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Thread: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

  1. #1
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    Arrow A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    I while back, Alex contacted me about having a stainless steel AA flashlight made. And then he also started a thread about his dream AA light.

    While I hadn't worked in SS before, I like the idea of doing one-off lights, so I agreed to consider Alex's request. He had some pretty strong convictions as to his needs:

    stainless steel
    1aa format
    80+ torch lumens
    flawless smooth threads
    minimum wall thickness in any area 1mm (even in valley of threads or in o-ring groove - this part is very important!
    ideally 2mm or more wall thickness in many areas
    max weight without batteries 170g
    min weight without batteries 100g
    minimum overall diameter in fattest part of body 20mm
    minimum overall diameter in thinnest part of body 17.5mm
    max overall diameter (can be less than this) 25mm

    ok the rest would be in the hands of the artist

    design
    finish
    twisty / clicky
    driver
    reflector / optic
    etc
    After a little hesitation once he got my price, Alex decided to go ahead with the project and send me a deposit, so I started working up a design. Damn if Alex isn't into CAD stuff, so my designs got double checked with an ultra fine tooth comb.

    That resulted in quite a few revisions, but this is what he finally approved:





    As you can see, it is a twisty, will have a Seoul P4 emitter, 20mm Khatod reflector, and run on primary AAs. The converter module will be copper. It certainly isn't the smallest AA light out there, but it is what Alex wants.

    I thought it might be fun to post the work that I do on this, just so people can see how someone goes about making a light.

    Certainly for me, the design and drafting in Solidworks is the first step. That points out a lot of potential fit problems, which are easier to deal with in electronic form than in metal.

    Next, I was trying a couple new lathe techniques (new to me, that is), so I like to try things out first in aluminum. The tapers were of concern to me as I needed to learn how to do them, and hopefully get them in the right positions, too.

    Here is the trial battery tube piece:



    Originally, Alex wanted both tapers to be the same, but while making the test piece, I goofed and ended up having to make one of the tapers short and steeper. Turns out that we both liked it better, so it is now part of the design. If you look at the ends of the test piece, you will see two stubs--these are what get inserted into my collets while lathing. I have stubs at each end because I need to flip the piece to cut the two tapers.

    The thin grooves provide great grip along the axis of the light, while the dimples provide some purchase while twisting the head. Interestingly, the grooves give the optical illusion that the dimples section are raised, when in fact they are on the same plane.

    I will post some pics of the prototype head piece later.
    Last edited by PhotonFanatic; 11-19-2007 at 06:12 PM.
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Awsome looking light

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Well, if I remember correctly, I doubted the commitment of Alex on this one. The actual light was (at least in part) to be realized through some anticipated profits via e-Bay. I was skeptical but, it appears I may have been hasty in my judgement! Good show and, nice light! Good luck with the final product, a real looker (and probably performer!) that should make the designer and the builder happy!



    Karl

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Prototype of the head, also in aluminum:





    Interesting, isn't it, how different aluminum can look; the first photo is under a halogen light with no flash, the second with the flash on.

    I wanted to test this design, although it is fairly simple, mainly because I wasn't sure how well the dimple and the line would look where they intersect. In Solidworks it looked OK, and in real life, it looks OK, too:



    If anyone wants more info on how this stuff is being done on the lathe, feel free to ask--I'm either assuming it is obvious or would take too much space to explain, but I'm more than willing to share.
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    great work from start to finish!

    i'm a little confused though, why the "sigh" emoticon in the title?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Quote Originally Posted by THE_dAY View Post
    great work from start to finish!

    i'm a little confused though, why the "sigh" emoticon in the title?
    Damned if I know! I must have been searching for a smilie and accidentally put that in there.

    Changed! Thanks for pointing that out, and thanks for the kind words, also.
    Last edited by PhotonFanatic; 11-19-2007 at 06:13 PM.
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Very Nice!

    It is also good to see that a "one of" CAN be made and that you two are able to work on the details together.

    AM very impressed

    jeffb

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Hi all

    nice to see a thread about my light - lets make sure my wife dosn't see this page!

    Fred is an awesome guy - hes put up with my changes, my moaning, my emails
    i really am a tough customer! (but the customer is always right!)

    Fred the grooves to dimples in the head arnt just OK they are stunning!

    some of you might be wondering - why stainless steel, why so thick and heavy etc

    well simply put im not a huge fan of aluminum its soft and bendy and feels to light weight unless its really thick and while its a proven material for flashlights its just not for me

    then theres titanium harder and stronger but expensive and then theres gritty threads better than aluminum but still not brilliant for me

    i like the properties of brass - apart from the colour!

    so theres not much left!

    stainless steel is not ideal but i think its on a level with titanium - hefty strong resistant to elements

    i wouldn't want a led pushed hard in one because of the thermal issues
    so for an efficient but useful light it was ideal

    another issue is that i only want lights that run on nimh rechargables
    so that put most premium small lights out of the picture - theres hardly any premium aa lights - the choice is... maxlite, TNC, fenix L1+, ss civictor and i think thats it.

    next i didn't like that all aa lights (in fact most lights) have thin walls - even if the battery tube is thick they always have thin walled heads - then there threaded so they get even thinner - i hate this - dont ask me why - i just do!

    another point i wanted to cover was addiction - if early in my flashaholic life i got something 95% what i wanted i could bypass spending a lot of money on lights. i figure all i need is this aa light a bright aa light a rop and a multi led then appart from a few bits here and there ill be set (i know im kidding myself!)

    sorry for the long post!

    Alex

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    Flashaholic* 1 what's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Very nice
    Looking forward to seeing the finished product.

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    This is exactly why I frequent CPF . I love these projects and following their progress. Please don't hesiitate to post as much detail and pics as you want/have time to , Photon!! The more the better. I cant speak for everyone , but I for one am very interested and impressed with your work.
    This will be a great endeavor. I am envious and look forward to reading more!!!

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    i was on CPF just to catch the last of the "good old days"

    i really miss those interesting threads
    so im glad i helped form one!

    i cant wait to see it all unfold!

    Alex

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Fascinating - what a great project!

    I'm delighted to see it is going ahead, and much look forward to seeing the finished light. Well done!
    Resistance is futile...

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonFanatic View Post
    If anyone wants more info on how this stuff is being done on the lathe, feel free to ask
    I'd like more info! It looks great, it also looks like a pain in the butt to machine! (e.g. getting the groove to the same exact max depth as the dimple.)

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    That looks great, Fred - I really like the tapers, in particular. Too many AA lights are just cylinders, and while I understand the desire for a slim profile, they lose something in the execution.

    This thread makes me want a lathe even more - can't wait to see the finished light.

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Terrific job, Fred. . I look forward to seeing more photos of the light's progress. Kirk

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Quote Originally Posted by scott.cr View Post
    I'd like more info! It looks great, it also looks like a pain in the butt to machine! (e.g. getting the groove to the same exact max depth as the dimple.)
    Well, if you have a DRO, it really isn't that hard to do. I just touch the tool to the workpiece, set the reading to zero, and then measure the radial distance that the tool covers as it enters the piece. The DRO shows your depth as you progress, so I just stop at .5mm.

    On a lathe without a DRO, the procedure would be similar, touch the tool to the workpiece, zero the setting on the dial (if your dial allows for that, otherwise just note the setting), and then proceed to make the cut to the desired depth. Each lathe's cross slide will advance a certain distance for each turn of the dial, so once you know that number, you just have to know how many turns, or ticks, you need for the depth that you want.

    It helps to write those numbers down on a piece of paper before you start the cut. Know your starting number and where you want to stop.

    A similar procedure is used to move the tool along the axis of the light to cut multiple grooves. What I do is zero out the reading after each cut, then move the set distance, make the cut, zero the reading again, etc., etc.

    HTH
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Awesome design. I can't wait to see the finished product!
    I spend my days in the light thinking about flashlights in the dark

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Top notch work.Can't wait to see the finished Light with some beam shoots.

