Instructables
Picture of steadycam
I've been looking at steadycams for awhile now but haven't been very keen on the price of the brand name ones. There are a few that go for a fraction of the brand name rigs but they look simple enough to make, so here we are...
 
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Step 1: Materials List

MATERIALS:

-1 - 36" L, 1" W, 1/8" T aluminum flat stock
-gimbal handle ( I used a 1" aluminum outboard motor shaft but later found a much lighter jump rope handle with bearings already attached )
-2" L piece of 1" x 1" square aluminum tube
-1/4" drive universal/swivel socket adapter
-bearing to fit inside the gimbal handle or just find the afore mentioned jump rope handle.
-1/4" drive socket that fits tightly in gimbal bearing
-1 - 1/4"-20 x 5/16" T-nut
-1 - 1/4"-20 x 1/2" ss* carriage bolt
-3 - 1/4"-20 x 1" ss* bolts ( I used button heads but use what you have / prefer )
-3 - 1/4"-20 ss* or plastic wing nuts
-1 - 1/4"-20 ss* bolt for mounting screw ( I used a phillips pan head but suggest a thumb screw )
-2 - #10-24 x 2" ss* bolts with 2 lock washers, 2 flat nuts & 2 wing nuts each
-assortment of #10 & 1/4" ss* fender washers ( weights )
-throw away level with at least 1 good bubble vial that's between 7/8" & 1" long

     * - ss = stainless steel

TOOLS:

-measuring / marking tools
-drill driver ( I recommend using a drill press for the level vial mounting holes )
-hacksaw
-files
-drill bits: 5/32, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8 & 1/2"
-super glue
-6" diameter wheel

     

Step 2: Frame Construction

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The first thing is to cut two sections off the flat stock, one at 5" & one at 6". Now round off both ends of the 6" bar and only one side on the 5" and the 25" bars. Drill a 1/4" hole centered, 1/2" in, on both ends of the 6" bar and on the rounded end of the 5" and 25" bars.

The next step is to cut the slots on the main frame and the gimbal mount. 

For the gimbal mount you'll want to extend the hole on the rounded end to 2" long. To do this, measure in 2 3/8" from the rounded end and drill another 1/4" hole centered on the bar. Scribe a line across the center of the two holes and drill out as much material as possible with a 3/16" bit in the same fashion pictured for the main frame slot. Next, file out the remaining aluminum while testing with the carriage bolt until the bolt slides smoothly back and forth on its square shoulder. Finish it off by squaring off the two ends of the slot.

For the main frame slot, measure out 2 5/8" from the square end of the 25" bar and drill 1/4" hole centered. Then measure out 5 5/16" centered from the same end and drill a 3/16" hole. Use the same method used for cutting the gimbal slot except instead of using a 3/16" bit for the bulk removal, use a 5/32" drill bit. The end result for this slot should be a 3/16" slot, 3" long, ending with a 1/4" hole to insert the mounting screw on the back end.

To bend the main frame, place the bar flat on the 6" wheel and start the bend about an inch from the slot. Pull the bottom of the frame around the wheel past 45 degrees to allow for spring back. 

Finally, after bending the frame, place the frame in a square as pictured in the final pic and mark the crest of the bend. Center your mark and drill a 1/4" hole for the front weight bolt.

Step 3: Building the Gimbal Mount Level Block

This part is simple if you have a drill press. All you're doing is drilling a through hole on the 2" long 1" x 1" square tubing. You just measure 1/2" in from one end and center your mark from top to bottom, then center punch your mark and drill through both sides of the tube. Match a drill bit to fit the vial, I don't recall the size bit I used but you can easily check by drilling a scrap piece and checking the fit. The vial should go in easily with no play in the holes.

Dry fit your vial and check it for level by placing it flat on a checked and leveled surface. If your drill press is trued, the vial should read level. If all checks fine, just add a bit of super glue to both ends of the vial from the outside of the tube and you're done with this step.

You don't have to install the level on this part and just eyeball it when adjusting the rig, but I had the throw away level and the drill press handy so I went with it.

Step 4: The Homemade Camera Mounting Screw

For the mounting screw, I modified a 2 1/2" long 1/4-20 pan head from my stainless bin. 

The first thing i did was chuck the screw onto my drill. I started by filing about an 1/8" of the screw down to a 3/16" diameter against the head. To do this evenly, I slowly spun the drill while filing the screw. This is the only other way I know of turning metal outside of a proper lathe, which I don't have. 

