Up-Cycle a Vintage Flashlight




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

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

2. drill

3. Pliers

4. Hot glue

5. Double sided tape

6. dremmel

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.

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30 Discussions


Reply 2 years ago

I did though. The switch on the top is for turning on the USB charger. The original switch turns on the light


3 years ago

great project! love how you made it! i have one same flashlight like the green, it only diferent it can hold one extra bulb inside the plastic holder! its made by Varta.

3 replies

Reply 3 years ago

Thank! I know the varta one - very similar. If you do complete the mod, I'd love to see a finished version.


Reply 3 years ago

if i made a mod surely i would post it, but not too much time lately, but i like your project, its nice to see all that old beautiful things get a new life and not only sea in drawer! i actually used the varta model 20 years ago as my back up military flashlight during my military duty service, i used in in a excercize, but the 3R12 battery had too low capacity and really dead after only few hours of use! but it was handy pocket size. i never knew back then that the metalic holder was actually meant to put it on your jacket button so you have hands free! you always learn new things!


Reply 3 years ago

i would like to do a mod but unfortunatly i dont have the time and here in greece now we cant buy from ebay parts with paypal untill all this thing with the banks capital controls over. if i do a mod it would be only a replacement battery adaptor with 3 AA size that could be rechargeable with mini usb port from external charger, the 3R12 battery it really has too low capacity nominal 1200mah and need a better one. and a replacement of the incadecent lamp with one led or xenon would be nice! my mod interest its not so extencive like yours! you have made great job, congrats again!


3 years ago on Introduction


Wich resister i should get, or how i can choose it ?

Thank you :)


4 years ago

There's something about a pretty flashlight that makes me happy. Great job!

1 reply

Thanks. I've just done another 'ible with some other flashlights which are probably 30 years older! Haven't published yet but will do soon.


4 years ago on Introduction

I think I would try 18650 batteries, as they have a better amp hour rating. Just my opinion, otherwise great instructable.