Interested in starting to build my own lights, where to start, what to get?

So, thanks to Gearbests slow shipping and non-delivery issues Ive been starting to think about spending my money and time on making the lights I want and the way I want, if not always design wise, then 100% performance wise.

The way I see it, this modding and DIY lights making thing has matured over the years, now we can gazillions of modes, any frequency of PWM or none at all, many tints and LED's to choose from and so on!

I would like to know, n00b I am in modding or building my own lights with hosts, what should I need to start with?

Regarding tools - no machinery, everything will be hand made, the max I can do is solder(albeit poorly, still lots to learn) and use some saw and hammer and file :D!

So, what do I need to start putting guts into hosts and make them into kick ass throwers :D?

Lubricants? Contact cleaners? Arctic silver or similar paste/glue combo? Potting epoxy to make lights innards indestructible?

Just dump your list of parts and tools and, if its not a secret, some workflow, I suppose?

Being from Europe means that many of parts sellers are out of reach for me for shipping makes it too expensive to order from USA.

(I know there are lots of build and modding threads, not sure if general beginners thread? If so, feel free to simply post a link to it)

So to be clear, are you talking about modding existing flashlight hosts? Or are you talking about building everything from scratch?

For the latter, looking through the scratch-made light contest entries would be your best source. Other than that, I don’t know of many people that regularly make lights from scratch (other than the people with lathes).

For the former, there have been a few threads discussing this very thing, but I don’t know what terms you would use to search for it.

short list:

- soldering iron

- GOOD solder

- flux

- tweezers

- wire cutters

- retaining ring pliers

- helping hands/small vise

- wire

- led’s

- drivers/driver parts

- thermal compound/paste

- multimeter

- kapton/electrical tape

  • patience

longer list:

- solder paste

- something to reflow with

- make-shift or real power supply

- programming clip/programmer

- Hand files

- Rotary/Dremel tool

- power drill

  • exacto/scalpel/hobby knife

That’s almost the complete list of things I use.

Some people like to pot everything, but I don’t because I inevitably will want to change something later and don’t want the hassle of dealing with that mess.

I find this stuff useful:

(There are any number of products that do the same thing. Mine came from Xytronics.)

Reference for soldering iron:

I too am looking to get back to soldering for the purpose of modding/upgrading torches. Used to do lots of soldering in my younger days for projects but lost interest over time and now see the benefit of modding some of my lesser used flashlights to see what is possible. I have a good temperature controlled soldering station, but need to source some good solder. I’ve not messed around with reflow either.

I know it’s been discussed many times elsewhere but has anyone bought any decent solder and solder paste at a good price with minimal or nil international postage cost?

Few other things I find handy:

  1. a pick. Very helpful for lifting up stars from pills, or moving driver wires into position.

2. Good quality solder paste. Mountain Electronics sells this. Very often, this stuff is easier to use than regular solder. It’s also what you need to reflow LEDs.

3. A good light source so you can see what you’re working on. I prefer using a headlamp.

4. Needle-nosed pliers. Great for lifting off stars. Also works great for unscrewing pills and retaining rings. I also have Snap Ring pliers, but find my needle nose pliers do a better job.

5. A set of small scissors for cutting kapton tape and wire. I use the scissors from a Victorinox mini knife.

I have been having a dilemma of sorts lately. I have to come to terms with some of my skills not being good enough for soldering, I have butchered a few FET builds and my attempt at learning code and flashing is too steep right now for me to say I understand much. VERY frustrating for me, but I am taking it slow as a hobby, and some of it may never stick…

My conclusion for you as “noob”, stick with learning soldering, part swapping and BUY your drivers pre-flashed, your LED’s already on Noctigon or Sinkpad, and have some fun learning to swap out parts as well as learning about the tints and other things. At least for now, what you want to do will come to you as this progresses…

Stock up on small parts like LED bushings, O-rings, spare springs and the such. Pick the LED tint you think you will like, and then one random one as well, just to surprise you…

I have to say that MtnElectronics is my favorite US store for parts, I just checked the shipping for a driver and 16mm LED to Germany was $7.10, so it is an option and Richard makes top notch stuff…

As for Soldering stuff, I do not know if you can get canned butane in Europe, but I have been using a butane soldering iron, and it works for me. Similar to THIS one.

One of THESE is a very helpful part of good soldering as well, at least for me.

Good solder and flux should be able to be had locally, I do not even remember what kind I ordered. A good RC hobby store should have some near you.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out, looking forward to your first build.

