CWF/Ti2 Design Pele Review

Despite this torch being in production for over a year, I still haven’t seen a “real” review of it yet which is a shame. It’s a bit exciting, however, knowing that I will have the first published review for the Pele. And as with all my reviews, I’ll be covering both the pros and cons of the torch and be giving my honest thoughts. Please check out my YouTube channel if you’re looking for a brief, recap video.

At the time of publication, my particular sample retails for $600. I personally paid the price of $312 including shipping during Ti2 Design’s Black Friday sale. Metal options include the usual titanium, copper, and brass, but there’s also more exotic metals available for those with deeper pockets than myself. Furthermore, there’s various designs and etches that have been put on the Pele.

Introduction

The Pele is a collaborative piece between Charles Wiggins (CWF) and Mike Bond (Ti2 Design). Charles started off doing mod work on existing lights, and once establishing a strong reputation for his work, branched off into making his own designs. Currently, the body of the Pele is machined by Mike Bond (who also does the very, very unique etches on some iterations of the Pele) in Hawaii while Charles completes the final product in Georgia.

The name of the torch itself derives from the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire. A very apt name if you ask me.

Presentation

The torch arrived in a plastic baggy with two business-esque cards inside. One was the specification card with the torch’s build-date, LEDs, and material. The second had detailed instructions on programming the flashlight. While sparse, the presentation was slick and concise.

IMG_3004

The Good Stuff

As one might expect, the attention to detail and the build quality are stellar on this torch. The surface finish is consistent on all parts including the inside of the tube which is sometimes missed. I will note that there is some very slight thread play and grittiness at the head. This is typical with titanium; however, I have seen better. If I didn’t have other examples of high-end, titanium lights, I’d be none the wiser.

In terms of design and the features that most flashlight-geeks enjoy, the Pele gets most things right. The two things that come to mind first are 1) the tail-end of the torch and 2) the bezel. The switch is recessed which allows for tail standing, and the bezel has light crenellations so that one can tell if the torch is “on”. Among other aspects of the design, the knurling at the head and tail of the torch is appealing both visually and functionally.

All that said, one thing I’m unabashedly a fan of is the clip. The Ti2 Design clip is probably one of my favorite clips out there right now. It looks good on a variety of torches, and it works so well. Note the high lip of the clip – this allows it to clip with ease to even heavier work pants. The retention as I received it was just right too.

Ok, so let’s talk the electronics and innards of the Pele. As cool as the Pele is, CWF’s calling card is no doubt the Dragon driver. Designed around the Bistro firmware, the Dragon driver is a FET with a secondary channel that allows for secondary LEDs. This is unique because prior to Dragon there was no readily-available 17mm driver that could drive both primary and secondary LEDs.

As you can probably tell from the above pictures, I went with red secondary LEDs. Amber, blue, and green are other possible colors. This is just personal opinion, but I don’t think that the blue and green have much relevance in practical use. Red and amber, though, are apt for preserving your night vision such as when you wake up in the middle of the night to hit the bathroom.

Photo used with permission from Zeroair.org 

The driver has a variety of preset mode groups, eight of them to be exact. With respect to the mode groups, there are the following options: Mode Memory, Mode Order, and a Reverse Toggle. There’s also a variety of other features including the following: Strobe, battery check, and bicycle strobe.

The driver that the Dragon will no doubt be compared to is the Lux-RC 371D which is present in the Oveready BOSS torches. Like the Dragon, it also has a secondary LED. To be fair, this is very much an apples to oranges comparison: The Lux-RC 371d is twice the price of the Dragon once you factor in the accompanying MCPCB with LEDs.

To make a long story short, the Lux-RC 371D is simply more advanced and versatile in pretty much every way. I’ll elucidate on some of the Dragon’s shortcomings further on. Where the Dragon does come out a clear winner is in the secondary LEDs. There are two pre-set brightness levels for the secondary LEDs on the Dragon driver, and even the first output level is much brighter than the 371D’s one secondary output level.

CWF is also using the latest and greatest LED to hit the market, the Samsung LH351D. The Samsung LH351D is brighter than the flashaholic default Nichia 219C LED and doesn’t come at the expense of color rendering (CRI). The ones in my Pele are 4000K; I still haven’t decided whether I like the overall tint yet. Something I noticed rather quickly is that the LH351D has a much broader hotspot than most other LEDs. As a result, the LED choice produces a very clean hotspot (for a triple) that I haven’t seen with any of my other triples.

