Tin can headlight revisited

Discussion in 'Motorized Bicycle General Discussion' started by silverbear, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    First off, a couple of thoughts. This winter I've kept myself from going bonkers with cabin fever by efforts with a 1939 Elgin build (Rustoration buildoff) and with "research and development", otherwise known as tinkering with gas tanks and now lights. Since most of mybikes are step through models I've needed to refine Rockenstein's behind the seat Apple juice gas tank with ones for my builds, done a little differently to match my particular skills and tastes. Having done many years worth of leather work in native crafts, I tend to see things that way. We come to this forum with our own experience. I don't weld, but I know how to run harness needles... You may be like that, too. It is what makes our builds our own, what we bring to the table, or in this case, workshop.
    This thread is about an inexpensive headlight made from a tin can, first thought of again by Rockenstein who saw in the lowly tin can possibilities for other things. Thinking outside the box is much of what makes this forum so much fun. I love seeing what others have come up with. Rock's headlight required soldering, which thanks to the gas tanks I'm now pretty good at. But I wanted to make one with no soldering involved. This thread will have a number of photos, not that it is complicated, but I want to be thorough and am thinking of those without great tools or experience in fabricating things. Anybody can do this light.
    You need some kind of punch. I use a leather punch since I do leather work and have a couple. An ice pick would work as well or if you want to make one grind a nail down. I don't know, look around and use what you've got. Cans are my trusty and tasty little mandarin oranges can and a can of corn. Use the punch to make holes in the end, a small hammer and knife to "connect the dots" to remove the section of lid. The corn can has a kind of inward flare at the bottom which you want in order to have the recess fit inside the top of the mandarin can. More to come...
     

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  2. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    Can't do this thread all in one sitting as the sun is shining for a change and things need doing, but I'll post more photos later. A couple comments on the last couple in the prior post....
    The corn can gets cut off (sorry for the blurry shot) with a pretty essential tool for crafting work of this kind... a dremel moto tool, or a chinese clone of the same. I don't think a hack saw would work well no matter how careful you are as the can will get bent. But a dremel tool with a cut off wheel (always use the reinforced wheels as they last much longer) makes the job clean and simple. Use eye protection. The resulting short section of the corn can fits inside the oranges can a bit thanks to the reverse flare at the bottom of the corn can. In effect, this is the "hood" and provides a means of mounting the lens and keeping the LED lights inside and protected from the weather. I used a section of vinyl tubing slit along one edge to fit over the sharp edge from the dremel cut.... which makes the sharp edge no danger of drawing blood. It also kind of finishes it off so that it looks more right, to my eye anyway. I used a little bit of contact cement along the inside edge to keep the tubing from going anywhere. In the last picture you can see a bit of larger tubing sticking out the bottom of the can where a hole was punched, a short section of tubing pushed in (make the hole a little small so it is tight) and inside this will be the wires from the lights. The vinyl tubing (fuel line) protects the wiring from upbraiding against the can and shorting out eventually. I also punched two holes along each side of the mandarin can for mounting bolts. Lock nuts keep it tight and secondary nuts will hold the mounting bracket. More later along with more pix.
    SB
     
  3. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    ...back to the lowly tin can. Having worked with these intimately in the fabrication of gas tanks and now lights I have come to appreciate how clever and perfect tin cans are. They do what they do very well. Just because they are common, everyday things we throw away doesn't mean they have no worth. They way I look at it they are ready made, inexpensive metal cylinders which come in different standardized sizes. Because they were designed to store food doesn't mean they can't do other things as well. So that is my ode to the tin can.
    On with the light show. As may be seen in the photos the two sections are joined together with four small sheet metal screws through holes made with the punch. The "hood" or front section has a little lens which is held in place with contact cement and goes between the two can sections. It is from a dead flashlight. Since I've been finishing off juice can gas tanks with harness leather and still have some from the same hide (from when I made horse tack for my Indian ponies back when), I had to try covering a second light with the same. How come? I don't know. Maybe because I can. I know it's the only tin can headlight finished off in harness leather that I've ever seen. Maybe that's why. I'll probably use it, too, but not on the Elgin.
    More later regarding the LED lights, a mounting bracket and a tin can tail light...
    SB
     

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  4. civlized

    civlized New Member

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    Dude, just in case nobody has told you lately, YOU ROCK!
    Very creative and cool.
     
  5. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    keep it up, SB. it's function, recycling, and cool, all in one.
     
  6. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    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.
    SB
     

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  7. silverbear

    silverbear The Boy Who Never Grew Up

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    This last photo shows the covered and hooded headlight, next to it the can light without a hood (and no leather) and finally a little mushroom can which I am going to make into a tail light... no hood and made with the same lens arrangement as the unhooded headlight. Inside it will be two circuits, one for the tail light and another for a brake light. I plan to do parallel wiring to both the little 6 volt battery box which will get tucked away behind and under the seat and also wiring to the engine magneto. If for some reason the motor quits and I am pedaling or pushing the bike I can turn lights on from the little battery pack and be visible without the motor running.
    Now I have a request for a possible lead on finding red lens material. Any ideas on where to find a sheet of red hard plastic or Plexiglas? It doesn't need to be very thick or terribly strong,but I do need to be able to cut it either with a utility knife or saw of some kind. I could use colored glass, but would rather use plastic. I used to have a stained glass window business when I was much younger and can cut glass well, but small circles are a hassle and good quality red glass is very expensive to buy in a sheet. Blown red glass is costly because gold salts are used in it's manufacture. It is kind of overkill anyway for a tin can tail light. I'd appreciate a lead on where to look for lens material. Thanks.
    That's about all I have to share on the subject at this time. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.
    SB
     

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