|Taking a concept from an idea all the way to a manufactured product has been a humbling experience. Despite many years in product design and manufacturing, this is the first time I've been 100% responsible for every aspect. It's incredibly difficult, infinitely complicated, never perfect, always challenging, and fundamentally satisfying. I once heard Adam Savage say that, "the best way to end a day is filthy and satisfied." Quite right.
I work with over 50 different vendors to bring you the Alpha and source everything I can locally, not just domestically. Every light passes through my hands on its way to yours, and I think that's meaningful. Call me old fashioned, but I like to know the people that make the objects I value, use, and rely on. I wish there was more opportunity for that in this day and age.
My work is a reflection of my values and the culmination of my years in design, fabrication, and manufacturing. A flashlight might seem simple, but I spend sleepless nights thinking about details that you will never even see.
Why go to these lengths for a humble flashlight? Lighting up the dark hasn't always been such a humble pursuit. For most of our history it's been life or death. When it's dark, and you need light, you really need light. If you think about it, it's not that different today.We forget how important light is because most of the time you can just walk over to the wall and turn one on. What if that wasn't an option? There is accidental darkness: I actually get excited every time the power goes out. I also make lights for people that find themselves in the dark deliberately: airline pilots, mechanics, law enforcement, campers, hunters, fishermen, adventure racers, EMTs, contractors, moms, brothers, neighbors, and friends.
Details, details, details...
|>> Visual Design
My lights look different because they are different. These don't look like "tactical" flashlights because they are not tactical flashlights. I like tactical stuff in a manly sort of way, don't get me wrong, but I don't need my flashlight to scream it. I'll meet the zombie apocalypse in style thank you very much.
The Alpha is a gentleman's flashlight like an Aston Martin is a gentleman's car. It pairs nicely with a Rolex watch and a Montblanc pen...or if you are a lady, with a Celine bag and a pair of Louboutins. The refined exterior only begins to hint at the ridiculous power underneath the hood, and that's the way you like it.
>> Electroless Nickel Plate (EN)
The EN coating is applied over 6061-T6 aerospace grade aluminum. I use EN plate on the Alpha because it's the ideal engineering solution, not because it's pretty. Unlike anodizing, EN coats every inch of the light, inside and out, with an even layer of super-hard nickel. EN is just as durable as anodizing and is electrically conductive.
You will not find any bare aluminum on the Alpha, like you see with anodized lights. The body of the light is just a shell, but the threads play the critical role of conducting electricity. Ever wonder why anodized lights have bare metal threads? Anodize is an electrical insulator so it must be removed for the light to function. Bare aluminum threads will wear out over time and corrode when exposed to air, reducing your lights useful life span and decreasing its performance.
|>> Reasonable and Responsible Packaging
People like expensive products to come in fancy packaging. What I don't like is people spending money on packaging that could be going into the product. That's why my packaging is minimal. It's also reusable and recyclable. The paper in the packing tube is 100% recycled and the natural cotton bag is unbleached and un-dyed. Please keep the tube and use it to store something else. The cotton bag can store your accessories for travel or house that marble collection that's just been rolling around in a drawer.
|>> Hand Stamping (roll-over image)
Unlike laser marking or screen printing, the deep marks left by the stamp will not rub off or wear away over time. Stamping is the traditional metal smith's method of signing their work.
I've had two custom stamps made to mark my lights. The first is my Maker's Mark (left) and this mark indicates the light was 100% manufactured in my own shop using my own tools.
The second stamp (roll over the photo) is the Prometheus Lights logo. This mark is only used on the Ready-Made lights, which are machined at a CNC shop just down the road from me.
The Alpha's size is deliberate and based on a blend of engineering and aesthetics. It's proportioned based on the "Golden Ratio" and intended to deliver a specific "hand feel" in terms of size and weight. The light is balanced for overhand, underhand, and cigar grips.
It's the largest size for a pocketable light and the smallest size (in my opinion) for a light this powerful. Internal components are arranged for improved thermal management and the tailcap is recessed to allow tail standing.
The clip is sized specifically to deliver comfort and traction with an overhand grip.
