The Titanium Flashlight Remintification Project

js

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THE TITANIUM FLASHLIGHT REMINTIFICATION PROJECT

So this whole project (if you will allow me to use such a grandiose term for such a minor endeavor) started out with me trolling the titanium custom and mod b/s/t listings here on CPF where I ran across Joseph Milton's LunaSol 20 sales thread. I looked at the pictures of that light and I was like "Holy #***%! That light is about the most beat up titanium light I have ever seen for sale! Talk about a beater!"

and then the very next thought was pretty much--fully formed--the idea for this project.

See, for years I've touted the advantages of titanium flashlights, and in particular the advantage that titanium is one thing, through and through, and thus has no surface layer of anodizing or plating to flake off or damage, and can therefore be refinished and repaired without the kind of difficulty necessary to refinish an anodized or plated light (e.g. entirely stripping off the anodizing, smoothing, and then re-anodizing or re-coating.) In the process of touting the advantages of titanium, I always referenced an instance where a CPFer severely damaged his Ti-PD-S in a motorcycle accident, and amazingly another forum member was able to file and sand and buff and polish the light back into beautiful shape. The before and after pictures are quite dramatic! And they exemplify this particular advantage of titanium with a bold exclamation point. But, the thing is that while it certainly did look good, it no longer looked mint. It was a lot more shiny and smooth than before. There were no lathe marks to be seen. A lot of edges were rounded. Definitely way, way better than it had been right after the accident, of course. But not as good as when it was mint.

So, when I saw Joseph Milton's beat up LunaSol 20, it got me thinking. Here was a light that just had a lot of daily wear and tear: scratches, small dents, scuffs, etc.--the stuff that happens when you really EDC your light as a tool for months and months or even years. It gets fairly scratched up. Most of the time, for most of us, even in this case, the patina of scratches and scuffs and other marks really add up to, well, a patina. A sort of finish all its own, and one you have to earn. So it's kind of cool. And most of the time, for most of us, this patina still looks quite good. That's the thing about titanium lights. They just look good in most any condition. Granted, in certain harsh, bright, direct lighting, the scratches really stand out, and the light looks a lot worse, but in most cases, the scratches just kind of meld into a patina. It's nice. And it contrasts dramatically with how an anodized aluminum light looks after such use! A scratched up HA light just looks bad. No way around it. Titanium still looks good with lots of small scratches and marks. However, there's no getting around the fact that it's no longer mint, and just doesn't look as good as when you first got it from Don. And to me, that is the ideal: that mint condition look and feel. There's nothing else like it. I don't want to buff my light to the point of chrome-y shiny-ness! Absolutely not. What I want--and what I suspect many of us want--is to be able to return our lights to mint condition. And that is the goal that I set myself here: to find a simple and easy method for returning a titanium light with normal EDC wear and tear to mint condition look and feel. I will tell you straight away that it was not achieved. It is not possible. Or not by the vast majority of us, anyway. But, it is the goal, the ideal, the benchmark for this project. And despite the fact that the goal was not achieved, I suspect that you will be interested to see just how close I came to reaching this goal.

I wanted to develop a method which first did no harm--and which was very unlikely to do harm, even by someone with little or no experience in machining or metal polishing, etc. And which, second, had as its goal to bring a light back closer to the way that it looked and felt when it was new. I also wanted to develop a method which needed no special tools, nothing rare or expensive or hard to get. I wanted to use only readily available tools and materials that the average CPF'er could easily and cheaply buy or which they probably already owned.

Here too, I failed. Because in order to use this method to repair and restore the finish of your titanium flashlight, you will need to remove the clip. As many of you already know, on McGizmo titanium flashlights this requires a special tool. The hex screws nominally take a 1/16" hex driver or wrench. However, the standard 1/16" hex tip is too loose and you will not be able to remove the screws and you will damage the hex shape in the process. So, you must beg, borrow, steal, or buy an MIP Thorp 1/16" Hex Driver Wrench. This is something which anyone who owns a McGizmo flashlight would do well to possess and at $14.50 it isn't going to be a deal breaker for most people. But there it is. That is the one specialty tool you will need for this method.

Other than that, however, all you will need is 400 and 600 grit sandpaper--but not the kind meant for wood--no "garnet" paper. If it's not light tan or brown colored, it's almost certainly fine. I used Norton Blue-Bak Waterproof sandpaper and it worked great, but any black 400 and 600 grit sandpapers available at your local hardware or big box home improvement store will do just fine. You will also need a razor blade or utility knife and a metal ruler. These are needed to cut the sandpaper into nice neat strips of various uniform widths.

