Camera Flash to Flashlight

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About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.

I was bored over the weekend so decided to have a rummage through my parts bins for some inspiration and came up with this ‘ible.

The flash I used I picked up a few months ago for a couple of bucks and the rest of the parts I had left over from other projects. I was tempted to just leave the flash as is and put it on display, as it’s a damn cool item just by itself. However, the hacking gods whispered in my ear “pull it apart” and I was powerless against them.

I’m actually very pleased on how the torch turned out. I still managed to keep the flashes retro ascetic’s whist turning it into something useful again.

The flash isn’t just a boring old flashlight though. I also added a dimmer for the LED’ and rechargeable batteries which can be charged via solar panels attached to the side of the flash or by an external socket.

The other thing I really like about this torch is you can mount it to a tripod as well. Come in handy when you need light for filming, camping, reading or whatever else.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Please note that this build was a rummage one and I just used parts that I had on hand. I had to use a few parts that were probably not ideal but did the job. I’ve highlighted these below and have also included alternatives to the parts that I used.

Parts

1. Vintage Camera Flash – eBay

2. 3 X LED’s (1w) – eBay

3. Dimmer (actually a 3v motor speed control!) – eBay

4. 2 X Solar Panels 4.5V – eBay.

5. 3 X AAA battery holder – eBay.

6. 3 X AAA Rechargeable batteries – eBay

7. Potentiometer Knob – eBay

8. Diode - eBay

9. Socket for DC charging - eBay

10. 4.5V charger - eBay

Tools

1. Soldering Iron

2. Pliers

3. Itty bitty screwdrivers and phillips heads

4. Hot glue

5. Superglue

Step 2: Pull Apart the Flash

The first thing to do is to pull apart the flash. Remember to keep all of the screws and other parts for later use

Steps:

1. Carefully remove all of the screws holding the case together and keep these in a safe place. Look for any “hidden” screws as well

2. Open the case up and if any bits fall out, place these with the screws.

3. Inside will be a very large capacitor. DON’T TOUCH THIS! It’s more than likely that it is still charged and will give you a nasty shock. To discharge, just a screwdriver with a plastic handle and touch the two connecting points. If you hear a pop then you have discharged it and if you don’t hear anything, then tap it a few more times just to make sure

4. Remove the cap and another other of the circuitry. Keep it though as there’s probably some interesting parts you might be able to use in other projects

5. Lastly, remove the flash reflector section and take out the glass flash section. I just used a pair of pliers and broke this

Step 3: Add the LED's

Now that you have the flash apart, it’s time to add the LED’s to the reflector section. I went with 3 LED’s but you could use more or less – up to you

Steps:

1. First find which pins on the LED’s are positive and which are ground by testing each one

2. Line up the LED’s with positive facing up and ground facing down. You now need to connect each of the ground and positives together

3. Add some solder to each of the solder pads on the LED’s and with a thin piece of wire (resistor leg works well) connect each the positive and ground points

4. Solder a wire to each end of the LED’s as shown

5. Attach the LED’s inside the reflective flash section with some hot glue. I did try superglue initially but this didn't work.

6. The wires can go through the holes on each side of the flash

Step 4: Add the Dimmer

As I mentioned in the parts section, the dimmer is actually a motor controller. I find though that these work really well as LED dimmers

Steps:

1. First, locate a good spot on the flash to have the pot coming out of.the flash

2. Drill a hole and attach the pot

3. You will need to connect the battery and LED wires a little later on so make sure that the dimmer circuit is secured inside the flash and accessible

4. You can also add the pot knob as well

Step 5: Batteries

These little LED’s run fine on 3V’s. The 3 rechargeable batteries have a total of 3.6V which is also fine for the LED’s. However, test them to make sure that they aren’t overheating and if they do start to get hot, add a resistor to reduce the current.

Steps:

1. Most old flashes use 4 X AA batteries. If your battery compartment isn’t all corroded (mine was), then you could just re-use the terminals and connect one of them together so you only need 3 X Aa batteries. You could also just replace the terminals (I did an ‘ible on how to do this) and add a spare battery inside as a spacer. I used a 4 X AA battery holder for mine

2. I had to change it into a 3 X AA battery holder so added a jumper wire from positive to ground in one of the battery compartments

3. Next, place the batteries into the holder and fit it into the battery compartment.

4. The wires will be connected to the dimmer in a later step

Step 6: Solar Panels and External Socket

To make this torch very portable, I decided to add some solar panels as well. You can charge the batteries either by the sun or via a socket.

Steps:

1. Solder some wires to the positive and ground on the panel

2. Drill a couple of holes into the side of the flash for the wires to go through. The best way to work out where to drill the holes is to make a template out of masking tape and mark where the solder points are.

3. Place some double sided tape onto the back of the panels and stick to the side of the flash

4. As the solar panels are connected in parallel, you need to connect positive to positive and ground to ground on the panels

5. To make sure that power flows only one way you need to add a diode to the positive wires.

6. If you don’t already have a hole in the side of the flash (there might be a button or could remove) then drill one and attach the female socket for the DC power.

7. Add a couple of wires to the solder points

8. The wires from the socket and solar panels will be connected to the dimmer in the same spot as the battery wires

Step 7: Connecting All the Wires

Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to connect all those wires together.

Steps:

1. First, connect the wires from the LED’s to the “motor” section on the dimmer. It will say motor as it’s actually a speed controller. Make sure the polarities are correct.

2. Now you need to connect the wires from the battery, solar panels and socket together. Just strip the plastic off each wire and twist them together.

3. Next, you need to connect each of the positive and ground wires you just twisted to the power section on the dimmer. Again, making sure the polarities are correct

4. Test to make sure everything is working as it should. If it is you are ready to close up the case

Step 8: Final Step - Close the Case and Adding a Mounting Screw

Steps:

1. If everything works as it should you can now close-up the case

2. Make sure that everything is put back into place and carefully screw back into the those itty bitty screws

3. Next I wanted to be able to mount it onto a tripod. I added the mounting bracket and realised that I would need to modify it so it could screw into a tripod mount. I just removed the original mount and added a screw. It's a little weird how it mounts to the tripod but it works.

That's it! You now have your very own flash flashlight!

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure

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