When I started this project I wanted to make a simple camera accessory that could pull double or triple duty, taking the place of many of the tools common to photographers. What I ended up with was this, the flexible camera mount, I mostly call it the "flex mount" for short. In essence, the flex mount is a 3 foot length of annealed copper wire that is super bendable with a 1/4" X 20 camera mounting screw on each end. The whole thing is enclosed in see through vinyl tubing which keeps the wire clean and safe and also provides a soft surface to keep your hands happy when bending and unbending the flex mount. This tool can take the place of many other photography tools including:
a Standard Tripod - Form the wire into a base and upright arm and then install camera.
a Selfie Stick - Form one end of the Flex Mount into a loop and wrap it around your wrist/hand. Attach a camera to the other end and bend the wire to the correct angle for the perfect selfie.
an Articulated Camera mount - Wrap the 3' long flexible copper wire around almost anything for an instant camera mount.
Besides being a great multifunctional camera tool, the flex mount also coils up into a very tiny package making it great for trips or easy to slip onto your wrist when moving from place to place.
Step 1: What You'll Need
- 2 - 1/4" X 20 bolts
- 1/4" inside diameter vinyl tubing
- 1/8" copper wire
- 2 - 1/2" brass couplings
- Tools to cut wire and tubing
- Vice Grips
- Bucket of Water
- Dish Soap
All of the supplies for this project can be bought at the hardware store for about $8, and the tools needed are basic tools that you probably already have in your tool box.
Step 2: Design
Figuring out how to make the flex mount work took a bit of effort. The bendiness was pretty easy to get sorted, having spent a good deal of time combing through the local hardware store (Lowes) I knew that there was a fair selection of large gauge copper wire, and I knew from previous projects that copper is very pliable especially when annealed. Adding the 1/4" threads to mount the the camera proved to be a little trickier. What I ended up doing was to sandwich the end of the copper wire and one end of a 1/4" bolt inside vinyl tubing and then fit a collar around the area to support the connection. To further strengthen the connection I loaded the area with epoxy ensuring that both the wire end and the end of the 1/4" bolt end were thoroughly coated. Check out the diagram above for a visual representation of how everything came together.
Beyond the actual mechanics of putting the thing together I also had to make a decision about length. I ended up making the flex mount 3 feet long which seems to be the sweet spot between long enough to wrap around things and to function as a selfie stick, and short enough that it is easy to wrap up and store in a camera bag or cargo pocket.
Step 3: Preparing the Wire - Annealing
The first step of this project is to anneal the copper wire. If you're not familiar with the process of annealing, it basically means to relax the metal through a process of heating and cooling. For copper to anneal, you have to heat it up until it is a dull red and then quickly quench it in water. This allows the crystalline structure of the copper to relax with allows it to be more bendy. When heating the copper, be sure to hold it with something like vice grips as the copper wire will quickly conduct the heat from the torch back towards your hand.
Note: If you don't have access to a torch, you can skip this step as the wire is probably somewhat soft as is when it is purchased from the hardware store. Annealing is just a sure fire way to make sure that your copper is as soft as possible which will increase the usefulness and longevity of your flexible camera mount.
Fun Fact: Copper anneals and becomes soft when heated and quenched in water, but steel becomes hard when exposed to the same process of heating and rapid cooling. The difference in reactions stems from the fact that steel has carbon within it's crystalline matrix and that carbon gets dislodged when the steel is cooled rapidly thereby making the steel hard and brittle.
Step 4: Preparing the Wire - Cleaning
After annealing the copper wire will be covered with a layer of oxide. a quick rub with steel wool followed by a wipe of denatured alcohol with clean everything up and get that copper looking good as new. At this point in the build I also straightened the wire to make things easier when I have to push the wire into the vinyl tubing. To straighten the wire I clamped vice grips to both ends, and then employed the help of a friend to tug the wire straight. This is actually pretty easy to do as the wire is very soft and pliable from annealing. The vice grips left the ends of the wire a bit marred which actually worked in my favor as the marks provided a good bonding surface for the expoxy that would be used later on to hold the wire in place inside a length of vinyl tubing.
Step 5: Cutting the Tubing
With the wire prepared the next step was to cut a length of vinyl tubing. The tubing will encase the wire, keeping it clean and also offering a bit of padding on the hands when bending and manipulating the flexible camera mount. I cut the tubing so that it would be 1" longer on each end than the wire. So, the wire I used was 3' long which means that I cut the vinyl tubing to 3' 2". The extra length will be used to hold the threaded ends that will be used to mount the camera, check out the last picture to see an example of this.
Step 6: Putting the Brass Coupling on the Tubing
With the vinyl tubing cut to length, the next step is to fit the 1/2" brass couplings onto each end of the tubing. The couplings work like collars to sandwich everything together at each end of the flex mount. The couplings fit onto the tubing very tightly so a little oil or dish soap should be used to lubricate the tubing while working the couplings into place.
Step 7: Cutting the Bolts
These bolts are 1/4" by 20 and will be used to mount a camera onto either end of the flex mount. All you need is the shank of the bolt, so grab your hack saw and hack off the bolt head leaving the shank about 1 1/4" long. 1" of the shank will be pushed into the vinyl tubing (remember what I said about cutting the tubing so it was 1" long on each end?) and the other 1/4" of the shank will stick out and will be what the camera mounts onto.
Step 8: Putting It All Together
Time for everything to come together! collect all of your parts (vinyl tubing, copper wire, bolt shanks, brass couplings, and epoxy) and get ready to assemble your flex mount.
Step 1: Insert the copper wire into the vinyl tubing, positioning it so that there is approx 1" of empty tubing at each end.
Step 2: Mix the epoxy.
Step 3: Fill one end of the tubing with epoxy.
Step 4: push one of the 1/4" bolt shanks into the end you just filled with epoxy. The bolt will work like a piston forcing some of the epoxy down to envelop and secure the copper wire. Some of the epoxy will also glob around the threads of the bolt securing it into place inside the tubing. Make sure to leave about 1/4" of bolt sticking out of the tubing so that you have plenty of threads to secure your camera onto.
Step 5: Allow the epoxy time to set up.
Step 6: Repeat steps 3-5 on the other end of the flex mount.
Once the epoxy has cured your flexible camera mount will be ready for action!
I hope you enjoyed my project. I think this is a really fun project to build, it doesn't take a lot of time, and what you end up with is a really useful tool. If you enjoyed learning about my flex mount please vote for it in the Photography Tricks Contest!
Special thanks to my brother Matt who helped me design, and photograph this project!