Oh, and one more thing. The piece de resistance of this method is the final step of a nail shaping, buffing, and shining salon set. Usually this is a block with 4 usable sides of progressively finer surfaces, but sometimes it is a set of three separate boards (this is what I have) or sometimes it is some other shape and can have fewer or greater than 4 grades or surfaces. Two that I know of, which are readily available on Amazon are:

Tweezerman Shape and Shine Nail Tool

Revlon CrazyShine Nail Buffer

Also, at Target, there are two choices. The Trim 7-way buffer, and the Trim buffing block (which has four steps or grades). And for reference, also pictured below is my set of three separate boards:

remint-7-way-1.jpg


remint-buffing-block-1.jpg


remint-3-set-1.jpg


These tools are used by women (and some men) (and all manicurists) to shape, smooth, and then buff and shine nails. I know it sounds a little crazy to suggest that something which is designed to shine nails will do anything at all to titanium, and honestly I had no expectations that it would work, but I was trying everything, and, well, work it did! In my experience so far, the final step of this nail shining tool or set is just about perfect for putting the final touch to the surface of your titanium flashlight! Crazy, but there it is. I tried lots of different grades of sandpaper and various methods and steps, and 400 grit, then 600 grit sandpaper followed by the shine surface of a nail buffing set creates the best results I have found so far! The nail buffer step is more for the feel of the surface than for the look, but it also brings back just the right amount of shine.

I did a lot of experimentation on a block of titanium. It's tooling marks were far deeper than what would be likely for an EDC scratch, but I didn't want to experiment on someone's precious McGizmo! I took the left side of the top of this Ti block all the way from 240 to 600 grit plus the buffing/shine final step of the nail polish board. I didn't get the deep scratches completely out. But for the record I wasn't trying to do this. I could have if I had started with a courser grit than 240, or if I had spent longer working the 240 and 320 grits, but I only worked until I got out the size tool marks that were about what EDC scratches would be. Here are a couple pics with the worked side on the left, and unworked side on the right:

remint-ti-block-1.jpg


remint-ti-block-2.jpg


Once I had the method down, I moved onto working on Joseph Milton's light. Except it wasn't his LS20. Someone bought that before I had a chance to PM Joseph with my idea and my proposal. He hadn't updated his sales thread yet, but when I messaged him, the light was, in fact, already sold. However, he fortunately had a LunaSol 27 which was just as beat up and which he would be happy to lend to me to see what I could do with it. I was thrilled. I had always wanted to see a LunaSol 27 in person, and here was my chance. And, true to his word, the LS27 was every bit as beat up as the LS20. Let's take a look!

BEFORE

remint-before-01.jpg


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THE METHOD

OK. So, the first thing I did was take the light apart and give it a thorough cleaning and lubing with Krytox 50/50. I also replaced the piston and head o-rings (but not the window o-ring), and lightly sanded the contact end of the kilroy spring with fine grit sandpaper. I then reassembled the light, but left the clip off. I did this because I did not want any of the sanding residue or grit to find its way inside the flashlight, and so I relied on the integrity of the o-ring seals to prevent this. That, and, well, there's very little residue anyway, and most of it I just blew off as I went, so it probably would have been fine anyway. But I didn't want to take any chances, and neither should you. So I recommend working on a fully assembled light. Plus, this will also protect the kilroy spring from getting damaged or bent.

Next, I started in on the body of the light. I cut the 400 grit sandpaper into the appropriate width for the section of light that I was working on. Just put a metal ruler along one edge of the sandpaper, at the desired inset to give you the width you want. Then hold firmly and draw a utility knife or razor blade along the ruler to cut off a nice uniform width of sandpaper. Here you can see a sequence of shots of a very narrow strip for the recessed rings towards the tail at the grip section being pulled down to sand inside these rings:

remint-narrow-1.jpg


remint-narrow-2.jpg


remint-narrow-3.jpg


remint-narrow-4.jpg


And here a super-wide strip for the raised rings in that same section--faster to do them all at once:

remint-wide-1.jpg


You don't need a lot of pressure (and the narrow strips will break if you apply too much), and it's best to take your time, especially at first. Get a feel for how much of an effect you are having. Get a feel for pulling the strip around the body of the light, and how much to rotate between pulls to guarantee good coverage. Work under a bright light so you can see the progress and results. You can use the rounded-arc section geometry to guarantee that pressure is applied and abrasion happens, or you can use your finger pad to push down on the section where you want the sanding to happen. This is especially useful for bad scuffs and dents that you want to give a little extra attention to. And also at the head or inside the back of the tail section.