I tell you everything there is to know about my lights and this is very intentional. I hate it when companies are vague about what goes into their lights. I'm a researcher and a fiend for data. I want to know as much about a product as I can, before I buy it.
My "secret sauce" is solid engineering, the best components I can get, and old fashioned hard work. That's also why my lights are expensive. I show you everything so you can see that I haven't cut any corners.
Each Blue-Label light comes with it's own report card so you know exactly what you are spending your money on. Ready-Made lights do not because it takes a lot of time to test each individual light.
|>> Free Stuff
It's not much but it's something. I like everyone to have a little surprise when they open the box...to get something extra. I suppose that's why I'm spoiling the surprise here?!
Every light comes with a 1cc bottle of Nano-Oil and two replacement o-rings. One for the head and one for the tail. Blue-Label lights come with fluorosilicone o-rings and Ready-Made lights come with Nitrile o-rings. If you get the Journeyman package (with maintenance kit) then these are not included.
The bottles are medical grade precision dispensing bottles. You didn't think I'd just buy something random off the internet did you? I fill each bottle by hand.
>> O-rings (roll-over image)
The Alpha is sealed with only 3 O-rings and the silicone tailcap, making the Alpha rated for submersion and tested to 300 feet for 5 hours. This is unprecedented for a "general purpose" hand-held flashlight.
Blue-Label lights feature blue fluorosilicone o-rings that are 10x more expensive that the industry standard Nitrile o-rings.
Ready Made lights come with black Nitrile o-rings. Nitrile is the most common o-ring material and it's amazingly good...just not as good as fluorosilicone.
>> Dual Coated, Ultra-Clear Lens (UCL)
This is one of the most expensive components in the light. These premium glass lenses are coated on both sides with an anti-reflective coating that achieves 98% light transmission. That's really impressive...in case you weren't already impressed.
The lens is so clear that a lot of people think I've forgotten to install it.
The coating is quite durable and can be cleaned with a soft cloth and Windex. Be careful though, because you "can" scratch it.
|>> Faceted Ledil "Boom" Reflector
This reflector is made by Ledil of Finland. The only thing they make are optics for LEDs so you should expect it to be good. The reflector is precision-molded plastic and each facet is actually engineered to optimize the beam.
Most reflectors used in flashlights are smooth (SMO) or orange peel (OP). Smooth reflectors put more lumens out the front, but the orange peel texture is added to cover imperfections in the beam and create more spill light, while slightly reducing output.
The Boom is the best of both worlds, maximum light output with a perfectly smooth beam.
|>> Beam Profile
The center spot is 20 degrees from edge to edge. The camera tends to exaggerate the separation between spot and spill. To the eye the transition is much more gentle. The Alpha is a floody light that produces a huge wall of light. It's not " thrower" but at +100m it's more than enough for 80% of flashlight use. In my opinion "throwers" are only good for special use cases...the 20% by the 80/20 rule and the Alpha is an everyday light, not a specialty light.
I'm proud to say one of the most frequent comments I get is how "perfect" the beam profile is. I can only take a little credit as most of it goes to those Fins. However, I did try (almost) every possible LED optic on earth before I settled on this one.
|>> Premium LEDs
This is the most common place for flashlight manufacturers to skimp, but for me, this is where I spend most of my money. I purchase LED's from a US-based authorized CREE dealer. No grey-market or sketchy imports.
I specify exact bins and I want to be absolutely sure that's what I'm getting. If you aren't buying directly from CREE or an authorized dealer, there is no way to know what you're actually getting.
|>> Thread Quality & Machining
Thread fit is one thing that sets my lights apart. My threads adhere strictly to Unified Tread Standard (UNS) tolerances set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This ensures reliable compatibility between production runs.
Blue-Label lights feature a Class III thread fit. This is the most precision class and normally reserved for military and instrumentation applications. The increased thread contact area enhances electrical and thermal conductivity.
Ready-Made lights use a Class II thread fit. This is the most common class of fit and specified to ensure that parts are compatible without high percentage (costly) inspection.
|>> Strain Relief
You'll never see it unless you disassemble your light; however, high-temperature silicone sleeves protect the LED leads as they pass through the head. This is probably not necessary but it protects keep the wire casing from being worn through from long term or intense vibration.
