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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This month:

More Than A Worklight

Quick Follow-Up and Thank You!!!

Twists, Turns, and Detours

The Twist and Turns Of Wood

Form Versus Function – The Studley Tool Chest or "How I Will Probably Offend Chris Schwarz"

More Than A Worklight

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

A few years ago when it was first introduced, I chuckled to myself and thought, "What kind of raving fan boy would buy one of those?" A glorified overpriced flashlight for people that insist on everything in their toolbox having a green Festool logo… that was my impression of the Syslite. First impressions, prejudices, misconceptions, and downright stubbornness die hard. A few weeks ago I ordered a Festool KAL II Syslite from Highland Woodworking , and now, bring me lots of salt and pepper, 'cause that crow is going to be hard to eat.

Figure 1 - The Syslite II and its carrying case,
wall charger/power supply, and car charger 

Late the other night, with the wind howling outside and the temps hovering around six below zero, I heard a loud crash. I was in my shop, of course, and I went in the house to check on my family. My wife and both cats were up peering out of windows, trying to determine the source of the noise. Living in a deeply wooded area, the occasional limb falling out of a tree is not unheard of (sorry for the lame pun). But this crash was particularly loud, so I donned several layers of clothes while thinking about which flashlight I should carry. Admittedly, I am somewhat of a flashlight snob… I've got tactical lights of all types, some that will blind an intruder, some that will blind several, all powerful, all built like tanks. On a whim I decided to whip out the Festool Syslite and carry it along on my exploration.

I pushed the power button once. This puts the light on "low" power, or 30 percent, with a rated output of 310 Lumens. I was still within the area lit by twin floodlights at the corner of my shop, so the first thing I noticed was the 170 degree width of the beam. As I walked a bit further I began to notice the light output. I hit the switch again, switching the Syslite to full power (769 Lumens) and was blown away. This is no glorified flashlight! Instead, think automobile headlight… no, headlights… on bright. My path was lit vividly as was everything to either side. I easily inspected the roof, looking for broken tree limbs, scanned the property for fallen trees, and even walked well into the woods behind; everything was lit well, nothing outside my view, even my peripheral vision.

This was the first time I had actually used the Syslite in a totally dark situation. Instead of obsessing over the source of the noise (which I never found, by the way) I found myself obsessing over the light. Back in my shop I made the mistake of turning on the light and glancing into one of its twelve 1.5 watt LED bulbs. Don't do that. For close to a half-hour after, I had a "dot" in my vision, like I had looked at the sun or been blinded by an old-fashioned flash bulb.

Making good quality video requires lots of light. I use three specialty LED panels made for studio lighting. The largest is considered to be the "main" light, the next smaller is "fill" lighting, and the smallest is a "kicker" or "backlight." The largest light panel has 360 LED bulbs… yep, count 'em… 360 bulbs. It plugs in (no battery) and boasts some "photo-specific" features, like the ability to adjust color and output levels, and it costs well over three times more than the Syslite. As you can see in the photos, the Syslite was not as bright. In photographic terms, it produced about 2 to 2.5 f-stops less light running on battery power. But with no need for a plug the Syslite could do a credible job as fill or kicker lighting in a video or photo shoot at one-third the cost and with 12 bulbs instead of 360. And if you were of a mind to use the Syslite as a photographic light, it has a 1/4"-20 threaded socket, standard in the photographic world, allowing it to be mounted to tripods, light stands, etc.

Figure 2 - With the 360 LED photographic light and
no other light source 
Figure 3 - With the Syslite II. Exposure settings
were identical (400 ISO, 1/60, f 5.6) 

The light emitted by the Syslite is said to be 5,000 degrees Kelvin. My testing indicated it to be just a touch warmer than that, more like 4,500 degrees Kelvin. The Syslite contains an onboard lithium battery charged through a wall-wart type charger and a ten-foot long charging cord. The basic kit also includes a car charger with a cord slightly over five-feet long. The light can be run continuously when plugged in, will operate about 5-1/2 hours on its internal battery on the low setting and a little over 2 hours on its high setting. You can also slide off the back plate and attach any Festool BPC or BPS series battery for additional run time.

One hidden little trick the Festool Syslite can perform is as an emergency power failure light. By holding down the power switch while inserting the power adapter cable, the light will stay off when the power is on, and come on automatically if the power goes off.

The outer case is very Festool-like, both in appearance and in ruggedness. More importantly, it is thoughtfully designed. Stand the light on end, and it slants upward at a 10 degrees angle. Place it on one side, and the upward angle is 15 degrees and on its other side the angle is 30 degrees. Add to that a hanging hook built into the back of the charging plate, and the previously mentioned 1/4"-20 socket and there are myriad ways to position the light. Get the Syslite "Set" for an additional $55 and you also get a magnetic mount with positioning system. Either basic or "set," you also get a nice carrying case with the light (sorry, it's not a Systainer!). If someone at Festool reads this, please add a 1/4"-20 socket to one side (in addition to the one at the end) and the mounting and positioning options will be complete.

The Syslite is a work light, and that's why I bought it. During my remodeling project I need a lot of light and often have the power off. I could run trip hazards… I mean extension cords… throughout the house, but the Syslite is much better. And so far, my personal batteries have drained much faster than the battery in the light. The wide dispersion angle means that I rarely have to reposition the light and its tough case and robust build beats the heck out of worrying about breaking conventional work lights. If you need a dependable, super bright, long-lasting work light, you should get one… and I will never disparage you with taunts of "fan boy." Promise!

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