Certain beveled edges are going to present a lot of difficulty. It's very much like the difficulty of keeping an even bevel on a knife edge which is being sharpening by hand. My only advice is to work slowly and carefully and always err on the side of doing less. The 400 and 600 grits used here will take some time to do any significant rounding to an edge, but they will eventually do some unwanted rounding. So, be careful and work slowly. I put the light tail down on the full sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface at the approximate angle (45 degrees or so), then by feel and by eye made sure that the bevel of the light was flat against the sandpaper surface, then rotated the light slowly while keeping the angle correct by eye. Then repeat. Slow and time consuming, but useful in helping not to just sand the edges. And despite all this, sand the edges a bit I did. However, because it was 400 grit paper, there was no harm done.

The very back of the tail can be done the same way but it's so much easier as you can just stand the light on its tail and slowly rotate it on the sandpaper sheet. Just make sure that the sandpaper is on a flat surface, of course. And constantly check your progress. And resist the urge to push down too hard.

And do NOT try to sand the piston nub! You will only scuff up the tritium vial! And you do NOT want to do that. Plus, that nub is recessed inside the tail flare of the body of the light and so doesn't get scratched much anyway. Leave it well alone!

Also resist the urge to try to sand the tear-drops on the head. Again they don't get scratched up anyway, and they would be devilishly difficult to sand, I think.

And finally, I would say the same goes for the inside bevel at the head of the light, where the retaining o-ring lives. Just leave it alone. You'll only scuff the o-ring or scratch the lens. And this bevel is also just plain hard to scratch, so it likely already looks about as good as the rest of the light will look when you finish with it.

Always work with the "grain" of the light--i.e. radially along the cylinder, with the lathe marks.

I would say to work more with the 400 grit than the 600 grit, but that's personal preference. In fact, for Joseph Milton's LS27 shown here, I didn't use 600 grit at all because I wanted a bit more grippy-ness and because it helped hide the scratches a bit better.

Now, the nail buffer is used for feel more than for looks. Go to town on this thing, if you want. You can't do any harm with it. Buff away, then run your finger over the area. Do this until you like what you feel. It takes the edges off the sandpaper marks and also adds a bit of shine. If you do too much, just hit the area again with the 600 grit sandpaper and start again.

All in all, start to finish, including the cleaning and lubing, I spent about 6 hours on Joseph's LunaSol. (I also felt that his clip really needed to be replaced, and so what you see here is a brand new clip, along with the refinished light.) And here is the result:

AFTER

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FINAL WORDS

So, what can I say? Titanium is freaking awesome! I was super pleased with how Joseph's light came out. Certainly it's not perfect. Certainly there are some marks left. But also just as certainly it looks a heck of a lot better than it did before. (And keep in mind that these pictures are in direct sunlight--the least flattering light with which to photograph a titanium flashlight.) With a minimum of time and effort and tools and technique I was able to greatly improve the look and feel of his light. Personally, the way I use my lights and carry them means that I will probably never have to do this to one of my own McGizmo's, but it's really nice to know that if I did end up needing to touch up the finish of my lights, I now know how to do so. And so do you! It really works like a charm!

Please let me know if you have questions, comments, suggestions, etc. I'm happy to update this first post with additional tips and techniques and methods, or different (and better) ones. I know for a fact that I am not the only person to touch up the finish of a titanium flashlight. So, any thoughts and comments are welcome! Thanks for reading!
 

KITROBASKIN

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Thanks and very interesting. Do you know what kind of titanium was used to make that flashlight?

I have 3 different buffing sticks that I got from the local hardware store and a jewelry manufacturer wholesale supply, but for the final finish on my MBI HF that had been gouged on a brick floor, I used Turtle Wax Rubbing Compound for oxidized paint on cars. It is doubtful anyone can tell I refinished one face of the hexagonal head.

The jewelry maker store also had some very fine grit emery paper.
 