The Bad Stuff

When I held the Pele in my hand, I quickly realized that the torch was designed with larger individual’s hands in-mind. This can be predicated on two instances, the first being the switch boot cavity. The cavity is clearly more recessed than most other torches and is intended for those with larger, longer thumbs. It’s not like the Notta Design Beam’s switch cavity which is recessed and has a small overall diameter.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem (and it’s still not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things) were it not for the bodily ergonomics of the torch. There is very little taper to the Pele’s body, thus making the cigar-hold grip uncomfortable. I doubt this would be very much of a problem if you have larger hands, though.

As expected, people with larger hands tend to prefer the longer Oveready BOSS 70 over the BOSS 35 pictured because of how small it is. There is no doubt, however, that the bodily ergonomics of the Pele could have been better. But in case you can’t tell, I am nitpicking. These issues are a consequence of my hand size (medium) and will vary between individuals. Heck, I doubt most people will notice them at all if they don’t have a basis of comparison like the Oveready BOSS.

I can’t decide if this is straight bad or just ugly. As you can see, the secondary LEDs are always “on” when the main LEDs are “on”. The drain on the battery is probably mostly negligible, and I will live with it nonetheless, but it pokes my OCD every time I see it. Luckily, unless you’re using the moonlight mode, it won’t rear its ugly head too often.

1- low red,high red,ml,5,15,35,50,100
2- low red,high red,5,15,35,100
3- low red,ml,5,15,35,50,100
4- low red,5,15,35,100
5- low red,high red,15,100
6- low red,15,100
7- ML,5 ,15,35,50,100
8- 5,15,35,100

My next issue has to do with the versatility of the Dragon driver. You’re effectively limited to eight pre-set mode groups. For most non-flashlight geeks this probably already seems like overkill, but this is nothing compared to what most drivers deliver nowadays. The ability to set each of the outputs to a desired level and add/delete modes would have been a welcome addition.

Reversing options(1/2second press) as follows:
Turbo—>Strobe—>Batt Check (1-8 with 8 being full) —> Bike Indicator Strobe

Accessing these modes requires a tap and then waiting half a second before pressing again. There’s a couple problems with this. First, it’s very easy to inadvertently activate Turbo if you wait an extra split second while changing outputs. Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night and flick the light onto the first output, red. If you turn off the light briefly because you don’t want to disturb the person down the hall as you walk past, and turn it back on again in half a second, you’re going to blast your half-asleep retinas with full turbo.

The other issue is the placement of strobe. As it stands, strobe takes way too long to  access with this setup. Obviously, strobe is most applicable as a defensive option – you don’t want to be going through numerous button clicks when you’re under duress. There is an option, Reversing Toggle, that removes these options entirely, but then you’ve lost Batt Check and Bike Indicator Strobe which are perfect features.

The Verdict

To preface this, I can’t express enough what a wonderful culmination of talent this torch is. And I am truly happy to see Charles and Mike succeeding with something that is at least somewhat progressive in terms of function, AKA the Dragon driver.

Those of you that have read some of my reviews before know that I like to assess the perceived value of torches and their longevity. I have also said in previous reviews (or maybe in one of my YouTube ones) that I cannot objectively quantify factors such as shop overhead, the bond between maker and customer, and that magic “X” factor.

With that said, I do think I can comment on what is an acceptable price range (at least to the extent of which most people should expect to pay). Similar to the Hanko torches, I have seen these lights run far, far over their MSRP and inherent value on the secondary market. Factors such as hype, supply and demand, and the market as a whole all serve to influence a torch’s value. I have seen this torch, this particular model that is, run as high as $975 and as low as $300. That is an absurd price difference that speaks volumes to the volatility of the Pele’s value.

In one of my YouTube reviews, one of my viewers criticized me for effectively saying that the Arcadian (CWF’s other production light) was not worth it. In a nutshell, the above is my reason why. To be clear, I am not saying you shouldn’t buy these torches – hell, I bought this one. But think about what exactly constitutes the values of these torches for you, don’t buy into the hype. When you get to this level of high-end, you’re looking at art just as much as you are a functional torch.

Now on the topic of function, I think that with some minor revisions, the Dragon could really be a home-run. And to this end, CWF has already expressed interest in improving the driver as it is on version three. The infrastructure for the driver is already existing (pretty much every triple) and I look forward to it being so much more.

Overall, I feel confident saying that the Pele is a very solid custom torch especially for a first design. No doubt that there are more refined and less cost-prohibitive torches, however. If some of the kinks with the Dragon driver were ironed out, this torch would get a standing recommendation in my book devoid some of the secondary market prices.

Grade: C+

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