How To Make A Folding Light Stand General Woodworking
When it comes to making video and taking pictures, lighting is crucial and will have the biggest impact on how they turn out. And while I have pretty good lighting in my shop, often there are times when I need a little extra. That’s where a light stand that’s lightweight, compact and adjustable really comes in handy.
And today you can get great quality battery powered lighting that doesn’t cost a fortune. Thanks to the advancement in LED lighting and battery technology, panels that couldn’t exist as little as ten years ago are not only available, they are also inexpensive.
This isn’t my first time building a light stand. But the ones I’ve made before were too heavy and bulky and lacked adjustability to make them convenient to use. More and more as I get older, I recognize that it’s that convenience that determines whether something will be used long term or not. So I put extra thought into how I could make these to be as lightweight and compact as possible. Easy to use and fairly durable were also key design points, as well as portability – the battery powered panels are cordless and that certainly helps in that regard.
Building to withstand hurricanes is great if you regularly need lighting during hurricanes or want the stand to last forever. But I’ve always found that the things I build to that higher standard don’t actually last, mainly because I take them apart or discard them entirely when I get sick of lugging them around. And that’s not limited to light stands – I’ve overbuilt other things in the past that suffered the same fate.
There are just five parts that make up each stand: three legs, a central pole or mast and hub that joins them all together. The parts for these are shown below, a mixed assortment of scrap hardwood and offcuts:
The narrow strips are leftovers from bigger projects and the thicker piece of maple is from back in my days doing millwork installation in schools – gym changing room bench slat material.
Six legs and two masts for two stands cut down to size. The masts are 32″ long and 1″ square, and the legs are 20″ long and 3/4″ square:
There’s a mix of hardwoods: oak, maple, ash and one piece of spalted maple that doesn’t have enough spalting to be precious. This can also be made from softwood, spruce in particular would be a good choice. You’ll want to slightly upsize the parts, though to make up for the lower stiffness. Say 1″ square for the legs and 1-1/4″ square for the mast and the appropriate increase in size of the hub to match.
The complex part is the hub – a hexagonal hunk of wood with a square opening in the middle for the mast. The build video at the bottom of this page shows the self imposed trouble I had getting the angle cuts correct on this:
By the way, it’s 30 degrees! Set the blade tilt to 30 degrees! Got it?
I made the two hubs from that single board that’s cut into four pieces. Two of the pieces will be glued together to form one of the hubs and here you can see that I overcut a bit to give a little space on one side of the mast:
This is for the t-nut and steel plate that holds mast in place and makes it adjustable up and down:
The plate keeps the end of the locking screw from digging into the side of the mast and strictly speaking is optional. You could go with a larger diameter screw and be fine without the plate.
With that plate and t-nut installed I could get the hubs glued together. I put the mast inside to keep them lined up:
Important to make sure that squeeze-out hasn’t glued the mast in place as well!
While that was drying I did some work on the legs. The ends that connect to the hub need a pivot hole and also need to be rounded:
I also eased over the edges on the other end of each leg where it sits on the floor.
Then I cut the angled stop blocks for the legs from 3/4″ plywood. When the glue was set on the hub I glued those in place as well:
The build video shows the procedure for doing that in more detail.
Here’s how it looks assembled:
The three legs look weird sticking off like that, but are very stable. This was designed for the weight it will carry and the LED panels are very light. Also the fact that they are cordless plays a part – dangling cords add weight and can easily pull over a lightweight stand like this.
The LED panel came with a knuckle that allows the panel to tilt up and down and I fastened that to the top of the mast with a 1/4″ hanger bolt:
These are not overly tall, but then I don’t need them to be. More important is to be able to make them shorter and if I need the extra height I can always make a longer mast.
Here it is compactly folded:
The panel can be removed quickly as well, making it even more compact.
My workshop isn’t big enough to get a picture of these on their own, there’s always going to be something else in the shot.
The build video: