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Thread: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

  1. #1

    Default Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    I have a special project that requires walking at night through the African wild. What I'll be doing involves too many variables to explain here, so just trust me that this is what I need. Anything more would be great, but let's start basic . . . and add bells-n-whistles ltr.

    BRUTE BASICS: A 4' long maglite-style flashlight, which weighs in at 8-12lbs, and which won't break if used as pry bar, whacked on a boulder, or, well, bitten by a lion.

    I'm not one bit kidding. I've been using an 8lb, 4'-long, steel workout bar (not lighted, obviously) for everything I do on these walks . . . now, I'd like to turn it into the same thing, only filled with batteries and a light. Of course, the brighter the better. But, and this is very important, let's start with the goals of durability and design-simplicity, rather than tweaking efficiencies.

    Note: A D-cell mag is too fat, so the diameter has to C-Cell or less. The housing has to be damn strong, so even C-Cell might be too fat. Success is simplicity and durability.

    If a prototype could be made by materials readily available at a big-box store, all the better. If you want to suggest something special-order, then keep it down to a single item.

    So, experts, I turn to you. Upgrade my bar into a flashlight--and what I do can be done better. (Note: it's 100% non-violent and involves protecting highly endangered and mortally wounded animals.)

    TIA in advance,

    ~john
    Last edited by Friday; 08-21-2012 at 04:48 AM. Reason: Edit

  2. #2

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    I do not know of a light that meets your needs....


    Perhaps use a headlamp, and keep your pry bar?
    If you ask me what light to buy, I have an uncontrollable urge to say "Fenix"

  3. #3
    Flashaholic* AnAppleSnail's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    You might chuckle at this, but...the best way to turn a reliable, light-weight-enough-to-use, sturdy and cheap pry bar into a (R-LWETU-SC) pry bar plus flashlight, would be to securely attach a flashlight to your pry bar. First things first:

    Do you (ab)use both ends of the pry bar, or can one end be left mostly flashlight-friendly? Most things in most flashlights don't like being plunged into crevices or hit with large boulders to pry. I can't see much practicality in a conventional flashlight stuck on the end of a four-foot pole in heavy brush. Have you tried duct-taping a light to your adventure bar for a prototype trial? Does a four-foot-long light do what you need?
    My biggest light-hog is my camera.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    AnAppleSnaill (love the handle)

    I love innovation, so I'm open to all possibilities. You've identified some key concerns, so let me touch on them:

    1. The weight is important, as in *not lighter than* 6lbs. Ideal 8-10lbs.
    2. One end must be lighted, and that end still needs to be durable. I won't be swinging the lighted end against a boulder, but (for example) it shouldn't break if I drop it from 6 feet. The other end isn't a concern.

    I have plenty of ideas, but experts see better/faster than novices and are more efficient in innovation.....so I'll await yours......

    ~john

  5. #5

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Buy a Solarforce Gladiator, add your choice of P60 drop-in, possibly a Malkoff for strength and reliability, then adapt some form of pole/bar to accept the Gladiator.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Friday View Post
    won't break if used as pry bar
    You'll need to make it out of stainless steel if you are really gonna use it as a pry bar. In that case, you should contact a custom flashlight maker, since I don't know if there are any large lights made out to steel due to it's weight and the fact that it's much harder to work with.

    Or make a custom pry bar with a flashlight in one end

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    OK....my idea. Steel bar 4' long, of whatever diameter you choose. Then, bore ONLY the top few inches (6-8 perhaps) and create a p60 host out of it (this area might need to be greater diameter, depending on what you choose for the lower portion). Then, put in a good, durable dropin, with a sturdy twisty switch (I'm thinking malkoff little twisty head with a M61m it can run of 18650 recharged during the day via solar quite easily in what I imagine is sunny Africa, and you can carry a numebr of back up primaries as well). The problems....well, finding such a bar, or someone who can make one for you. I could name a number of our super-modders who COULD do it, though it would be rather expensive.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    I'm hoping we can come up with a body for this proposed LightBar that will house a full string of batteries, from top to bottom.....like 40 x CR123's? Just because it's not done, doesn't mean it can't be done.

    So, can it?

    PS: I didn't mean a pry bar, so much as something that would support (let's say) my weight, hanging on it like a chin-up bar. PVC at 1" diameter won't cut it. Maybe a steel pipe, of some sort.....