To cut it down to size, I cut half the threads of the screw off so that I could re-chuck the screw on my drill deep enough to get my desired length of four threads. I chucked the shortened screw so that the fifth thread of the screw was just on the jaws of the chuck. Again, I spun the drill slowly while this time using a hacksaw to cut along the fifth thread using the jaws as a guide.

Disclaimer: This method is not intended to be instructional. It is an improvised method that could prove dangerous. I am merely showing how I did it. I take no responsibility for your actions.

Step 5: The Gimbal

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Unfortunately, for this step I'm revisiting my first attempt at making this rig so this is just a recap of a finished piece. I have since found a jump rope from "everlast" called a speed rope that would eliminate the need to source out a bearing and fit it to the handle material.

The first thing I did here was to make the swivel/Universal piece. For this I drilled out the female end of the adapter to 5/16". Next, I flattened out the barbs on a 1/4-20 x 5/16" t-nut and pushed, hammered and beat it into the hole. ( If you find an easier alternative please post it in the comments.) Finally, grind or file the edges of the t-nut flush with the adapter and that's it, really!

For the handle, I suggest finding the previously mentioned speed rope at a discount retailer or a thrift shop if you're lucky. The handle on mine is from a motor guide outboard motor shaft ( 1" -thick wall pipe ), the end cap, also 1", is from a discarded lap bar on an amusement ride and I believe the bearing is a 6202, not sure. I had to hone out one end of the pipe to fit the bearing and pressed it in with a bit of bearing retaining compound. To connect the handle to the adapter simply find a 1/4" drive socket that fits snugly into the inner race of the bearing and carefully glue it in. In my case, it was a 7mm socket that I had to grind down slightly to fit the bearing.

Once done, you end up with an easily removable handle that can be adapted to fit other mounts where the rig might come in handy.

Step 6: Assembly

To start assembly you'll want to clamp the main frame, level block and the gimbal bracket together in that order with the block and bracket towards the bend side of the main frame. Make sure that everything is flush, straight and well clamped. Mark two hole locations about 1" apart and centered on the main frame making sure to avoid the bubble vial. Lightly center punch them and drill them out to 3/16" all the way through the three pieces on your drill press. Install and tighten the #10-24 bolts with a locknut or a flat nut with a lock washer but do not cut off the excess threads, they will be used to add weights for balancing the rig.

Next install the 6" bar to the bottom of the main frame with the 1" bolt and wing nut with two more 1/4-20 bolts and flat nuts or wing nuts for the counter weights on the crest of the bend and the bottom hole on the 6" bar. Don't worry too much about reducing the weight of the bar at this point. It is easily removed and just as easily replaceable if damaged.

Finally you install the gimbal. insert the carriage bolt down into the gimbal bracket slot, add a 1/4" lock washer to the opposite side of the bracket and screw on the t-nut side of the swivel/universal adapter hand tight.

The camera mounting screw just goes into the 1/4" hole of the main frame slot and is slid forward. Read my notes on the pics for a revision on the slot.

Step 7: Finished

It's not 100% but as far as construction it's done. I'll clean and paint once time permits and post a video of it in action soon. To learn how to balance the rig I suggest going to YouTube and searching the topic. This is my first experience with a finished steadycam so I'm not fully versed on properly balancing it. If there's anything you think I can improve please comment, this build was done with no plans or measurements and almost no knowledge of the rig itself. I hope you enjoyed it.

Winning the Shop Bot would mean I would have more time for documenting my instructables. 
andrew_h2 years ago
Great work! I made one of these not long ago but i found that the socket type uni-joint was just too stiff for my setup (a very light camera and a light steady). Being that i also have a heap of RC car parts lying around, i ended up using the uni joint from a spare RC driveshaft. The difference was huge. The uni joint is really the key part to a steadicam like this. If there is too much friction the rig will just not work right. I have seen other people also use the Traxxas drive shaft uni joint too.
mzungu andrew_h3 months ago

The problem with using the socket type uni-joint is that the rotational axis of the 2 axis do not intersect(there is a 1/8`1/4 inch distance), so there is some coupling, and unwanted motion, I have this problem to with my version of this DIY.

The Traxxas worked, because those 2 axis do intersect, and the coupling is eliminated.

spiderham (author)  andrew_h2 years ago
Too stiff as in friction in the joint? If so, I don't have that issue. The "uni-joint" I'm using is very loose with almost no play. I chose this specific one, from 4 in my tool box, for that reason.

