Introduction: Altoids 27 LED Super Light (under $5)
I had made some Altoids flashlights for my kids and they loved them. However, I found them to be rather expensive to build after running to Radio Shack and buying all the parts. Then I figured out a way to make this "Super Light", with 27 LEDs, lenses over the LEDs, a 3 position push button switch, reflectors for the LEDs and I only had to purchase 2 things to do it. And the whole thing cost me less than $5 when you don't include the electrical tape, wire, hot glue, and solder (these are all things I keep on hand for making stuff anyways). Even the 3 LEDs in the front are brighter than the 4 led array in my original flashlights due to the built in reflector. Honestly, this was almost easier to build than the models I built before. And the biggest bonus is the fact that the cost was less than half and it's more functional.
(A friend borrowed my dremel and hasn't given it back so I was only able to do the pics up to the point of cutting the tin. As soon as I get it back, I'll finish adding picks to all the steps.)
Step 1: Materials:
1. Empty ALTOIDS tin (or similar mint tin) $1-2
2. 27 LED worklight / flashlight from Harbor Freight Tools (Item#67227) $3
Step 2: Tools and Supplies
- Phillips screwdriver
- Soldering iron and solder
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Approximately 24" of braided (not solid core) insulated wire
- 1 sheet of paper
- Pen or pencil
- Sharpie or other permanent marker
- Clear tape
- Wire strippers
- Wire cutters
- Tin snips
- Dremel or other rotary cutting tool
- Electrical tape
Step 3: Disassemble the Light
- Remove the 3 Phillips head screws from the back and remove the back plate. You may now discard the plate, but you may want to save the magnet for a later project.
- Pull out the batteries (hopefully you made sure they were charged before you paid)
- Remove the 4 Phillips head screws holding the center housing and top together.
- Remove the top plate - do not discard yet!
- Remove the lens and power button cover from the top plate.
- Remove the reflector shield from the LED array.
- Remove the 2 Phillips head screws holding the circuit board down to the middle housing.
- Carefully separate the circuit board from the housing (there are 4 wires that it is still attached to)
- On the back of the battery holder, the polarity of the wires are labeled. Follow these wires back to the board, and using your Sharpie, mark the positive and negative wires. You may now snip them.
- Carefully, lift/pry the front array out of the housing. It's easier to pull it straight up with the reflector still attached to the LEDs
- Mark one of the wires on the array with your Sharpie, and then mark the same one on the main board. This way you don't mix up their polarity later. You may now snip the wires.
- Remove the front lens from the housing.
- You now have all the parts needed to begin the construction.
Step 4: Prepare the Battery Holder
1. Use the dremel or Dykes to remove all the excess plastic from the battery holder
2. Flip over the battery holder and bend the tabs of the battery connectors so that they may be removed.
3. Pull out each connector, flip them over, and reinsert the connectors so that the tabs are on the battery side of the holder.
4. Desolder the wires from the tabs and your battery is ready.
Step 5: Templates for the Lenses and Button
1. If you have not done so already, remove the reflector from the front LED array.
2. Place the front array reflector and top array reflector on a sheet of paper facing up, and the black rubber button cover facing down.
3. Trace around each one.
4. Cut out the templates.
5. Now use the front plate as a guide to help you line up the templates for the large lens and the power button on the lid.
6. Carefully remove the front cover and use clear tape to secure the templates to the tin. If they move, start over with the front cover. Apply tape all the way around the templates. You do not want them to move at all while you are cutting.
7. Center The front array template on the same end as the power button. Be sure the lid is closed while you are doing this. Tape it down.
Step 6: Cut the Holes
Now it's time to cut the holes out. This can be done with the tin snips or the rotary tool. I highly recommend the rotary tool. The first one I made was with tin snips, and while it came out ok, I struggled with bending the tin and over cutting the holes. Remember... ALWAYS CUT SMALLER. You can always cut more away but you can never put it back. Make sure and test fit the board, large reflector, and power button cover before moving on to the next step.
