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Picture of Light Weight Tripod Camera Slider for DSLR
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This tutorial will show how I made this tripod mounted camera slider for under $50. The design uses hardware available in most hardware/home improvement stores. I wanted a design that I could use with any of my tripods & cameras. This design utilizes the removal head aspect of tripods as shown in the last two photos.
 
Due to the high prices for camera sliders, I decided to create my own camera slider to use for movie making and stereo photography. All of the DIY projects for camera sliders I found weren’t suitable for use on a tripod and the commercial versions were simply too expensive. The main objective was to make a camera slider that would be light weight, yet sturdy enough to use with a professional DSLR.
 
How sturdy is this slider? The tripod head shown in the photo weighs 11 oz, my Canon SX20IS camera weighs 27 oz (1.7 lbs) and my Nikon D7000 camera with battery grip weighs 64 oz (4 lbs). Therefore, when using the Canon SX20IS there is 38 oz (2.3 lbs) on the slider and when using the Nikon D7000 there is 75 oz (4.7 lbs) on the slider. The slider itself weighs about 39 oz (2.4 lbs).
 
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Step 1: Tools & Materials

Tools needed:
- Drill
- Hacksaw
- Wrench
- Metal hand file
- Pop rivet tool
 
 
Materials list:
 
Quantity     Part Description
1          24" clamp & cut guide
4          3/8-16 x 1 1/4" chrome button screws
1          3/8” x ¾”  <OR> ¼” x ¾” hex bolt (depending on the size of your tripod mounting screw)
1          3/8” <OR> ¼” bar knob (depending on the size of your tripod mounting screw)
4          3/8-16 nuts
2          1/2" x 4" PVC risers – outdoor use
1          1/2" x 4' aluminum round-tube
1          flat 4-plug electrical box cover
4          3/16” x (1/8” to ¼” grip) rivets & back-up plates (washers)
4          3/4" 1-hole conduit straps
4          1/4" x 1/2" hex bolts with lock nuts
2          2" x 4 1/4" aluminum angle-stock (left over from previous dolly project)
 
Notes:
a. Not all PVC risers are manufactured to the same tolerances, so be sure that the ones you select for this project slip easily over the ½” aluminum round-tube.
b. Before selecting your 24" clamp & cut guide, be sure to read the first paragraph of step 2.

Step 2: Dis-assemble Clamp and Cut Guide

Picture of Dis-assemble Clamp and Cut Guide
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If you decide to build this camera slider, you need to choose your clamp & cut guide carefully. Cheaper versions may not be rigid enough to prevent flexing when you use with heavier DSLRs. The first photo shows a cheaper version on the left and the stronger version I used on the right. Since the ends of the guides will not be visible before dis-assembly, you will need to carefully inspect the bottom of the guide to estimate the thickness. Another test is to try twisting the guide to see if it has much flex – the guide should not flex at all.
 
Remove the ‘locking pin’ from the handle of the clamp & cutting guide. Once the locking pin is removed, save the aluminum channel stock and recycle the rest of the materials. The aluminum channel stock will be the part of the base unit that attaches directly to the tripod.

Step 3: Drill & Assemble Camera Mounting Plate

Picture of Drill & Assemble Camera Mounting Plate
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a. Drill four ¼” holes in the electrical box plate for the conduit hangers. Drill the holes so that the edges of the hangers align to the edge of the electrical box plate (first photo). Drill a hole centered in the plate for the size of bolt you need for your tripod (1/4” or 3/8”). Attach the appropriate sized bolt to the plate using the best method you have available (weld, JB Weld, epoxy, etc.).
 
b. Next, slightly bend the conduit hangers closed until they form a tight fit around the PVC riser ends (second photo). Attach the conduit hangers (with the risers inserted) to the bottom of the plate using the ¼” x ½” bolts and lock nuts. The distance between the tube centers should be 3 ¼“. If your distance is slightly different, be sure to make the proper adjustment when drilling the holes in Step 4b.

Step 4: Shape, Cut, Drill Materials & Assemble the Base Unit

Picture of Shape, Cut, Drill Materials & Assemble the Base Unit
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a. Cut the four foot aluminum round-tube into two equal parts (approximately 24 inches)
 
b. From the two inch aluminum angle stock, cut two 4 ¼” lengths. On one side, drill two 3/8” holes spaced ½” from the side and ½” down from the ‘top’ edge as shown in the first photo. These two holes should be the distance between the center points of the tubes that will be inserted through the camera mount (3 ¼ “ - refer to Step 3b). On the other side, cutoff the ‘corners so that they angle down to the width of the aluminum channel stock from the edge guide (from step 2). Next drill two 3/16” holes for rivets (first photo).
 
c. Cut the aluminum channel stock to 24 ½”. Align the aluminum angle stock (ends) to the aluminum channel stock. Using the previous holes drilled in the angle stock as guide holes, drill holes in the aluminum channel stock. Assemble the ends to the aluminum channel stock with the rivets & back-up plates (washers) as shown in the photos above. Finally, drill your mounting hole (either 3/8” or ¼”) in the center of the aluminum channel stock to match the size of your tripod.

