Introduction: DIY Linear Driven Camera Slider

About: I am a maker, builder, inventer, problem solver

The goal of this project is to allow someone to build their own motorized camera slider. Motorized camera sliders found online are expensive and often not very long so we thought it would be a good idea to try out hand at making our own. Originally this Instructable was entered into the Photograpy contest but we thought it would be a good idea to enter it in the Outside contest. Other goals of this project are to:

1. Capture some great camera shots

Step 1: Parts:

What I used with optional substitutes:


The cost of the required parts was about $100. I had many of the parts, as you might also, so your cost could be lower.

Picture from:

Step 2: Tools:


  • Miter box
  • Hack saw
  • Miter saw
  • Superglue
  • Screwdriver/Hex driver
  • Sand paper 220 and 400 grit
  • Silicon lubricant
  • Router (optional)
  • Table Saw (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Counter sink bit
  • Square
  • Soldering gun
  • Solder
  • Hot glue gun
  • Drill/drill press
  • 5/16 inch threading bit

Picture source:

Step 3: Prototype:

We started with a Tinkercad mock up of what we wanted to the camera slider to look like. I highly suggest Tinkercadwhen starting a project. It is easy to use and very useful when trying to flesh out ideas. Our prototype design used PVC runners and plastic wheels for the camera carriage. For the motion, we used a K'NEX motor that wound a string that was tied to the camera carriage. You can see the Tinkercadpictures of the prototype below. I have also included the all the files, at the end of the Instructable. Although we were proud of the prototype, there were small problems with this design.

  1. The PVC sagged near the center of the camera slider
  2. The plastic wheels were not smooth
  3. The string was stretchable

With the PVC sagging in the middle, the frame of the video changed and was distracting. The plastic wheels made for a bumpy and inconsistent shot. Because the string was stretchable, it would build up tension and make the carriage lunge forward.

Step 4: Final Design

For our final design we decided to address some of the limitation of the prototype. First, we used metal conduit instead of PVC for the runners. This took care of the sagging in the middle. Second, we decided to replace the wheel system with a friction guide system. This kept the camera very steady. Lastly, we changed from a drive that used a string to pull the carriage, to a threaded rod linear drive system. This allowed for smooth consistent movement of the carriage. The design was also mocked up in Tinkercad and the files can be found at the end of this Instructable.

Step 5: Cutting and Carriage

  1. Cut the 10 foot conduit into two 5 foot equal sizes. You can also buy 5 to 6 foot conduit pieces if you don't want to cut them. Just make sure they are the same length.
    • In order to get a smooth surface you will probably need to sand the conduit with 220 grit sand paper. Make sure to remove any imperfections. Wipe down the conduit and move on to the 400 grit. After sanding, spray the conduit with some silicone or oil based lubricant. This will keep the sanded conduit from oxidizing.
  2. Cut the 1 x 6 board, of your choice, to approximately 7 inches long. (the length is really up to you as long as it is large enough to fit the rails and hold your camera)

Step 6: PVC

  • Cut two pieces of 3/4 inch PVC to approximately 3 inches long.These will connect the elbows together.
  • Drill two parallel holes directly center of the PVC pieces.
    • If you are using the flanged bearings drill the holes .5 inches.This is the outer diameter of the 5/16 inch bearings from ServoCity. If you are not going to use bearing you can just drill 3/8 holes in the PVC piece. If you chose this method, you should be aware that the threaded rod will tend to want to travel on the PVC pipe. Also, a stronger motor may be needed because of the added friction.
  • Insert the flanged bearings into the parallel holes. You can use a 5/16 inch drill bit to line up the bearings. Add small drops of superglue to hold the bearings in place.
  • Make sure the bearings are perpendicular to the legs of the PVC elbows, and parallel to the PVC arms.

Step 7: Friction Runners

  1. Cut four pieces of 1 inch PVC to approximately 2 inches long.
  2. Cut a 3/16 inch gap in the PVC pipe long ways.
    • The gap is added to allow hose clamps to tighten the 1 inch PVC pieces around the 3/4 inch conduit.
  3. Drill a 1/8 inch hole at the top of each of the 1 inch PVC pieces.
    • This is where you will add the bolts that will attach to the carriage.
  4. Use a counter sink bit to add a counter sink to the hole on the inside of the PVC piece.
    • This is to keep the bolt from contacting the conduit runner.
  5. Add two hole clamps to the ends of each PVC piece and tighten slightly.
  6. Insert 1" #6 bolts into the PVC pieces.

Step 8: Runner Assembly

In order for the 3/4 inch conduit to fit properly into the 3/4 elbows we had to add small spacers into the inside of the elbows.

  1. Take a spare piece of 3/4 inch PVC pipe and cut it to 1/2"
  2. Cut the pieces long ways approximately 3/4"
  3. Glue the piece into the inside top of the 3/4 inch elbow.

This will add just enough of a spacer to allow the 3/4 inch conduit to fit snugly into the elbow. You may have to do some minor sanding on the small PVC spacer in order to make it the right size for the fit.

