The first project is an easy one. In fact, it requires no tools, only a few dollars in parts and about 10 minutes of time. The result is one of the most fundamental (and under rated) bits of grip in a photog's bag. Why DIY? Because even one of these will cost about $5 from a commercial supplier but for that same fiver you can make at least half a dozen on your own.
Above are all of the parts that you will need. Everything pictured should be available at almost any hardware store. I purchased my parts at Manards, but Lowes or Home Depot will have the same stuff for a similar price. For each stud you will need the following:
(1) 3/8" x 2" bolt
(1) 3/8" nut
(2) 3/8" flat washer
(1) 3/8" wing nut
The cheapest way to do this is to buy all of the parts in bulk packages. You don't know it yet but you will want at least a dozen of these in your bag at all times. You may have to work out the number you are building based on the number of each part that comes in pack. For instance, the bolts I purchased came in packs of 7 but the wing nuts came in packs of 3, so I made 21 studs in the first batch. Of course, you can make as many or as few as you like. If available, I recommend that you use "grade 8" bolts and nuts. In the hardware world these are the strongest, highest quality bolts commonly available. Yes, the regular grade bolts will do a fine job of holding your precious equipment, but the grade 8 bolts have a much higher quality zinc plating (gold colored here) on them and will last much longer in the elements, as well as look better then the cheap silver colored bolts. If you are really hard up for cash, buy the regular stuff just keep in mind that the packages will not necessarily cost less, they will just have a larger quantity of parts. Conversely, if you have money to burn, you could go with stainless steel, but at that point you might as well buy the real thing.
After you have gathered your parts, just put them together.
Now you have a stud that will work interchangeably with almost any piece of grip that accepts a 5/8" stud. As it happens the head on the 3/8" bolt is exactly 5/8" across at the widest part, meaning that this stud will be a spot-on replacement for the real thing. As you can see, our 2" bolt has about 1" that is unthreaded. This spaces the head of the bolt and the nut just about perfectly so they will both contact the inside of the umbrella swivel/light stand socket/whatever, while creating a recessed area to provide extra security for you equipment. Even if the set screw loosens on the swivel, the lip created by the head of the bolt will prevent it from falling off. The threaded end of the stud allows anything, from a clamp to a video light to be attached securely. In future posts we will use this stud for all kinds of things.