RedLED

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How about Scotch Brite pads? I have lightly touched mine up with the maroon and then the white.

What is your position on 3M Scotch Bright Pads?

Also, how much does it matter as long as you have removed the swirls?

And My journalist follow up question: does it really matter if we shine them up to a nice shine?

Your response anxiously anticipated by the flashlight press Corps.!

OTR, I can make them look new in less than 5 minutes!

--

###
 
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McGizmo

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Wow Jim! Quite a project and write up! I think one of the great merits with titanium is that you can do what you have done here or as an alternative, simply let it ride! :nana:
 

js

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Thanks and very interesting. Do you know what kind of titanium was used to make that flashlight?

I have 3 different buffing sticks that I got from the local hardware store and a jewelry manufacturer wholesale supply, but for the final finish on my MBI HF that had been gouged on a brick floor, I used Turtle Wax Rubbing Compound for oxidized paint on cars. It is doubtful anyone can tell I refinished one face of the hexagonal head.

The jewelry maker store also had some very fine grit emery paper.

Yes. I believe all of Don's lights for some time now have been made with Ti 6Al-4V. (Don please correct me if I'm wrong!) This is the most common alloy of titanium and is pretty much the "workhorse" Ti metal. Commercially Pure titanium (CP Ti) is actually more difficult to machine, despite being softer, if memory serves. Don started using CP Ti, but at the suggestion (insistence?) of the machine shop, he switched to 6-4. If memory serves, it is better in pretty much every way except electrical conductivity, which is slightly worse than pure Ti, but not significantly worse for our purposes in the flashlight world.

How about Scotch Brite pads? I have lightly touched mine up with the maroon and then the white.

What is your position on 3M Scotch Bright Pads?

Also, how much does it matter as long as you have removed the swirls?

And My journalist follow up question: does it really matter if we shine them up to a nice shine?

Your response anxiously anticipated by the flashlight press Corps.!

OTR, I can make them look new in less than 5 minutes!

--

###

Scotch bright pads are problematic in my experience because they are big and spongey and harder to control. You can't get them inside the small grooves, for example. And they will definitely round edges. And they aren't nearly as good at putting their scratches exactly in line with the existing lathe marks. If you're just polishing, then fine. They're on a par with steel wool, but less messy, in my opinion. So, that's a win. I use them myself in various situations. But never on a Ti light. Because I don't want to just remove the swirls and I don't want to polish the light. I want to simulate the machining lines because they are already there in many areas of even a very scratched up light, and because I really like the way they look, and more importantly, they way they feel.

If you want to shine up your light, then by all means, go to town! And definitely use polishing compounds or products! They really work well to shine up even bead blasted items. But it's not what I was going for here.

Wow Jim! Quite a project and write up! I think one of the great merits with titanium is that you can do what you have done here or as an alternative, simply let it ride! :nana:

Absolutely! I have simply let all of my lights "ride" and love the look. I wandered into this territory when my LunaSol 20 bezel had some sharp edges that were bothering my hand. Admittedly, I was fondling the thing like 24/7 right after I got it as I was so happy to have a LunaSol20 again! LOL! But the edges where the rounded cutouts were in the bezel (that let light out when the flashlight is face down on a surface)--where those cutouts met the side of the light--they were deep enough that they met at a 90 degree angle--those edges were sharp. So I carefully touched them up with 600 grit sandpaper and then wanted them just a bit smoother now that they were just a bit rounder. Hence the nail buffing board, which worked really well, to my great surprise. Then I used the same method to remove a scuff on my Haiku. More out of curiosity than because it bothered me. And it worked really well.

Point is, I love the look of a gently used Ti light. Titanium just looks good. It's really awesome in so many ways. But, when a light is really badly scratched up, my opinion changes. I feel at that point the scratches don't add up to a patina, but just make the light look like a beater. So . . . hence this project. :)
 

Str8stroke

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Really neat. I like using mine Ti gear and like the usage they show. Not being being a creative person or having any art skills, its my way of making art! :0 It would be cool if you had a direct before & after photo side by side.

Footnote: I have used ceramic knife sharpening rods to smooth out sharp edges on titanium & stainless. Works well. Never gotten as deep in as you did. But sure looks like a little elbow grease pays off.

Informative post.
 

RedLED

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I have always used little presser and also little time just to remove some of the scratches. The maroon Scotch a Brite pads I just use very lightly, kind of a once over and the white would never do any damage to the edges. I really dont use compounds on them. This usually takes about a minute and they look very nice and clean.

