Ford 8N tractor light refresh

Tractor light

For as long as I could remember as a child and my adult life I saw a set of tractor lights off of the old 8N Ford tractor my grandpa had sitting in the pole building. Now many years after his passing cleaning out the space I came across the lights again and decided to bring them back to life. While their lens and general shape doesn’t speak to me they do have a dated look to them. After buying a vintage RCA television cabinet re-purposed as a liquor cabinet I decided these would be a fitting light source. The housings were very rusty for years of sitting and the sealed beam was very much no longer sealed (6 volt GE incandescent originally) so I cleaned up the lights with some steel wool to get rid of the tetanus looking rust. After I sealed them with a glossy finish to preserve their state of decomposition.


I knew I wanted a warm tone for this application with a wide beam since the end application was a small space. I used an Osram Oslon LED that was originally going to be used for a flashlight modification but due to the very sad lumens per watt it was not an ideal candidate unless I wanted to mimic a AAA mini-mag. The CCT comes in around 3000K at about 95CRI. Due to the lack of great thermal interface to the case I limited the current to 700mA which is just a few hundred lumens from this package. Then again given the small space and desired look I didn’t want a small sun’s worth of light in there anyways. Using s wide frosted optic I made a very wide bean (very unlike the beam pattern this lamp was born with).

LED glued to case

Test run

After getting the guts squared away, and yes currently a 12v SLA is powering the setup, I set off to install the fixture meant to live in a tractor into the wooden cabinet. Turns out a tractor has more free space for things like this than an old TV cabinet so it looks a little funny in the space but so be it, no turning back now.

End result

Top shelf

I’m not sure if I’ll use the second lamp for the lower shelf or if I will just do a light source that isn’t visible unless you look under the shelf. One thing is for sure, the CCT will have to match otherwise it will clash. Updates to come as the project evolves.

A history of projects

From XP-Gs to XM-Ls to XP-Ls

From XP-Gs to XM-Ls to XP-Ls

While I have been working on many of my own projects as well as work full time I have not posted in some time so I started to look over the projects box and had a throw back. I have come a long way from Luxeon 1 LEDs and messy thermal epoxy. Looking at the projects I see where I have improved and where there is still room for improvement. Some of the common themes I saw were doing the things the hard way (machining copper instead of aluminum) and generally going overboard on heat sinks. While not necessarily a  bad thing for bespoke applications, in production reducing manufacturing cost and time are top priority. 

Flashlights continue to be a fun base platform to enjoy the newest LEDs. I have also been trading lumen output for better CCT and CRI/GAI light sources. After years measuring LEDs in integrating spheres I’ve seen that lumen difference is much harder to see than good color or even worse, bad color. This is usually the motivation for flashlight modification, I bought a new Surefire EB2 and the color was terrible, an ugly 6000K+ and it was very far above the blackbody giving it a terrible green look.

copper heat sink and remote phosphor

Copper is a fun metal because of its thermal properties as well as the feel. A good piece of copper weighs a lot heavy feels good when it comes to lights that you don’t have to carry. I feel good knowing that a copper heat sink will probably be over kill but that L70 of the LED living on it will be a long time. From machining solid bricks to folding sheet copper has been very satisfying to work with.

ML-Es on XP footprint

Above is one of my very early very thing and flexible boards I had made for the Cree XP series footprint. Because the copper on the pour was so thin I was not able to run much more than a few hundred milliamps so I switched to the ML-E series LED. I used these in a few projects but desired more bang for my buck and the XP series is almost the same footprint and could run at almost 5 watts.

Lots of CRI

Moving towards the higher wattage I have stuck to the Cree CXA/B series COB for higher output applications. Pictured above is a 2540 series in a 90+ CRI offering. This is part of a stage lamp retrofit, the heat sink is actively cooled and can comfortably run this package in the 30w range with only a ~20 degree C rise above ambient. More photos on this project to come when it is complete.

xp to the e

This is one of my first home lamps that I really liked. It was an indirect view lamp that used 6 XP-Es (like 4000K @ 80CRI min) in series run off a 350mA driver. They were mounted to a 3′ piece of aluminum with what is clearly an excess of arctic silver thermal epoxy for a part cooking around 1 watt. It was suspended from the ceiling by four wires, two power and two for support. I have since keep on the indirect theme but moved to warmer and higher CRI sources for a more comfortable environment.


Dim to warm lamp

Dim to warm light engines or modules have been around for a while now but are still not common in residential applications. Cree started offering their LMH2 modules in what they call sunset dimming back in October 2013. I finally got around to making a housing for one of these modules that contained a power source and active cooling. The purpose of this design was to provide power and cooling to the LMH2 module, a secondary shade or diffuser is required to reduce glare in a direct view application.

Using the LMH2 light engine I mated it to Cooliance heat sink and fan for much cooler operation with a small heat sink. With any level of ambient noise in a room the fan is not heard on account of its slow operation speed.


The LMH2 module runs near 1A so I used a 24v 1A 0-10v Meanwell supply. The supply with the power switch live in their own case, providing power to the light engine and fan via SO cable. The cases for both were laser cut from 1/4″ acrylic for a clean looking see through finish.


