Introduction: How to Properly Cut, Drill and Bend Plexiglas to Make a Multi-use Gopro Tripod.
Plexiglas is a very cool material, a clear, tough plastic that can be used for a variety of projects from see through cases, to a pseudo blast shield, to the tripod I will teach you how to make. While it's not technically a tripod it serves some similar purposes. By itself it can hold the gopro on top to gain a little more height. The gopro can also be hung underneath if you are trying to show how to repair something on a car and the plexiglas will protect the camera from harmful slag while welding or grinding. Also with the new wifi live view function through wifi on the Hero3 cameras the "tripod" can actually be used as a cover over the gopro that holds your ipod or phone on top.
Step 1: Cut a Strip of Plexiglas the Proper Way (Scoring)
Cutting plexiglas is often hard to do cleanly, this is why I felt I should pass on how I have been doing it as it works very well.
For this step you will need the scoring tool (Or box cutter or x-acto knife), the ruler and the quick grips.
You will begin by scoring the plexiglas. This part is crucial as where you score is where it will be "cut". If your line is crooked your "cut" will be crooked. You must also take special care to cut clear to both edges, if you don't cut the edges it will shatter on the ends and destroy all of your work. The way I have found that works the best for this is to clamp down the ruler where you want to score and make sure to get the metal banding on the ruler on the side that you will be cutting. Once you have your guide attached you will begin scoring. Push your scoring tool up against the metal edge and pull toward you, little spirals of the material should come out as you go. You will score the piece several times. From what I've found, the longer the line you're cutting the more times you'll have to score. You will need to score roughly 10 times with the tool. Also the scoring tool is fastest, you will need to make roughly 3 times as many passes with a box cutter or x-acto knife so I'd recommend picking up one of these scoring tools. They're only about 5 bucks at Menards and they work really really well.
Step 2: Cut a Strip of Plexiglas the Proper Way (Breaking)
After scoring you will need to bend the plexiglas on the line until it breaks off. The score lines make this much easier to do and also ensures a nice clean edge rather than something that looks like it was chewed off. You will want to keep the ruler from the scoring step on, it will help keep your edge from breaking anywhere but the score line. You will then line it up so that your score line just barely sticks off the edge of a counter or workbench that has a hard 90 degree edge rather than a rounded one. This will also help make sure it cracks on the score line. Then you will start bending the plexiglas by pushing down on the part sticking over the counter. When doing this the score line must be up otherwise it won't work. You will continue bending until, in one big crack the piece you scored will pop off with a nice clean edge. If you can't get it to crack you will need to score it more. Then you can remove the ruler by releasing the clamps.
Step 3: Drilling Plexiglas the Proper Way (pilot Hole)
Often with plexiglas, you will try to drill a hole and it will shatter or crack. One way to avoid the cracking is to drill a smaller, pilot hole. You must also be careful when you do this though as a small hole can still cause a crack. The best way I have found for drilling into plexiglas is getting the bit spinning as fast as your drill will make it go and then just barely pushing on the plexiglas. If you push too hard the cutting part of the bit will grab a lot of the plexiglas and it will torque the material and crack or shatter it. Choose a nice small bit and drill your hole.
Step 4: Drilling Plexiglas the Proper Way (Next Hole)
Now that we have out pilot hole drilled we will need to start stepping it up to get to our full size hole. If you are drilling a large hole you will probably have to use more than just 2 different sized bits. The bigger the difference in hole sizes, the more likely you are to crack the plexiglas. When I made the demo I only used two bits but to finish out the strip I had to make the whole another step larger. Work it up slowly and you'll be rewarded for your work with a clean hole.
Step 5: Bending Plexiglas the Proper Way (Prep)
When bending plexiglass you will need to have a straight edge to make sure you get a nice clean bend. I used the ruler and the clamps from the first step as my guide. You will go ahead and put your ruler on where you want to bend it and then clamp it down. If you want a gentle rolling curve you may want to use something like a coffee can and then heat the whole piece and form it around the can. I however just opted for a nice small curve. You must be careful to place the ruler on the correct side, you will be essentially bending it around the ruler so if you are going to bend down (Like in the picture below) you need to have the ruler on the bottom.
Step 6: Bending Plexiglas the Proper Way (Heating and Forming)
Now that you have the form clamped down the guide for bending you will want to plug in your heat gun. The gun I have is designed for doing the plastic like wing coating on model airplanes and being such it has a sort of fan tip. This helps as you can use it just to heat right along the line you want to bend, if you don't have the nice fan tip you may want to make a sort of heat shield or just be careful bending as you will have a much thicker band of semi molten plexiglas. Heat the plexiglas until it is malleable, then carefully begin folding it over the ruler. Since the temperature difference between melting and the point at which it becomes workable is rather large, you can easily get it to malleable without melting it. Since it's not actually melted you can pull the end taught so that the edge stays crisp. Once you have it to the desired angle I've found it works best to put the part you were holding onto down on a surface and put the guide down against it. Again you can tug on the end to sharpen the curve to your liking.
Step 7: Making Your Gopro Stand
To finish out your multipurpose stand for your gopro you only need to make one more bend. I had fixed in my gopro on the tripod mount and just eyeballed it to get the center section large enough to fit the camera. Then you bend it around until the part with the hole and the part you just bent are parallel. Feel free to play with angles to suit your needs.
Step 8: Using Your Gopro Stand
I am still finding uses for this interesting looking stand. Below is a list of just a few of the ideas I have come up with.
-Stand right side up and mounted right side up allows you a little bit of vertical as well as a stable base to place your gopro on
-Stand right side up mounted upside down allows for an ideal angle* for viewing underbodies of cars and can protect from welding slag
-Stand upside down and tilted with gopro upright and looking through stand gives a good shield* while allowing tripod mounting for use with a cooking video or something that would splatter and melt or dye the gopro's housing
-Stand upside down and tilted with gopro upright and not looking through stand allows you to use the top portion to hold whatever you are using for the live view capabilities
*when the gopro is facing into the plexiglas you must take care to get the lens as close to the plexiglas as possible to reduce sun glare and you also might want to cover up the recording and wifi light on the front to keep it's glare out of the image too.
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