Night-Vision Lights Project

MattJ

Adventurer
#1
Well, they aren't actually night-vision lights . . . but they are lights that don't ruin your night vision while at base camp. I got the idea after a trip to an observatory where everyone was issued flashlights with red cellophane taped over them. I've been working on the project for more than a year. In fact, it might actually hold the record for the project that took me the longest to figure out. My primary challenge was that the Warn lights generate a LOT of heat. I melted Lexan. Then I tried Dykem marking fluid, which comes with a health-warning label that would scare even a chemist. Eventually the Dykem wore away. Finally, I got the idea to use old traffic light lenses . . . but then the challenge was figuring out how to mount them securely. Plate hangers worked, but were a hassle to set up and remove. Eventually, after months of working and thinking on this challenge, I learned how to drill holes through the glass lights and mount strap buckles.

I wanted to share this project and all of my mistakes and failures because the CORRECT method is a really quick, easy and effective way to create true red lighting that can illuminate an entire campsite at night! The lenses strap on in just a few seconds and can be cinched very tight with the straps.

















 

Little Foot

Crawler/Overlander
#2
That’s pretty awesome that you went through all of that and decided to share. Red light is much easier on your eyes for sure, I used to have a red led strip in my hatch that I turned in when I had the hatch open in camp at night. Does no one make a red floodlight? Or did you just want an attachment for your current light?


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MattJ

Adventurer
#3
Does no one make a red floodlight? Or did you just want an attachment for your current light?
Good question! I started this project so long ago that I actually can't remember if I ever tried to find a red floodlight product. I kept assuming each step would be easy: make some Lexan lenses for my Warn lights, or paint them with Dykem, or simply mount stoplight lenses over them. But each time I thought I had this challenge figured out, my solution would fail. I broke three of my four stoplight lenses when I tried to drill through them with a tungsten bit. But I never gave up - I was learning too much along the way! Finally I figured out the proper method for drilling holes through thick glass (hollow diamond bit, putty and cutting oil). And that technique unlocked the solution for me.

Every now and then, we all get lucky with a project that takes many, many attempts to figure out. Those are the projects where we learn the most.
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
#5
Neat.

You could also spray this over a cheap LED and declare victory. https://www.amazon.com/Dupli-Color-EMC200007-Metal-Anodized-Color/dp/B000994BUM
Duplicolor Metalcast Yellow has been my go-to for years for creating selective yellow foglight tint after reading Dan Stern's write-up.
https://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/lights/light_color/light_color.html

It's good that you observed that red works for preserving night vision. Lots of people mistakenly think that other colors do. There are even people that plunk down money on blue and amber filters for their high-dollar lights for unsupported claims.

Here's a great forum for automotive lighting advice. http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/forumdisplay.php?87-Automotive-Motorcycles-Included
They will NEVER tell you that which is not so in an effort to support or sell a product for profit. And they won't tolerate any support of illegal products. Just warning you....
 

MattJ

Adventurer
#6
It's good that you observed that red works for preserving night vision. Lots of people mistakenly think that other colors do. There are even people that plunk down money on blue and amber filters for their high-dollar lights for unsupported claims.
Now that I have finally figured out how to drill and mount the stoplight lenses easily, should I try green lenses? Or amber? Plenty of those colors available as used stoplight lenses.
 

lumpskie

Independent Thinker
#9
This is a cool idea. I know that my old Vision X lights and my new Rigid D2s have red lenses available. Any pictures showing the light output? I know that my yellow lenses do make fog driving a lot better... what do you think green would be good for? (I've seen those available for lights too)
 

Hilldweller

SE Expedition Society
#10
... what do you think green would be good for? ...
Nothing other than signaling.

Bear in mind that it's illegal to run a green light on the road. Or run a forward-facing red light on the road.

I put very low lumen red LED lights in the hatch of my teardrop for when we're sitting around enjoying the fire. It's just enough light to get to the trailer and grab a beer without taxing the night vision too much.


.... Does no one make a red floodlight?...
LED brakelight for a tractor trailer?
 
#13
Thank you!

Gel manufacturers were surprised several years ago with a large increase in demand for their (usually free) swatch-books. Photographers had realized the gel swatches could be gaffer-taped to battery-powered camera-flashes, creating a lot of flexibility at minimum cost. 😎
 

MattJ

Adventurer
#14
Thanks for all of the additional input! To respond to a few points in the conversation:

1) I got the idea for this project when I would arrive at a dark campsite with a group of Boy Scouts after a long drive. Everyone had to scramble to set up their tents and gear in the dark with flashlights or headlamps. And my six Warn lights are WAY to powerful to be helpful in providing ambient light for setting up camp. So my goal was to find some way to use those lights to cast red light.

2) Someone suggested to me that green light might be better at preserving night vision with better color differentiation. In red light, blue looks black. But I'm not sure I'll bother to experiment with green lights.

2) Yes, it's certainly not legal to drive with mounted red lights up front. When I was experimenting with the Dykem marking fluid, I bought light covers that fit over my lights. When I switched to the idea of easy-on/easy-off lenses, I spent a lot of time and made a lot of mistakes trying to drill through glass. The Warn lights get so hot that I had to design a mounting system that could withstand very high temperatures, but also be easy to install and remove at a dark campsite.

3) I've have to look into the Rosco product. A few months ago, I came up with the idea to search for stage lights (used in theater or music concerts), but never found anything that seemed like a good fit for this project. Same result when I searched photography equipment vendors. But the Rosco SuperGels look promising!

4) I have a couple test photos of the stoplight lens, but I'm not sure they're helpful. Once I make the other three lenses, I'll take some more photos of all four lights emitting through the red lenses.



 

MattJ

Adventurer
#15
By the way, I also made a simple lens for my backup light from opaque red plastic several months ago. My backup light didn't seem to get as hot as the Warn lights up front. But now I can't find that lens. I'm wondering if it did melt, or whether I decided I usually have the rear cargo door open when setting up camp, so it wasn't really helpful to use the backup light.



 
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