Tripod Extension Arm General Woodworking
Making video of my projects has become a large part of the process, and sometimes the equipment I have limits what I would really like to do. A good example is the tripod that I use. Often, I would like to get a shot from a slightly higher angle, but the tripod comes up short – I’ve often put the tripod up on something to elevate it, which can be risky. Or to go down low and in tight to the subject, and don’t want go to the trouble of collapsing the legs to get there. I’ll often have as many as one hundred camera positions during a video, so any amount of extra work to do something adds up.
Given the shortcomings of the tripod, I thought I would build a new one from the ground up, but reconsidered. Thinking it over, I decided that all I really need is a short extension arm that would mount on the tripod I already have. This would boost the vertical range, without going to the trouble of building something
It was about eight years ago that I bought the tripod more or less on a whim at Goodwill:
It still has the price tag on it for $19.99.
I wasn’t making videos at that time, but bought it to use for another purpose. It’s
fairly good quality, although quite old and worn, with some repaired or replaced parts. Still, it does the job, is lightweight and relatively easy to use.
The materials to build the extension arm – some hardware and scraps of wood from my wood rack:
The solid wood is birch from an Ikea table I cut up. Although birch is a fairly light hardwood, it’s still pretty heavy for something like this. A better choice would be clear spruce.
The extension arm consists of two parts: the ‘arm’ and (for want of a better term) the ‘hand’ that holds the camera. The hand pivots on a 3/4″ dowel at the end of the arm.
The parts for the first section consist of the arm plus a clamp block. These have been cut to size and drilled for screws and t-nuts:
The t-nut at the end of the arm that clamps down to the tripod is held in with two small screws. These keep it from coming out when not in use.
A simple knob is made to tighten the clamp. It is a 1/4″ carriage bolt, a pair of washers, a nut and a plywood disk cut to 2″ diameter:
The carriage bolt was longer than needed, and I cut it off to keep it from sticking out.
Next, I can get started on the hand. The first part is the block that the camera will bolt down to:
Just a piece of the birch 2-1/2″ wide and 3″ long with a counterbore and hole in the middle. The counterbore houses the lock nut that holds the bolt in place, but is loose enough to allow the bolt to turn. The bolt is a 1/4″ carriage bolt that’s been cut to length, and fits in the threaded socket in the bottom of most cameras.
The rest of the hand is assembled to the arm, glued and clamped:
The extension adds nearly 12″ to the height of the tripod for higher angle shots. The big benefit is just how fast and easy it is to adjust it to a new angle.
With the tripod down to it’s lowest (without collapsing the legs), the arm gives an extra 12″ lower and will get in closer to the subject:
Originally, the idea was to only use this attachment for special shots, but I have left it on the tripod since mounting it. I’m finding that it really broadens what I’m able to do
I made a video showing the build from beginning to end:
You will need to download and install SketchUp to view these plans. SketchUp is free and available here:
Hot Rodding The Ex-Arm
As mentioned above, birch is heavier than ideal for this, so I thought I would spend some time to reduce the weight of the unit. I did this by drilling holes of various sizes, but started by making the sides on the ‘hand’ section thinner:
Then drilled four 1″ holes in the camera platform.
And clipped off the corners:
Holes were drilled through the sides as well.
The clamp for the arm was drilled out with 1-1/4″, 3/4″ and 1/2″ bits:
As well as the arm itself.
With it put back together:
I’ve since permanently attached the arm to my tripod, as it has proven to be extremely handy for all of my video work and I use it in every shot.
It has no problem supporting my heaviest camera:
And it pretty looks cool too!