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Thread: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings (1st Run) *CLOSED*

  1. #1

    Default FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings (1st Run) *CLOSED*

    Surefire A2 Aviator
    Homemade LED Rings


    THIS RUN IS NOW CLOSED. PLEASE SEE PART 2 HERE.



    Introduction

    Some time ago, I got tired of the white (read: angry blue) Nichia's in my A2 Aviator and set out to create a replacement LED ring. You can read all about it here: http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...ring-pic-heavy.

    After much trial and error, I created a working prototype. My ultimate goal was to find 3 warm-white LED's of approximately the same color temperature as the main incandescent bulb. Almost a dozen LED's later, I've found a 5mm that does the trick. Since creating a ring with these LED's in it, my Aviator has found itself back in my pocket and I've been happily EDC'ing it ever since.

    Since I have a handful of extra LED's and PCB's laying around, I've created a couple more LED rings out of them. I can't imagine that I'm the only one who dislikes the stock white Nichia's, so I've decided to offer these extras for sale to my fellow CPF'ers.


    Disclaimer

    If you decide to try one of these rings in your Aviator, I take absolutely no responsibility for any damage that may result. Replacing the stock LED ring may void your warranty. Your light may stop working and Surefire may not fix it for you. You may accidentally strip the screws in the head. Any number of things may go wrong. You take the fate of your Aviator in your own hands with this mod. That said, I've swapped different rings in and out of the head of my light no less than 2-3 dozen times now with only a single stripped screw hole to show for it (and that was my fault for rushing when I shouldn't have). In my personal opinion, changing the secondary LED's has revitalized my A2 and it was absolutely worth the risk.


    What you need to know

    • These are individually handmade by me in my basement. They're not perfect.
    • The screw holes are extremely hard to align. Most rings have 2/3 aligned but 3/3 is highly unlikely. Only 1 is required for the ring to operate.
    • I'm not amazing at soldering. I've tried to minimize excess solder and I haven't done any cold joints, but on some rings the results aren't pretty.
    • They're durable! I dropped an Aviator with one of these in it hard enough to chip the ano and dislodge the Strion bulb from FiveMega's socket and the ring is no worse for wear.
    • The weak points on the ring are the:
      • Springs: the brass conducts and solders well, but it's thicker than the spring steel Surefire uses and so is less flexible. Please screw the head down slowly and stop if you feel excess resistance.
      • Screw holes: the screw holes are painted with nickel print - a conductive paint. This is required to complete the path to the battery. The nickel print is fairly durable, but if you simply press the screws through the holes instead of turning them through, the threads will scrape the nickel print off. Always try to turn the screw in/out of the ring, don't just shove it through the hole.

    • These 5mm LED's match the incan quite well (it's like having a high/low mode on your Aviator) but they're definitely warm-white. The closest match I've found so far is my Quark Mini AA Warm White (XP-G model). Compared to the QminiWW, the hotspot on these is a little whiter but the edges are a little more brown. If you've been down the warm white LED path and it's not your cup of tea, maybe stick with the cool white Nichias.
    • These warm-white LED's are dimmer than the stock white LED's since Surefire overdrives them something fierce. I've chosen to drive my LED's within their specified milliamp rating. This means longer life and less tint shift. I've found in real-life use that if I'm illuminating something over a couple feet away, I hit the incan anyways, so I'd rather have quality LED light up close than crummy LED light far away.


    Installation Instructions

    Please read these instructions carefully. If I'm not clear, please let me know. If you have questions, please ask. You're working with soft metals here, and while I don't care if you break the LED ring I send you (you always have your stock ring to replace it) I really don't want to see anyone damage the head of their Aviator.

    Remove the A2 head, followed by the bulb. Do not touch the bulb glass.


    Loosen the first screw using an eyeglass screwdriver that fits properly - the metal is quite soft and the wrong size will mangle the head of the screw. Mine had a small amount of thread locker on them, so I found I had to press down fairly hard and give it a quick twist to get things started.


    Once the screw is loose, tilt the head sideways and unscrew it the rest of the way to prevent the screw from falling into the hole where the bulb sits. Tweezers make it easier to remove the screw once it's totally loose (especially if your fingers are too big to fit in the head like mine).


