How do you get started in modding

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s1mp13m4n
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How do you get started in modding

Hello everyone.  I see that some folks here like to do the flashlight modding thing.  What does that mean?  How would a total newbie get started in the hobby of modding?  I do not own a dremmel tool or a lathe or a grinder, etc.  I am not saying that I am going to mod, but would like to learn the basics of how it is done, what is done, and what it all means.  Smile 

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trooplewis
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I've gotta learn to solder, I think that is the first step. Then I can fix some of the stuff I break, or get better connections than what came from the factory.

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

s1mp13m4n
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solder? seriously?  I want to learn to do this but somehow have to be able to see such small things.  Can the members of this forum do that for me?  LOL  Smile  I am not sure if my 10x reading glasses would help me or not.....do not know unless you try I guess.  LOL  Smile

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brted
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These things are tiny, but if you can magnify them and light the work well enough you can probably do it. If you want to put a new LED or driver into a light, you pretty much need to be able to solder tiny parts. Doing the stuff Match does with lathes and whatnot is beyond the scope of what I can do.

Foy
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+1 on learning to solder.  I have two dead drop-ins with cracked/separated connections.  My wife bought me a small soldering kit and I just haven't had a chance to take the plunge.  Like anything else; won't be a big deal after you do it a few times.

lowerbackpainFoy

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s1mp13m4n
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so it looks like you must know how to solder to mod.  Well I will just have to try.  My cousin has a soldering station and maybe I can learn from him.  He is a mechanic for a living, not an electronics guy if that makes any difference.  I am thinking that he does not do very small items like we are typing about here.

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old4570
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You need to learn how to take things appart ..

Then put them back together ..

Soldering is easy , the electrics is usually easy , + and -   ...  

It may look hard , but its not .  

 Always remember , the easiest thing in the world to do , is to expel hot air from your lungs and through some vocal chords ..
The resulting sound may , or may not be worth listening too ….

 

Fightin14
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Luckily I can solder, just not sure if i am proficient enough to tackle things this small.
trooplewis
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Flashlight Foy wrote:

+1 on learning to solder.  I have two dead drop-ins with cracked/separated connections.  My wife bought me a small soldering kit and I just haven't had a chance to take the plunge.  Like anything else; won't be a big deal after you do it a few times.

lowerbackpainFoy

 

And that is the reason that if you are a LEO, you want to pay the extra bucks for a Nailbender drop-in.

There is a difference between a casual hobby flashlight and one that your life (or someone else's life) depends on.

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

jamesearljonesi...
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Its a good start to know the basics like taking the lights apart and putting them back together like old said. Its also good to get an idea what LED and driver you'll be working with and their max voltages and amperages. soldering the contact springs and switches would be a good start. some of these lights that we get don't have really good solder joints. going over it with some extra solder might help with possible future problems. if its not shiny and it looks dull and sloppy theres a good chance that its a bad solder joint.

03/04/16 

 

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Match
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old4570 wrote:

You need to learn how to take things appart ..

Then put them back together ..

Soldering is easy , the electrics is usually easy , + and -   ...  

It may look hard , but its not .  

This. 

  The Biggest hangup to basic modding is fear of ruining the light.  Best thing to do to get started is take the cheapest light you own, and pretend you just threw it away.  Now that you've chalked it up as a loss in your mind, begin by completely tearing it down to its base components, then put it back together just as it was.  If it lights back up, success!  The rest of basic modding is merely parts substitution. 

  I only took my first light apart late last year... so this is a relatively new hobby for me as well.

s1mp13m4n
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This sounds like fun to me.  Smile  I will just have to find out if I can see something that small first of all and go from there.  Smile

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s1mp13m4n
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I am not normally hard on a light.  I can not even remember droping anything....not even those night stick Maglites.  However I am a bit nervious about a drop-in from Manafont being so cheap that if I ever do drop the light....it may not work any longer.  Again these are newbie concerns and may have no basis in fact at all.  Smile  I do want to learn to solder even if it is just general things and not tiny stuff like flashlights.  How far do you have to take down a light to see its guts?  I have a light that I feel I paid way to much for from the CPF marketplace.  Surefire 6P host with Overweady and McClicky parts in it and a Thrunite dropin.  I found CPF before this p[lace....anywhio back on topic.  How far do I take that light down to see just exactly what you guys are talking about and what I am in for if I learn modding?

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s1mp13m4n
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Just for giggles just to give you an idea about my eyes and such I took the drop-in out of my light and with my glasses could read Thrunite off the reflector of the drop-in.  I then figured out that the pill unscrews from the reflector.  I then tried to  see the LED and that is where things go down hill.  I saw this little tiny spec that was a different color than the rest of what I was holding and by feel could I tell that there was a dome over the top of the LED.  Now I think if I were to do any of this soldering I would need serious magnification beyond what I own.  LOL  How about this....why not send Match or Foy to my house and give me hands on training?  LOL

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JohnnyMac
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Excellent instructions on modding a mag, Bob! A mod that would be perfect for simpleman or anyone that finds soldering too challenging (or just wants an easy, effective mod).