  9. #9
    *Flashaholic* Gunner12's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    If you have too many batteries, they could move quite a bit and the last battery will be taking on a decent amount. If you hit anything with the light, the batteries at the bottom might be dented. Also, that many lithium batteries could result in your light turning into a roman candle.

    AA batteries might work better. The slightly thinner battery will give you a bit more wall thickness. Also, personally I won't worry about AA batteries venting on me.

    Maybe you could get a steel rod that accepts your battery of choice, and have someone make an adapter for a P60 accepting bezel and/or a side switch. The other end would just be a cap with a spring.

  10. #10
    Flashaholic ToyTank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    My first DIY attempt would contain something like

    -1.25" Steel water pipe with ID close to 26MM. May need slight sanding or boring.
    -P60 Module that can take over 14V
    -A123 26650 cells

    You want Lifepo4 or Nimh batteries they are the only types that have a chance to handle the abuse and are not dangerous. A stock P60 module and the 26mm cells should fit inside the waterpipe with little effort.

    The water pipe is cheap and somwhat hard. I use 1" as tool handles and it holds up pretty well but I have bent them a time or two.

    You could case harden you waterpipe to make it much stronger but this is dangerous for DIY

    -Used motor oil
    -Larger diamter steel pipe to hold hot oil and your P60 prybar

  11. #11
    Flashaholic* ^Gurthang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Perhaps this would work: 1. Get a hardened 1 ' length of tool steel 3/4" rod and have it machined into what ever tip you want. 2. Buy a 4-5' length of 1 1/4" 316 SS XH pipe. Cut off 1' length and have it machined to accept something like a FiveMega 3x 18650 tube, add an "e" series head w/ adapter and have it made so it a twisty on/off. The light will fit inside the 1' end and then screw onto the longer pipe body. Finally have the tool steel tip welded to the opposite end. Now you have something that would take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.
    ^G When I reply, threads die....

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Bore a 1" SS bar deep enough to hold 3x AA Nimh, thread it for a Peak SS Pamir head.
    Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Mill a "U" shape along 1 end out of a bar to fit a 9P in it and wrap with duct-tape or paracord?
    Fenix LD01 R4, E05 R4, PD31, TK20, TK35, E11, Jetbeam BC25, RRT-0, Klarus NT20, iTP A3 R5, A3 Ti S2, 4Sevens Preon 1, Quark X 123^2, Sunwayman V10R Ti, Surefire G2X Tactical, ThruNite TN31, Mag-Lite XL50, Mag 2D XP-E

  14. #14
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    Default

    You might also consider using rechargeable Li Po cells. Unlike the cylindrical cells, LiPo cells are flat, so should fit onto the pry bay better.

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    Flashaholic Tegan's Dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    My concern with batteries the entire 4' length, besides the "Roman Candle" possibility would be that unless the bar were extremely rigid, the flex in the bar could damage the batteries. You wouldn't want it to be a tight fit (lots of battery rattle) because of this. I think the "put a flashlight on the end of a big stick" looks like the best idea IMHO. I think having a flashlight that could be easily replaced is a good idea too, because if you don't have a backup, you don't have a light.

    Think of what could go wrong with having the pry bar be the light, and what you can do in the field to fix it. Then do the same with having a way to attach a "commercial" light to the end of the stick and repeat.

    1) Exposed threads on the bar could get damaged, especially if the head is snapped off while threading. Also, cross-threading could happen.
    2) Battery damage from the bar flexing. The longer the bar, the more flex.
    3) What if 1 battery goes bad, do you have spacers that could replace it, or enough spare batteries? What if 5 go bad?

    Another thought would be the possibility of using a bike mount or gun rail on the bar. Even hose clamps would work in a pinch to hold a light.

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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Tegan's Dad View Post
    Another thought would be the possibility of using a bike mount or gun rail on the bar. Even hose clamps would work in a pinch to hold a light.
    +1

    Seems a LOT easier and reliable than having a custom bar made up. Have you had a look at something like the TwoFish Lockblock rubber mounts? A pair of them should be fairly sturdy!

    Was the idea of housing batteries to try and get super-long run-times or just to make use of the available space?


    GM

  17. #17

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Thanks to everyone for the ideas. It's extraordinary that everyone here simply took up the challenge as-is, without wasting time with "Well, I would do this, though it's not what you said you wanted."