    Repeat for the other two screws, then remove the ring by turning the head upside down and gently tapping it on a table (it may take a little jimmying as it fits tight). Keep the screws and the stock ring safe (either in a ZipLoc or in the case your replacement ring comes in).


    Drop the replacement ring into the head, turning it slightly until at least 1 of the screw holes aligns. You will likely not align all 3 and you only need 1 screw to power the ring. Don't worry, it's plenty secure with 1 screw. In the picture I've tried to illustrate what I mean - the bottom left hole simply doesn't line up and attempting to use it will cause problems.


    Once you have your screw hole selected, start the screw into the ring. Hold your screwdriver lightly and ensure that you twist it through the first bit of the ring (the nickel print); don't just shove it through. When the screw is started, turn the head upright, set it on your table, and finish tightening with the screwdriver held vertically. Don't press down on the screwdriver, just let gravity hold it on the screw and gently twist it. The screw MUST be vertical and you should not feel much (if any) resistance. I got impatient and attempted to force a screw that was leaning at about a 33 degree angle, ignoring the resistance. Big mistake: that screw hole is now stripped. Much better to take it out and try again than wreck your Aviator. The screw head will not be flush with the PCB, so only tighten until you feel resistance and it stops twisting easily.


    Nice work! Note that the screw isn't flush with the PCB like it is on the stock ring. Over-tightening will just strip the screw hole.


    Replace the bulb.


    Tighten the head slowly, and if you feel hard resistance, stop. Over-tightening may damage the brass springs.


    Test it out! If it doesn't work at first, DON'T PANIC. Try loosening the head a little bit - it might just be too tight. If that doesn't work, remove the ring, rotate it and try a different screw hole (or try using 2 screws).



    Beamshots

    Phew, now that we've got the instructions out of the way, let's get onto something a little more fun, shall we? Beamshots! Exposure and white balance locked for all images.
    Top left: incandescent
    Top right: Nichia cool white (stock)

    Bottom left: incandescent
    Bottom right: Nichia warm white
    Tint
    Up close, the 5mm LED's are a close rendition of incandescent and toggling between the two is like dropping out of High mode down into Low.






    Output
    As mentioned above, the warm white LED's are not as bright as the stock white ones. I look at it as quality vs. quantity.






    Tint
    Greens and blue suffer a bit with these LED's (as they always do with warm ones) but I've seen a lot worse.






    Rechargeable Batteries
    As a general rule, you should never use rechargeables in an Aviator since the increased voltage may damage the already overdriven LED's. Additionally, AW RCR123's are thicker than CR123A's, meaning you can hammer them into the body, but won't be able to get them out. Regardless, I made it a goal to use RCR123's with my new LED rings and finally kick the primary habit.

    I started by carefully testing that my batteries would even fit in the body. They do, but the body needs shaken to get them back out. Your mileage may vary, but remember that the other end is closed so you can't push them out with a pencil if they get stuck.


    The stock ring uses 33.3ohm resistors and has a 10ohm resistor in the tail. My ring uses 100ohm resistors. Cool and warm white LED's are rated 3.2V @ 20ma (max: 30ma)

    The math on the modified rings:

    • Nichia warm white ring (2xCR123A @ 3V each): 25ma
    • Nichia warm white ring (2xRCR123 @ 3.7V nominal): 38ma
    • Nichia warm white ring (2xRCR123 @ 4.2V max): 47ma

    Now for the stock Nichia cool whites:

    • Stock Nichia cool white ring (2xCR123A @ 3V each): 65ma!

    So even with the rechargeables, our warm whites are still being driven at a lower current than the stock ones. You will get a little bit of increased output as well:

    Left: CR123A primaries
    Right: AW RCR123 rechargeables





    Availability

    My original goal was to create a single, good ring for myself and that's it. As such, I created the circuit diagram in Illustrator, which prevents me from sending it to a fab house to have some professionally made. Even once the PCB's are done, it still takes me upwards of 6 hours to create/bend the springs, clip the LED's, solder the components and test the whole rig. Life's pretty busy, so I'm having to find a few hours where I can to work on this little hobby. This means I'm hoping to crank out a few here and there, but I can't promise timelines or numbers.