(you cannot go wrong with a convoy triple for your first build…)

Here’s a tip when learning modding:

BUY EXTRAS of things like LEDs and Drivers.

Nothing puts the breaks on a mod like screwing up an LED or a driver and then having to stop for a month to wait for replacement parts to arrive. If it’s something relatively cheap buy spares. That way if you mess up, you can grab some spare parts and go right back to modding.

Always get spares. Always.

Good advices, lots of good stuff, thanks everyone!

I will be starting with simple lego projects, replace this, replace that, no coding, no reflowing, just replace some drivers, switches, LED stars and other ready made parts with max some small soldering here and there or filing off some excess metal, I dont need anything else right now, “only” legoing my lights the way I want to :)!

From the tools I have different kinds of pliers, soldering iron(simple one, no temp control), some soldering wire, paste(still have no idea whats the use of that transparent soldering paste?), screwdrivers, scissors, tweezers and some other stuff.

Have few NW XPG2 stars on order, now searching for green and red XPE2 16mm stars.

First thing Im gonna do is simple emitter swap in my headlamps.
Would like to replace emitter towards something more throwy on my EA8, but its built like a tank with lots of glue used so not sure if I want to try to mess its exterior while trying to unscrew the head :D!

While were at it, any good Chinese places to buy all this stuff at?

I got a lot of my modding tools from local retail shops, they were not more expensive than overseas seller and you have the stuff immediately. I needed many different items and couldn’t wait for all of them to arrive, it would take too much time.

Things like affordable soldering irons are at Hobbyking and their European or UK warehouses are both fast.

Im thinking more along the flashlight innard stuff like drivers, pads with LED’s, switches, lenses and so forth.
I guess lenses and reflectors arent a problem, every chinese flashlight retailer sells them togethter with switches and orings, but quality drivers and LED’s arent as widely available, especially if one is looking for some special drivers.
Thats at least my opinion.

The rest I can get locally, agree about that, even if paying few euros more, I have it all in my hands instantly or within 2 days while ordering from China is two weeks at best, usually a month.

What do you mean by “transparent soldering paste” ?
One of the main things that will make you love or hate modding is your soldering setup. If you use a terrible under/overheating iron and cheap or lead-free solder, you’re going to hate it immediately. I highly recommend getting a good soldering iron/station (~$35) and quality solder. Use the search box to find threads about recommended solder, but Kester and MG 63/37 are usually some of the best.

When you have replaced drivers/leds, etc, then you will have some spares to practice on.

I started out practicing re-flowing with old leds that I had blown, just to get the feel of it.

Rosin is that transparent stuff Im talking about :D!

Yeah, been using old iron and its far from perfect, have new one, but its simple also, so good soldering station is on my wishlist.


there are different kinds of flux, (including Rosin) and you can get it in solid or liquid form. Flux fights oxidation that happens when the metals get hot, and helps the solder to flow where it’s supposed to go. I personally use Kester liquid rosin flux. You don’t use it for everything, but sometimes it will save you a lot of frustration.

I see, will have to do more research, bought it together with soldering wire at the store a while ago and seller recommended to buy flux too, so I bought one :D!

i have bought lots of parts from but also some from

When you buy stuff from China eventually you will get an order that goes awry in some way. When that happens please do us all a favor and keep your cool. Keep track of paypal time limits and use it when needed. Buy from multiple sellers so your not stuck when they won’t sell to you unless you cancel a complaint ticket. Don’t be abusive to any CS reps, it doesn’t help and is bad for both you and them. Be patient, some things get resolved quickly, some don’t, and some never will. Don’t lose sleep over it. Some sellers have reps with accounts here that can facilitate returns/refunds/exchanges, etc. Language is often an issue and even if you think you are being clear things get misunderstood. Be patient and keep trying. I’ve had some orders go wrong from different vendors but in every single case they were eventually resolved.

Ive loaded some XPE’s on stars at FT, pitty that they only have green XPE2 bare, not on star.
Checked cnq, ios, ft, gb, looks like FT with its red and green XPE first gen and one blue XPE2 on starts are the way to go for now.

You will need to get some Noctogons in XP, XM, MT-G2, triple 20mm, and quad 32(these get the center led position drilled out for wires). I’d reccomend at least two of each in both 16 mm and 20 mm sizes. If you plan on doing larger hosts the look into the larger Maxtoch copper boards. For smaller lights look into XP and XM 10 mm Sinkpads. Definitely check out the new A6 driver with Toykeepers firmware. Also Dr Jones drivers are a great option for Europe. You might find 3tronics store helpful.