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Turn Your GPS Suction Cup Support Into A Camera Tripod

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Now that mobile GPS technology is into its 5th or 6th generation, you have probably gone through at least one or two of these techological wonders.  As new faster, sleeker and more feature rich ones come on the market, your clunky old Tom Tom or Garmin loses its appeal or simply breaks.

You can recycle the tech part, but what about this cool suction cup thing?  Surely one could use this for some other purpose?

In this instructable, we will turn this piece of GPS ephemera into a useful camera support to use on safari or whenever you are near a smooth surface.
 
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Step 1: Concept and Stuff You Will Need

My Navigon GPS device served me with great distinction for years, however I moved to a section of the USA that was not included in my map set.  The cruel economics of the cut throat GPS industy made it less expensive to simply buy a new GPS with the maps I needed than to buy the additional maps from Navigon.  Feeling hurt and neglected, the Navigon took its own life rather than playing back up system for my younger and thinner GPS unit.

After giving my old GPS unit a dignified burial at the cell phone recycling center, I was left with the bendy suction cup support and cradle.  It is this assessory that we'll turn into a "Tripod."  Really should be call just "Camera Support" since there is only one leg, but I think people will know what I mean.  Heck! Most cameras today have GPS built right in so what are you waiting for!?!?


Here is what you will need:

1.  GPS suction cup support and cradle

2.  Tripod bolt (I had a ready made one from my stash of photo stuff, but a regular bolt with the correct threading will work fine)

3.  Rotory cutting/sanding tool (optional, but it makes things go much faster)

4.  .25 inch closed cell foam (I recycled a hideous craft stamp)

5.  Two part epoxy

6.  Razor knife

7.  Various clamps

8.  Hole punch (I used a leather hole punch, but a paper punch should be fine as well)

9.  Gorilla glue or equivalent

10.  Scissors

11. Maybe 45 minutes of time (not including glue curing time)

Step 2: Step 1: Cut the Cradle

In this step we'll "Rock the Cradle of Love" and remove the excess bits and pieces of plastic that we do not need.

1.  Don safety glasses and cut off the excess material on the cradle with the rotory tool and a cutting blade.  The ABS will tend to melt as well as cut.

2.  Once you have done the gross cutting, switch to a sanding drum and clean up the shape of the cradle until you are satisfied with the shape.

Step 3: Step 2: Attach the Bolt to the Cradle

Picture of Step 2: Attach the Bolt to the Cradle
In this step, we'll glue the bolt to the cradle using epoxy.  This has to be a strong bond because this is what is really holding your camera.  If you can make the bolt go through the cradle instead of gluing it to the cradle, you would have a stronger attachment point, but I was constrained by the geometry of the support.

1.  Place your bolt where you want it on the cradle and draw around the circumference with a pencil.

2.  With a cutting tool, cut a checkerboard pattern into the plastic.  This is to increase the surface area of the plastic and give the epoxy some extra "tooth."

3.  Hold the bolt with some pliers and cut a checkerboard pattern into the head of the bolt with a cutting tool on your rotory tool...again to increase the surface area.

4.  Mix equal parts resin and hardener on a disposible surface.  Mix with a wooded stick for 1 minute.  Apply to the cradle.  Attach the bolt...ensuring epoxy goes up the side of the bolt head to ensure the best bond.

5.  Clamp the bolt in place and allow to cure.  Remember that even so called "5 minute epoxy" takes a full day to reach maximum strength.

Step 4: Step 3: Prep the Foam and Glue to the Cradle

Most traditional tripods have a grippy rubber surface to hold the camera steady.  Since this cradle has a sunken well in it, I used thick resilient foam.  It will hold the camera steady and dampen vibration.

1.  Since I used a foam stamp, I cut the raised "Buggy" portion off with a razor knife.  Does not have to be perfect as that side will be down and not seen.

2.  Press the foam on the cradle so the bolt will make a mark.  Use that to punch a hole with a leather or paper punch.

3.  Put the foam on the cradle, aligning the hole and the bolt.  Trace around the foam with a pencil.

4.  Cut off the excess foam with some scissors.  Continue to trim the foam until it sits snugly in the well of the cradle.

