Portable Spotlight


Introduction: Portable Spotlight

About: Was it you or I who stumbled first? It does not matter, the one of us who soonest finds the strength to rise must help the other. - Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

A much- needed use for the Harbor Freight LED flashlights that are given away free is a simple portable spotlight, helpful for many shop tasks. Primary benefits are bright light, self contained power, long run time, and no heat. I put mine together with a 1” tube cutoff, a weight bar clamp ring, and a $1.57 bicycle handlebar mount for the flashlight type. It can be adjusted both horizontally and vertically to illuminate just about anything being worked on, even under the hood of a car. Gluing a doughnut magnet to the base would further enhance its usefulness to the machinist allowing for setup in various locations of ferrous metal as found in machine tools. Since the lamps are LED’s, they are very stingy with battery consumption- I have a preference for the alkaline type and the light output is nothing less than phenomenal for close-up work, including inspection.

Step 1: The Components

Except for the handlebar clamp, all bits are found items: 6" long x 1" al. tube with end cap, the clamp, 1" weight bar cam clamp- although a shaft collar will also serve, and a microwave oven magnetron magnet.

Step 2: Stickup on Any Ferrous Surface

Here I use it on my radial arm saw, shooting down between the arm and motor to illuminate the cut line.

Step 3: Other Tool Types

On my bandsaw I can column mount or wheel cover mount, accommodating any configuration needed.

Step 4: Conclusion

I just used it again today while installing a dishwasher in my son's
home. Freestanding, it fully illuminated the connections under the sink counter for the hookups, so I figured it was time to share.



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    11 Discussions

    I tried to do this with the exact same flashlight on my milling machine and I found the light to be inadequate. It was something, but not enough to use it. I am still searching for an acceptable solution for back lighting my mill. For me I already know this isn't it though.

    5 replies

    I was moving in the direction of an LED ring for my drill
    press quill, but this does the job and at nearly no cost save that of batteries
    every now and then and so gives me more time for my next Instructable post. ;-)

    I am planning on making myself a low voltage power supply to run the light. I want it to come on with a switch, just like any other light would. Playing with batteries is unacceptable. I already have one work lamp on my machine, but sometimes it doesn't do it all for me now. There is a hole in the underside of the mill head that lots of folks mount lights in, and I want to get a light up in there too.

    I should write an article about how to pull those flashlights apart. I'll say this now, it isn't easy to do. I've gutted two of them, using radically different methods, neither is what I'd call very easy. Those flashlights have a common failure point between the circuit board that holds the LEDs and the body of the flashlight, that is the ground conductor in them. The board is just pressed to the aluminum housing in a groove and that often works loose. There are four globs of solder on the board that kind of smash fit. It is pretty sketchy. Rough handling of the flashlight bangs the battery pack around in there and that hammers the fit looser. I've had a couple of those flashlights crap out on me because of it now.

    The dead flashlights become experimental test subjects then. But I think the LEDs in those flashlights are not exactly the best things going either. I have a 3 LED flashlight that makes a lot more light than those 9 LED ones. So there's defininitely something wrong with that aspect of the picture.

    I have a fair number of failed ones too ( harbor f gives them away from time to time ). As I recall the parts in question are Al so soldering does not seem to be an option. Let us know what sort of salvage options you come up with.

    If memory serves, those flashlights are 1" in diameter. For a few bucks more, you can find vastly superior lights that use something like the CR123A lithium batteries. That could take you from 30 lumens to 300, but of course that will cost you.

    I have yet to fully determine what is going on with those flashlights over here. I have measured the current the whole flashlight draws and it is a lot less than I would expect 9 LEDs to consume. I think it was 90ma? Which would mean each LED is only using 10ma, which is way low for an LED. Good for battery life though. But I need more light, and I'm not planning on running my light off of batteries anyways. The color of those flashlights is horrible though, the light is so blue. Which is why I've been less than enthusiastic about that project. After a bit of fooling around I came to the same conclusion you have, I need another light.

    We are brothers separated at birth Russ, 'cause mom liked you best. ;-)

    Seriously though, I'm enamored of LED's, I've begun replacing light fixtures in the front hall, dining room, kitchen, even my desk lamp here as I key in this lame message. I just wrapped up a project using the LED strips recovered from a curbsided t.v. which I gotta do an 'Ible on soon, I think.

    Very handy! I've always just held those flashlights in my mouth while working... Not very effective. This looks much better!

    2 replies

    Funny you should mention the mouth thing 'cause the butt end
    started tasting like a week old pork chop after a while, so that's what got me
    to look for a better way.

    Butt ends of flashlights and water bottle openings tend to have that taste (and smell) in common, don't they?