On another note, modding cn be as simple as changing the tail switch boot to another color or installing a GITD o-ring as a lens  gasket. Modding can be as simole as that to manufacturing your own body components on a lathe. If you've done anything to a light to make it different than it was when you got it it then you are a modder already. Smile

Johnny

trooplewis
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Found a pretty good thread on soldering for beginners

http://laserpointerforums.com/f44/how-solder-properly-28001.html

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

janko.hrasko
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i knew how to solder (mostly) and had ugly donut hole with p7 in mte.. so i tried to swap it for an xm-l and it isn't pretty, but it works nicely

you'll find that replacing leds and drivers is easy and fun

but modding like match? that requires serious skills!

s1mp13m4n
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I pulled out my Looky which I use when I need stronger magnification than my glasses and even with that I still can not see the solder joints on the pill nor the lines in the LED like you see in those closeup macro pics.  Just FYI.  So maybe I will have to stick to those basic mods if I decide to do so.  Smile  That is ok and just fine, hey you have to learn somehow.  Here is that looky.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Looky-Color-Video-Magnifier-Battery/dp/B002NUV3Z6

 

No I did not buy this crazy overpriced item, the dept. for the blind did and I am thankful for that. 

Lights seen from the blind side

dorpmuller
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How did I start? CPF when I joined back in 03 when it was friendlier. I still use it for info on modding.

That, plus screwing up! Embarassed Learning by my mistakes. Best to practice on a junker light first and if you ruin it, so what? (I got good at my antique radio restoration hobby also but I won't tell you how many times I got knocked on my arse also!!)

I do not, and have never owned a lathe. Only access I have is to a bench grinder. Otherwise, I use all hand tools. Same fixed income boat as you so I still use the tools I had from before I had to quit work in 2004.

You can do it though... here's a plug for the mods I did. Needs to be bumped so others can see it anyway. Hand tools only.

The rush that you get when your mod lights up and works... nothing like it!

Start out simple, go slow, walk away immediately if you get frustrated and come back to it later, and learn the best time of day for you, when you feel the best. My best mods come at 3 in the morning; I'm a night guy. I do yoga to keep centered-nothing like it for me-so modding right after a yoga class is good, right after I've meditated and gotten in the 'zone.'

And don't listen to the rich guys on CPF that tell you to spend big bucks! Take what you need and leave the rest.

Rich

"I am the flashlight king! I can light anything!"

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s1mp13m4n wrote:

I pulled out my Looky which I use when I need stronger magnification than my glasses and even with that I still can not see the solder joints on the pill nor the lines in the LED like you see in those closeup macro pics.  Just FYI.  So maybe I will have to stick to those basic mods if I decide to do so.  Smile  That is ok and just fine, hey you have to learn somehow.  Here is that looky.

 

Neither can I. Not because of anything other than age-impaired vision. I used to be able to read the 1 point Flyspeck Sans font as printed on most motherboards (And their manuals), but now i can't. I often see things in my photographs which my naked eye had missed.

 

A good scanner can be useful for seeing stuff my eyes can't. You can then magnify it to a suitable size.

 

A couple of weeks ago I managed to repair a watch - the local jeweller had quoted a week's pay to fix it. The parts cost about an hour's pay.

 

And the 6 hours it took me to fix it - but it was a learning experience. I was still ahead of what the jeweller wanted to do the same job by about 30 hours' pay.

 

My first mod was on a (By the standards of the time) cheap light (I paid something like $40 for it) I'd broken. 6 years later it still works even if it is rather dim by today's standards. I own single AAA lights that are brighter.

 

The numbers from my light tests are always to be found here.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ApkFM37n_QnRdDU5MDNzOURjYllmZHI...

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" . . .why not send Match or Foy over . . ."

Match, not Foy.  I'm on about the same level as you, my friend.  Match is on a whooool 'nother level.

The only difference between me and you is I have almost no fear of ruining something I take apart.  (and I've got the resulting pile of destroyed stuff to prove it)  Breaking things seems to be a sub-hobby to every hobby I have.

crashbangboomFoy

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s1mp13m4n
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Flashlight Foy wrote:

" . . .why not send Match or Foy over . . ."

Match, not Foy.  I'm on about the same level as you, my friend.  Match is on a whooool 'nother level.

The only difference between me and you is I have almost no fear of ruining something I take apart.  (and I've got the resulting pile of destroyed stuff to prove it)  Breaking things seems to be a sub-hobby to every hobby I have.

crashbangboomFoy

LOL fair enough.  I do not have that kind of money to throw away.  LOL  Smile  Just kidding.  I do not do well with failure but if I am gonna learn to mod then you will have to mess up to learn.  I mainly keep things stock as in that setup...things normally just work.  LOL  Smile

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Just started modding flashlights myself.  I don't have a lathe either so anything professional looking like Match does is beyond me.