5.  Excavate some foam to account for the bolt head and for the parts that interface with the support.

6.  Glue the foam into the cradle.  I used gorilla glue, but most any glue will do.

7.  Clean up the excess glue after it has cured.  Make sure the bottom is cleaned out as well.

8.  Cover any mistakes with a black permanent magic marker. 

Step 5: Step 4: Operations / Tips and Tricks

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Operation is pretty simple:

1.  Screw cradle onto the cameras tripod bushing.

2.  Attach cradle to the camera support.

3.  Attach suction cup to smooth surface like glass or polished tile.

4.  Actuate the suction lever to firm up the support.

5.  Compose your photo.

6.  Press the shutter release or preferably use the self timer mechanism to minimize vibration.

Tips and Tricks:

a.  This was designed to hold a very light GPS device.  Don't go crazy and try your expensive medium format camera on the support.  That said, a small SLR is not out of the question providing it does not have some Freudian zoom lens attached!

b.  Use your camera's self timer or a cable release to get the best vibration free actuation.

c.  Use on the inside of your car window for those safari shots.  The camera will have a shorter way to fall in case the suction gives out.

d.  If you use it in your car, be wary of distracted driving laws.  Stop, shift into park, turn off engine, put keys in pocket and then compose and expose your image.

e.  Clean, smooth and impermeable surfaces work the best.

f.  A small amount of water may improve the suction cup performance.  Something like breath condensation is just enough.

g.  Extreme cold and extreme heat will degrade the suction cup performance, so plan accordingly.

Enjoy your re-purposed GPS Tripod like camera support!
tswill22 years ago
Great idea but I'd be leery of hanging hundreds of $s of digital camera on one small suction cup. I have bought a much stronger 2 cup hand hold made for bathroom shower safety from Harbor Freight and am sure it would be an easy job to adapt it to the same purpose. A couple of worm drive hose clamps around the hand grip area could hold a length of channel aluminum to the handle and form the base attachment of a salvaged tripod head, etc...
Nano_Burger (author)  tswill22 years ago
Great point. In reality, the suction cup mount is of limited value as you need glass or a smooth impermeable surface to work with.
spin4982 years ago
I'm going to have to go with the "neat idea" but sorry, not going to trust my DSLR to it. My GPS fell off regularly.
Nano_Burger (author)  spin4982 years ago
I've only used it for my film SLR's. Probably more robust if dropped!
santy222 years ago
It's a good idea, but I wouldn't trust any camera to a suction cup, to be honest.
A GPS in one of those cradles sits inches above the dashboard, and your camera is like, at least five inches off the ground in that first picture.

Nano_Burger (author)  santy222 years ago
Your point is well taken! However, my experiments have shown that this particular mount can support a Canon AE-1 with a 50mm lens for at least a half hour (I took it down after that period of time). In practice, the mount would only have to support the camera for the duration of the photo...maybe 5 minutes. Of course this is a data point of one so your mileage may vary.
A regular bolt would probably work, as you say, as long as you can manage to find one with the right thread, they're not super common outside camera screws and is something you're not so likely to find in a hardware store. If you don't get one with the right thread and still try to force it you will damage your camera, especially so if your screw mount is plastic.
They're 1/4-20, which is very common. However, you need one the right length. Not too long which will bottom out in the camera; not too short which won't have enough threads to grip well. You can cut a longer bolt, but you have to smooth it off afterwards. It's nice to have a thumbscrew so you can grip it rather that a hex head, or worse, a screwdriver head. And if you have an undercut area at the base of the screw like the one in the picture, you can put it through a hole in a metal plate and put a thin clip around it to hold it in, otherwise it will fall out when you take the camera off.
Depends on where you are. They are very common in the states, and even though they have become the de facto standard all over the world for camera mounts that particular thread is not common in, for instance, Europe. Personally I could find no correct ones in Sweden, either locally or online. I ended up having to buy a die off eBay to be able to cut the right thread into a piece of round bar (ended up being cheaper than buying the actual screw online for some reason).
Yeah, I live in redneck territory, where they just can't imagine why the rest of the world doesn't use "reg'lar" english measurements.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the 1/4-20 thread mount disappear if everybody finally decided it was stupid.
Spectrace2 years ago
Thats a cool mod.

but I think it might be harder to achieve with certain mounts, such as those with Garmin gps'es with the ball and cup mounts.
wagaboo2 years ago
Very cool idea but wouldn't trust my dslr on it though :)
fozzy132 years ago
Cool! I've had this same idea, but didn't have an old GPS mount, so I never ended up making one. Good work : )
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