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.
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.
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).
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: incandescentTint
Top right: Nichia cool white (stock)
Bottom left: incandescent
Bottom right: Nichia warm white
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.
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.
Greens and blue suffer a bit with these LED's (as they always do with warm ones) but I've seen a lot worse.
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
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.
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!