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Super Torches Part 1 – Maglite 3D Luxeon III

2 MaglitesMy longest officemate was a fellow named Matt who I am still really good friends with. That reminds me, we are supposed to go to lunch soon. Anyway, we used to get into debates about flashlights with him assuring me that his 3-cell Maglite would destroy anything I could bring to the table. And in defensive situations, even if I could blind my assailant, he could bludgeon them over the head with the sheer size of the flashlight that has earned a spot on the holster of rent-a-cops everywhere.

In this, the first of a two part series, we are going to discuss how you can modify your 3D Maglite. Recently, the Maglite corporation (of Ontario, CA), announced it was making LED drop in kits for their flashlights. Please son, we have been doing that for years. Let’s see how exactly we’ve been doing this. Why would you want to do this? After all, your flashlight is bright enough, right? How do you know though? You used to think your car’s headlights were bright. Then you stepped into someone’s Benz or Mercedes and you were surprised at how bright, focused, and white (some say with a blue tint) the lights could be. I have been asked on more than one occasion if the headlights in my car are special. They aren’t. They are just stock headlights, but that’s how far technology has advanced.

The advantages are clear:

  • LED’s offer a cleaner, whiter, more pure light
  • LED’s basically last a lifetime. They do not require constant bulb changes the way incandescent lights do
  • To some extent, LED’s are more shockproof.
  • LED’s can be overdriven (at higher levels than incandescent, I believe)
  • LED’s are very small and can be mounted in numerous configurations

To build a 3D MagIngredients:

MagliteThe assembly is pretty basic. We are direct driving (DD) the Luxeon. This means we are not regulating it in anyway. Regulation is the most advanced thing to hit the flashlight market. First it started with LED’s and now there are at least two regulators for incandescent lights. What is regulation? In short, it’s a way to control the flow of electricity and output in order to assure a more constant brightness and/or battery life. In other words, you get the a flat displacement curve rather than something that is less predictable. Anyway, in this case, to minimize cost and hassle, we are leaving out any “intelligent circuitry” and are sending 800 milliamps to the light at 4.5 volts. This gets it the brightest it can be.

Since Mag 3D’s take potted bulbs, we have to figure out a way for it to accept the winged connectors of the Luxeon III as well as a place for it to mount. Welcome the Hotlips heatsink. This custom milled aluminum piece has a few key elements. First, it has a perfectly notched center piece where the Luxeon rests. It has two holes drilled for the positive and negative terminals to come through to connect to the LED. It also perfectly fits into the top of the flashlight. This allows it to make full contact with the body and it turns the entire body into one huge heatsink, to dissapate heat. Heat, as you all know, is the killer of all fun things. It crashes your computer. It shortens battery life. It kills bulbs and LEDs’s.

Once we have it all mounted and we connect the wires up to the switch, we have to consider output. We need a way to focus the light or it’ll just be scattered all over the place. We also want a clean beam. One way to accomplish that, but at a slight loss in total brightness, is to use a speckled reflector. You can also use an optic but they don’t really make one this large. There are other considerations too but we won’t get into that for now. Suffice it to say, I love reflectors and will sacrifice the control and larger hotspot of the optic to have an overall better light image. The reflector I used is called a Medium Orange Peel. If you look closely enough, you can tell why. It looks just like the skin of our favorite citrus.

MagliteDid you know that regular ol’ flashlight lens don’t transmit all the light through? And why should it? It’s a piece of cheap plastic. Easily scratched, minimal heat tolerance, not hardended. To insure the flashlight doesn’t have any limitations, it should have a high quality lens. The UCL and Borofloat lens have higher transmissions than stock, are less prone to scratching, and have some shock protection characteristics.

To round things off, glowpowder was mixed with epoxy and applied to the area around the LED. Once you turn the light off, the powder continues to glow. Uncessary but fun. Tritium glowrings and glowpowder are used often in the flashlight world, mostly as a way for quick retrieval in the dark. Imagine there was a little piece of your flashlight that always glowed. It’d make a grab and dash that much easier, right?
What is end result of all this? You get a flashlight that is noticeably brighter than a stock Mag 3D, with an LED that never needs replacing.

Stock Mag 3D -39 Lumens

Modified Luxeon III Mag – 65 lumens (approx)

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