A cheap and easy way to support backdrops, lightweight lighting gear, and generally add an extra hand anywhere you need it in your DIY home photo studio.
Update Note: I found a few better parts at the Depot last night that eliminate metal on metal contact and increase the extension range. The price goes to $9.43 mostly because the longer threaded rod is more expensive. Changes to the process are noted in bold
Strobist is having a week of Home Depot based postings. The photo studio compression pole is my contribution.
This device uses light spring pressure to hold a pole between your ceiling and the floor. This pole can hold up a backdrop or be used to mount other lightweight devices like flashes and reflectors.
To move the pole you simply push down and the tip comes away from the ceiling allowing you to reposition the pole.
This version is only adjustable within about a 2 inch range. If you need a different length you'll need another $1.79 length of metal electrical conduit (EMT).
The parts to build one cost me $11.24 but that leaves lots of parts for more. The unit cost is $6.86 each.
Parts List Galvanized electrical conduit 1/2 inch X 10ft (EMT) Compression springs package 16084 1/2 X 12" threaded rod 1/2" EMT Bushings 1/2" wing nut 1/2" SAE washers 3/4" rubber leg tips A few feet of Permacel or duct tape A few feet of parachute cord
The updated version uses a 1/2 X 24" rod, a pair of "1/2 Adapter SxMPT" (item 436-005) and does not use the EMT bushings
There are a number of different spring packages at the Depot. I used the one marked 16084 in the lower left corner of the package.
Warning: The spring rod can bite if you play with it! I have a blood blister where the washer caught the tip of my finger. This is not much of an issue when the unit is completed, but please use caution.
What you need: 1 treaded rod 2 washers 1 spring (or two of the short springs) 1 wing nut
What to do: Assemble onto the rod: Wing nut > washer > spring (or two springs) > washer
What you need for the updated version: 1 treaded rod 1 washer 1 short spring 1 long spring 1 wing nut
What you need: Cut a 1ÃÂ¾ piece of the electrical conduit. A tubing cutter works best. Cut a 18" piece of parachute cord 1 EMT bushing 1 rubber tip
What to do: Run the parachute cord through the short piece of electrical conduit then put the rubber tip on the conduit so it captures the parachute cord. Do this in such a way that the long bit of the parachute cord is to the outside. Add the EMT bushing to the end of the conduit.
What you need:
The foot assembly from step 2
Some tape. Permacell gaffers tape is recommended.
The spring rod assembly from step 1
What to do:
Tape the foot assembly capturing the EMT bushing and the parachute cord (I used 2 inch permacell cut into a 1â strip).
Add a 1â strip of tape to the end of the spring rod assembly on the wing nut end. This is only a few wraps that serve to take some of the wiggle out of the system between the threaded rod and the inside of the conduit. It also retains the foot.
Press the foot assembly onto the wing nut end of the rod assembly.
What you need: The rest of your conduit The foot/spring rod assembly from step 3 Some tape 1 EMT bushing
What to do: Add the EMT bushing to the foot/spring rod assembly on the end opposite the foot. The EMT bushing should have the cup end facing away from the foot since it will accept the long piece of conduit.
The updated version omits the EMT bushing
Roll a few layers of tape around the end of the foot/spring rod assembly. You should use just enough so that the assembly fits nicely in the end of the conduit. It should not be tight or you are likely to roll the tape and make the extension action unworkable. I recommend using permacel not electrical tape as the electrical tape is more likely to roll or gum up.
Insert the end of the foot/spring rod assembly into the conduit.
Tape the end of the parachute cord to long part of the conduit. It should be short enough that you cannot pull the foot/spring rod assembly from the conduit but loose enough that you can pull it out of the way to work the wing nut.
Push the foot down on the floor against the spring pressure. Move the top tip across the ceiling until it is directly above the foot. Release. Does it feel right?
If it does not fit vertically between floor and ceiling, shorten the conduit. If it is loose, tighten the wing nut so the assembly gets longer. You probably have about 2 inches of adjustability. Do not go too far, buy another piece of conduit instead.
You can clamp, tape and wire tie to the pole or you can capture a backdrop between the top tip and the ceiling. Two compression poles and you have a backdrop holder.
You can see it in action in the video on the first page.