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Installing LED's to a control panel

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  • Member since
    August 2014
  • 47 posts
Installing LED's to a control panel
Posted by ROBERT BRABAND on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 2:59 PM

Good day all!

Frankly I never thought my soldering skills would allow this, but I've been practicing and testing how to do it and I think I've got it! What I'm doing is building a control panel for turnouts, using DPDT center off mini toggles and two prong bi-polar red/green LED's, per instructions from Tortoise by Circuitron and several people in this forum. (Thanks, by the way.) 

The face of the panel is 1/4" masonite (I think that's what it's called - what everyone uses for fascia.) I'm  using 3 mm LED's and have the appropriate black plastic bevel to make them look sharp. 

My question is what is the best, most secure, least likely way to damage the bevel for mounting them in the panel and the best way to mount the LED inside the bevel without damaging it. I would assume CA, but there are several possibilities. I'm sure there's a "best practices" plan here. 

In advance thanks for your thoughts.


  • Member since
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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 3:07 PM

The face of the panel is 1/4" masonite

I've found that the plastic "clip-in" led holders are useful for panels of less than 1/8" in thickness. Another downside to Masonite® is that it is very difficult to get a clean hole through it using most common drill bits.

There are times when the metal chrome LED bezels are a better choice.

Something like these:

 Shop around. There are several styles and colors. search metal LED bezel.

I use them in places where my panel material is a little thicker than what the plastic ones will grip to. IF the LED isn't cooperating after I wire it and press it into the panel I'll apply a tiny speck of Walthers Goo using a toothpick.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
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Posted by PC101 on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 6:15 PM


Good day all!

The face of the panel is 1/4" masonite (I think that's what it's called - what everyone uses for fascia.)

In advance thanks for your thoughts.



Don't slip up and get bezels (your bevels) that are too short for your 1/4'' thickness Masonite fascia.

This infomation below is not what you asked for right now in your above post, but it may help you with your next question.

This is what I use to drill through 1/8'' masonite with an VS electric drill. After the hole is cut through a flat file (sandpaper will work also) is ran across the hole on the back side of the facia to remove any lumps, shards or fuzz. 

An old Metal bezel with a green LED from Radio Shack. I miss those RS stores. You could put a thin 1/4'' ID hole size metal washer between the metal bezel's front and the facia for a support or dress up ring.  

Notice the masonite 'wheel' that was cut clean out.

I do color code my things, the white bit is 1/4'' and the lt. blue is 5/16'' it helps cut down on picking up the wrong item and making a mistake. I just need to look for the color not the size markings which are getting hard to see anymore.

Now back to your 1/4'' masonite and my 1/8'' masonite. My screw tip bits will pull through the 1/8'' masonite then stop pulling when the screw is through, but the hole is not cut through yet. Then I let the side cutters on the bit work their way through slowly, do not push the bit.

I do not remember drilling 1/4'' masonite with these bits, but I would think they would act the same in either wood's thickness. 

Some of my auger bits have had their tail's cut off so they no longer fasten in a bit brace, just in a regular drill. 

Bob, PC101




  • Member since
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Posted by maxman on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 9:52 PM

Masonite is a brand name that many stores don’t recognize.  The common name is tempered hardboard.

Is there some reason you chose 1/4 inch?  Everyone around here uses 1/8 inch.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 14,996 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 11:10 PM

Hi Robert,

A couple of years ago I made a number of control panels for my old model railroad club. I started out with 1/4" masonite but soon discovered that the metal bezels were too short to allow the nuts to be installed so I switched to 1/8". Obviously the metal bezels are held in place quite firmly by the nuts. If your plastic bezels are designed to fit through 1/4" material, they should just snap into place.

As far as securing the LEDs, I don't think that you need to do anything other than just spreading the LED leads a bit once they have been put into the bezels. 

I used male/female header strip plugs to connect the wires to the LEDs. They fit quite tightly onto the LED leads. The reason for doing this is, if you get the polarity wrong when you connect the LED, you just have to switch the connectors to the opposite LED leads. The individual plugs/sockets are simply snapped or cut off of the long header strips. Click on the picture a couple of times to get a closer view:

The header strips are available on eBay:

I used a brad point drill bit similar to what PC101 showed.

I used barrier strips to allow the panels to be removed but there are smaller pin style connectors that would do the same job. The larger barrier strips are easier to work with.

This panel doesn't have any LEDs, but you can see the barrier strips at the bottom. All the connection points are labeld to match the turnout numbers.

I would ask why you are using 'center off' toggle switches? If you flip the toggle to the 'center off' position, the LEDs will not light and you won't be able to see which way the next turnout is thrown. If you already have the toggle switches, you can use them. Just don't leave them in the 'off' (center) position.



I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

  • Member since
    August 2014
  • 47 posts
Posted by ROBERT BRABAND on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 7:54 PM


I’ve been caught up with some health issues that kept me away from the desk for awhile. Mostly better, need to acknowledge my gratitude for the forum members’ responses. And give a quick update.

Thank you GMPullman for the info on the metal chrome LED bezels. They are perfect and look distinctive. For the asking I have (an almost full) bag of black plastic bezels.

Thank you PC101 for the correction from bevel to bezels. That proves the point that a college education don’t make you smart. And I picked up a set of screw tip drill bits. They produce a very nice opening in the hardboard face.

As to why I was trying to use 1/4" hardboard: it was what I had around. I got a panel of 1/8" hardboard and it works much better. Thanks.

And maxman, thanks for the correction on the tempered hardboard. 

The header strips recommended by hon30critter look smooth. Still the rule to use what you’ve got is strong, and terminal strips are what I’ve got. Down the road though . . . 

I just completed a test/practice setup for the toggles (center off, again what I’ve got), two LED’s and a tortoise and it looks beautiful. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.  Peace.


PS. And that last point is the real learning curve in here, is it not? Practice what you are going to do before you work on the actual project. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to learn and re-learn that plan.

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