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    regarding the shape - i am also one who feels all aa lights are just tubes with little origionality - it was cool in fenix's early days but now its just very repetitive and un-origional. the tapers was definatly something i wanted in this light - even tho its made it a bit fat

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Some light reading material in case you get bored with eating turkey and listening to your drunk relatives all day.

    Picking up from the last photos, we had the head and the battery tube that had been grooved and dimpled externally. Next they needed to be completed internally, mainly by drilling out most of the interior and then boring to size and threading.

    Here's the head after it was drilled out:



    Nice pile of swarf there. That was then bored out and threaded.

    The battery tube was next, and due to its length, i.e., 62mm, vs the diameter of the battery bore, i.e., 15.25mm, that meant that chatter might be a problem. Here's the long drill that I mounted in my tailstock, which has a Morse taper for holding the drill. First, though, I had to cut off the stub that was used for holding the piece while it had been tapered, grooved and dimpled:



    Next, I faced off the end:



    Then I spot drilled for the longer drill to follow:



    Finally, the battery tube was drilled out:



    When drilling this deep, one often has to back out the drill and remove the chips, especially if you don't have a coolant system, or compressed air to help. These work pretty well, too:



    Since my DRO doesn't work on the tailstock, I used the tailstock's built in ruler to roughly drill the proper depth, but then I'd take everything apart and check the depth with my caliper, too:



    Once the drilling is done, then the boring takes place. Here's the small bar with a carbide insert that I used:



    Only problem with the boring bar is that it can give you a nice flat bottom, like this:



    But what was still needed was a raised button on the bottom of the bore for the negative end of the battery to sit on. For that I use a special tool, a face grooving tool on a long carbide bar to make the button. Here's the tool:



    And here's the end result:



    To cut down on chatter, I dropped the RPMs from my normal 1050 to about 400, and entered the piece with the tool very gently, so as to not break the carbide bit.

    Finally, I threaded the end of the battery tube.

    Tomorrow I will make the copper converter module which these two parts screw onto. In the meantime, here's what they look like for now:



    or



    Enjoy that turkey, or whatever you wish to gorge on.
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Looks great Fred. Keep the pictures coming.....
    David............................................. "A few of my Home Built lights"

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Beautiful work, Fred.

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    nice looking thing Fred.

    Any plans to produce an AA light for the rest us schmoes any times soon?
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Fred

    this is outstanding - im right in thinking these are still the aluminum pieces
    a lot of trouble to go to just for a prototype! - are you going to sell the aluminum light too?

    check out that wall thickness! - now this is when you are allowed to use terms such as... "built like a tank"
    just think in stainless steel this thing will outlast all of us!

    just out of interest Fred can you weigh these aluminum bits for me?

    do i also notice your signature mistake on the battery tube with the dimples?

    very impressed

    Alex

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    That is just amazing work - fantastic. Very good pics, too. Great thread!
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Quote Originally Posted by aljsk8 View Post
    Fred

    this is outstanding - im right in thinking these are still the aluminum pieces
    a lot of trouble to go to just for a prototype! - are you going to sell the aluminum light too?

    check out that wall thickness! - now this is when you are allowed to use terms such as... "built like a tank"
    just think in stainless steel this thing will outlast all of us!

    just out of interest Fred can you weigh these aluminum bits for me?

    do i also notice your signature mistake on the battery tube with the dimples?

    very impressed

    Alex
    Alex,

    I've learned my lessons before, i.e., I learn from my mistakes, so I'd rather screw up on AL first, then perhaps I won't make the same mistakes on the SS. As it turns out, I did find a design boo boo--the threaded area at the top of the battery tube, that connects to the copper module needed to be made larger in diameter than the 15.25mm so that the walls of the converter module wouldn't be too thin. Now, I'm planning a 17mm diameter bore at the top of the battery tube for the converter threads.

    I suppose if someone wants to buy the AL body and converter module when I am done, then I'd be glad to part with it. Recover some costs, at least.

    The two AL pieces weigh 1.1 ounces, as measured on my postal scale--I don't have anything better than that.

