Introduction: Your Camera Tripod Needs a Quick Release IPad Mount!

About: I make things so you can make things. Out of stuff.

Hi everyone! It has been a LONG TIME since I have added any Instructables (I have a day job, people). Before I get to the Instructable, I have a story to tell you.

For about a year, I have been trying to decide what to do about upgrading my video camera, which is an old Canon FS20 (I know, right?). When I got my bonus from work this year, my wife and I set a budget for some "fun money" out of that win-fall, and I decided to go shopping for a video camera. In my research, I kept coming back to the (unrelated) fact that my old Android tablet also needed replacing. While I have been very price-averse to iPads in spite of being committed to an iPhone for work (and an Apple user since 1986), it was a matter of economics to see that I could get a Gen 5 iPad from almost anywhere with 128GB RAM for about $400, and a video camera with the kind of quality I was looking for was going to be about double that. I settled for the iPad, and put my camcorder at the bottom of my wish list.

I say all that to say this -- about 4 weeks ago I shot this video using my iPad:

Not bad for a hand-held iPad, but it made me wonder. Video Quality is acceptable; audio quality is definitely better than the old FS20. What if I could mount my iPad on a real tripod so that to functioned like a camcorder when I needed it to pinch-hit? That lead me to research iPad holders which run in price from about $20 to about $100 -- all of which mount either on mic stands or tripods.

I confess that when someone is asking for more than $20 for a plastic-moulded case (even if it is shock resistant), my inner Maker gets stirred up because I know that PVC parts are not quite free but cheap.

What I wanted to do here is to review a few of the good-to-great ideas I found here on and also other places on the interwebs, and then show off what I finally settled on (with a brief summary of how to assemble one like it).

Step 1: PVC Tablet Holder Types

So from my research, I found a handful of methods for building a tablet holder:

  • Simple Stands
  • Grooved frames
  • Form-fitted trays
  • Articulated arms
  • Corner restraints

I'm going to do a review page on each, and then tell you why I chose to do the one I have built.

Step 2: PVC Simple Stand

There are three great reasons to build a stand like this one [Link to Original Instructable]:

  1. CHEAP! You can built this for less than $10 -- less than $5 if you are clever about which type of PVC you are buying. You might have half the parts in your workshop right now!
  2. SIMPLE! It's sort of ridiculous that anyone might even need instructions on how to build one of these -- you probably don't even need to glue it together.
  3. SPACE! If you just need something to set your Tablet down on for use in a kitchen or on your desk, you don't need to do anything but make sure the base is reasonably-flat

But: all a stand like this does is create a reading angle for you. It doesn't really prevent the tablet from falling, or give you options for setting it up wherever you might need to use it. It's the starter idea for anything else you might realize you will need to use your pad for. High marks for price and buildability, but not very versatile.

Next ...?

Step 3: PVC Grooved Frames

Aha! Now we are getting someplace! [Link to Original Instructable] This sort of iPad holder looks like the kind of thing you might buy, right? it has a groove in it that holds the tablet in place, and it puts PVC between the world and the iPad (which is worth 2-3 weeks grocery money). My observation is that this design can be improved very slightly by adding some kind of foam inside the cut PVC to improve shock resistance, and it also need better access to the external buttons for functionality.

There's a lot going on here that I did like, but there's one major problem which I did not like, and it shows up again in the next type of PVC case ...

Step 4: PVC Form-fitted Case

... which is making precision cuts in PVC. [Link to Original Instructable]

Let me say something about this type of PVC case: it's gorgeous. If you have the skills to cut PVC accurately and also to work with heated PVC (especially: using a vacuum former to get a really nice fitted shape), there's no question this version looks like you bought it in a store. Also: because this version uses so much less PVC than any other, it's actually ridiculously cheap.

I do not have the skills and ability to cut PVC and shape the heated parts like this. I'm actually a little jealous of people who can because this is a great project with a great result, and it has the simplicity of the first sort of stand and also the versatility of the sort of stand I wanted to build because of the way the "kickstand" for the case is constructed.

Step 5: Articulated Arm

I found this one on Pintrest and didn't see an Instructable for it, but if what I intended to do was to build a robot to carry my iPad around for me, I would probably have worked harder to find the instructions for this one. It looks like IKEA furniture, and my wife is not adding any furniture to the house at this time ...

That said, I have nothing against this build -- it's just way, way more than I was looking for. Your mileage may differ.

Step 6: Corner Mount

In the end, I took a lot of inspiration from this project [link to original Instructable], which was both simple and inexpensive -- but I did not want the legs, and I wanted something that would be bump-resistant because the iPad is (of course) pretty expensive.

Step 7: Making My Kit

All of that said, this is what I settled on (see picture above). The steps to build it are as follows:

  1. Create quick release base for PVC structure
    • Measure and cut quick release wedge
    • Measure and cut base wafer and support arms, and assemble
  2. Buy PVC parts from Home Improvement Center
  3. Measure and cut lengths of PVC
  4. Assemble PVC structure
  5. Attach PVC structure to quick release base
  6. Prime and paint to taste

Step 8: Materials & Tools List

  • Scrap plywood, 3/8" (10mm)
    • I used a piece that was about 12 inches (300cm) square, and had plenty left over
  • 1 screw, 1.25" x 6/32 (or metric equivalent)
  • CPVC pipe and fittings
    {NOTE: I used CPVC because it has a smaller outer diameter and, frankly, it was cheaper}
    • 1 x 5' 1/2" (15mm) pipe
    • 13 x 1/2" "Street" 90-degree Elbow (this is the fitting with one end smaller than the other)
    • 5 x 1/2" "T" fitting
  • Primer and Glue for CPVC (note: purists will note that one should use the chemically-correct bonding agent on CPVC vs. PVC. In this project, we are not expecting the pipes to hold pressure or resist leaking, so if you only have PVC primer/cement for the CPVC, it will work well enough to keep the joints together)
  • Pull Ties
  • Black spray primer suitable for plastic/CPVC
  • Black rubberizing spray (optional)

