I have to admit I did not start this flashlight with an idea in mind and I regret that. Not because I think it was the wrong way to go about it or anything, but…well, I guess I’ll get to the reasoning in a bit. Having never really made anything before, I decided to cling to everyone’s favorite security blanket: Google. After a few minutes perusing the results for DIY flashlight, I found something that I felt capable of using as a resource.
My plan was to make a sort of bare bones flashlight that I could customize. I figured I could take the cardboard and either paint it or put a design on it. After building the first model, I decided I wanted a bit more of a challenge and came up with the following idea.
My nephew lives up town and I figured I’d keep with the spirit of the project, and make something for him. I thought it would be a good idea to customize the flashlight to have different attachments that could fit onto the front. This is where the idiom “The best laid plans of mice and men” really applies.
The first thing I did was attach my wire to my fasteners.
After that, I used my electricaltape to secure two D batteries together. This was, unfortunately, the straightest I was able to get them. I took my two fasteners and stuck them into a cardboard tube about 2.5” apart from one another. After having inserted the batteries, I wasn’t too happy with the size of the cardboard tube, so I used a larger one instead. I taped the wire attached to the lower fastener to the bottom of the electrical tape and left the top wire exposed out the top.
Just to make sure the light worked, I placed the wire from the top fastener around the bulb, put the bulb on the top of the D battery and used my “switch” – a paperclip I stripped with wire strippers – to connect the two fasteners. It worked, but here’s where problems arose. The wire wasn’t holding the bulb in place well enough. Especially not well enough for me to attach a cup on top. The bulb obviously needs to remain rested on top of the D battery for it to work but it wasn’t staying in place. At first, I tried to use cardboard to keep it place but to no avail.
Then I tried to solder the wire to the bulb, which made things a little bit easier but not for long. While the bulb was definitely closer to the top of the D battery, it still wasn’t touching the D battery. It was missing it by about half a centimeter which was very frustrating.
After experimenting with electrical tape, I decided to ask some of the shop staff for questions. Emmanuel (I believe was his name, though I’m not sure on how to spell it) gave me some recommendations, but also gave me some fantastic advice that I think is going to stick with me: it’s often better to use rigid instruments when you’re making things because they’re set and won’t move around as much and can be sturdier. This was the problem I was running into exactly. I had malleable instruments – cardboard, paperclips, fasteners – thinking the easier they are to manipulate, the better it would be to customize and adapt. Instead, I got a flimsy, fragile product.
After an hour or so of looking for solutions and trying out suggestions from staff members – glue gun, more soldering, changing materials – the only thing that worked for a consistent amount of time was good old scotch tape so that’s what I used. Even this wasn’t ideal though because when I put the “head” of the flashlight on – the cut in half water cup – sometimes the light would flicker. To be honest, at this point, I thought to myself, “Fuck it. Maybe it’s ok to just have a working light without the decal that I want to attach to it,” (see sketch) but I didn’t want to give in. I used a box cutter to cut the “G” (to stand for “Gabi,” my nephew who I intended to give the flashlight to) out of cardboard and nestled it into the cup for a finished product.
I learned a LOT in the creation of this light bulb. Despite the fact that it worked, I really consider this my first failure of ITP. It didn’t live up to my design standards, is a bit too flimsy and is unimaginative. Would I change the experience then? No. I’m happy I learned what it feels like to fail, because I feel like I learned much more than had I succeeded.