Grips are available, but they are expensive, hard to find and ugly. I'm going to show you how you can make your own with some common tools (and maybe a few uncommon ones.)
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Shutter release cable, approx 12" long
- 2" diameter Poplar dowel, approx. 1 foot length
- 3/4" aluminum rod, approx 4"
- 1/8" thick, 1.5" wide, 8" long aluminum bar
- 4x 4-40 3/8" flat head socket screws
- 2x 8-32 3/4" button head socket screws
- 1x 1/4-20 1/4" flat head socket screw
- Cork gasket material
- Wood stain
- Lacquer or polyurethane
- Bandsaw (optional)
- Round file
- Sanding block
- Drill press
- Drill bits
- Countersink bit
- Hole tapping set
- Wood chisel
- Various files
- Lathe (optional)
- Mill (optional)
- Belt sander (optional)
Step 2: Carving the Handle
Once your hand is traced you can sketch a profile of the handle. This part isn't too important because as you carve you can test the feel.
Start out with the sides of the handle since they will be flat. Mark two straight lines on the end of the wood about 1" apart and each a 1/2" from the center. Use a band saw (or hacksaw) to cut into the end of the wood along those lines and down the length of the wood about 7". Cut in from the side enough to remove the section of wood.
Tape your handle template to one of the flat sides and grip the handle in a vice using the remaining uncut part of the wood. Now you can begin cutting and filing and chiseling with various tools in various ways to remove the excess wood to make finger grooves and a spot for the crux of your thumb. A belt sander might help to speed up some of this process.
Periodically test the fit to see how you like it in your hand.
Once the lower part is done, the handle can be cut from the remaining dowel. The top can be cut and formed to hold the shutter release. First, I drilled a hole through the handle lengthwise large enough to accommodate the end of my shutter release cable. I used a chisel and a thin round file to remove the material to allow the unmodified shutter release to fit snugly into the handle.
Step 3: Handle Reinforcement
First the aluminum was drilled through the center to allow the shutter release cable through. Then a short slot was milled into the one end to allow the cable to come out the side. To attach the handle to the bar, four #4-40 holes were drilled and tapped into the rim of the plug. The exterior of the plug was knurled on the lathe to give the glue the best grip possible.
The handle was drilled with a 3/4" forstner bit to the same depth as the length of the plug. Forstner bits allow for a flat-bottomed hole so this is the ideal drilling tool. A matching slot was cut in the wood for the cable to pass through.
The plug and the handle should have a tight fit so that any pressure placed on the two will be evenly distributed on the wood.
Step 4: Handle Finishing
I applied six coats of a spray-on clear lacquer for a smooth glossy finish.
Step 5: The Bar
The handle attaches with four #4-40 screws so 7/64" clearance holes in the same pattern must be drilled and countersunk to accommodate the flat heads. Then the grip must be mocked up so that the comfortable distance from the camera can be determined. Then the pattern of guide pin holes and the tripod mount must be measured off the bottom of the camera body and marked on the material.
For guide pins, I was originally going to use roll pins but the holes in the Mamiya were slightly smaller than 1/8" so I couldn't find a roll pin size which would work. I ended up using two #8-32 screws which I filed down except for the thread right below the head; this way when they are screwed into the bar they will be firmly held, but still removable, and smooth on the camera side of the bar.
The 1/4-20 flat head screw for the tripod mount had to be so deeply countersunk that the hole diameter became very large. To accommodate the excess screw sticking out of the camera side of the bar, some cork was added in between the bar and the camera. This protects the camera and gives some compression material to aid in getting a tight connection between the grip and the camera.
Step 6: Assembly
Insert the shutter release cable into the handle.
Screw the handle to the bar using the four #4-40 screws.
Screw the guide pins tight into their holes.
Cut a rectangle of cork gasket material and press it over the guide pins as shown in the pictures below. Cut a spot out for the 1/4"-20 screw.
Attach the grip to the camera by aligning the guide pins with their respective holes and tightening into place with the 1/4"-20 screw.
To test the strength of your grip to make sure it is reliable, I recommend holding the camera's strap in one hand and the grip in the other, loosely keeping a leash on the camera with the strap and shaking the camera aggressively with the grip. If it doesn't fail then, then it will be strong enough to trust. Last thing you want is to drop your camera because the grip fell off.
Step 7: Finished
- A fairly straightforward mechanical mechanism could do away with the shutter release cable to press the shutter button like the original Mamiya accessory grip, but it would be difficult to do without it being just as large and ugly.
- An epoxy based finish might stand the test of time better.
- A slightly thicker bar might help remove the very small amount of flex that is apparent when the camera is tilted forward and back.