    Right now, I plan on posting in this thread when I have any rings for sale. I will edit the stock to indicate what is for sale and what is sold, but I need you to scan the posts and make sure someone hasn't already called a ring (even if it appears as available, since I may be slow to update). Please don't "reserve" next available rings. If you're interested in one, just let me know in this thread, and I shall try to make you one.


    Pricing

    LED ring: $23 USD
    Shipping: $7 USD (anywhere in the world)

    Please add 4% if paying by Credit Card.

    Rings will ship via Canada Post Small Packet (Air) and should arrive in 6-10 business days. There is no tracking and I'm not responsible for any postal mishaps that occur once the package leaves my hands. Sorry it's so pricey but this is the best I can do - Canada Post is hilariously expensive.

    If you would like to buy a ring that shows as available, first confirm in the thread that no one has already said "I'll take it" and then make a post as follows:

    #1 Warm White A2 ring

    I DO NOT want to collect any payment before I have product available to be shipped (no preorders), so once you post "I'll take it" I will PM you within a day or so with my PayPal address. Please choose "Goods", not "Gift". If your shipping address is different than it is in PayPal, please reply to my PM and let me know.

    You must include your CPF handle in the PayPal comments!


    That's about it! I'm not setup to create any large number of these things - it's more of a hobby. I absolutely love how mine turned out though, so I really want to share it with my fellow A2 enthusiasts. Any questions/comments/suggestions please let me know!

    Cheers,
    calipsoii
    Last edited by calipsoii; 05-26-2011 at 11:33 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Colors & Prices

    Shipping: $7USD
    Please add 4% if paying by Credit Card.

    Warm White (details/beamshots): $23USD
    Yellow/Green (details/beamshots): $23USD
    Ultraviolet (details/beamshots): $29USD
    Deep Red (details/beamshots): $23USD

    Available Stock

    #01 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd, 15 degree, ~3300K) - Shipped (2011-03-23) to Not So Bright
    #02 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd, 15 degree, ~3300K) - Shipped (2011-03-23) to Steve in SoCal
    #03 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd, 15 degree, ~3300K) - Shipped (2011-03-25) to 1pt21
    #04 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd, 15 degree, ~3300K) - Shipped (2011-03-25) to russthetoolman
    #05 Yellow Green (NTE NTE30037, 2500mcd, 12 degree, 575nm) - Shipped (2011-04-06) to 1pt21
    #06 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd, 15 degree, ~3300K) - Shipped (2011-04-20) to socom1970
    #07 Deep Red (LEDSupply
    L2-0-R5TH50-1, 2000mcd, 50 degree, 660nm)
    - Shipped (2011-04-20) to socom1970
    #08 Ultraviolet (Nichia NSPU510CS, 6800µW, 15 degree, 375nm) - Shipped (2011-04-26) to Benson
    #09 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd, 15 degree, ~3300K) - Shipped (2011-04-29) to biggenius29
    Last edited by calipsoii; 04-29-2011 at 10:14 PM.

  3. #3
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    I'll take #1.

    PM me with your paypal info. I'll send funds when I return from work. Thanks

  4. #4
    Flashaholic Steve in SoCal's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    I will take #2

    #02 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd @ 20ma, 15 degree, ~3300K)

    thanks

  5. #5

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Quote Originally Posted by Not So Bright View Post
    I'll take #1.

    PM me with your paypal info. I'll send funds when I return from work. Thanks
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in SoCal View Post
    I will take #2

    #02 Warm White (Nichia NSPL500DS, 22000mcd @ 20ma, 15 degree, ~3300K)

    thanks
    Not So Bright and Steve in SoCal, your rings have been shipped!

  6. #6
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    A true labor of love!

    I think you've got a true match for the color too

    Mike

  7. #7

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Quote Originally Posted by Relojero View Post
    A true labor of love!

    I think you've got a true match for the color too

    Mike
    Thanks Mike, I'm pretty happy with how they turned out! Just finished placing an order for a few more LED's so I should have Yellow/Green, Deep Red, (more) Warm White and a couple UV (the fabled NSPU510CS) rings ready to go in a week or two.

  8. #8
    Flashaholic 1pt21's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    I'll take #3

    Will send PayPal as soon as I get your addy. Thanks!