  • Table Saw
  • Drill Press
  • Scroll Saw
    {Note on tools: I'll bet you can get a completely-suitable result with a normal 16v hand-held drill and a handsaw, but it will make the quick release mount challenging}

Step 9: Make Quick Release Base for PVC Structure

The easy way out of this step is to buy a 1/2" x 20 brad hole nut and attach it to a flat piece of ply wood which is roughly as long and wide as the bottom of your final PVC assembly will be. This will screw into the existing bolt in your camera base quick release plate -- but when I did this in my first attempt at this project, I found the final result to be wobbly even when I had the nut properly seated and sunk in the plywood base.

Special note: I know some readers will chalk up the wobbly result I mention above to poor craftsmanship on my part. I accept that this is logically possible, and even practically possible. However, my opinion is that the actual problem in the "wobbly" attempt was that we are simply screwing a second adapter onto the primary adapter. When you screw a camera to the quick-connect plate, the device is mounted on the adapter, and the adapter on the tripod. When you screw an adapter to the adapter and then add the device, you are asking for instability. Daisy chaining the adapters does not improve stability, and eliminating one of them does. My advice: do the thing you like best, and please feel free to share your experience in the comments.

In seeking to eliminate one part of the chain of adapters, I found this Instructable very helpful:
Savas_Papasavva's Quick Release Plate Instructable

The key steps to building the wedge foot are:

  1. Measure the quick release slot in your tripod accurately (see image above; your measurements may be different than the ones in my borrowed image)
  2. Use 3/8" plywood scrap to avoid having to either shave the wedge or sink it into the upper plate
  3. Cut a "master" piece of plywood the about 12" long which is the width of your wedged edge (toe to toe). This is to keep your fingers away from the blade when cutting the wedged edges, and also to give you the ability to have some material suitable for trial an error when making the final cut to size.
  4. Set the angle of your table saw blade to 30 degrees and lock your cutting fence in place
  5. Cut the wedge edges along the master piece of scrap to create one long wedge from which you can cut final wedges to the correct flat width
  6. Cut your first wedge from the end of the scrap and test it in the quick release slot; repeat if your flat edges are not snug until you have a wedge which is snug on all 4 side when the quick release thumb lock is set to closed.
  7. Drill a center whole on your final wedge using the simple method of scribing diagonals. You will use this hole to center the wedge on the base wafer and then up to the support base, so make it a snug pilot hole for the screw you will use. Consider counter-sinking the head of the screw.

Step 10: Cut Base Wafer and Support Platform

If you look at the quick release plate on your tripod, the wedge is under a base plate which uses the compression of the thumb lock to hold the plate snug to the tripod. For our project, you can cut a simple square which is as wide as the existing quick release plate. I chose to cut a circle using my scroll saw with the diameter equal to the long dimension of the original quick release plate. My reasoning was simple: the base plate on the original adapter was not wide enough to really stabilize the long support piece I needed, and the circle gave me more surface area to attach the support piece.

Either way, you will need a center hole in this layer of the quick release plate to center the wedge we made in the last step. I used the simple method of diagonals from the corners (before cutting my circle) to define the center hole.

After cutting the base wafer with the center guide hole (to center the quick release wedge), I glued the wedge and the wafer together using 2-part epoxy. Because my plywood is laminated, I scuffed both surfaces before gluing. I set the screw in the wedge, then applied the glue, and then closed the gap by tightening the screw. I set it aside to dry while cutting the support base.

The support base (the very wide layer) is necessary because the iPad holder is so wide. Simply cut it from your scrap to be a little wider than your final assembly of the iPad holder. Find the center hole using the diagonals method we used for the other wooden parts, and drill the pilot hole for the screw for alignment.

IMPORTANT: when you add the support platform to the quick release base, make sure you are lining up the wedge edges in accordance with the tripod handles and tilts. You don't want your hard work here to be chucked out because the final results sits perpendicular to the way it ought to sit on the tripod.

Step 11: Cut and Assemble PVC Parts

To simplify the steps here, I put my kit on my cutting mat which has uniform 1-inch grid marks. Simply cut the straight PVC for your straight parts, and then for the sake of not having to buy all the parts twice dry-assemble your kit and add your iPad to it to make sure it fits.

Once you are sure your assembly will work, assemble the parts with primer and glue. ProTip: I actually did a poor job making sure all my assemblies were flat relative to each other, and when I put the diagonal on to make the "pocket" in which the pad actually sits the kit would no longer sit flat. If you are patient, I am sure you can do better than I did.

Step 12: Strap to Quick Release Base

Once the glue dries, stand the PVC on the quick release base. I found that 4 zip ties would be more than sufficient to hold it solidly in place. Simply mark the base and drill holes for the zip ties. Clean up any untidy bits and then add the zip ties.

Step 13: Paint to Taste

So my painting was a 2-step process. I primed the kit with black primer suitable for plastic and then lightly coated it with black PlastiDip, which gives the surface a rubbery, grippy feel. This keeps the pad from sliding around when it is in the pocket, and it's actually pretty durable.

Thanks for reading, and leave your thoughts on your build in the comments below!