I'll admit it: I'm a lunatic. I love the moon. But oh, the hand-fatigue and shake associated with handholding those 50 or 70mm lenses! So when the recent full lunar eclipse was headed our way, I scrambled to find a tripod mount for my Celestron 20x 50mm binoculars.
A search of the local hobby store proved fruitless and a trip to everyone's favorite internet store turned up models for $30, $50, and even $70! That wasn't going to work.
So after scratching my head a bit, I dove into my spare parts drawer and made some for free. Yep. For nary a dime, I used scraps to make a simple, and functional tripod mount for my binocs, and as the picture shows, they'll work for most porro prism binoculars (the ones that are shaped like the pair in the photo).
Even better, I was able to share the experience of moon gazing with my partner who wears glasses and normally can't see through binoculars. By using the tripod to stabilize the image, we were able to share the eclipse in full-detail!
So enough chit-chat. Let's get down to how to make these, with one caveat: you probably already have the stuff around your house to make these. Don't go on a big trip and spend $5 just to have the exact set-up I found. But even if you do, it's better than $30 I guess.
Step 1: Supplies
A flat metal bar from goodness knows what project. It has four holes in it. The important bit to note is that you need something at least about 3" long with at least two holes on either end large enough to fit the bolts but not so large that the bolts go through it. It should also either be bendable (we'll get to that) or already set at a square angle.
A 1/4-20 x 1/2" Thumb Screw. Don't let the numbers scare you off. 1/4 refers to the diameter of the bolt. 20 is how many threads the bolt has per inch, and 1/2" is the length of the bolt from the beginning to the end of the thread. Thumb Screw just refers to the type of head. Originally, I used a 2" hex with the same threading with nuts as spacers, but eventually I broke down and bought the 5-cent thumb screw from Menard's because it was easier to use than a hex bolt. But a hex bolt, or just about any bolt except maybe a carriage bolt, works.
A 1/4-20 wingnut. You could use any kind of nut, but the wingnut proved the easiest to use. No matter what kind of bolt/screw or nut you use the two important things are that 1) it is 1/4-20. This is the standard mounting size for binoculars and cameras and many other gizmos that attach to tripods. And 2) that it is less than an inch long. We'll get to why in a minute.
A Flat Washer with a hole big enough for the bolt to pass through and small enough for the head not to go through.
Step 2: Locate You Binocular's Tripod Mount
While some binocular brands advertise that they are tripod mountable, some swear up and down that they are not. However, I've yet to encounter a pair of porro prism binocs that are not mountable, other than one pair that used that space for a built in camera.
Basically, the focusing knob sits in a hollow threaded shaft that is tapped at 1/4-20. You can attach a mount here, and provided that your bolt is not so long that it messes with the focusing screw (anything less than one inch works on all the 50mm objective lens-sized binocs I've tried my adapter on), you're in business.
This is an important note: If your bolt is longer than an inch, it might mess with the focusing screw, which could result in damage to your binocs if you really try to jam it in, but most likely will only make it difficult to focus, thus defeating the point. I recommend using a bolt no longer or shorter than what's needed to feed about 3/8" into the shaft.
The first bolt I used was too long, so I just used some nuts as spacers before I bought the thumbscrew. Not the most chic solution, but it works fine.
Step 3: Bend the Metal Bar
Whatever you use for the bar, bend it 90 degrees. This will keep the binocs from trying to slide around on the mount. If you use a straight piece, even though most tilt-tripod heads would allow for this, the binocs might try to swivel down in front of the tripod head. We don't want that.
Once the bar is bent, we have our frame.
I used a hammer to bend this piece over a two-by-four. Complicated, this is not. Nothing to laser-cut, 3-d print, or program through any kind of pi. You are going for a piece that has a good inch on either side. It's okay, even preferable if one side is slightly longer. That's the side you'll attach to the binocs in the next step.
Step 4: Assemble
On most modern tripods there is a hotfoot, a removable piece that is attached to the tripod separately. If your tripod doesn't have this, no problem. It's just a tad easier with the removable foot.
First, thread your screw/bolt through the washer, then the bent metal frame with the bend down and facing out (or toward you if you are looking at the binoculars face-to-lens, as shown in the picture) and screw it into the mount.
Second, feed the hotfoot's mounting screw through the bottom of the frame and secure it with the wingnut.
Third, attach your tripod's hotfoot to the tripod head and prepare for th'awesome.
If your tripod doesn't have a hotfoot, just do step two directly on the tripod's mount screw.
Step 5: Enjoy
You now have tripod-mounted binoculars for nothing or next to it! What a joy and pleasure it is to use binoculars without having to hold them. Even my cheep-as-belly-lint Tasco 10x 50s have a new life when mounted to the tripod. The pic I took above is 1/100 as breathtaking as what I could share with my boo through the 20x binoculars, steady and easy to use thanks to the mount.
A few safety tips for beginners:
1) NEVER point binocs at the sun. It will fry your eyes but quick!
2) On most pairs, to focus for the first time you use them, shut your left eye and twist the eyepiece in front of your right eye until the image is clear. Then open your left eye, and use the focusing knob/screw to focus in on what you're looking for. Unless you share your binoculars, or lead a rough life, you shouldn't have to mess with the right eyepiece's optical adjustment again for a while.
3) When looking at night sky objects, if you see double, you'll want to have your binocs serviced or recolumnize them yourself. To recolumize your binocs, see an upcoming 'ible from me. Anyway, if your binocs give you double vision, it could give you a headache to keep looking through them. Shut one eye or tilt the pair so you are only using one side until you can get them fixed.
Step 6: Cleanup & Storage
Cleanup is such a cinch, you can do it in the dark. I did. Simply hold the binoculars securely and unscrew the wingnut. Then set the binoculars down, and unscrew the screw/bolt from the shaft being careful not to lose the washer (but if you do, I mean, it's a washer--not a huge deal to replace). Then chose a hole on the frame and screw the bolt/screw into the wingnut through the washer and frame. See pic. Stow the mount wherever you keep your gear (but not where it can scratch a lens).
Also, remember to put the cap back over the mount shaft on your binocs to keep the shaft clean for the focus screw.
Finally, if you liked this little fix using stuff you already have, vote for me! I'm putting this number in the left-overs contest. Fingers crossed for my first 'ible!