Easy-to-assemble and inexpensive first DIY light?

Awesome guys, thanks a ton! Just what I was hoping for. I do have a couple questions. First off, what defines a P60 or C8? Is it the size, threading, or what? What are some of the other types of hosts?

What is the difference between a smooth and an orange peel reflector? I would guess an OP has fewer artifacts and is more floody, is that about right? Answered while I wasn’t paying attention

What about these starter emitters? What’s the difference between an XM-L U2 and a T6, or some other ones? Is it the requirements from the driver and battery? What about practical differences in the light they emit?

Oh, and speaking of light, Is there a place I can go to see the differences in color between the frequencies? I am colorblind, so maybe it won’t help that much. Then again, being colorblind, I am a much better judge of light and dark, so maybe certain colors are better about that. And what does “tint/output bin” mean? Thanks Garry

Just from what I’ve read so far, it seems logical to start with a P60 (maybe even a C8?). Also, my hope to stick to one specific vendor was probably silly. However, it would be ideal to buy everything from one vendor, or maybe two. That way, I wouldn’t get 13 packages over the next 27 weeks from 5 vendors while I try to remember what the crap I was doing with all that stuff.

Thanks again guys. Keep the thoughts coming.

ETA: Pulsar, I may take you up on that offer in a couple days. I just had a wee bit of surgery so I’m going to keep my hands out of my wallet until my head levels out from these pain meds.

if youd like it more throw than flood, i would go with c8
with p60 the reflector screws on the pill, and then the drop in (pill, reflector, springs) goes in the the head and makes the electrical contact through the springs. with a c8 the pill screws in to the body of the host.

i think that p60 is more standardized than c8, but i may be wrong on that. i vaguely remember reading about some c8 pills wont work with others

a smooth reflector will throw better, but the beam wont be as uniform as with an orange peel reflector. an orange peel reflector will be a more uniform smooth beam

edit: to me, i would start with a c8. its just more practical in my eyes.

I would also suggest a c8 if you want throw…oh yeah I did :bigsmile:

The upgrade host I linked uses c8 reflectors, but has a deeper pill compared to a c8 pill. You can put one together with a nanjg driver and 16/20mm star in less than an hour. All the o-rings are standard c8 and the size is within c8 dimensions. It will out throw a p60 and over heating is much much less of a problem, intact, I think you’d burn the emitter up due to over current before you baked it due to heat.

There are other good hosts, but the c8 upgrade works well, practically puts itself together with the recommended parts and will give you pretty good throw. I do have my eye on some other thrower type set ups, but don’t want to recommend something I’ve not built myself as a first build.

The difference between a c8 and a p60 are a c8 has a 40mm reflector, 42mm lense. The p60 is, I think, 26mm reflector (lense size I don’t know). The p60 is easily edc-able the c8, more jacket sized. The p60 is a “drop in” format developed by surefire, we are now pushing them well beyond the design limits hence the overheating issue. The c8 was designed to take an led from the start. As said, there are many “interpretations” of the c8, I got lucky with mine, but can’t say who definitely carries a c8 that will take the available parts (pill mainly).

There are edc hosts available, but soldering into that little pill is tricky, I know as one was my first build :wink: and it won’t give you the throw you want.

If you do want a pocket thrower though, get a uf-v3 from t-mart and fit an xp-g2 in place of the xm-l. That is a real pocket thrower. :slight_smile:

Here's an example beamshot of a C8 vs. a P60 both driven at +/- 3.0A:

KD C8 (mouse out) and Fake L2 (Mouse over):

NOTE - This C8 has an light O.P. reflector and the P60 has a SMO reflector (SMO = better throw, more rings, O.P. = less rings, less throw more flood).


gords, the only fear I have with your list of supplies is the driver. How does adding chips to a driver work? Is it hard to do? For that matter, what do the chips I’m adding do? I think the driver is probably the biggest mystery to me. Again, I get that “it drives the light,” but I don’t fully understand how.

So, if I were to take Pulsar up on his host, I’d only be spending like $11 on an empty drop-in, driver and emitter? Is there something else I’d need for that? That seems too good to pass up. I could even add a fresh battery/charger to the list because…you know…you can’t have too many.

Alternatively, it sounds like a C8 really is more up my alley. And it doesn’t look like the price would be too much worse. I do plan to use it as an EDC, but I’m sure I can find a host that’s suitable for that (any suggestions?) — or make it work anyhow. I made the CZ-82 fit on my belt, so I’m sure I can do the same for a light if need be.

ETA: Garry, that’s awesome. Thanks so much for that comparison. I was wondering how much difference the OP made vs. smooth because I was thinking of that exact configuration for a smooth, throwy beam.

Forget adding chips for now! That's an "advanced" mod better saved for a later mod. They are difficult to do and I hear very easy to burn up the chips attempting to do it (unless you are familiar with advanced electronic work and soldering). I've yet to stack my own chips.

