Archive for October 29th, 2009

Maglite Pin Wrench

Looking into the front

Looking into the front

For reasons that shouldn’t require the least bit of explanation by now, I had to dismantle(*) an old 2-D-cell Maglite. The operative word here is old, because you can find plenty of instructions & pix telling you how to dismantle the newer (post-2001, evidently), cheapnified Maglites. Mine dates back to the early days.

Unlike new(er) Maglites, the switch assembly in this one comes out through the front. An aluminum retaining nut holds it in place, as shown in the first picture. You’ll find directions telling you to unscrew the nut by jamming a pair of needle-nose pliers into the holes, but that’s not how it’s done.

The job calls for a pin wrench!

Measuring the dimensions is no BFD after you’ve got the damned thing apart, but I didn’t have that luxury. Given this was an American product from back in the Olde Days, I assumed everything was denominated in inches, which turned out to be close enough.

Pin Wrench Dimensions

Pin Wrench Dimensions

The “Max” dimensions at the bottom are the actual ID measurements from the housing after disassembly, using telescoping gages. I made the wrench to the dimensions on the line just above and they worked fine.

Believe it or not, I found a steel cylinder in my scrap heap that was just exactly what I needed, right down to the 7/8″ bore in the middle. Not only that, it was free-machining steel. Whew!

The inner bore must clear the brass screw head sticking out of the lamp tower in the middle (which rides in a slot as part of the sliding focus mechanism). Once you’ve extricated the switch assembly, you remove that screw with a 2 mm (so much for hard inch dimensions) hex key. If you’re desperate, you can probably worry the screw out by goobering it with the aforementioned needle-nose pliers; it has an ordinary right-hand thread.

I turned the cylinder down in the lathe, then drilled the pin holes. That’s a mistake: the outside edge of the pins is exactly even with the OD of the wrench nose. If you do this, clean up the stock OD & face the ends to get a nice cylinder, drill the pin holes, then turn down the barrel clearance and nose. It need not be perfectly concentric, so stop worrying.

Pin Wrench Drill Clamping

Pin Wrench Drill Clamping

I did the drilling using manual CNC on the Sherline mill, mostly because that’s the only way I could poke the holes in the right spots. The mill doesn’t have a lot of vertical headroom, so I clamped the wrench directly to the table and touched off the X and Y axes to put the origin in the center.

I got it all clamped down, removed the right-hand clamp to touch off on the +X side, then re-clamped it.

Drilling Pin Wrench

Drilling Pin Wrench

Center drill to fix the hole location. Drill 1/8″ about 0.250 deep: 3000 rpm, 10 ipm feed, use a little cutting lube. Do those both in sequence at each hole.

I sliced two overly long stubs from some 1/8″ drill rod with a Dremel cutoff wheel, dabbed JB Weld in the holes, and poked them in. The next morning I sliced them down to about the right length, cleaned up the ends with a file, broke the edges, and the wrench was good to go. The pin length in the drawing was what I’d have used if I could have measured the holes before taking it apart.

The pins were actually on the long side of 60 mils, just an itsy too much to keep the wrench flat on the nut. The next picture shows some gouging on one of the holes, due entirely to not engaging the wrench quite enough at first.

Pin Wrench and Maglite Retaining Nut

Pin Wrench and Maglite Retaining Nut

I thought about putting flats on the wrench, but simply grabbed it in the bench vise, swallowed it with the flashlight, engaged pins with holes, leaned into the wrench, and unscrewed the ring. It took a lot more force to get those threads turning than I expected, but the ring eventually spun out easily. Right-hand threads, of course; obvious after the fact.

Before you can remove the switch assembly, you must pry off the rubber switch cover, stick that 2 mm hex wrench down the hole thus revealed, and unscrew the setscrew ‘way down inside there. That backs the setscrew out of a recess in the housing that makes electrical contact with the negative end of the bottom D cell. Do that before you remove the ring, lest you forget.

Switch Housing and Lamp Tower Parts

Switch Housing and Lamp Tower Parts

Surprisingly, the blue plastic switch housing seems to be slightly soluble in potassium hydroxide. Who knew?

With the switch assembly out, you (well, I) can proceed to beat the corroded cells out by chucking the housing in the lathe (it exactly seats on the three-jaw chuck’s front face!) and ramming a fat dowel up its snout with a two-pound hammer.

Yeah, genuine Ray-O-Vac Maximum D cells: they all leak if you leave ‘em in there long enough. This flashlight worked fine, right up to the point where I checked inside to see how long the cells had been in there. Oops.

I’m thinking of rebuilding it with some killer LED clusters up front; scrap the reflector, rework the switch assembly. Certainly that’d have better heatsinking than those absurd 3-watt LED bulb-like thingies.

(*) Yes, Maglite has a lifetime replacement warranty that even covers death due to battery corrosion. Now, I ask you, what’s the fun in that?

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