That said, there's still quite a lot of modding you can do with fairly ordinary tools.  Some tools I've used:

  1. learn how to solder - this is necessary for wiring up driver boards to emitters.  If you're concerned about not being able to see the tiny wires, you might want to purchase an illuminated magnifying arm lamp.  I'm using a cheap 15+ year-old radioshack soldering iron, with a cheap radioshack heatsink stand and a container of tip tinning compound.  I also have a desoldering vacuum pen thingy in case of accidents.  Works great. 
  2. Tweezers / needle nose pliers - very handing for unscrewing pills or switch mechanisms.
  3. File and vise - used to file down too-large drivers so they fit in the body of a flashlight.  I also used this is as a sloppy way to remove anodizing to improve heat transfer, and to file down the body of a telescoping light so that head could retract further into the body for a wider zoom and more compact light.
  4. thermal grease and possibly thermal epoxy - should be available at your local computer or electronics shop or you can buy online.
  5. Nyogel lubricant for o-rings and threads.
  6. Thin sheet metal - I use copper, brass and aluminum.  Available at local hobby shop or hardware store.
  7. Research - Flashlights aren't that complex and there's a lot you can do with them if you're creative.  If you're planning on modding a light, make sure to do your homework online.  Read up on what would be appropriate upgrades and what might be dangerous.  If you're planning on using Li-ion batteries make sure to thoroughly read up on their risks and limitations.
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Just today I turned a 17 lumen mini-maglite into an 800 lumen ultra floody XM-L beast using a soldering iron, a drill, and a hand file. I love modding! Thanks to Match for the excellent idea. 8)

s1mp13m4n
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That is just freakin' awesome, nice job.  Smile  I have a three D cell Maglight and I am thinking about getting the Fusion36 drop-in for it.  Then again I might be able to talk someone from this forum into doing a mod for me.  LOL  Just kidding.  Smile

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Budgeteer
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Well... you're bound to do some mistakes when you're learning the hobby. Practice makes perfect many elders used to say...

I had my share of mishapp's and learned alot from them. Creativity and a bit of MacGyverism are perfect companions.

Just start with the essential tools (solder, soldering iron/station, duct tape - lots of, thermal glue, pliers, tweezers...) and do a emitter swap first, then try a driver swap. Once you do taht and satisfied with the results only your immagination is your limit next...

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They're gonna send you a green redcat with a black LED.

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Budgeteer wrote:

Well... you're bound to do some mistakes when you're learning the hobby. Practice makes perfect many elders used to say...

I had my share of mishapp's and learned alot from them. Creativity and a bit of MacGyverism are perfect companions.

Just start with the essential tools (solder, soldering iron/station, duct tape - lots of, thermal glue, pliers, tweezers...) and do a emitter swap first, then try a driver swap. Once you do taht and satisfied with the results only your immagination is your limit next...

True, I just killed (dedomed) a Q5 emitter last week and I'm not really a beginner.....

s1mp13m4n
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OK it seems that soldering is just a must have.  So what does a beginner need to get started?  Which soldering iron/station, solder, tools, etc?  Can you get these items from our China sites and save money like we do on lights and knives?

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Oldienea
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I give you a list of what I use, but there will be probably other suggestions to come, from our modding professionals.

I use this iron:

http://www.dealextreme.com/p/heat-adjustable-60w-electronics-diy-solderi...

then you need solder, something like this:

http://www.dealextreme.com/p/1mm-1-meter-rosin-core-solder-16027

and some flux:

http://www.dealextreme.com/p/goot-super-soldering-flux-6502

and maybe something to remove solder, like that:

http://www.dealextreme.com/p/goot-wick-soldering-remover-1-5mm-x-1-5m-6252

and this soldering paste is not a must, but I find it useful:

http://www.dealextreme.com/p/lodestar-soldering-paste-50g-4711

Thats solder and flux in one. I use it for pre-tinning wires and solder points.

Ah, I forgot to mention I use also this, because I have a bad eyesight:

http://www.dealextreme.com/p/led-illuminated-cheaters-magnifier-with-3-m...

s1mp13m4n
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So all of that for around $25?  Not bad at all heck you would pay that alone for the soldering iron in a local store.  I thought you needed one of those "high end" soldering stations with temp control and stand and such.  Now lets say you were going to do 12-20 gauge car wiring, what solder size would be needed for that?  To solder in stereo connections in the car rather than taping them for example or replacing a damaged pigtail harness on the blower motor?

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My Weller WLC100 Soldering station was the best $50 I've spent. Soldering with a quality machine is SOOO much easier than all the crap cheapo soldering irons I've tried before. Makes me look like a pro!

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