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Old 03-02-2010, 04:33 PM
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silverbear silverbear is offline
The Boy Who Never Grew Up
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: northeastern Minnesota
Posts: 8,131
Default Re: Tin can headlight revisited

Thanks guys.
I failed to mention grinding off the rough edges of the openings made with a punch and knife. A grinding fitting for a drill works and for even more control the dremel with a grinding attachment works great. I imagine that a small flat file or rounded one would work in a pinch.Even a chainsaw file.
What kind of lights you use and lighting system is up for grabs. Some use rechargeable batteries and pretty high powered lights. First thing to ask yourself is what your purpose is. If you are trying to comply with the law then you don't need a lot of light. The same is true if you mostly want to be seen by others at dawn, dusk or at night and aren't so much trying to see where you're going at high speed. I often ride in the evening, but not much in real darkness so my interest is in being visible to others. If my needs were different I would approach it differently. At any rate these little tin can lights can get expensive innards or a more minimal lightning system. LED's draw a whole lot less juice than filament bulbs, so especially if you're powering the lights with the motor there isn't a lot of current to work with. Last summer I did some experimenting with LED lights from an oufit in Michigan (don't have the link right now) and they worked great, but were a little expensive for my budget. One day at Target I saw the lights pictured below and tried some. ALL RIGHT! Seven bucks not counting tax for eighteen lights, plus a little battery box with switch.... and configured in 6 volt. I crammed all eighteen into an old headlight to see what happened and had a tail light running four or five LED's plus a little bulb in a front fender light. It worked and didn't kill the engine. I recall killing the motor when I tried two little 6 volt incandescent lights, so you can see the difference in what they draw.
Back to this project. I cut the wires between the first bulb in the strand and the battery box, tape the lights together so they are facing the same way in a bunch. I fed the wires through the little vinyl tube out the bottom of the light housing and push the bundle in there. Two clear plastic bread bags got stuffed around the light bundle which cushions the lights and keeps them centered and facing outwards. How bright are eighteen little Christmas lights? Bright enough for me to ride with at night on a forest road and bright enough to be clearly seen by motorists, which is bright enough for me. They flicker in sync with engine speed which is also OK with me and I think actually makes me a little more visible. If your budget allows you to be grand, go for it, but if money is as hard to come by for you as it is for me then this is worth considering. At this point we are out around $7.75 between lights, a little tubing and bolts with nuts. Not bad.
How to mount the light? There's lots of room for creativity here, but what I'm planning to use is a pair of copper plated steel pipe hangers. I bought these at Lowe's for I think less than two bucks each... so between three and four dollars for the pair. I originally got them to hang a tin can gas tank for a Worksman newsboy frame I have back in Minnesota. After staring at them some I realized that they would also work for a headlight with the clamps fitted to the handlebars on each side of the goose neck. They would give lots of l latitude for up and down positions, close in or sticking out front some and can be cut off to the desired length. They are not flimsy and will do the job so I'll try it and will post a photo when I have one mounted on something. The hangers are pictured in the photo of the Worksman tank. I consider these hangers a real find and can picture them being useful for affixing a muffler and anything which needs to clamp to the frame. Cool.
I have also pictured a smaller headlight made from just the mandarin can with no hood shroud deal. I cut a centered hole in another can, cleaned up the edges and then removed that lid with a can opener. Both the outer rim and the inner circle were covered with vinyl tubing slit so the edges are covered. With four sheet metal screws it will hold a lens in place and pretty well seal up the housing. So a hood isn't really necessary for this kind of tin can headlight. That's it. One more picture is coming after this and I'm done.
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Someday when I grow up I will probably lose interest in toys with wheels, but until then...
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