Christmas Presents: Light Staves

This year I decided I wanted to build something for at least part of the Christmas presents for a couple kids in my family.  They are active outdoors, so I figured I’d make them some custom walking sticks.  This… has been an adventure, and I’m not done yet.

And, yes, Gandalf was an inspiration for it, as well as some 3D printed light up “crystals” I saw online.

Premise:  if you print a “crystal” in translucent filament, and point a light into it, the crystal glows in a cool way.  I thought I’d create a 3d printed case for a flashlight to hold such a crystal, epoxy the flashlight into the case, attach it to a broom handle (cut to length), and put a little rubber foot on the bottom (to protect floors).

proof of concept.jpg

Note: This crystal is not my design, I made a new one for the staff.

After talking with some people about flashlights to use, I settled on an old favorite, the mini-maglite.  It’s been updated since when I got one as a kid, to now use an LED and be over 300 lumens.  The simpler shape also allows me to slide bits on, epoxy them, and use the threaded connections of the flashlight’s parts to hold everything together while allowing it to be disassembled for swapping batteries and possibly changing light filters.

minimag.jpg

An upgraded classic.

Other concepts I had considered were shake lights and a flashlight that had a recharging port on the side.  The idea being that in either case you wouldn’t have to be able to open it up to change batteries, but one was unavailable and the other was… 1000 lumens.  A bit much for kids.  Also, on a trail when you want a light source, you want to be able to change your batteries and not rely on having a plug handy or having to shake the staff a bunch (though it would be amusing to watch).

I attempted it first with the 1000 lumen light (I had ordered one for myself) as  practice, and it just got weird as I went on.  I experimented with leaving accessible holes for the button and the charging port on the opposite side.  I added some greeblies for fun, and a shroud on the basis that you wouldn’t want to blind yourself (or hopefully your scout leaders) with it while walking.

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Various iterations, not all in order.

When the maglites arrived, I started over from scratch, using what I had learned from my earlier experiments.  New crystal, new models, new everything.  As I went on, it felt more and more like making a custom lightsaber.

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A few intermediate models

So far I’ve built 1 prototype (for testing fit, getting the parents’ opinions).  The greeblies on this version were simpler, and serve more than one purpose.  Yes, they look kinda cool… but every point where you see greeblies is a spot where you need grip when unscrewing parts for changing lenses, batteries, or turning the flashlight on or off.

late prototype off.jpg

late prototype on.jpg

Casing on the workbench.  Each segment can rotate separately.

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Visualization, until I figure out how to screw the thing on

I think it’s looking pretty good.  I still have to figure out the threaded interface to the broom handle that serves as the shaft.  I also plan to print some cross-sectional models to check fit better (you can only see so much from the full model), then running a few of these off, painting them, epoxying the plastic bits to the flashlight, and modifying the length of the handles.

Whew, I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

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