Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Easy Camera Mounts

This week I showed you how to build a handy little camera mount out of a couple pieces of job site debris and a 1/4-20 machine screw.

On a "run and gun" how-to documentary like Handyman Kevin, finding a good way to hold the camera is an eternal challenge.  I usually need both hands free to demonstrate the project, yet I often don't have another person around to operate the camera.  I do have a regular tripod, which I use quite a bit.  However, it is sometimes too big to fit in tight spots and I don't always remember to bring it with me.  In other words, I've had to make a few of these little camera mounts.

The Job Site Scraps Mount

Here are the steps to build it, in case you missed some of them in my video:

  1. Find a smallish piece of 1x4 (or wider) lumber and a longer piece of 1x2 lumber.
  2. On the 1x4 mark out a piece about 3 1/2" x 6" with an off-center 1 1/2" square hole in it.
  3. Cut out the square hole by drilling holes in two opposite corners, then cutting along the lines with either a coping saw or jig saw.  At this time, also drill a 1/4" hole for the screw that will hold the camera.
  4. Cut the piece of 1x4 to width and length.
  5. Cut the 1x2 piece approximately in thirds.
  6. Use a knife or rasp to round the corners of one of the 1x2 pieces.
  7. Use drywall screws to assemble to 1x2 pieces into some sort of sturdy base.
  8. Mount the 1x4 piece to the base with two drywall screws.  It should fit tightly enough to hold the camera in place with friction.  If it is too loose, shim the edges of the square hold with paper or scraps of aluminum cut from a soda can.
  9. Put the 1/4-20 screw through the hole in the mount and secure it in place with nuts.
This mount works surprisingly well, considering how crude it is.  Not only does it hold the camera at whatever angle I want, but the base actually makes a pretty stable handle for hand-carry shots.  However, I would have made one design change:  If I had had them, I would have used wing nuts instead of drywall screws to hold the head in adjustment, as I did in the next mount.  Not only are they easier to adjust, but they last longer.  

The F-Clamp Mount

One of the problems with the kind of videos I make is that I often need shots where I am up a ladder on an outside wall, or in a crawl space.  The next camera mount works well for these because it can clamp to rafters, joists, fascias, or columns under houses.

Note:  I have a relatively light camera.  If you use this mount with a larger video camera, you will probably want to beef it up accordingly.  Also, it you have an expensive camera and are planning to hang it from the second story, think about a safety line attached to a second clamp, in case you fumble when you are undoing the clamp.

Camera Mount on a Fascia

Camera Mount on the Bottom of a Floor Joist
I was at home when I built this, so I had access to my main resource piles and could choose the best hardware for the job.  The most important piece is an f-clamp with a 1/4" hole drilled near one end.  I suppose this is one more use I should have listed for f-clamps in last weeks blog.  One nice feature is that, if I need the clamp back, I can unscrew the mount and stow it.

I drilled a hole in the end of the clamp and attached two angle brackets, allowing the camera to be positioned in three axes.  The connections between the angle bracket and the clamp and between the two angle brackets are made with double wing nuts on a 1/4" bolt (a short piece of all-thread would also have worked).

The screw that holds the camera is used very similarly to the one in the previous mount.  The double nuts hold it at just the right depth to fully engage the tapped hole in the camera.  Life will be easier if you put a dab of Loctite on one of the nuts, so keep if from turning when you adjust the other nut.

Completed F-Clamp Mount

Close-up of Head Articulation

Other Ideas

Hopefully, these two designs have shown you how easy it is to make your own camera mounts.  The same basic ideas can be used to create a wide range of camera holding fixtures.  You could glue a piece of 1/4" all-thread into the end of a broom stick, put a crutch tip on the other end, and you will have a very workable monopod for taking pictures on a hike or at your kid's soccer game.  Or build just the head from the job site scraps mount, Velcro it to the fender of your truck or to the nose of your skateboard, and go out to make some YouTube magic.  Just try not to break your camera or your neck.

With a little creativity, you could probably even make a pretty decent tripod.  I'm not sure it would dollar out, given how affordable they have gotten recently, but it might be a good handyman conversation piece. 

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