After comparing a quick cleanup with a maroon or gray Brite pad, to a McGizmo I do not carry, I can feel the lines from the tooling, and I always cut the pads them to match the area I am working, and again I spend just enough time to get it back to as stock as possible. I do not think it is a good idea to spend much time going over and over them. Just enough to take the large marks away.

Keeping them in your pocket daily will by default shine them up to some degree.

The clips never seem to need anything, so I leave them alone, however they must come off to do any kind of good reconditioning.

And, the Thorpe MIP is an absolute requirement even if you own only one McGizmo!
 
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js

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snip-- It would be cool if you had a direct before & after photo side by side. --snip

These two are close to the same. Let's try them:

remint-before-02.jpg
remint-after-05.jpg


I definitely want to stress again that the flashlight looked a LOT better than this in normal lighting conditions. Joseph Milton will eventually drop by this thread and he can give you his own subjective before and after assessment. But, in my own subjective opinion, the differences between before and after are greater than what these pictures show, since the large scratches show up in normal lighting, but the small ones don't, in normal lighting the flashlight still looked pretty beat up before, but after it looked quite good. Since direct sunlight shows all the small scratches, there seems to be less of a difference before vs. after.

Anyway, hope these two pics close to each other makes a before and after comparison easier!
 
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eala

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Never thought a McGizmo restoration service would pop up here... good work. These really are lights for life. One of the things I love about them.

eala
 

js

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Str8stroke,

Thanks!

eala,

Well, I definitely wouldn't call this a "restoration service"! I'm not going to do this for money for anyone! I only did it this once as proof of concept and for fun and to share with others. To my mind, it is more evidence of exactly what you say: these really are lights for life. But I'm definitely not offering a service! Just thought I'd post that for the record, just in case.
 
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persco

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What a great thread. Thanks for putting the effort and time into this. The light looks great. I actually also think it looked pretty good before the restoration. My Haiku looks like Joseph's LS27. It's been through a lot of carry and use. I've used scotchbrite on titanium lights to gently remove surface scratches and it works great, but is much harder to contrl than strips of sandpaper. I might try your method and bring my McGizmos back to original splendor. Awesome!
 

RedLED

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Never thought a McGizmo restoration service would pop up here... good work. These really are lights for life. One of the things I love about them.

eala

He did post wonderful instructions for doing this procedure which I think is a good way to go about making them look about as close to new as you can get. If you just want to clean the scratches a Scotch Brite in maroon with little pressure placed on it works, but not as detailed overall as JS's procedure because he is also going for the feel.
 

gonefishing

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This post inspired me to take a crack at the gouges in my Mac that I bought off here. There were pretty deep and were way more than scratches.

I used 800 grit first and wrapped it around a pencil since I just wanted to concentrate on the one area. I used a dab of Fitz metal polish and went to work. Once I was satisfied with how it looked I went to 1000 grit and did the same.

Next I wrapped the whole head in 1000 grit, held the body and twisted the head as if I was tightening it. This helped even out the sanding marks.

Lastly, I used 12000 grit from a fountain pen nib smoothing kit and did the same as above.

Overall I was very pleased with the results. The gouges are not completely gone, but they are hardly noticeable. So much so that I can't get a good pic!
 

nbp

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Great post, as always, Jim. :thumbsup:

I personally like the patina of use and the pocketwashed finish, but I certainly can appreciate the beauty of a fresh from the box look and feel of a brand new McGizmo. I have received several of my components straight from Don and when they come they do look fantastic!!
 

js

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So I guess Mr Milton never dropped in on this thread! LOL! Ah well, no problem.

Anyway, it kind of dawned on me recently that I haven't stressed enough the main point of this thread. I present a certain method and the philosophy behind it, of course, and others chimed in with their methods, and I maybe didn't stress enough that this is the point! That there are MANY methods, and the point is that you CAN re-surface and re-pair and work a titanium light like this! Which is so, so cool! Got too many scratches? No worries, there are things you can do! Got a bad ding? Never fear, there's stuff you can try. Titanium is just awesome this way. So no matter what you're approach and philosophy--use a 3M pad, use metal polish, use strips of fine sandpaper, don't do anything at all and appreciate the patina--it all goes to show how great titanium is for making flashlights (among other things!)
 
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