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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Monday, May 23, 2011

DTD: New prototype head...what do you think?

Hi folks,

I was playing around in the shop the other day and started some more complex machining on the head. These lights generate a fair amount of heat when run on "high" for extended period. Creating more surface area on the head is one way to reduce the heat build up. I've been dong a lot of empirical testing in my integrating sphere and the reason I finned this head was to see if I could get more lumens out of this light.

Like it? Hate it? Don't care? Comment! 
Just adding these fins gave me about 20 more lumens over the first three minutes of operation (the duration of my test). The difference between 500 and 520 lumens is not visible to the human eye, but if I can find several of these incremental efficiencies I might be able to get up around 600 OTF lumens. It's sort of like squeezing more horse power out of a Ferrari though. You can do it, but is it necessary? Probably not :)

More photos, less talk, after the jump....

Friday, May 20, 2011

"I Recommend": G-Wizard Calculator (for machinists)

If you couldn't tell by the title--Warning: machinist's content & business content (if you are a machinist) after the jump

Okay, I have a notebook with a list of things I think are AWESOME. Most of the time I forget to write things down on that list, but I have a few and thought I'd start sharing them on my blog. These things aren't necessarily flashlight related, but if they apply to you, they will change your life. Bold claim eh? But I'm serious. I'm going to call this segment, "I Recommend..." I can't think of a better product to start with that Bob Warfield's G-Wizard machining calculator. It's like having a master machinist in your back pocket. Normally that would be really uncomfortable...but not with G-Wizard. You should really stop reading this and download the trial from this link right: here.

A perfect example of what the internet should be used for
From time to time I have an ah-ha moment when things suddenly become clear. This little piece of incredibly sophisticated software brought me one of those moments. The quick story: machinist and software engineer (Bob Warfield) decided one day to take on a little pet project, and G-Wizard is the result. First, this is what the power of the internet is all about. Second, it's well designed. Third, it's something every machine shop should have...especially small ones. I'll tackle those points in order, after the read on!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Launched new version of my site

Hi folks,

Just wanted to let you know I launched a new version of my site today. Please let me know what you like, what you don't like, and if you find any bugs or bad links. Thanks for doing QC for me :)

One new change is to the way I name my lights. Figured it was better to change early than late. So, now this first design is henceforth, herewith, thereby knows as the Alpha Series. Within that series are several different LED available now...and one coming soon.

The current new LED option: Cree XML. About the same output in lumens but it has a brighter hot spot (more focused) and a bit longer range. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Father's Day Special: Ti Clip for $1.00 (with a light)

Looking for a gift for they guy that has everything? Look no further! 

Your Dad has been trying to illuminate you for years...return the favor. 
>> Offer is valid till June 19th or until this run sells out - quantities are limited (as always). <<

These clips will retail for $25 so you might as well get one while the gettin's good.

  1. pick a light 
  2. put the Ti clip in your basket and be amazed at the $1.00 price
  3. wait by the mail box
  4. install the battery (correctly) 
  5. wait for dark
  6. sit down (because of step 8) 
  7. turn on 
  8. swoon at the power you wield in the palm of your hand
  9. show friends
  10. get Dad a card when you decide to keep the light for yourself

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tentative warranty policy...your thoughts?

I think it's about time to establish a more formal warranty policy for my lights and I'd like your feedback before I post it to the store. Many people participated in my first warranty thread and I've incorporated some of your feedback, some things I've learned while building the lights, and other manufacturer's policies. I want to make it as simple as possible, plain English, no fine print. Here goes:

The content is after the jump...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Production Run #1 For Sale Now! (...also a few design changes)

Hi everyone,

I'm excited to announce that Production Run #1 is now for sale in the store! In this post I'll update you on the new features and changes. One of the most exciting is my custom titanium pocket clip. I designed it myself and had it waterjet cut, just up the road, at Keller Industries in San Carlos, CA.

Waterjet from .040" CP2 Titanium
You'll have to check out the store for more images of the clip attached to my lights. The good news is, you can remove/install it without any tools and it doesn't require permanent (and ugly) screw holes for attachment. Making this work (and accommodating the new switch) required a significant re-design of the tailcap. Highlights of the design changes:
  1. McClicky tailcap switch
  2. Provision for the "no-tools" Ti pocket clip
  3. Improved fit for all 18650 batteries (protected, unprotected, flat top, button top) 
  4. More LED/Driver options (subject of a separate post, so stay tuned)
  5. Serial numbers! 
More detailed info after the jump so read on...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cheryl's Question: Answered!

Cheryl said...

"Do you have any plans for a smaller single cell CR123 light that would be more adaptable for EDC? The MC18-B has many things that I look for in a light - great design and beautiful looks, high quality build, premium components and American made. However, the MC18-B is just too big for my liking. 

I'm thinking there may be a large customer base for a smaller light. Just for kicks and giggles (and a little market research), maybe you could run a poll to see if there is any interest. Anyhoo, I'm so glad to see you've had quite a few sales and things appear to be moving alone nicely. I wish you continued good luck."

Hi Cheryl, first of all, thanks for staying tuned! :) Another great question...the "123 quandary" as I like to call it. I've deliberately stayed away from 123 (battery size) lights because these are quite common. Several custom builders already focus exclusively on this size EDC (Every Day Carry) type of light. Eventually I'd like to make a smaller light. Maybe 123 size or maybe AA size. So far there aren't too many customs in the AA size. Of course a small light means less output and perhaps less run time as well.

the 18650 battery (left) is twice the size of the CR123 size (right) 
However, in the interest of market research, here is a poll:

Would you be more inclined to buy the MC18-B if it was physically smaller?

This is a very specific question. The question is not, "do you like the idea of a smaller light." I want to know (specifically) if the size of the MC18-B is an obstacle to your purchasing.

Here is a scale shot from the store (just in case you haven't seen it)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Integrating Sphere: up and running!

Woah, what is an integrating sphere!? Don't worry, it's not as fancy as it sounds. It's basically a doohickey that lets me take direct measurements of the lumen output of my lights. A lot of companies list the "laboratory rated" lumens of a light which is typically 25% higher than the lumens you actually get OTF (Out The Front). Only reputable companies actually measure the output of their lights. Less reputable companies just "make up whatever sounds good at the time." Really, I'n not kidding. If you want to hear a rant about that let me know. For now, back on topic.

In this shot the light is actually "on" 
Typically an integrating sphere is a multi-thousand dollar piece of lab equipment. The other alternative is home brew. Giant styrofoam ball, a lolly pop looking thing, a couple holes, and a high quality light mete...viola. It's not perfect, but it's a whole lot better than guessing. This sphere should be accurate to within +/- 5% of the actual output. The design is a tried-and-true method developed by several CPF members. It was nice not to re-invent the wheel (this time). More info after the jump!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pre-Production run is SOLD OUT!

I'm excited to announce that I have sold all of my pre-production lights...just in time for my first regular production run which should be available next week! Contact me if you want to pre-order. As always, quantities are limited and first come, first served. One of the biggest changes is a provision for a titanium pocket clip!

This clip is attached to a "raw" (un-plated) prototype
This clip is "somewhat-kinda-maybe" backwards compatible with the pre-production lights. If you are a pre-production owner you can email me directly for the details. I tried really hard to make it fully compatible but it just wasn't going to happen.

I designed the clip myself and had it waterjet cut from a sheet of .040" CP 2 titanium by Keller Industries in San Carlos. The clip is captured between the tailcap and the body so it can be removed without tools. Most clips require screws, meaning if you take the clip off...two nice holes are left behind. The gap created by the clip does not adversely affect the waterproofness of the lights.