    Ah, you noticed that extra dimple? I wish I could say that I did it on purpose. Just another reason for the AL prototype, although to be honest, I already had F'ed up the taper, so I knew that the rest of the design didn't matter that much to me, so I was pushing for time.

    Off to do the copper module.
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Fred -

    I love these threads. Your photos are SO great - especially for someone like me, who doesn't know how to machine, but wants to know how it's done, and maybe someday will get into it!

    Thanks a lot,
    john

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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Fred

    thanks for the info - as soon as you start ss ill send you another payment

    i have a feeling you might be getting my custom again! - ill make a lot simpler light next time - i fancy a workhorse as well as a "show off light"

    1 x subC cell simple tube full knurling - lets hope your still around in 6 months


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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Wanted to complete the converter module in copper today, but, alas, my copper bar was only 7/8" in diameter while I needed 1". Hey, no problem--just do it in AL instead.

    The converter module houses both the driver and the LED and serves as a massive heatsink also. The overall length is 20mm, with 8mm devoted to the treads on each end to connect to the head and the battery tube, while the remaining 4mm are exposed between the two.

    Here's how it looked after I had completed the threads on one end and was about to turn the area to be treaded on the other end:



    And after threading both ends:



    Next to be tackled were the grooves in the external 4mm section--these are quite narrow, only .5mm and 1mm deep:



    Once those were done, I needed to bevel the edges to match the head and the battery tube. Despite how carefully one might plan, there always seems to be some discrepancy between the size you wanted to turn and the size you actually turned. Normally, these would not be noticable to the eye at all, but with this bevel meeting a flat surface, it was important to get them pretty closely matched:



    Once the bevels were in place and the threading done, then it was time to bore out the space for the driver. The depth of this bore is only 5mm, so I usually don't bother to drill first and then bore, I just use my boring tool to achieve the depth as well as the diameter that I want:



    And this is the final depth, with a diameter of 13.80mm:



    Of course, most standard drivers are now .55", or 14mm, in diameter, so the final bore is to place a lip close to the 14mm diameter and 1.6mm deep, which is the thickness of the standard PCB board that Wayne and Mike Jordan use. Here is the lip, which I make to 13.96mm and then prefer to sand the converter down to fit tightly:



    One of the last operations is parting off the second stub:



    Then that end, where the LED sits, gets faced nice and smooth, and for today, at least, I'm done. Time to assemble everything and take the final pics:



    And a close-up the converter module.



    Man, the camera with flash, is harsh--shows all the flaws. Should look a bit better when sanded and polished.
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  30. #30
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    Default Re: A Custom Built Light from A to Z

    Fred

    very good work - you dont waste any time!

    i dont mind if you do the finished converter in aluminium
    its up to you (i might want future spares)

    im happy with the result but i do like the photo of the light before it had the converter in it (shorter and a bit less cluttered)
    your free to do it the way we decided - after all i did say i was happy with it - your also free to kill me for what im about to suggest

    if this was indeed a test converter and you are going to do another anyway then this wont hurt too much!

    the 4mm bit with the grooves can go (if you want) - 2 ways i think this can be done (easy and hard)

    1)make it 2mm and just do it flush - this would have no effect on any of the internal dims and makes your life easier
    2)bore some extra internal grooves make the converter narrower in diameter so the lip sits inside the light

    these are just ideas based on the way the light looks to me in the photos - and as i know ive been a royal PITA
    this is definitely your call - if you like the look of the converter and/or you were not making another - keep it this way

    if its no extra hassle to do it one of the other ways ive suggested then do that - others please comment - which way do you guys like it?

    just one point - i was expecting o-rings - should i have mensioned that?

    what size are those threads - they look very fine - it might just be the way it looks in the photos - redesign?

    a weight for the 3 peices now if you would

    based on the weight of the 2 peices those will weigh 90grams when its stainless steel so its looking like it will fall in my target weight

    wow - im suprised more ppl dont hate me!
    Last edited by aljsk8; 11-23-2007 at 02:50 AM.

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