide the wiring with just a little bit of work. At this point I was comfortable enough with the lights that it took about five minutes to rig up all the lighting for this shot!

Captain Nordau
And last but not least, the reason this pirate ship is so feared - Captain Unrigged Nordau himself! (And the obligatory parrot...!)

Well, that wraps up the interior shots for now, but I also wanted to include a GIF showing some of the abilities of the multiple effect board. I'll have more of these (effect boards and effects!) in the final review, but just to whet your appetites for now!

If you're interested in getting some BriksMax or Lightaling lights to custom light your creations - and especially if you like to leave your MOCs built for a good while - I definitely recommend investing in a multiple effect board or two to play around with. From flickering candle light and lanterns to firing cannons, there's a lot of fun to be had, and it really adds a lot of visual interest to the lighting and kind of pulls you in and makes you want to watch it for hours. More GIFs next time!!

A few concluding thoughts:

First of all, when coming to a build like this, your first step will need to be figuring out what lights you would like, how many expansion boards and connection cables you'll need, and any other details, colors, or effects that you are interested in. It's a custom build, remember, so while the managers at Lightaling are quite happy to help you and make useful suggestions, you're going to have to make sure you get it right yourself! With an existing build you'll want to measure carefully, make sure you allow for enough room to sneak the wires around (usually not quite directly to the connection point!), and calculate a little above what you were planning on in case you've missed something or inspiration strikes while you're building! Most of BriksMax and Lightaling's lights and accessories come in groups of three though, so just make sure to round up!

Next, despite coming to an already half-finished build, it was not very difficult to incorporate the lights into my creation. Of course, it helps that this ship is a massive endeavour (it is technically a SHIP besides being a ship!) and so it has a good deal of room to hide wiring and expansion boards - but given that I have not had to modify the ship at all yet (which I was prepared to do, actually!) to fit in all the lights and accessories nicely, I am confident that it will be relatively easy to hide the wires in almost any future build - especially when planning on lights beforehand!

Speaking of future builds brings me to the next point - it's likely to be important to most MOCers, and especially to those of us who usually build, photograph, and destroy, that these lights, while probably designed to be left in a build, appear to be quite durable and reusable for future creations. I have been quite impressed so far by how they've held up - I'm hoping to take the ship to BrickWorld Chicago this year though, so we'll see how it does making the trip!

If you're interested in realistic or historical builds (pirates, castle, explorers, etc.), warm white and yellow dot lights are definitely what you will want. Fire, candles, lights - those will be perfect for any situation. Note that the yellow lights look the exact color of LEGO's new trans-orange flames with or without something in front of them too. Throw in a multiple effect board or two for good measure too, and you won't regret it!

And that would be my review of the BriksMax and Lightaling custom light kits so far! Be sure to check out the custom lights and accessories on the Lightaling website, and come back for more on lights and piracy soon!