Flashlight Modding for Beginners, Part 1; Beamshape

Why get into flashlight modding?

This is the start of a series on flashlight modding. Starting with Modding for Beginners before slowly progressing to more advanced techniques. Hopefully everyone at all levels will learn something new.

There comes a point in every flashlight enthusiast’s career when they discover there’s simply no light on the market that is good enough. What do we do when that happens? We make it!. Congratulations on achieving Hardcore status, and welcome to the Light Side!

Flashlight enthusiast iceberg
The Flashlight Iceberg. Credit: u/GeoGemstones

How to mod a flashlight

Most flashlight mods require very basic skills, like rudimentary soldering ability, but there’s a couple that require almost no tools or special skills. I’m going to kick off this series on flashlight modding with the easiest modifications that don’t requires an specialty tools (for the most part. We’re going to start with modifying the shape of a beam.

Beam shape is primarily determined by the optic or reflector. Fun fact: Reflectors and what we call optics are technically considered lenses, while the glass or window on the front of a flashlight is an optic. Somehow the terms got reversed in our little hobby and that’s what we’re going to go with.

Throw vs Flood Flashlights, and Beam Artifacts

The practical reason hobbyists want to change the beam of a flashlight is we would like either more reach with the light (throw) or to illuminate a greater area (flood). There’s a secondary goal in modding a flashlight beam, and that is to remove any beam artifacts or tint shift. Snooty flashlight enthusiasts (if you’re reading this, that’s probably you. Or will become you) want a clean, pristine beam without any artifacts. Artifacts can be caused from the shape of the LED, imperfections in an optic, or a number of other thing. Generally limited effects on real world use, but we want our flashlights to be perfect.

The easiest way to significantly affect the beam of a light is by changing the optic or reflector, and the simplest optics to change are in triples, because it’s a fairly standardized optic. It’s possible to mod single emitter lights, but you need to find the right optic or reflector. More on that below. Strictly speaking no tools are necessary for this, however you may need strap wrenches to remove the bezel, If the flashlight has a one piece head with the pill installed from the battery side, spanner wrenches or snap ring pliers can be very handy.

Flashlight Modding for Triples

Triple emitter flashlights (fondly referred to as triples) have been rising in popularity lately. Lights like the Lumintop FW3A and Acebeam TK16 (also available in copper) are becoming the standard EDC flashlight format. The neat thing about Triples like these is that almost all use the same optics to shape the beam, a Carclo Triple optic.

Carclo 3-UP Optics for Triple Emitter Flashlights

Carclo 3-UP flashlight optic

Available in a variety of beam patterns and manufactured by Carclo, you can generally swap triple optics by simple unscrewing the bezel or pill. u/gomert on reddit posted a great comparison. Your options basically are;

  • Carclo 10507 – 3-Up Narrow Spot LED Optic: The triple optic with the most throw (reach). Triples by nature are more floody than a standard single LED flashlight. The Carclo Narrow Spot 10507 is preferred by many to add some throw to an already floody beam
  • Carclo 10511 – 3-Up Frosted Narrow Spot LED Optic: The same optic as the Carclo 10507, the 10511 Frosted Narrow has a frosted finish on the lens. A personal favorite, the 10511 does a great job of focusing the beam and increasing the throw, while also smoothing out the beam due to the frosting
  • Carclo 10508 – 3-Up Frosted Medium Spot LED Optic: More of a neutral beam shape, the frosted finish does a great job removing the usual artifacts or patterns from the optic itself
  • Carclo 10509 – 3-Up Frosted Wide Spot LED Optic: The Carclo triple optic with the most flood, the 10509 is great for when you don’t want a mule, but you like big wide beams.
  • Carclo 10510 – 3-Up Elliptical Spot LED Optic: Useful for bike lights, for when you want a powerful light mounted on your handlebar but don’t want to blind oncoming riders. The Carclo 10510 casts an elliptical beam shape, so you illuminate a wide area close to you but don’t blind anyone else.

There’s a little insider trick with the frosted Carclo triple optics above like the 10508: Lightly polish the frosting with newspaper. It gives you a smooth beam while not being as floody as it is stock. Give it a go, they’re cheap enough to experiment on.

For bonus points, you can purchased drilled optics with the support legs drilled out. This allows you to drop in a tritium tube for some radioactive bling.

PhotonPhreaks Glow in the Dark Flood Ring Mule Adapter

Another easy flashlight modification for the triples is product we designed in house. The Flood Ring is a glow in the dark drop in adapter that converts your flashlight into pure flood and no hotspot. Very useful for up close work, for example a mechanics flashlight, or a flashlight for HVAC technicians, electricians and plumbers.

3 multi emitter flashlights with photonphreaks flood ring mule spacers

Flashlight Diffusor Film

A really simple mod with very pronounced effects is diffusing the flashlight beam. Whether you want to remove beam artifacts or even out tint shift (cough, cree ), diffusing the beam can be a significant improvement.

Holographic purpose-made diffusor film similar to what Luminit produces is ideal. It’s used by high end flashlight companies like Zebralight, but is expensive and impossible to get in small quantities. What do you use instead?

DC-Fix Flashlight Diffusion Film

Originally intended as a privacy film for windows, DC-Fix is a static cling vinyl film that has been found to perfect as a flashlight diffusor film. The model you want is the Milky (formerly known as Sand) d-c fix 346-8052. It’s available in rolls that you can cut to fit your light.

If you don’t want to cut a perfect circle for your flashlight, Andy Zhu offers precut pieces for common lights:

Spreadsheet of flashlights and and battery sizes that andy zhu's diffusion film is available in.

. You can contact Andy to place an order on his website.

Advanced or Involved Flashlight Modding Techniques

There’s a few modding techniques left out, mainly because they aren’t as beginner friendly as the ones above:

  • Swapping out the reflector or optic: All triples use the same standardized Carclo optic. If you have a single emitter flashlight, chances are it’s either inside a TIR optic, or a reflector. If you’re able to access the reflector you can take it’s measurements and scour the internet for a compatible alternative. My favorite sources are:
  • Dedoming the LED: A more involved technique, an LED dedome involves physically modifying the LED. Dedoming removes or reduces the silicone dome that covers the LED die. The effects will vary by LED. Generally the LED becomes more focused with an increase in throw. Other, perhaps undesirable effects are a higher CCT (cooler tint) and you may see a decrease in the overall output.
  • Reflector Sputtering: This option is just thrown in here because it exists, but it’s definitely not common practice. In essence, you spray a coating on the reflector using clear paint or hairspray. The desired result is a pseudo-pebbled or “orange peel” finish.

You’re now a flashlight modder!

Modifying you’re flashlight is surprisingly easy, go create the perfect flashlight for you! Further modifications generally require a bit more tools and some basic skills, I’ll be continuing this series by going more into what tools you’ll need for the fun stuff.

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