Introduction: Turn Your GPS Suction Cup Support Into a Camera Tripod

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.

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

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

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!