One thing I did with all four universal / swivel joints was thoroughly clean them with 2+2 gum cutter ( a strong cleaner ) and then soaked them in kroil.
Thanks for the great instructable!!! just finished and powder coated it Bass Boat Red! Time for the testing phase.
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spiderham (author)  imakenosense2 years ago
That looks awesome, I hope it fits your needs. Thanks for posting pics
texabyte2 years ago
This is a well made instructable! I hope you win the shopbot!
Only piece of advice, Steadicam is a trademark of Tiffen. It's unofficially agreed that DIY stabilizers are steadycams.
No capital S, no i.
spiderham (author)  texabyte2 years ago
Thanks for the info. I will edit immediately.
Nice design.
As it is made from aluminium you could finish it by anodizing:

http://astro.neutral.org/anodise.shtml
http://coloured.net/designresources/anodize.html

bfk2 years ago
Beautifully done. I sold my Steadycm JR when HD camera sizes and weights went down, but my videos aren't as pretty as when I had the ability to fly shots. This is perfect for those lightweights.

Yours also allows operator guiding using the lower gimbal, a negative of the Steadycam (capital "S"). With theirs, any finger movement has to be perfectly done, otherwise the camera goes with where your fingers does. With yours, the gimbal is above any mechanical motion you put to the camera mount and unwanted movement will be eliminated... (potential Patent material).

You've done a magnificent job of detailing your method and step-by-step instructions (and thank you for that jump rope trick). I'm voting for you to win that bot...

And then I'm out to rummage through my aluminum bar stock!
Light_Lab bfk2 years ago
I think Spiderham has done a great job too but I am not very clear on what you mean about the position of the gimbal. I have been looking back and forwards between pictures of a Steadycam HR and Spiderham's excellent design and I cannot see the difference in the geometry that you refer too. Can you clarify?
Thanks
bfk Light_Lab2 years ago
Glad to:

Fun Fact... Most people don't know Tiffen's "JR" isn't pronounced "Junior", it's pronounced "JR".

Back to business... Look at the Tiffen Steadycam picture. See where the gimbaled shaft goes from the handle into a lump of plastic attached to the bottom of the camera mount?

That lump is the gimbal and where the operator's thumb and fore finger can pan the rig left and right, up and down. Because the fingers touch the gimbal and bottom of the camera mount directly, any un-wanted, un-planned movement on the operator's part is transfered directly to the camera, and subsequently, the image.

Spiderham's beautiful rig (Spidey, if your Am. Radio... 73) doesn't appear to work that way. His shaft connection between the handle and camera mount appears to have enough material below the gimbal for a finger and thumb to grasp (no lump), effectively separating the operator from direct contact with the camera mount (which in Spiderham's rig, is even further separated by the leafspring style level mount). His horizontal and vertical axis are separated with the horizontal bearing mounted in the handle. Left and right panning is all done below the vertical, more balance-critical bearing. Panning up and down with Spidey's rig still requires the operator to grasp the upper shaft, above the gimbal, but vertical panning is rare with this type of rig, as the balance and vertical camera angle are set beforehand. When the operator attempts to change this angle, the rig becomes unbalanced and the image suffers.

I don't know if Spiderham's mounting is unique. That would be his task to research... But if it is, he has one year from the time he first showed it to the public, to apply for a utility or provisional patent, if he so desires.

I hope I've answered your question. If not, let me know and I'll take another kick at the cat.
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Light_Lab bfk2 years ago
Got it. Thanks for the added detail. I have been looking at lots of steady mount designs with a view to making one. It is cool to get feedback from someone who has used the commercial product in the field.
spiderham (author)  bfk2 years ago
Thanks! I was really hoping to get feedback from someone with experience with stabilizers, although, I wasn't expecting it to be so positive.
djimdy2 years ago
really nice design and build! that speed rope handle is an EXCELLENT idea!!
Those look to be the same bearings in rollerblade wheels. They fit perfectly inside of 3/4" CPVC pipe, but the jump-rope handle makes this build easier and cleaner by far. Steadicam does make a cheaper version called the Smoothee for only $150. With the pro gimbal, quick-release plate, and micro-adjusters, it's hard to beat, but there is some modding to be had to extend the capacity to heavier SLR cameras.
GiovanniNRG2 years ago
Excellent thought process on this screw. So simple. You don't need a lathe, it's one dimensional dopes like me that need a lathe. Great thinking method and great instructable all around. Well done, thanks for putting it up.
notingkool2 years ago
great instructable, i was making one for me, but i have problems with the gimbal. Im using a small steel ball, but is not really eficient. Maybe y use an adapter like you.
good luck.