limited production :: hand crafted :: high performance :: rechargeable :: premium flashlights

This is my blog about creating a startup LED flashlight business. I'm a designer, fabricator, and strategist and I'm passionate about making ideas real. I believe that products are about people, that they should be built to last, deliver real value, and that we need to do a better job than we have in the recent past.

Most of my career has been contract or freelance work and I've crafted products and strategies for both big international companies and startups. I also used to work in the "industry" fabricating special effects for film and TV, along with the occasional hot rod. Bottom line, I love making things.

I'm starting this blog so you can follow along, from day one, and see what it's like to start a business, or fail in the process. Only time will tell, but I hope you find this interesting enough to stay tuned, comment, link, like, tweet, and (most importantly) participate in turning this idea into something tangible and valuable.

For a good place to get started with general info about who, what, why, etc., check out the "Stickies" on the left side of the page. Thanks for stopping by and please don't hesitate to ask questions and get involved!

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

MC18-B full production run #1...out for plating

Quick update! I have sold out of my pre-production lights and I just dropped the next batch at Amex Plating. Hopefully they will be done by Wednesday and I'll start shipping production lights on Monday! I learned a few things and made some minor changes on this batch.

Production lights ready for EN (Electroless Nickel) Plating!
As I've mentioned, you should expect to see changes from batch to batch as the project progresses. This might be hard to get used to, but consider this: companies tend to come out with new products every year that have different features and improvements, whether we are talking about cars or iPhones. This timeline is largely due to the scale of business. In my case, since I do everything myself, my production is intentionally small and I can make changes as fast as I can think them up. My design and engineering cycles is measured in days, not months.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A walk in the dark...

Hi folks,

Adam and I shot a short video while we were camping in Utah. The underbrush was incredibly heavy which created two problems. One, it's hard to walk around. Two, there isn't much "landscape" for the light to shine on at close range.  I walk away from the camera about 200 feet and then turn around and walk back. The most interesting thing is how BRIGHT the light is for the observer holding the camera. If I was smart I would have done the same walk while I was holding the camera and cut the two segments together. Turns out I'm not that smart.

The real purpose for this video is a segue into this question: "What kinds of videos would you like to see?" You ask for it and I'll make it. You'll get a gold star for unique and interesting ideas. More obvious ones might include a "video instruction manual," more beam shots, shop tour, assembly process, torture, etc. Let the suggestions begin!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fabricating a stamping jig


One great thing about having a machine shop is that I can make strange tools like this one. I received my custom maker's mark a few weeks ago and I'm currently preparing my first regular production run. After fooling around with the mark I decided I needed some kind of jig to hold the stamp and the flashlight head in the correct and repeatable position.

Cutting off some aluminum stock I had laying around
I scrounged around my scrap bin and came up with the appropriate piece of material. A bit off topic, but I got this band saw for free a few years ago. It was sitting outside in the weather for two years and was a real wreck. I spent a couple weeks restoring it and now it works great! Here is a link to the project if you are interested.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Glow in the dark o-ring fun

Just a quick update. I'm working with a new Cree LED called the "XML." It's a little bit brighter than the MCE (about 50 lumens) and it has a smaller hot spot (a little bit more throw) because the surface of the LED is smaller than the MCE. It's hard to notice the difference unless you are comparing side-by-side. However, since the LED is smaller I've discovered a fun option: glow in the dark o-rings!

No, glow technology has not progressed since the 80's so the effect is mostly for show. 
I tested this configuration in my integrating sphere (it measures brightness) and there is no perceptible loss of performance by putting the o-ring around the LED. This will not work with the MCE since that LED fills the entire opening of the reflector.

When ordering, let me know if this is an option you are interested in. It's not officially available on my store yet but...I know a guy that can hook you up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WIN! 90 Minutes run time on High--Tested!

One of the main questions I get is about "run time" and exactly how much you should expect. I'm an applied science type of person and I like to test my assumptions rather than just guessing...and I finally got around to some testing! I tested three lights with fresh batteries and ran them on high. I'm excited to announce you should expect approximately 90 minutes of run time on high. Please keep in mind, the hotter the light gets the less efficient the LED...and the lower the run time.

A well lit beverage!
I added a few ice cubes to keep the light from getting really hot. A 90 minute run on full blast produces a lot of heat. Holding the light in your hand (like submerging it in water) helps draw the heat out of the light and keep it cool. If you ran the light on high for 90 minutes and left it sitting on a table it would most certainly overheat. In general, do not run the light on high for more than 10 minutes if you are not holding it in your hand! 

I conducted 3 trials: lots of ice, 4 cubes, and room temp water. The three lights I tested came in at 115 minutes, 93 minutes, and 85 minutes respectively. The room temp water was noticeably warm at the end of the test. Many factors contribute to run time so your mileage may vary...especially if the ambient temperature is high. The cooler the light, the longer the run time!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back from 10 days in the Utah back country

Hi folks,

Just got back from Utah last night. It was a great trip and a real torture test for my lights. My friend Adam and I did a lot of hiking and fishing in the middle of nowhere. It was beautiful, fun, and really really dark. It was also really really sandy, cold, wet and otherwise inhospitable. I wasn't sure how the lights would hold up in the sand but I was careful to keep the threads clean and had no problems at all.

My light with a Waterworks ULA reel and Sage SLT rod
The light in the photo is a special prototype. I'll be introducing a titanium pocket clip option with my next production run. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, it's still under development.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Out of the office notice

Hi folks, this is strange timing since I'm in the middle of next production run. However, I couldn't pass up the chance to make a 10 day back-country camping/fishing trip in southern Utah. I grew up in Montana and the outdoors have always been a really important part of my life...until I started living in a lot of cities. It's been many (many) years since I've gone on a "real" camping trip so I pretty much had to jump on it when my friend called. My boss said it would be okay.

So, starting today, if you need me in the next two weeks or so I'll be some place that looks like this:

Don't worry, I'm going to be doing some serious product testing as well
My production is (thus far) on schedule and those of you waiting for more inventory to appear and/or custom lights, you should still receive them by the end of the month. I do have a few pre production lights left in stock, but I won't be able to send them out 'till I get back on the 17th of April. See you soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Disaster relief donation: 10 sales = $200

Hi all,

Thanks to everyone who bought a light this month. I promised to donate $20 from each sale to disaster relief in Japan following this post. Times like these remind me that in an emergency, dark sucks in a very serious way. It also made me feel very comfortable sitting in front of my computer, editing photos, turning up the heat, and sipping freshly ground coffee. So, I decided if I was selling people the gift of light, then it would make sense for some of that money to those who had no electricity, no water, and no home.

(your) donation confirmation
I know Japan is a wealthy country and will recover nicely from this catastrophe. I didn't think that should stop me (and us) from helping out though. Even though the country is modernized that doesn't mean people aren't cold, hungry, hurting, and waiting for help. This is also why I donated to the Red Cross. I trust them to direct the money to where it's needed most. In the end, my customers made it possible to donate $200 and I thank you greatly for the honor of crafting a light for you and helping others in a time of need.

My most humble appreciation,