Step 9: Prepare Carriage

In order to get the friction runners inline with the conduit runners, pre-assemble the conduit to the ends and lay the carriage inline with the conduit and mark where the top center of the conduit meets the carriage. Then take your square and draw a straight line. This line marks where you want to drill your holes to mount the friction runners. Drill two holes on each side of the carriage about 9/16 to 5/8 inch from the edges. This will keep the friction runners concealed under the carriage.

Step 10: Optional Carriage Routing

When attaching the hose clamps to the friction runners, you can see that there will be a gap between the friction runners and carriage. We decided that it would be nice to route very shallow grooves to compensate for this. This step is optional but does make the project more accurate.

  1. Mark the width of the hose clamps their potential location on the carriage.
  2. Route using a guide, shallow groves into the carriage.

Step 11: Painting

This step is optional but can dramatically increase the aesthetics of your project. We decided to go with black.

Step 12: Mounting the Friction Runners

Mount the 4 friction runners, 2 per side, onto the carriage with the hose clamps facing outwards. Use the 1 inch #6 bolt to go through the friction runner and through the previously drilled hole in the carriage. Attach nut to the bolt and tighten (not too tight).

Step 13: Mount the Carriage

Slide the carriage onto the conduit and go ahead and tighten the hose clamps down for now. Slide on the PVC end pieces and secure tightly. Release the hose clamps so that all are loose and the carriage moves freely. To align the friction runners, start with one and tighten slowly until you start to feel some resistance when moving that carriage. Then, back off on the hose clamp slightly. Do this for all hose clamps. This may be a iterative process as when you finish the fourth friction runner, the first one may have moved slightly. This process works best when you first spray the silicone lubricant onto the conduit. You could also use oil based lubricants but the silicone is much cleaner.

Step 14: Add Threaded Rod

Using the drill bit and threading bit, drill a hole and tap threads into the medium sized K'NEX gear. screw on one 5/16 nut then screw the K'NEX gear followed by another nut. Position the K'NEX gear about 5 or 6 inches from the end. Slide the threaded rod from the inside through the bearings/holes on the PVC ends. Position the K'NEX gear near the end on the inside of one of the PVC ends. Add two nuts to the outside of the threaded rod to secure. Make sure to leave a small gap between the nuts and PVC to keep from causing unwanted friction.

Step 15: Rod Clip

After deciding to go with a threaded rod instead of a string, we tested many ideas on what type of system would attach to the threaded rod to move the carriage along the runners. At first we mounted a small bracket with a threaded hole.This worked very well but limited our ability to move the carriage quickly up and down the slider. After a week of testing different apparatuses, we found that the best method seemed to be as simple as a clothes pin. We tapped threads in the end of the clothes pin and mounted it to the carriage. This worked fine but we decided that we could make an aluminum version of the clothes pin that would work little better.

  1. Take the two 3 inch aluminum bars (from Servo City)and clamp them tightly next to each other. Then, using a drill press. drill a hole so that half is on one bar and half is on the other. Then tap threads in the bars while they are still clamped together
  2. Grind or cut diagonally to make a clothes pin shape.
  3. Add some heat shrink tubing to cover the ground down part.
  4. Grind two notches past the tapped hole near the end.
  5. Clamp the bars on the threaded rod and add the rubber band.
  6. Move the carriage near the rods and mark on the carriage where the bars meet the carriage.
  7. Dill two holes corresponding to the marks you made.
  8. Mount the bars to the carriage.

Step 16: Mount the Motor

We used a 37mm motor mount to mount the motor to the slider. The motor is hinged so that different sized gears can be used. We also use a DC motor controller so that we could adjust the speed. Different speeds are need to capture different shots. We found that very low speeds and a 3-5 second time lapse shot works best. I have examples of the shots we got.

Step 17:

If you are going to just use the 1/4 inch bolt to mount the camera then just mount it to the middle of the carriage. If you are going to go the route we went, then mark where the holes match up on the carriage and drill pilot holes. Then mount the camera mount with wood screws.

Step 18: Battery Box

We decided to use a separate battery to power the slider. It is made out of a old Dewalt drill bit holder. The batteries we decided to use were out of a laptop. They are the commonly found 18650 lithium batteries (please be careful with lithium batteries). We used 3 in series to get your approximately 12 volts. This would run our 6-12 volt motor controller. We added an LED indicator light to the front and two banana plug terminal to the back. The cord used has alligator clips (you can use banana if you want) on one side, and a mono 1/8 plug on the other.

Step 19: Slider Circuitry

Using an small plastic box off of an old toy, we added a 1/8" female mono plug to receive the male 1/8" power plug from our battery box. We added a cutoff switch to the box that is mounted in such a way that the carriage will turn the power off when reaching the end of the slide. It is mounted by hot glue.

Here is a video of the stop mechanism.

Step 20: Videos of the Slider in Action

Step 21: Results

Step 22: Final Thoughts

We think this project went extremely well. The slider worked very well and the results were great. We did achieve our goal of making a slider and doing it much cheaper than buying one online. The linear drive worked great. We already have plans on making a better slider that can be made much simpler.

Step 23: Extra Files

These files can be used to view the Tinkercadfiles we created.

Photography Tips and Tricks Contest

First Prize in the
Photography Tips and Tricks Contest

Outside Contest

Participated in the
Outside Contest