    --Paul

  9. #9
    Flashaholic afraidofdark's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Quote Originally Posted by calipsoii View Post
    Just finished placing an order for a few more LED's so I should have Yellow/Green, Deep Red, (more) Warm White and a couple UV (the fabled NSPU510CS) rings ready to go in a week or two.
    Amazing project

    After all of your testing with different LEDs, I would love to know (if you care to share) which warm-white you decided was best, and where you got them.

    Or if you had to purchase these in quantity, I'd be happy to buy some loose LEDs from you outright. Y/G and deep-red sound good too!

    --edit--

    I just read your excellent build thread--wow, now I know how one makes hand-crafted circuit boards!--and see you settled on NSPL500DS, thanks for documenting your build and testing so well. This is classic CPF
    Last edited by afraidofdark; 03-24-2011 at 09:04 AM.
    "That's why I come here, to be part of that and to learn, and because I can't afford a real midlife crisis, you know with sports cars and boats." -- peskyphotons 2007

  10. #10
    Flashaholic russthetoolman's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    I'll take number 4
    Russ

  11. #11

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Quote Originally Posted by 1pt21 View Post
    I'll take #3

    Will send PayPal as soon as I get your addy. Thanks!

    --Paul
    Quote Originally Posted by russthetoolman View Post
    I'll take number 4
    Russ
    1pt21 and russthetoolman, your rings have been shipped!

  12. #12
    Flashaholic russthetoolman's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    thanks for the shipping notice look forward to receiving them

  13. #13

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings



    I've updated the sales post with 1 yellow/green LED ring - beamshots/details are available at the Details link in said sales post. It's quite a dim ring and an interesting color. I'm not especially fond of it, but if you'd like to try it out, only $30 gets you through the door!

    I was hoping to have more of these for sale - I created 3 but only 1 passed testing. The 2nd one had a spring snap off while tightening the head, which in turn shorted the ring and passed the current from both batteries through a single LED (without a resistor). From Y/G to brown to purple to red to black in 1 second. The 3rd ring has the center hole bored slightly off-center, meaning it'll only light if positioned quite painstakingly inside the head. I'm going to spare you the frustration of fighting with that one. If anyone wants it on the cheap, let me know. SPF

    I'm really looking forward to the new LED's (particularly the deep red and UV ones). More to come!
    Last edited by calipsoii; 03-30-2011 at 08:06 PM.

  14. #14

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Quote Originally Posted by calipsoii View Post
    The 3rd ring has the center hole bored slightly off-center, meaning it'll only light if positioned quite painstakingly inside the head. I'm going to spare you the frustration of fighting with that one. If anyone wants it on the cheap, let me know.
    If it's just the center bore, I can probably fix it with a die grinder, or even just painstakingly position it to try out the Y/G.

    How much you want for it? (PM or post here, whatever suits.)

  15. #15

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Hi Benson,

    This isn't one you'll be able to grind out - the electrical traces were slightly misaligned between the front & back of the PCB. I didn't notice it until after the ring was created, unfortunately. I believe the problem is that the misaligned hole puts one of the resistors too close to the middle and it ends up grounding the circuit (you can see it in the picture below, it's the top one). I've applied several coats of lacquer to those components to insulate them.

    I took it out and rotated it twice inside the head - it fit well and lit up perfectly on that second rotation so I think it'll do the same for you.





    This one is half off - $15 shipped. Just fire me a PM if you're interested. Thanks! SPF
    Last edited by calipsoii; 03-30-2011 at 08:05 PM.

  16. #16
    Flashaholic Steve in SoCal's Avatar
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    Default

    The warm white led ring arrived today and it is awesome!! More info to follow.

  17. #17

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Well done over this - the tint is amazing. I saw your earlier post then got "distracted" when CPF went down, and missed your sales thread until too late. I still hope to get one of Koala's onion rings, but am getting a bit worried over the delay as I'm using rechargeables on my A2, and it's getting a fair amount of usage! Do you think you might produce any more? Great to see a CPFer with no prior experience making such a thing.

  18. #18

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in SoCal View Post
    The warm white led ring arrived today and it is awesome!! More info to follow.
    Glad you like it Steve! Stop back and let me know what you think, I'm excited to get someone elses' opinions/suggestions - so far it's just been me using them.