LMH2 6 LMH2 LMH2 2 LMH2 3 LMH2 4 LMH2 5

Custom table top plant lamp

While there are many LED based plant lamps, I haven’t seen any that have a solid build quality or use multi-watt LEDs for a small array. With functionality and design being the priorities on this project I worked with a plant breeder to execute a functional and tasteful design.


I selected brass, aluminum, and stainless as materials for this project because of their thermal, machinable and rust resisting properties. The brass on account of it’s density served as a perfect base for the light. The stainless steel for the shaft of the lamp because of it’s strength and rust resistance. Lastly the aluminum for the head of the lamp housing the light engine, aluminum is a treat to work with, can be anodized and transfers heat well.


The LEDs used were Luxeon Rebels, two in 660nm and one in 450nm. All wired in series and driven at 700mA via a constant current buck driver in the base. A Carclo 20mm triple narrow frosted optic was use to deliver the light to the plan surface.


Above, the raw aluminum nearing completion before the anodization process.

base 2

Above, one part of the brass base.

base 1

Above, the second part of the base.


Above, wavelength specified for those curious.

light side

Above, the lamp head almost complete, silicone was added to the wire channel.


Above, production serial number.

top side better

Above, top view of lamp.

base 1

Above, base seen flooded with silicone.

base 2

Above, set screw for stainless steel shaft visible.

do not look


Above, the obvious must be stated.

Old stage lamp refresh

Being a big fan of Fresnel lenses I was eager to relamp with this old stage lamp with an LED source. While the CXA2011 isn’t the newest package it was handy. A future upgrade to the 25XX might be in order in the near future. Pushing it to 700mA required active heat sinking on account of the enclosed space so I utilized a Synjet. The output is a very pleasant 3000K semi spot through the lens. The last picture is of the phosphor on the chip being excited by a royal blue light source outside of the lamp, the result is a faint orange glow.

Step 1


lamp side
Step 9



CXA1507 power flood lamp

Lamp 2

This was a custom build for a customer looking for a variable output flood lamp to be used with a small solar panel and battery system. The Cree CXA1507 (3000K) package is driven by a boost puck with a max output of 350mA but tuned down to 200mA for reduced power consumption and better thermal performance (case temp of about 30c) . While this was just a prototype the final version was to be water resistant using some type of gasket around the lens. Future builds of this lamp will most likely not be machined from a single block of aluminum. The anodizing is HA type 3 and mostly likely overkill for this application but it adds a nice touch. A standard bolt hole (1/4-20) was added for versatility in mounting.

Lamp 3 Lamp 4 Lamp 5

Copper reading lamp

I have been working more with copper recently because it is so easy to drill and bend as well as conducts heat so nicely. The point of this build was to make an almost miniature model of a reading lamp that provided a usable amount of light. The emitters used in this build are Cree ML-Es in the 3000K color temperature run at about 170mA. The output at the emitters is maybe 150 lumens but is very pleasant to read by. Because these LEDs have an operating current of 150-175mA I had to make a driver for the application and because the driver was so simple I decided to make the components exposed. Because of the low drive current the entire setup stays warm to the touch and does not require finned heat sinking. The base is made out of black Delrin, it is very easy to machine and durable. The larger transistor is screwed down with a #4 screw, tapping the Delrin was like going through butter. I look forward to making more projects out of Delrin.

Accent lighting install at Loco bar. 308 Stewart Ave, Ithaca NY

This is one of the biggest accent lighting installs I have done entirely with RGB tape/strip lighting. The bar is located in Collegetown in Ithaca, NY where a friend of mine asked if I could do some lighting at his new bar. 200 linear feet of RGB LEDs went into the production of this bar along with 3 controllers, 10 signal amplifiers and lots of soldering. The bar is divided into 3 separate lighting zones: the bottle racks are on one zone, the face of the bar is on a second and the wall opposite the bar the 3rd. They can be set to illuminate red, green, blue or any color in between, and the zones can be all on the same input signal or on separate signals.

All of the walls are painted with a final coat that is glossy and the ceiling is a gold color that reflects light very well, especially from the bottle racks. The face of the bar was done in aluminum flashing for a semi reflective finish. The rest of the lighting in the bar is incandescent lighting for a warm environment.

Many of the pictures were taken in sequence to show how different the bar looks under different lighting conditions.

Below are a few pictures of the bar in the making showing some of the lights out of phase.

More XP-G triples

I’ve been playing with XP-G triples as a general light engine now for some time and have finally come around to using some warmer tint emitters (4K color temperature) producing 354 emitter lumens at 350mA per LED. This puts us over the 100 lumen per watt in a nice neutral light. The build below is a rough prototype of a light fixture that would support this light engine and not need visible heat sinks. At 350mA the light fixture stays cool to the touch ensuring lamp life >50,000 hours until 70% light output occurs. The material is aluminum stock about 4″ x 10″ sandwiched in between 2 quarter inch pieces of plexi glass. The power to the lights is supplied by an Xitanium 350mA driver via the black wires that also support the light fixture.

RGB strip lighting

Recently I have been doing more work with RGB (red, green, blue) flexible strip lighting. While it is a very simple product it can can make for great lighting effects.

Below is a simple setup photographed in blue, green and red.


Below is a close up of a emitter on the strip. Each emitter has a red, green and blue die in each “LED”.