The AMC 7135 chips are current regulators. They come in two levels (at least for us flashlight guys) 350mA and 380mA. Take the number of AMC chips x their current rating and you get the high level of output (i.e. 7 x 350mA AMC 7135's = 7 x 350 = 2450mA (2.45A)). Drivers generally regulate current (current level through an LED is what determines it's output) and not voltage. The LED will pull the voltage it needs so long as the driver is matched up to the battery voltage supply (i.e. two 18650's = 8.4v, so you'd need an 8.4v compatible driver). Current regulated drivers (i.e. constant current) tend to be best as a general rule of thumb. Direct-drive drivers can be problems and even kill an LED. Many drivers are PWM controlled (any mode level below High as far as I understand). Basically the light is pulsed at a very high rate (some higher than others) in order to produce lower output. When you hear people say a light/driver has bad PWM it means one of two things or both, 1) they are more susceptible to noticing PWM, and/or 2) the PWM frequency of the driver is set very low. You can detect PWM many ways; my favorite is to shine the light into fan blades (i.e. a PC cooling fan works). Some guys even detect it by shining the light on their "stream" while doing #1. :) The common AMC based Nanjg drivers are current regulated on high with a very high PWM frequency for medium and low. To increase the current on an AMC based driver you can "stack chips". See this thread titled "Anatomy of a 7135 board".

Be sure to also review and bookmark Match's emitter tests which show lumens output at various current levels on different LED's. XM-L, XP-G & others here, XP-G2, XP-E2, & MT-G2 here.


EDIT - I'm not a pro, but the above information is to the best of my knowledge & understanding. Pro's can correct my information if they see I am wrong on something.

Hey Boris, I really worried about adding chips, till I tried it. Each chip adds 350 mA (milliamps) to the current permitted to the led. On a 6*7135 driver, there are two empty pre tinned pads. I tin the two outer bottom legs, the centre leg is the same as the tab on top, ground/heatsink, so I tin the top tab and leave the centre leg alone. Hold the chip in place with the tweezers, touch the iron to each point till the solder flows and your done. Try to be as quick as possible, with a clean solder tip. You’d probably be fine at 6*7135 to be honest, but its a nice opportunity to try it out. I found I was worried about nothing and now don’t worry about stacking additional chips.

Now. Think of the driver as a rev limiter. Different led’s have different accepted levels of current (revs) if you wire the led direct drive (no driver) the led will pull all it can from the battery (throttle jammed open) the driver, if you pick a current suitable to your selected led, acts to stop “over revving” as it will only allow what you have decided to let the led have as a maximum. This is current control. At this point there’s much more, but its better to pick that up as you go along.

As a rough guide :-

Xm-l - 3a
Xp-g/g2 - 2/2.5a
Xpe/xre 1.4a

These are the generally accepted levels for max current, there are many, me included who push these limits, because your talking an led lifetime of 100000 hours at the manufacturer rated current, even if you half it, a torch will still do years of service. There is a point where the led gives no more, in fact gives less light, but these levels are generally accepted as ok.

Have a read of some build/mod threads, you’ll soon get a feel for it, and pick up the terms, and don’t be affraid to start specific threads for specific questions, you’ll always get help.

Here’s a glut of links to have a go at.

That flashlight wiki is crazy helpful. I have a much better understanding of the emitters at least now. And I believe I get the driver thang too. That wasn’t so hard to figure out after all. You guys are making it really easy. And yes, I think I’ll save stacking chips for another day.

So, I’ve looked at the dimensions* of the C8 and it doesn’t seem too awful for EDC. I was looking for a host (and failing) and I came across this ebay listing: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tactical-300LM-CREE-Q5-LED-C8-Portable-Flashlight-18650-Torch-Lamp-5-Mode-/370690586147?pt=US_Flashlights&hash=item564ee17623

I don’t know a darn thing about its internals (except that it says Cree Q5), but is there any reason to suspect that, gutted, it wouldn’t at least work as a decent enough host for a first-timer? The whole thing is less expensive than any host I’ve found.

*Anybody else use iruler.net for a quick estimate on sizes? Very handy.

That looks like a generic C8 to me; it may be an okay host. Those cheap C8 lights may have plastic reflectors instead of aluminum. Another failure point is the cheap switches; some cheap hosts have switches that can't handle the higher current of of hard-driven XM-L. Decent looking price though. Might be fun. The XR-E emitter that comes in that one should give it a very tight beam and be very throwy out-of-the-box though... You might like it as it is...

If you are willing to buy from other sources; I really like this 504b P60 host from Manafont; It's has a smooth bezel, an anti-roll hex, and a recessed tailswitch that allows it to tailstand. I have encountered the switch issues when using high-powered drop-ins though:


This one is also a very good P60 host, and is extremely rugged. It's provides better heat-sinking than some of the other P60 hosts I've used:


If you do order from Manafont, get a tub of this soldering paste! It makes it very easy to tin emitter solder pads and wires. It has flux mixed in and a low melting point making it very easy to work with. I've had a lot of experience soldering, still use this extensively since it makes soldering so easy:


Next, get a good tackle box to store the parts and tools you are going to begin accumulating now that the flashlight bug has bit!


