Introduction: Kydex Flashlight Holster
Everyday carrying a flashlight has become an essential habit for many people. Carrying a flashlight with the detachable belt clip sometimes isn't the most secure method because a bump into the wall may earn the light hard drop onto concrete. With a holster, the problem is eliminated-however, most holsters on the market are made for "duty use" which means they protrude out a lot more than necessary for the average low key EDC type of use. Other holsters, Nylon holsters, are often included in the purchase of these lights but are loud to open (Velcro) and slow to access when a "fast draw" is needed.
Introducing the custom made Kydex Flashlight Holster. It can be made to your own specifications to match your specific needs. Kydex is a theromplastic material that comes in the form of sheets. In a nutshell, it is a plastic that can be heated up and manipulated to the user's needs. Often used for firearm and knife holsters, this material is well known for its durability and ease of forming.
This instructable will teach the basics of working the kydex into the desired shape and adding the components to make it a versatile flashlight holster. This particular holster is made for the Nitecore P10 flashlight.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
Purchasing of the materials is relatively easy through use of the internet and local hardware stores. Total material cost is around $20. I acquired the Kydex from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2014 Expo where Kydex Thermoplstics had a booth with two very nice people who vacuum molded the Kydex to the shape of my flashlight, creating a high quality mold. In total, I spent around $40 on tools/parts purchases to complete the project.
-Belt Clips (5/32" diameter hole)
(I chose these belt clips versus other clip designs because it offers versatility for both belted and belt-less applications-ie. sports pants with no belt and pants with a belt)
-Rotary Tool with various attachments including the cut-off wheel, sanding drum wheel, and polishing cloth wheel
-Drill & Drill Bits (5/32")
Optional: Tissue Box/Cardboard and Binder Clips for making a "test" model. (See next step)
Step 2: Creating Prototype Holsters
A prototype holster is necessary to test holster dimensions and to test the fit against the body. To make these prototype holsters, I used cardboard and tissue box paper. Below, I’ve listed sub-steps on how to create these.
1. Size the tissue box/cardboard to be used. A single piece deign is the strongest in this case, so measure accordingly. *For this purpose, we will refer to the cardboard/tissue box materials as “cardboard.”
2. Once holster shape and type is determined, cut out a general shape and soak the piece in water until it is easily pliable. Take the flashlight and mold the cardboard around the flashlight into the desired shape.
3. Remove the flashlight while keeping the cardboard in the molded form.
4. Use a heat gun on low mode to dry the cardboard enough to where it will not deform during the rest of the air drying process. Do not over dry with the heat gun because you may catch it on fire instead.
5. Staple the open flaps together and with the flashlight in the holster, staple the sides by the flashlight to hold in the flashlight. After stapling the cardboard, then remove the flashlight.
6. After a night of drying, the cardboard holster is ready to use. Place the holster against your hip in the desired location. Next take two medium sized binder clips and clip the flashlight to the belt on either side. Remove the clip “handles” from both clips and test out the holster for a day or two.
7. Figure out the best configuration for your needs and then proceed to creating the real holster.
*For this particular holster, I wanted to have something that was low profile, with the flashlight placed close on the hip, hence the wider shape and two clip mounting points versus a single clip design.
Step 3: Forming the Holster
My Kydex Sheet was already vacuum-molded by some generous people from KYDEX Thermoplastics so it had a pretty tight fit and texture. If a vacuum mold is not available, use the “toaster oven” method as detailed in this Youtube video made by user: Kozak Ivan.
Using only a heat gun to mold the Kydex sheet is a difficult process because of uneven heating. I would highly suggest using the toaster oven method with a convection oven not used for food processing.
Before beginning the molding process, mark how much spacing is required to fold the bottom half of the Kydex up to form the backing.
Next, heat the area to be folded over using the heat gun on the low setting. Based on experience from other Kydex formers, using the heat gun on the high setting is too hot and will melt the Kydex instead of making it pliable. Once the Kydex becomes pliable, fold the backing over.
Step 4: Marking and Drilling the Holes
Once the flat sheet is molded, use a pencil to mark the areas where the eyelets will go on the front side, except for the eyelet that holds the clip in place-mark the backing for that one. I used an array of 4 eyelets per side with 3 providing the tension and support for the light itself (see images for references). Make sure to press the drill tightly against the Kydex so it does not slip.
Also find the positioning for the clips and mark the areas to be slit.
Use the rotary tool with the mandrel cutting disc to create the slits for the clips.
Step 5: Installing Eyelets and Clips
After the holes are drilled, place the eyelets and the clips in the drilled holes. Then, take the eyelet press/pliers and clamp the eyelets together. I suggest not using self-backed eyelets because they can scratch the belt when clipping the holster on and taking it off. Eyelets presses are easier to use because the pliers cannot reach far enough.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Now, it is time to cut the shape of the holster out. Using a pair of touch shears, possibly medical shears, cut the outline out and the excess pieces.
After that, take the rotary tool with the sanding drum wheels and smooth out the rough cut edges. Once the edges are smooth enough, take the polishing cloth wheel and make the edges even smoother.
The last step is to heat up the back of the holster (the clip side), and then curve it slightly to more closely match the curvature of your hips. But, make sure to not curve it to the exactly curvature of the hip. Leaving the holster slightly less curved than the curvature of the hip creates tension upon the flashlight to grip it more tightly in place when it is attached to a belt that forces the curve.
Step 7: Conclusion
For me, the search for the perfect flashlight holster was over. The holster can be clipped onto workout shorts or any belt with up to a 1.75” width. Now, there’s no more dealing with flashlight clips that may either fall off or break causing the light to be damaged.
Conventional flashlight holsters made for duty wear are very bulky and protrude from under the shirt. This flashlight holster keeps the light against the hip for quick access without sacrificing the secureness or the clothing choice while working out or doing high motion activities while having the holster ride comfortable along the side of the hip.