Step 5: Assemble the Camera Mount Plate & Base Unit

Picture of Assemble the Camera Mount Plate & Base Unit
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Start by attaching the button screws & nuts to the base unit.  On one end tighten the nuts on the button screws all the way (photo one). On the other end just place the nuts on the screws but only screw on until the tips of the screws are flush with the nuts. Place the mounting plate assembly on the tubes and insert the tubes onto the button screws and finish screwing in the opposite screws into the tubes. On the bar knob, shown in the last photo, I needed to file about 1/32” off the bottom of the head due to the depth of the channel stock. I store the bar knob on the camera mount portion of the camera slide.
teckert7 months ago
and BTW I made a sturdy 5 foot version for about 70 bucks. I also made it to be able to mount two tripods, one on either end for more stability. love this design. thank you
teckert7 months ago
I would just like to point out, then I went to Home Depot to look for the supplies, walked around for almost an hour with no luck.

Then I went to Lowes by my house, and found everything for a decent price in less than 10 minutes.
yakeen4u9 months ago

nice(Y)

Hallo man, sorry for disturbing you with this kind of problem, but i can't find anywhere that cut guide, could you give me a website where from to buy it. Thanks man.
MacGyver9 (author)  muresanpaulcristian2 years ago
Glad you asked. I meant to post with the original Instructable but forgot. The guide I used for the slider was a 24" All-In-One Contractor Straight Edge Clamping Tool Guide from E. Emerson Tool Co.(http://www.eemersontool.com/products/products.html#c ). I got my at my local Menards hardware store. They had the 24", 50" and 99" sizes. I checked the cost at Menards today and the costs were: $28.98 for the 24" (SKU 2443812 - on sale today in the store for $15.99), $37.98 for the 50" (SKU 2443816) and $99.98 for the 99" (SKU 2442818).
pdub772 years ago
Elegant. I like this a lot. This is hand made, but looks like something you could buy in a shop. Well done! How smooth is this thing? Can you use it for video work with any sort of precision?
MacGyver9 (author)  pdub772 years ago
Probably the reason it looks like pro gear is because I'm "picky" about how the final results will look. I took my time to make sure everything fit like you would expect if you purchased from a dealer.

Without adding anything to the rails, the contact between the PVC risers and the aluminum round-tube is smooth. However, in practice I use a rag with silicone spray and wipe the aluminum round-tube. This results in a very smooth movement with no messy oils, etc. on the rails. The video I posted previously was before I started using silicone on the rails - the silicone makes the transitions very smooth. I'm not sure how much precision you would need with your video, but it works very nice for my needs.

The length may be too short for some people, however the length allows me to carry the rails in my tripod bag with the tripod, monopod, ballheads and remote shutter release everywhere I take the tripod - especially nice when on vacations.
For even cheaper this would work.
MacGyver9 (author)  Zaphod Beetlebrox3 years ago
True, less expensive, but too heavy (bulky) for any of my tripods. I needed something more portable that I can use in museums, etc. I don't think the PVC on one you mentioned would be able to support the weight of my Nikon setup either, so that's why I ruled out PVC for my design.
I guess the PVC tube is only for the slider which does not bear weight.
MacGyver9 (author)  benjaminxuu3 years ago
While @Beetlebrox's design incorporates PVC, my design also incorporates PVC material made for outdoor use (4 inch "risers"). Depending on how & where you use the PVC in the design, PVC can be very light-weight & strong. PVC also tends to have a low coefficient of friction when used on metal surfaces.
I tried to use pvc because it would be lighter than wood and cheaper.
K, it worked for me. But I'm using a smaller DSLR and go pros mainly. No battery pack.
I wonder if it would be worth adding a small pully on the inside of each end and a counter weight, so the further you move the camera to one side the further the counter would move out to the other side.
Just for a little extra stability, especially if you where using a larger lens or other attachments adding a bit of weight...
MacGyver9 (author)  leviathan9373 years ago
Now that's seems like it would be worth trying. I've got a couple ideas on how to implement the slider, so I think I might just give it a try. I'll post an update if successful.

Edit: After thinking about this over night, I'm not so sure it would be a good idea in my case. One of my objectives was to keep it portable (light weight), so to add a counter-weight would be counter-productive (no pun intended). Currently I hang my camera bag from the bottom of the tripod in order to make the tripod more stable, and the camera slider stays level when the lighter camera (2.3 lbs) is at the end. I have also tested my heavier Nikon setup (almost 5 lbs) about half way to the end of the slider and the tripod & slider have both remained stable.
True, it is just extra weight, and from your pictures it looks like the slider is not much wider (if at all) than your tripod.
A counter weight would be of more use i think if you had a longer slider, or if you were using it in strong winds etc. where a strong gust could throw it off balance.

If you did include a counter weight I would also be inclined to attach it to the string with a clip so it can be easily removed. (there when you need it, not when you dont.)
MacGyver9 (author) 3 years ago
Attached is a 3D image I created today - not the best, but it was shot at the same time as the sample video I also created with the rail: http://www.flickr.com/photos/47409821@N08/7405387206/
sample 3D.JPG
Very nice rig and excellent results. Thanks for taking the time to share it!
miriallen3 years ago
So you watch Film Riot, too! Neat!
isko19603 years ago
Excellent tripod.
I made ​​a different way. but it seems
http://masterlom.moy.su/load/foto/foto_video_tekhnika/shtativ_tripod_dlja_foto_video_tekhniki/40-1-0-213

And how do you ensure the correct center of gravity?
Hey good job of placing a dangerous link !
MacGyver9 (author)  isko19603 years ago
This Instructable is actually regarding the camera slider rather than the tripod. The tripod shown in the Instructable is one of my commercial tripods (Promaster SystemPro carbon fiber T525P). The reason the tripod & head are shown is to demonstrate how the camera slider is used with a removable head tripod.
snotty3 years ago
HAAA I spent like $1k making something similar...
mikeasaurus3 years ago
Looks good. Do you have photos to show us from your rig?