Gear Ties are part of my standard travel gear. They're light and easy to pack, cheap enough to lose or give away, and have so many applications. Apart from their obvious use as an alternative to rope, they can be shaped into a tablet stand and coiled into a cup holder. I've used them to retrieve stuff under the bed, whap a bug, or pick fruit beyond reach.
I've also used it as an emergency smartphone tripod, but it didn't do that very well. It did give me the idea for this simple Instructable. The only thing it needed to be an excellent mounting system for smartphones and action cameras was a very cheap mounting adapter.
If you take videos, time lapse photos or night shots, you will get much better pictures with a stable mounting system like this. Also, this system lets you take selfies anywhere selfie sticks aren't allowed as long as you can find something to attach it to. Mount this to an umbrella (cane, broomstick, unsuspecting stationary tourist), set the camera's timer, and you will get the same result as with one.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Nite Ize Gear Tie - the ones with 0.4-inch diameter and a length between 18 and 32 inches. They cost between C$5 to $8 a pair.
- 1/4" camera bolt - 1/2" long, preferably partially threaded. They come in a pack and should cost less than C$1 each at ebay or Amazon.
- An old plastic credit card, the thickest you can find.
- A piece of rigid plastic around 1/8" thick, such as a disposable salad tongs.
- Tinsnips (for cutting the card)
- A heat gun (or candle)
- Drill and 15/64" (or 7/32") drill bit
- Superglue, glue gun or any glue that will work on the plastic credit card
- Something to cut the tongs with, like a hacksaw
- A pen with diameter close to the Geartie
Or, if you don't want to make one out of a credit card, 3D-print one out. I've attached the .STL file for it.
Step 2: Prepare the Card.
Using the tinsnips, cut a 5/8" strip along the long side of the credit card.
Step 3: Make Loops.
If you are using a heat gun, prepare to shape the strip by covering half of the plastic strip with a wet rag.
Heat the other end of the plastic until it becomes flexible enough to shape. Curl it around the pen into a loop, then flatten about 1/8" at the end as shown in the picture. I formed this flattened end using the end of a wooden ruler. This flattened end will serve as a tab with which to open up the loop. Hold on to the desired shape for about a minute before letting go, then immerse in water to cool it down.
When done, do the other side. You should end up with about 3/4" between the loops, enough to fit the thumb bolt between them.
If you make a mistake, reheat the plastic and try again. After a couple of cycles of heating and reheating the plastic will become too deformed to use. Just start on a fresh strip.
Step 4: Make More Pieces.
Using the rest of the card, cut a strip that fits exactly between the flattened ends of the loops (top left in image). I needed this piece to fill the gap between the flattened tabs at the end of the coils. If you can shape the loops such that tabs meet exactly in the middle, you won't need this piece.
Cut another piece about 1-1/2" on one side and wide and enough to fit between the loops. Heat the sides to form a table-shaped piece that goes over the flat area on top of the adapter. This will serve to reinforce the adapter (bottom left in image).
From the disposable tongs (or similar plastic) cut a 5/8" piece, wide enough to fit exactly between the loops (bottom centre). This adds thickness to the adapter and will serve to lock the loops closed when the adapter is attached to the camera.
You might notice that I already drilled the holes. You can do that later.
Step 5: Assemble
Glue the filler piece to the bottom and reinforcement on top. Be careful NOT to glue the flattened ends of the loops. You'll need to be able to open the loops to put on the Gear Tie.
Step 6: Drill the Hole
Drill a hole through the center of the pieces for the thumb bolt. The hole should be slightly smaller than 1/4", big enough for the unthreaded part of the bolt to remain loose, but just tight enough so that the bolt can remain on the adapter even when it's not attached to the camera. You should still be able to thread the 1/4" bolt though a smaller hole on each piece.
Bend the Gear Tie into a narrow U, then open the loops to let the Geartie through. Place the adapter near the middle of the legs, bend the Gear Tie, and you have yourself a working tripod. Think of it as a poor man's GorillaPod.
Step 7: Take Pictures
Mount the camera to the adapter and enjoy!
To use a smartphone with the device, you need a smartphone holder. You can buy one at the dollar store with or without a selfie stick. If it comes with the selfie stick and you don't plan to use it, you can take the 1/4" thumb bolt from the end of the selfie stick. You just have to remove the rubber pad around the bolt that connects to the holder and unscrew the housing to free the bolt.
Do not buy the kind of selfie stick with the integrated, non-removable smartphone holder unless you want to do additional tinkering.
Obviously you should exercise care and common sense when using the device. It will work well for a smartphone or action camera, but this is probably not strong enough to hold a professional camera. Also, if you can't securely mount your camera or if the setup is like to get hit by something, rethink your setup.