Introduction: Light and Cheap Wood Panohead (step-by-step)

About: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, now I'm teaching physics in Waldorf high-schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and science in general, I'm a passi…

Times ago I've built a panohead with wood profiles to shoot spherical panoramas (look at with my Canon EOS1D (and then my EOS40D) and Tamron 11-18mm lens. You can make a similar one (easily a better one) with a few suggestions.
After my first single image post Amanda wished to see more pictures of single parts, so I've decided to make this step-to-step guide and tell you guys about the construction. It's not a real tutorial because the panohead is already built and a lot used, as you can see from the images, and I've already painted it for the second time two years ago. Anyway it seems this tool could go through rain, snow, ice and heat wave with not much weakening :-)

Step 1: Finding the Plate

Construction is very simple. It's made mainly from wood profile and metal plates and screws for connections. Here in Italy is very difficult find screws and nuts with english thread, you only find thread measured in mm, not inches. Unfortunately (for me) the camera fasten hole is 1/4 inch diameter. So I bypassed the problem finding some construction pieces in an ordinary and very cheap tool: the little aluminium tripod we find everywhere in the world!
This little marvel has three useful telescopic metal legs, a beautiful steel bolt with spherical head and a very light aluminium nut, everything for a pair $. We don't need the telescopic legs unfortunately... but both nut and bolt has right thread for camera (obviously).

Step 2: Choosing the Right Material

You've to choose an hard wood to avoid crack, especially when you fasten the screws. At bottom of the horizontal brace you find a plastic plate which covers the aluminium nut of the mini-tripod. This plastic plate has the function to make a planar surface to add stability at the tool when it's connected to a big tripod (not the light tripod I'll show you at the end of the Instructable).

Step 3: The Connection Bolts

The nut is connected to a metal plate on the other side of the wood profile with four screws. You can see the position in the picture. I'm sorry I couldn't show you every detail, but I've made a scheme. In the center of the metal plate you can make an hole in case the anchor bolt of the tripod goes deeper than the nut.

Step 4: The Knob

The tricky part is to make a strong connection on the joint for vertical shift. Indeed you need to have a little knob to tighten that, and in the same way you need the joint to be firm and strong enough to keep the weight of the Canon 1D camera and the lens. I've found a solution gluing to the moving brace a plate of rough plastic, so that it should be compressed against the vertical wood brace by the knob. After de-grease the surfaces, you'll see that a little strain on the knob will lock the parts together in a great way.

Step 5: Measuring the Nodal Point

To set the exact lengths of the braces and the distances for camera anchor bolt you need to follow some tutorial you could found with a "nodal point" research on google. In few words every lens has his own nodal point, which has to remain absolutely fixed both on horizontal and vertical rotation of the panohead.
The white surface is fake rubber parquet, the white side is the back side of the sheet. It's a great material, very durable and with the right consistency. 

Step 6: The Levels

Sometimes you could shoot from the slope of a mountain, or on a sharply-sloping road.
In these situations adjusting the horizon in postprocessing is very difficult, also impossible in some cases (you should have a vertical line in the panorama). So I really suggest to take the first photo exactly horizontal, and the two levels on the panohead help you to do that very well. These two have been taken out from a cheap aluminium level.

Step 7: The Braces

Here you can see the bottom side and the external side of the braces, with the two screws to fasten the camera.
These screws are from the famous mini-tripod, and I've perforated them to insert a little steel bar so I can tighten with no effort.
The screw on the horizontal brace is kept in side by a thin metal plate, indeed the bolt has an enlargement which comes handy.

Step 8: The Angle-meter (alias the Compass)

A fast note about the compass. Apart from the fact that it's very cool ;-) it gives you an approximate angle between one shot and the other. Beware that compasses are influenced by iron proximity, this is the reason because near plate is made of aluminium.
This panohead need a rotating head on the tripod, but most of times this is not a problem.

Step 9: The "half-cameras" Adapter

This aluminum part has been made to use my new Canon 40D camera, which hadn't (at that time) the battery grip as my EOS1D. The nut is connected as the one on the horizontal brace, and also here I've rounded off with some plaster and painted everything by black, except the surfaces which come in contact in use.

Step 10: The Light Tripod

Now I show you how to make the perfect tripod for this panohead. Since the wood material gives some elasticity to the tool and the panohead itself is very light, it could be a nice idea to combine it with a little and very light tripod (yes, very cheap too!).
I've cut out the head of the tripod (it was a weak plastic joint) and I've glued inside the pipe a bolt inserted in another aluminium pipe (to make the reach the inside diameter).

Step 11: The Assembled Tool

When you screw the pipe into the base of the panohead you have a great complex which rotate inside the tripod. When you extract the three legs you'll have a larger base and stability also with an heavy camera.

Step 12: Panohead in Action!

There are a lot of DIY solutions for this equipment, some grosser of mine and some more accurate. Of course a lot depends from you skills and your tools, but in my opinion to choose one project or another you have to focus on three points: cost, weight and precision. My equipment is with no doubt cheap and light, and it's very good to shoot panorama to be developed with specific software. But I could never take a gigapan with telephoto, because I've no precise steps in rotation, and also the structure is no rigid enough (you need aluminium for that). Anyway I hope this Instructable comes in handy for you.