This was implemented around January 2012, so only lights made after this date feature strain relief. I install these in any light that is returned for LED swaps or as part of the Blue-Label Lifetime Upgrade program.
|>> Mil-Spec Silver Plated Copper Stranded Wire (Teflon Coated)
This is pretty much as good as wire gets. Electrical resistance is incredibly low and the Teflon insulation resists abrasion and can withstand temperatures in excess of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This wire meets the standards for MIL-W-16878/4.
This 24 AWG wire is very thin but it is capable of carrying up to 13 Amps of current. "Standard" 24 AWG wire is only rated to carry 0.5 Amps. I said it was good right?
|>> Driver Mounting
The driver is secured by a custom designed wave spring and polycarbonate "window" to keep out dust. The sleeve acts as an electrical contact for power transmission and to act as a heat sink for the driver itself. The hollow shape and distance from the LED mounting surface helps with thermal isolation. The positive battery terminal is made from solid copper and has a large contact surface to ensure maximum electrical conductivity.
Blue-Label lights feature a C101 (99.9% pure) copper sleeve.
Ready-Made lights use an EN plated 6061-T6 aluminum sleeve.
|>> Body Machining
Part of my signature style is the .375" diameter grooving on the body. These wide grooves provide finger-friendly grip and an interesting visual effect. The grooves on most lights are "as machined," meaning they receive no polishing to achieve the high degree of reflection...just the right tool at the right speed.
All bodies are finish turned to the correct outside diameter and then grooved on my Hardinge HLV-H manual lathe. No automated CNC for this step.
|>> Titanium Pocket Clip
My pocket clip is now made from ASTM Certified 6Al/4V titanium alloy. There is a hole at the top that will pass a lanyard as large as two strands of 550 para cord. The bend in the tip of the clip is designed to be flat and smooth to minimize the wear on your pocket.
All my clips are manufactured from genuine ASTM Certified 6Al/4V (Grade 5) titanium. I'm also the only maker on earth that uses Certified material, because I make no compromises. Certified Ti is 50% more expensive than generic. Don't be fooled by claims of "aerospace grade" materials...if it's not Certified, it's not aerospace grade.
|>> "Tool Free" Clip installation
It doesn't look like much but this tailcap is a tour-de-engineering. I won't bore you with all the details but my crowning achievement is the "tool free" installation. The clip "pops" over the o-ring so you won't loose it accidentally. Unlike most lights, you don't need to remove the o-ring to take the clip on/off.
When the clip is removed, the retaining shoulder slides into the body and disappears. Most clips are "screw-on" which looks cool if you use the clip, but if not, there are two ugly holes in the side of your light.
If your clip ever looses tension, simply install it backwards and re-tension it.
|>> McClicky switch
Of course I use the most famous flashlight switch on earth. I have tried every other kind of switch, and like most things, you get what you pay for. The McClicky is 5x the cost of other switches, but it's worth it.
The McClicky is a "forward-type" clicky that allows momentary activation.
The Alpha battery should always be changed through the head of the light. You should not open the tailcap unless you are replacing the switch or removing/installing the pocket clip. Removing the tailcap causes the compressed spring to rotate against the battery, putting undue and unecessary stress on the switch spring which can lead to failure.
|>> User Interface (UI)
Most people consider the UI to be the software onboard the driver; however, the UI also includes the physical means of interface. My current driver has three modes with last level memory accessed through a single button. This is the simplest and most robust flashlight UI.
Control rings and multiple buttons are useful, but they introduce cost, complexity, and additional points of failure. I think there are some things that should remain simple.
Please see the Icarus driver page for more details. Icarus is the product of more than 2 years of work, is fully custom made, and 100% manufacured in the US.
>> Primary Seal Ring (PSR)
The PSR was implemented in all lights starting in October 2012. My lights were pressure tested to 300 feet for 5 hours without the PSR...so it's not really necessary, but again, I accept no compromises.
The security of the primary seal was one detail that did not completely meet my standards. So I went ahead and had these rings custom manufactured by Smalley Steel Ring. I probably should have applied for a patent for this sealing method, but there you go, everyone feel free to copy :)