To hack or not to hack - that is the question. There are so many useless (but beautiful) items out there that have no use anymore. It really is a shame to see them gathering dust on a shelf, or stuffed in a draw. Better me thinks to pull them apart, give them a new identity and revel in their je ne c'est quoi!
So to that end I present to you my most recent hack; an up-cycled vintage flashlight! I found the 2 in this ible' on eBay and got them for a steal. They have a great, vintage look, oodles of character and patina, and most importantly, have plenty of room inside...
So what did I do to make this an uber flashlight? I added a super bright cree LED, a 5v phone charger, and to top it up a solar panel to charge the 3 aa rechargeable batteries inside.
Check out the clip below to see it in action.
Note: after hacking the flashlight, I discovered that you can't charge iphones on it. This is because Apple are a bunch on money grabbing horders who don;t like to share their toys. Samsung on the other hand works perfectly.
Step 1: Things to Gather.
1. Vintage flashlight - eBay
2. 3 x AAA battery holder - eBay
3. 3 X AAA rechargeable batteries - eBay
4. Cree LED. I pulled mine from a LED headlight - eBay
5. Step-up power supply module - eBay
6. Schottky Diode - eBay
7. 5.5V solar panel - eBay
8. small, red led - eBay
9. resister - eBay
10. circuit board (strip board) - eBay
11. toggle switch - eBay
12. thin wire
13. Heat shrink
1. Soldering iron
4. Hot glue
5. Double sided tape
Step 2: Cleaning Your Flashlight
So now you've found the perfect flashlight there's a good chance that it's seen better days. The ones I purchased looked like they had been sitting on a shelf in a garage for 30 years!
1. The first thing I did was to give the whole flashlight a good clean. Use something which isn't too strong as you don;t want to remove any paint or damage the plastic or metal.
2. Next I carefully cleaned the lens and inside of the flashlight with a cotton bud. I couldn't remove the actual lens so it was a little tricky to get all of the corners
Step 3: Making the Holes
You will need to make 3 holes in the cowling of the flashlight, 2 round ones (easy) and a rectangle one (pretty easy).
1. Grab your drill and make a couple of holes in the top of the flashlight. One is for the switch and one is for the red LED
2. Next work out where the female USB end of the charger is to go. Once you have decided mark the area.
3. Drill 2 small holes at each end of the marked area.
4. With a dremel, carefully cut out the area marked. Take your time and keep on trying to push the USB end through. It needs to be a tight fit.
5. To clean up the hole, use some small files so smooth out the area.
6. Lastly push the USB in through the hole and attach the switch.
Step 4: Start Wiring - Charger and Battery Holder
My first version that I made I wired the charger and battery holder first, then made the holes to attach it to the flashlight. In the second one, I made the holes first and this worked a shed load better.
I have also added a schematic which should help with understanding the wiring.
1. hot glue the charger in place
2. Solder a wire to each of the solder points on the charger and attach the wires to a small piece of strip board.
3. Attach the positive wire from the battery holder to the positive solder point on the strip board.
4. Next solder on a diode as shown to the positive section on the strip board.
4. The negative wires will mostly be soldered onto one of the points on the switch. Solder the battery negative wire to one of the solder points on the switch.
5. Lastly solder a wire from the other solder point on the switch to the negative solder pint on the strip board.
You have now soldered the circuit for the charger!
Step 5: Start Wiring - Adding the LED's
The Cree LED I used was pulled from a head lamp. I used one of these as the initial one I used couldn't handle the 3.6V that I was pumping into it. It got so hot it melted the silver part of the flashlight! The head light LED as a rating of 4.5 V and works perfectly. Plus these as ridiculously cheap on eBay so why not just pull apart one.
1. Hot glue the LED into place on the flashlight.
2. Next Wire the negative wire from the LED to the negative solder point on the switch.
3. Attach the positive wire to one part of the original switch. My original switch was quite simple and worked by pushing down a piece of copper to connect to another one which was attached to the batteries.
4. lastly, you need to attach a wire to the other piece of copper and then to the positive point on the strip board.
Adding the red indicator LED isn't really necessary but I wanted a visual on when the charger was turned on.
1. Add the negative leg to the middle pin on the switch
2. On the other leg attach a resister and attach this to the positive point on the strip point
Step 6: Adding the Solar Panel
1. I had to remove a small lip on the back of the flashlight to ensure the solar panel sat flat.
2, Next drill a couple of holes into the back for the wires on the solar panel.
3. Thread the wires through the holes and solder the negative wire to the negative end of the solder point on the switch. The positive wire needs to be attached to the other end of the diode.
4. Attach the solar panel to the back of the flashlight with some strong, double sided tape.
Step 7: Test
So now you have wired everything up - it's time to teat and make sure everything works. Plug in a phone and make sure the charger is working. When you hit the toggle switch, the red LED should come on. depending on the resister you used, will depend on how bright the led is.
Next give the actual flashlight a test. This should be so bright as to make you see white spots if you happen to shine it in your eyes. I've been blinding my kids with it every time they walk past me.