At that price, I’d just order it anyway, you’d struggle to buy an Xr-e for that. It will serve to tell you if you like the form factor, even if it turns out a bad bet for modding.

Better if you know what you are building suits your requirements till you have a better idea. Nice find :bigsmile:

Interesting. If I understand correctly, though, the XR-E is a lot lower-powered than an XM-L or even an XP-G2 running at similar amperage. The gears are beginning to turn here. I’m thinking I may get it, swap out the emitter for an XP-G2 (because the amperage would be similar enough that the switch shouldn’t fail, right?) and the reflector if it’s plastic (maybe even if it’s aluminum), and use the XR-E on something else later. Maybe something smaller. Just a quick thought, as I’m a little doped-up at the moment.

Either way, it looks like I’m going to renege on that “hand off wallet until head is clear” rule…

Generally speaking, an XR-E will be a better thrower because it has higher surface brightness and a tighter beam angle. An XR-E at 1A would outthrow an XM-L at 3A, even though the XM-L puts out much more light.

Lux vs. Lumens:

Lux = spot intensity at the brightest point in the center

Lumens = total light output across the entire area

XR-E = high-lux/low lumens

XM-L = low-lux/high lumens

Figures. Just when I thought I had it all figured out…

Ah well, I am enjoying reading all the charts and graphs and plain text info on all of this.

I went ahead and ordered that C8 on ebay. I mean, for $6? Come on, I had to. Almost ordered two (and may yet, and tell the wife I blame the meds) — one to keep and one to mod. Now I need to figure out the rest of my plan so I can dissect it when it arrives. That’s right. Even though it fits the bill, I want to take it apart and “fix” it. You know…if it ain’t broke, mod it till it almost is.

:bigsmile: that’s the spirit. :bigsmile:

Alright, so is there some way to tell this? Like, say I spot an emitter I haven’t read about before. Is there something in the specs which tells you it’s a better thrower or flooder? Or is it only by trial-and-error, and the efforts of people on this forum?

Seriously, I’ve learned soooo much in the span of the day here. It’s the best way I can imagine spending a day recouping. You guys are great, and that’s not the drugs talking. Well…not just the drugs at least. :wink:

There is a lot of information in this thread.

But if you have any questions about other specifics I didn't mention feel free to PM me. :)

Hey Pulsar, any chance you’d still be willing to part with that host? Since I went ahead with the generic C8, I wouldn’t expect the same deal (the helping me get started factor isn’t really there now), but I have to tell you that burnt orange is calling me. I’m already eyeing a P60 project anyhow, so I think it would be great (especially since I’m not totally sure I’ll actually change the C8).

So if you’re still willing to work with me on it, I’m interested. These pain meds really aren’t messing with my mind like I had hoped expected, so I’m not worried about making dumb decisions…but I am excited to start tinkering. If you’d rather not, no big deal. I’ll find another host.

Wow! You must have had that at the tips of your fingers, rojos!

Your post is worth a lot, to a lot more of us than just the OP!!

And now I’ll go back to reading and learning more from it!!

Thank you!


well… Funny story… Come to find out my fiance really, really liked that light and didn’t know I stripped parts out of it. I told her I was going to give it away, and her face dropped… So tomorrow I got to order parts to make it the best I can possibly make it for her.

But it’s not hard to do it yourself. Just take the pill, lens, all orings and switch assembly out and bake it in the oven, or use a torch. You can fade them like gords does. If you search m10 flame here you should find some info from gords.

I’m really sorry, but I didn’t know she actually liked any of my lights, especially my cheapest one

Hey, no worries! I actually think I developed a plan anyhow. I’m looking at a list of parts, all from fasttech. In fact, if anyone has any input, I’d appreciate it. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Host: http://www.fasttech.com/products/1601/10002463/1198400 (alternately available with a smooth reflector)

Emitter: http://www.fasttech.com/products/1609/10001903/1136801

Driver: http://www.fasttech.com/products/1612/10001683/1122302-8-amc7135-4-group-25-modes-led-flashlight-driver-c

Plus a couple batteries (http://www.fasttech.com/products/1420/10000377/1182401 maybe?) and a charger…because I still haven’t found mine after the recent move. Maybe even some spare silicone tailcaps.

Any idea how to tell what size that reflector is? Thought of trying out one of each (smooth and OP), for the sake of it. I dunno, not really sold on that host. Going to look around a bit more I think.

What else am I missing?

ETA: Just read all about baking/torching/heatgunning/wood-firing the anodized finishes. Friggen awesome. Thanks for that heads-up! This thread is so dang informative!

ETA: The idea behind this second light is: since I already bought the C8 with the XRE, and that’s supposed to be a dedicated thrower, I figured I’d contrast it with a dedicated flood, with a much warmer color to boot. Plus, I may not do anything to the C8, but I’ll actually have to put this one together. I’m thinking that’ll give me a good picture of the whole realm of possibilities.