    UPDATES:
    1. Just to re-emphasize from original post, I'd like the bar mostly filled with battery power. Maybe half of them could be for storage: it's a primary design goal and I'll need all that power for many reasons. It's one of the elements that makes this project a challenge, but overcoming the challenge is part of what makes an engineering project special. So . . . what type of batteries, how to incorporate them ergonomically, how to make the bar strong, yet safe? Etc.

    2. I like the "strap-on light" ideas, but I need--upon command--to draw off a ton of battery power. See #3.

    3. I'm not sure about just a P60. The light itself needs dispersal options. A) The brightest 1-second burst possible, in both 360-degree dispersal and more focused discharge (say 35-degrees). B. Continuous draw light (for 4-8 hour walks), both area and tighter focus.

    I'd love to see the options.

    ~john

    PS: This project is now officially released as "Open Source w/Benefits." That means 20% of profits from the eventual sales is reserved for contributors. OS w/Benefits is micro-payment process designed to encourage and reward innovation, regardless of the forum (writing, software development, product creation, etc). It's new, so an explanatory link will be posted soon.....
    Last edited by Friday; 08-23-2012 at 02:14 PM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    So.. we are building Gandalf's staff?

    I like the idea of using the bar for storage... the thought of using many CR123s had me wondering if you were building the worlds brightest pipe-bomb
    also... AA's are available in africa... don't count on ever finding a store selling CR123s. Also, the batteries cannot touch end to end, so each one will need to be wrapped for safety.

    My fear is, a hollowed out bar is going to be much, much weaker.. Sure a Fenix TK20 makes for a nearly indestructible flashlight, but the longer the tube the weaker it will get.
    Is this going to regularly used as a chin-up bar? or in a last ditch situation? also, a slight bend in the bar is going to make getting the batteries out nearly impossible, if they are a tight fit.


    Ridged metal conduit might be the stuff you need... go test some out and get back to us
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_73207-33483-...ductId=1260067

    if that pipe is strong enough, it shouldn't be too hard to add an end to the pipe that could hold a Fenix E25 (for the side button on/off switch)
    or you could side mount a Fenix LD22 (tail-cap on/off switch)
    http://www.fenixlight.com/viewnproduct.asp?id=118
    http://www.fenixlight.com/viewproduct.asp?id=161

    I haven't seen for sure yet, as the E25 is just out, but I think both of those lights can be fitted with a Fenix Diffuser
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFZLWhUM47c
    http://www.fenixlight.com/viewnproduct.asp?id=106

    if it works for you, you could add a bolt through the tube for the light to rest on (about 4 inches down)
    and then a short screw that you can tighten down onto the light, to hold it in place...
    the downside is, you are gonna scratch up your light.. maybe a piece of leather between the screw and the light.

    also, you can use a thinner piece of tubing (just thick enough to hold the AAs)
    and then use a reducer coupling and attach a wider 4ish inch piece of pipe to hold the light.
    ...that would let you get away from using a bolt to rest the light on, and make for a nicer looking staff
    If you ask me what light to buy, I have an uncontrollable urge to say "Fenix"

  19. #19
    Flashaholic Tegan's Dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Friday View Post
    The light itself needs dispersal options.
    A) The brightest 1-second burst possible, in both 360-degree dispersal and more focused discharge (say 35-degrees).
    B) Continuous draw light (for 4-8 hour walks), both area and tighter focus.
    Do these options need to be immediately available, or could you add a diffuser / reflector or reconfigure the light before switching? I think the more different configurations you require, the more complex (and fragile) the design would get. I would think that simple is better for the terrain you will be using it in.

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    Flashaholic* AnAppleSnail's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Batteries is not the limitation for high output anymore. The light circuitry and thermal management is. You could probably run a P60 XM-L-type dropin (of limited thermal path) at 3A for several seconds from one 18650, and then get 300 lumens for another hour. Burst is not limited by batteries, once you have a decent pile of them.

    I can't see a flashlight-on-a-stick being so useful with no way to aim the light. The only aimable lights I know of run into issues of durability and position-holding.
    My biggest light-hog is my camera.

  21. #21
    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Honestly, I think a separate flashlight would be better. You don't want to be stuck in a situation where you have a choice between seeing what's in front of you or swinging your stick at it, but unable to to both at the same time. Also, there's no reason to risk damaging your flashlight by putting it in a position to be smacked against things.

