Arranging jewelry for photography can be a real challenge, especially with necklaces. I do a lot of shots for a local jewelry designer, and she wasn't always happy with the limitations of laying the jewelry out flat. We wanted to try hanging some of the jewelry so it would present more naturally, but doing so in a lightweight softbox created challenges of its own. I had recently seen a quick DIY using a wire coathanger and invisible thread, but the coathanger was a bit too flimsy for the larger necklaces, wasn't very stable, and the only option I had was to tie the pieces directly to the coathanger. It photographed extremely well, but the setup involved was too time-consuming. So here is my solution: PVC and alligator clips to the rescue!
Step 1: Materials, Tools and Cost
Cost: Around $5. Less if you have a lot of this stuff lying around.
Materials (can all be found at any hardware store or your garage):
4' length of PVC
Two elbows and two tees (same size as the PVC you are using)
Four alligator clips (I liked the ones in the Electronic's section at Lowe's)
Framing/picture hanging wire (or something similar)
4 small nuts
Invisible thread (for photos later)
Tools I used:
Hacksaw or PVC cutter
Drill and 3/32 bit
Measuring tape or ruler
Sharpie or pencil for marking the PVC
*Visegrip is not necessary but extremely helpful.
I wanted a stand that was about 12"-14" high, and about 10" wide. I used 1/2" PVC because it is small, lightweight and easy to cut (plus, I had it lying around to build a larger softbox). The only things I actually had to go out and buy were the alligator clips and more PVC.
Step 2: Measure and Cut PVC
First, measure and cut all the PVC to desired lengths. The hanger will be approximately 14" tall and 11" wide when finished if you go by my dimensions.
PVC dimensions that I used:
Two 12" lengths, two 2" lengths and one 9" length
The reason I only used two small lengths for the "feet" is because I noticed, while shooting, that anything behind can show up, and might be in my way in the photo. Besides, two little feet in the front is still really stable, I promise! You can always add on for your needs.
Step 3: Drilling PVC
Once the PVC is cut, you'll need to drill holes in the top section (the 9" one) to hang the alligator clips. I marked the first on each side using a small washer from a previous project, as I wanted one set of clips to hang as close to the side braces as possible, but knew I needed to account for the elbow. The next were marked about an inch in from the first marks.
Drill the PVC where your marks are, going all the way in and then through the other side. This is where the visegrip comes in very handy, as you can stabilize the PVC while drilling it, and have pretty perfectly lined-up holes. (Not that this is totally critical, but it is nice.) If you are not using a visegrip, the plastic clamps with rubber grips work OK with a piece of scrap wood (c-clamps don't grip the PVC well unless you want to risk crushing the PVC). If you don't have access to any of the above, I have had success only using a piece of scrap wood, by very carefully holding the PVC to the wood and drilling until I hit the wood. But I really recommend a visegrip, as it is much easier and safer!
Step 4: Making Hanging Alligator Clips
Now for the tedious and potentially painful part: attaching the alligator clips to the wire. Especially if you are using framing/picture hanging wire. You have been warned! I also highly recommend using the framing wire, as it is flexible but not too much so, very strong, will hold up for lots of abuse, and you can bend your clips back if you need to. The nature of this stuff makes it ideal, but as it is basically a bunch of small wires wound together, it makes for lovely little abrasions in the pads of your fingers as you work with it.
The alligator clips I purchased had a convenient little channel with outlets in them and a screw to tighten down to whatever was being attached to them. Loosen the screw on the clip, cut a generous length of framing wire and insert it into the channel (leaving a good long tail outside), out an outlet, and wind it around the screw. Take the remaining length of wire and insert it back behind and jam it down back into the channel so it won't poke you later. Pull on the long end with your pliers to tighten it good, then tighten the screw down. Do all four, and then go find some ice for your fingers.
Step 5: Secure the Hanging Clips
Now it's time to add the hanging clips to the top section of your PVC. Make sure your wire isn't frayed at the ends, and insert from the bottom to the top. I worked from the inside out so I could look into the PVC and make sure it was lining up correctly. I also looped the wire around the PVC so they would hold until I secured them.
Once they are all in, grab a nut and run the wire through it. Take the wire and loop it back through the nut, holding the nut flush to the PVC and the alligator clip tight so as to not have much extra wire between the clip and the PVC. (A little tiny bit is good, but not much.) Pull the wire tight, trim it down, and smash the ends so they won't poke you.
Step 6: Finishing Up
Lastly, put all the PVC parts together. The great thing about using the framing wire is being able to bend your clips back without stressing the wire too much. Optional: tape off the alligator clips and spray-paint it gray so it functions as a gray card.
To use, cut a length of invisible thread and hang anything you want, using the clips to hold the ends of the thread. When photographed, it will look suspended in midair!