Step 7: The Lid
1. Put a bead of hot glue around the bottom of the lip of the large reflector and insert it into the large hole in the lid.
2. Put a bead of hot glue around the top of the lip of the button cover and insert it through the bottom of the lid.
3. Put a bead of hot glue around the bottom rim of the large lens and center it on the lip of the large reflector.
Step 8: Installing the Main Board
1. You probably still have wires coming off the board from the batteries and front array. Now is the time to Desolder those.
2. With the 4 wires now removed, insert the main board through the holes in the reflector.
3. Secure the board in the lid with a good amount of hot glue around the perimeter. Don't go all the way to the edges of the lid or your tin won't close when you're done.
Step 9: Wiring Up the Front Array
The original design of the flashlight had the batteries in the back. Now the batteries are inside and will be located below the board. For this reason, we have to make all the wires longer to allow the tin to open so that we can get to the batteries in their relocated position.
1. Place the front array in the hole in the front of the tin (don't glue it in yet)
2. Now with the tin open, measure the length of wires necessary to run along the lid and down to the front array. Cut those lengths.
3. If you haven't done so already, Desolder the old wires from the front array now.
4. Strip the ends of your new lengths of wire to prepare them for Soldering. Tin the ends once you have stripped them to prevent fraying and make connecting them to the boards easier.
5. Remember how you marked one of the wires before? Go ahead and solder the marked location wire to both the array, and then the marked location of the main board on the other end.
6. Solder the unmarked array wire next in the same fashion.
Step 10: Installing the Front Array
1. Run a small bead of hot glue around the back edge of the lens and glue it to the front of the reflector.
2. Insert the lens reflector assembly into the hole in the front of the tin but no further than the seam of the lens and reflector. This will help to keep the lens from getting knocked off later.
3. Hot glue it in place from the inside of the tin.
4. Insert the array into the holes of the reflector. Double check the lengths of your wire. You will not want an excess of wires as there will be very little room between the batteries and the main board.
5. Glue the array in place. Use a generous amount. I also recommend gluing the wires to the bottom of the tin and the lid and leaving the wire free around the hinge area. This will help ensure that your wires stay neat and don't bind up when opening and closing the tin.
Step 11: Insulate
Take 2 pieces of electrical tape and place them on the long sides on the inside of the tin. Tin will help prevent the battery connections from shorting against the inside of the tin.
Step 12: Battery Holder
1. Make note of the positive and negative lead locations as indicated on the bottom of the holder.
2. As with the front array measure the wires for the leads. If you place the holder width ways in the tin, and all the way up to the front array, you can have a pretty good sized storage compartment left over. Make sure that you run the wires along the sides of the holder and along your lid, again allowing enough length that it will open and close properly once they are glued down.
3. Strip and tin the ends of your wires.
4. Solder positive on the holder to the positive location you marked on the board and the negative of the holder to the negative location marked on the board.
5. Before securing the holder in the tin, bend the wire terminals back over the top edge of the battery holder to prevent them from coming into contact with the main board when the tin is closed.
6. Place the battery holder in the tin and secure it with a liberal amount of hot glue. I also recommend putting hot glue over the tabs you bent over, to prevent the battery connectors from popping out when you change batteries.
Step 13: You're Done!
Insert your batteries, close the lid, and enjoy! Click the power button once to turn on the 3 super bright LEDs on the front. Click the button again to turn them off. Click it a 3rd time to turn on the 24 LED array in the lid. Click again to turn them off.
Now that you are done, I would love to see your spin on this light. Maybe replace the alkalines with rechargeable batteries and add a charging circuit? Put solar cells in the extra space? (I've been thinking about it since I have some that would fit from some garden lights) Maybe add another battery pack in parallel to double the battery life?
If you make one, send me pics! If you improve it, I'd love to know how.