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidS View Post
    I still hope to get one of Koala's onion rings, but am getting a bit worried over the delay as I'm using rechargeables on my A2, and it's getting a fair amount of usage! Do you think you might produce any more?
    Don't sweat it TOO much DavidS - there are people on CPF who've put 240 charge cycles worth of rechargeables through their A2 and say they haven't noticed any problems. I was more worried about keeping the milliamps down on these because LED's tend to blue-shift over time if you drive them hard nonstop. Not much of a problem for the stock whites, but I don't want my warm ones going blue on me.

    As for making more, I have LED's coming in the mail but it'll be another 1-1.5 weeks before they arrive. So far I have 6 rings worth of components sitting downstairs waiting for their lamps, hope to get some more done before they arrive.

  19. #19
    Flashaholic Steve in SoCal's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Here is some additional discussion of my experience so far with the warm white ring. First of all, the rings are well packaged by calipsoii and have little risk of being damaged in transit. The LEDs are already installed in the ring so installation into the A2 is relatively simple. People definitely should purchase a precision small screwdriver to remove the existing ring and install the new custom rig. Aligning everything and getting the screws back into the holes is a bit tough (since the parts are so small) but is doable with a little persistence. I actually was able to install 2 out of the 3 screws and the LED ring lit up after tightening the head.

    As mentioned in the initial post the LEDs do a good job of looking like a low output incan. The color temp is very warm (similar to late afternoon sun) and as stated, the hotspot on these is a little whiter but the edges are a little more orange brown. These LEDs will not be cool enough for most LED addicts so take that into account. Driven by primaries the LEDs do appear dimmer than the stock white LEDs and I will probably also test them out on rechargeable IMRs in the near future and report back.

    Many thanks to calipsoii!!!

  20. #20

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Do you have any available yet? Or are you sold out for now?

  21. #21
    Flashaholic russthetoolman's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Received my warm ring and all the through holes aligned, excellent job!
    The tint is awesome too. Thank you for designing and sharing your creations.
    Russ

  22. #22

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Quote Originally Posted by russthetoolman View Post
    Received my warm ring and all the through holes aligned, excellent job!
    The tint is awesome too. Thank you for designing and sharing your creations.
    Russ
    Glad to hear you like it Russ!

    Quote Originally Posted by biggenius29 View Post
    Do you have any available yet? Or are you sold out for now?
    LED's should hopefully arrive this week. I have 5 rings prepared and waiting for them, so once they show up I'll get the soldering iron out and post here.

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* socom1970's Avatar
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    I'm in for one warm white ring (and one red one if two are allowed at this time, otherwise just the warm white one) whenever more are available, please!



    BTW, I have been running one of my A2's on AW RCR123 cells for a couple years. Still running great.
    Last edited by socom1970; 04-05-2011 at 05:36 PM.
    "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

  24. #24
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    I received and installed the led ring. Everything went smooth, all 3 screw holes lined up. I fell like I have a new torch, no more blues...

    Thanks for making these.

  25. #25

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    When you get them ready count me in for a warm white ring.

    If you were to sell more than one at a time to a member I would also be interested in a Y/G

  26. #26

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Evening CPF!

    This update came a lot later than I expected it would. Anyone who's ever taken on a large scale home reno can probably attest that everything takes about 8x as long as you expect it too. I'm going to have very little free time for the next little bit, so forgive me if this thread languishes a little during that time.

    I did have a bit of free time this evening, however! Managed to get 1 warm white ring completed and tested, so I'll fire off a PM tomorrow to the person who requested that one. biggenius and socom I haven't forgotten about you, they'll be the next ones I make. I'm running out of etched PCB's here so I'm going to have to see if I can remember how to successfully etch more pretty soon here.

    Haven't had a chance to make a red one yet, but I did make a UV one and all I can say is wow. Click here for all the pretty pictures.

    A teaser:

  27. #27

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Hey, if you're taking advanced orders, please put me down for a warm white!

  28. #28
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    I'll take a UV one. Thanks

  29. #29

    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    Just count me in for a warm white ring, earlyer I stated possibly being interested in a Y/G ring too, but my new A2 has a Y/G ring.

    Just out of curiosity, what is the point of having a UV light?

  30. #30
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: FS: Homemade Surefire A2 Aviator LED rings

    You can use UV light to check for refrigeration sealed system leaks after a dye has been added. Also many ID's and money will show hidden details under UV light.

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