Saturday, January 23, 2016

Metal Taps for Wood, and Studio Lighting Redux

This post is an update to this one from 2012, about jury rigging an adjustable light stand from an old tripod & hardware store parts. Since then I have discovered the wonderful photography site, which provides a crash course on building and using a portable studio lighting setup for still photography. The strobist site does a great job of finding and recommending affordable gear that's also easily portable. I wanted another light stand, but I hadn't run into another cheap old tripod at a garage sale, so on Strobist's advice I used one of my Christmas gift cards to buy the LumoPro LP605 portable light stand from Midwest Photo Exchange, along with a swiveling head so my stand would be capped by a cold shoe.

With the stand and cold shoe in hand, I saw that it would be easy to adapt one of the light holders I made before to be held in the cold shoe. Click through to see how I did it:

The light holder I made 4 years ago didn't flex enough, so I decided to make it more flexible and less clunky.

I bored a hole to prevent splitting the whole piece,

then sawed down to it,

so now it should flex a bit more when I tighten the nut & stud out at the end to hold the lamp in.

A bit of chisel and spokeshave work tapered the bottom end so it's not so clunky.

I bored and tapped a hole in the end of the light holder for 1/4-20 threads. It's very handy to know that hardwoods can be tapped for machine screw threads just like metal. Some people use a bolt with the end filed to cut the threads; I have a few key sizes of taps & dies around anyway, so I used mine to tap the hole.

Here's the stud installed in the end of the light holder. I say "stud," but there's probably a technical definition of "stud" this doesn't meet, so to be perfectly clear, I cut off a piece of threaded rod, filed off the burrs from cutting, and screwed it into the hole as far as I could using stacked nuts to drive it.

This is also a good moment to explain the maple circle in the light holder. The walnut was a piece of wood I used once in a router class to demonstrate various techniques, including simple inlay. I inlaid a maple circle (circles being the simplest shape to inlay) into the walnut as a demonstration. I chucked it into the scrap bin at the end of class, and when I needed wood to build the light holder it was staring out at me.

Scraps figure prominently in this project! In my bucket of metal scraps I found a steel bracket from a piece of office furniture that was thrown away years ago. It was the perfect thickness to fit into the cold shoe, so I used the hacksaw to cut it to size, then filed the chamfers you see along both long edges - - these fit into slots in the walls of the cold shoe. The #10 drill and 1/4-20 tap came out again to make a threaded hole for the stud.

So this tab threads on quite snugly. Still, because the steel is relatively thin, I decided to reinforce it with a nut:

 . . . and then added a nylon acorn nut to cover up the end of the stud. At this point it's merely a matter of threading the cord through the holder,

 And now we can introduce the metal tab into the cold shoe:

The light on top of the stand can be tilted and rotated. The stand adjusts quickly to any height from about 20 inches to 7 feet. It is lighter and more robust than the old tripod. It stores as a far more compact bundle than the tripod. I think the next time I have a small windfall I'll buy another, and relegate the old tripod to occasional use when I want to do time lapse or two-camera (??!!) work.

Which reminds me: have I told you guys about the wonderful Hock plane kits yet?

PS) I know that using a cheap clamping work light and building my own holder/attachment to fit standard photographic equipment might not be the most efficient way to go about things. For instance, this project took a couple of hours to accomplish, and you could argue that it's more economical to spend those two hours earning more than enough money to buy one of these. However, one motivation for writing this blog is to show you guys how to improvise, and think outside the "let's buy everything we need" box. When you think about it, you'll realize that's why most of us are woodworkers anyway! This project brings together several powerful techniques and skills that will help in many of your projects. Keeping a small, well-curated collection of scrap metal and wood; having some taps & dies and knowing how to use them on metal and wood; being able to look at two pieces of gear and seeing how to get them to hold together tightly & safely: these skills can be just as powerful as wallet-wielding.

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