    If you want the option to attach your flashlight to your walking/fighting stick, you can easily do that by just making a hole in one end of the stick for the flashlight to fit into, and maybe add a few 1/4" bolts sticking out of the sides of the stick so the flashlight can attach in various non-combat-ready positions via 1/4" camera mounts.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Perhaps you could thread the top of whatever bar/battery holder you choose to the same thread pitch/diameter of a Maglite tail cap then just thread on any appropriately modified *D or *C Mag host. You could use a single emitter and retain some of the stock focusing and candle use function while having more throw than a P60 and more room for heatsinking and whatever driver suits your needs.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    NOTES:

    99.9% of the time, the light bar will be used for purposes OTHER than slamming it into something. In fact, I can't imagine a time I would need it like a baseball bat--and if I did, then I'll probably be more worried over how to get a new arm or leg afterwards, not a new light bar. Its shockproof-ness is more about surviving an energetic walk, pushing aside brush, and illumination. Also, using the high-power flash bursts would be rare. Most often, it'd be used as simply lighting up the area as I walk. Other things, too, or else I wouldn't want it to be so darn heavy (so, it has to be heavy)

    "Gandalf's Staff" = LOL. I was thinking the same thing. And, yes, on occasion, it'll be used in that exact fashion: light as a defensive weapon. BTW, if anyone's actually carried around a 4'-long 10lb bar, it's more than enough of a "weapon" simply as-is.

    COULD THIS DESIGN WORK? It adds up to 9-10lbs. Perfect!

    4' of 1" Steel Water Pipe: Interior Diameter 26mm (total weight 6.72lbs)
    -- http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/an...pes-d_305.html)

    12 x ER261020 CC Size Batteries: 4" long x 26mm diameter (total weight 2.5lbs)
    -- http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/50...3_6_volts.html

    Thread the "bottom" of the water pipe to fit a maglite tailpiece. Thread the top of the pipe to fit a C-battery maglite (or similar) host. Put an aluminum cage around it, or comparable. Maybe there are "rugged" hosts out there that I don't know about...

    From my reading, these batteries are temperature safe ( -40C / +85C ). They can be bought in bulk for about $5-$10 from China. They'll run for a long time at low-discharge--but with so many of them, they'll still be able to kick out a good burst, if needed. The alternative would be 24 x C batteries.

    Can you all give this design the once-over? If it's decent, help me take the next step: what host/light would do the trick the best. How about heat-sinking....etc etc

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Why do you want the whole thing full of batteries? that severely limits what drivers can be used, and just screams light failure. Keep it simple and use lower voltage.

    Also, in Africa, I'd only want to be using AAs (Always Available). This is possible, if you simplify it.
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    This thread is interesting in a "what if" kind of way. I personally cannot envision a practical use for this type of light but that's just based upon my usage habits. To the OP, if you need it, then let's build it! Being from an electrical background, my first thought was rigid electrical conduit as was mentioned earlier which is, for these purposes, very similar to the water pipe.

    However, after reading through the thread again, I have to ask, how do you envision this light being mounted? Will the main beam be in line with the center line of the staff (i.e. pointing straight up when the staff is vertical)? Will it be perpindicular to the staff? Or is it to be adjustable?

    Also, what type of user interface do you require? Momentary actuation? Clicky? Both?

    I look forward to seeing where this goes!

  26. #26

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Is steel water pipe the same as rigid metal conduit? I've used rigid metal conduit before. I built sections of it under some naval piers to run cabling. The diameter I used was much greater than what you will be using, but I can vouch for this stuff. It is beyond tough. I was shocked at what kind of abuse it would take. a 1" diameter conduit could easily, EASILY be used as a chin-up bar. I would suggest a double layer. For instance, if one piece has an outside diameter of 1.5" and another piece has an inside diameter of 1'5", then you slide the smaller one into the bigger one, you'd have a very sturdy body. In addition, it'd be less likely to bend or dent. If it did bend or dent, it'd be less likely to affect your "battery compartment"

    While we're talking about batteries... Alkalines don't have to be a scary idea. They're fairly stable and very inexpensive if you know how to purchase them. Duracell Procell are the same as Duracell Coppertop (different wrapper and packaging) and they run less than half the price if you shop around. Zoro Tools (online) sells them so cheap it's silly. Zoro also ALWAYS has promo codes you can google to make your order even cheaper.

    Also, your battery compartment could be separated. The top portion could have a divider so only the first X amount of cells are actually being used to power the light. All you'd need to accomplish this is some bar stock. The bottom could have a threaded cap to access your spare cells while the top could be accessed by removing the head of the light. The only issue I foresee here would be damage to the endcap or threads. If those were to get damaged you'd be screwed.
    Last edited by fiberguy; 08-24-2012 at 05:15 AM.

  27. #27
    Flashaholic* AnAppleSnail's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Friday View Post
    Can you all give this design the once-over? If it's decent, help me take the next step: what host/light would do the trick the best. How about heat-sinking....etc etc
    A stack of AAs is 14mm wide, and gives you (1.4v * 2 amp-hours)*2 = 5.6 watt-hours per 10cm of length. A stack of CR123s is 16mm wide and gives you 13 watt-hours per 10cm of length. Either one of these will produce a lot of light for a long time with a short 'stack length.' The trouble with a lot of batteries in a stack is that the stack will wiggle and damage cells, and the voltage becomes too high to use efficiently. 4 feet of CR123 is 107v, far too high for safe circuit design. Even 4' of common alkaline/NiMH cells will be around 60v, still uncomfortably high...and very difficult to efficiently step down to LED voltages. An efficient driver circuit can give 500 lumens for two or more hours from one 18650. An inefficient driver circuit will waste power and create extra heat.

    Ergonomically speaking, you want the lightest possible weights on your extremities. My hiking pals tell me that every pound on your feet or hands is like carrying an extra twenty pounds. Your 10 pound staff might be okay for short trips, but too unwieldy for long ones. As far as marketability goes, I'd prefer an aimable light that I can attach to most poles - including my hiking stick.

    Electrically speaking, I suggest two different light circuits fed from the same batteries. One to make a burst of area light, another to make a more-useful light. But my experience is that walking-staff-light combinations do neither function especially well, and usually only do one adequately.
    My biggest light-hog is my camera.

  28. #28

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    jabe1: I agree about the availability of AA's, and I'm keeping that in mind, of course! As for wondering why I would want more batteries, could we get beyond that concern? For too many reasons to list, I need the batteries IN the bar, and I'd like as many mAh to draw from. A few AA's carrying 10,000 mAH in a flashlight-on-a-stick is not what I'm looking for.

    A LightBar with 12 CC batteries carrying 180,000 mAh is more like it.

    Are there engineering problems to overcome with all the voltage from 12 CC batteries? Yes! So, I've come to a forum of expert problem-solvers to do that!

    Does this make sense? I'm not trying to offend, I'm trying to encourage!

    John :-)

    PS: "But just stick the spares in your pocket." = The number of assumptions in that statement are too many too list. I simply need the batteries to be in the bar. :-) And I'd love to see creative minds work the driver/host problems out, using modern technology and brains!

  29. #29
    880arm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by fiberguy View Post
    Is steel water pipe the same as rigid metal conduit?
    They aren't exactly the same but they are similar. There are different grades of each and they have slightly different dimensions (for the same trade sizes) which can introduce some variables but one thing that is consistent is that they use different threads.

    One other thing they have in common is that they are very strong, as you mentioned. I weigh 300 lbs. and a 4' piece of 1.25" Rigid conduit could easily support my weight. I couldn't do a chin-up but that's not the conduit's fault.

  30. #30

    Default Re: Project Africa: Easiest Way To Make Durable 4-Foot Long Flashlight

    Quote Originally Posted by AnAppleSnail View Post
    Ergonomically speaking, you want the lightest possible weights on your extremities.
    Great ideas AnAppleSnail! But this is the opposite of the mission, here! I NEED THE WEIGHT. :-)

    I also need your expertise and creativity . . . so I'm not in a position to say, "Do it this way." I can only ask: can you solve the driver/host problems involved in having a LightBar filled with batteries?

    -- Four feet of 12 x CC batteries = 42v / 150,000 mAh
    -- Diameter of CC's: 26mm
    -- Interior diameter of ANSI 1" water pipe: 26.7mm
    -- Maglite C tailpiece screwed to bottom of pipe, with C-style host attached to the other end

    My father is an engineer, and he always says the profession is primarily about problem-solving. So, how can these specific batteries be best mounted inside the LightBar, and with what host/driver?

    This project has specific goals that can't be explained in a few sentences. There is a book about to be published called "The Mismeasure of Animal Intelligence" that will include the LightBar idea we're developing now. I'll post a link when it's released.

    I know how difficult it is to put preconceptions aside. So, if it's impossible to help directly on this, I'm sure I'll be able to hunt-and-peck my way through the posts for ideas.

    TIA!

    ~john

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