DIY Century Stand (Nearly Finished Version)

It's been a little while since I have written a DIY post for this site, so today I have a pretty easy and useful one. In the interest of full disclosure, this is a slight adaption of an existing design that can be found on several sites and forums. I was really excited to find the original articles but there were a few features lacking from those designs that kept me from building one of these stands until just recently. I will  give a rundown of the specific changes that I made a little further down the page. Those who have spend any time with me know that I tend to look for a DIY solution for something before a turn to a commercial option. Over the last few years I have built up a nice little collection of tools that has made many of these projects cost effective and efficient. Very often these projects fall into two distinct categories: advanced designs created by an engineer who has a photography hobby and access to tools and knowledge that most folks don't, and so called "duct tape DIY's", projects that sort of get the job done, but are ugly or unreliable or both.

For me, it is only useful to build something if it will perform as well as a commercially available product and have a cost savings that justifies the time spent building it. I have actually built a lot of gear that you will never hear about on this site, either because I don't feel that it is worthwhile for you to build, or because I greedily want to keep it for my self. If you do want to see some of this other stuff, give me a call and I'd be happy to give you a look in person.

Ok, to the project. Since I am not completely done with this, there is no parts list yet, I will update this post as soon as I feel comfortable with the finished product. As for tools, I used the following:

Suitably sized pipe wrench: (maybe $10, you can get the cheapest you can find here) Drill press OR hand drill and vice: I used a hand drill on some of the holes just to try it and it works pretty well if you take your time. Decent bit set: If you plan on doing DIYs with any sort of frequency, get a set with fractions, numbered and lettered bits, you will need all three for taping threaded holes. Menards used to have a set for about $40, they were cheap, but worked well if you keep them sharp. Cheap bits kept sharp will last longer and cut faster then an expensive bit that is left dull. Also, if you drill into stainless with any regularity, you will break bits, even the expensive ones. Tap Set: Here is where you will want quality, you don't have to buy a whole set, you will probably only use a handful of sizes. Buy a handle and add taps as you need them. Hack saw, sawzall, cutoff saw, etc.: Technically you don't need to cut any metal for this project, however I plan on cutting the threads on the first extension off, and you will need some sort of saw that can cut metal for that, just sayin'.

Ok, like I said, the goal here was to create a stand that was both cost effective and useful. I spent around $80 on the parts. Before you get upset, I realize that you can buy a commercial c stand for under $100, but the fact is those stands suck. They are probably less stable than the $40 aluminum ebay light stands, so if you want to go cheap, please go that route rather than the bottom level c stands. Another factor is that those cheap stands only go to 6.5/7 feet. This stand goes to 8ft currently (2 sections) and could go to 11ft (3 sections) with almost no added cost. Above you can see the leg assembly, the legs are made of standard 3/4" pipe, you can find all of the parts at your local home building center. The only tool you will need here is a pipe wrench to turn the pieces together. As you can see in the photo, the second segment in the middle leg is a little too long, causing the feet to bump into each other, this doesn't matter when the stand is in use, and I plan on replacing the too-long segment with a shorter piece soon. The legs connect to the base of the stand with a standard "T", I taped a hole in each T to allow for a set screw and knob to be added. Since the T's fit over a 1/2" pipe and there is some play, the set screw can be tightened to keep the legs in the proper position while moving the stand during use. The stand is still functional without them, just a little tricky to move.

You can see how the leg sections fit over the base in the picture above, there is about an inch of extra space on the base column, the next shorter size of pipe is to short. This is really not an issue and could be fixed with a clamp collar.

The other weak point in the original design was the clamp and extension portion of the stand. The second segment was made of EMT conduit and the clamp was simply a set screw taped into the first segment. EMT conduit is not a terribly stiff tubing and actually has quite a bit flex to it. Unfortunately there are not a lot of commonly available substitutes for it. I used a 4' section of 1" galv. pipe for the first segment. All pipe is measured by its inner diameter (i.d.) where as tubing is measure by it's outer diameter (o.d.). Basically, I needed a section of pipe for the first segment and a length of tubing for the second segment. Some home stores sell a small selection of metal tubing, but it is mostly overpriced and of mediocre quality. Fastenal is the place you want to go for this, unless you have access to a cheaper source at least, there is likely a Fastenal within a 30min drive from where you live.

The rest is just a matter of turning the pieces together.

Next: 5/8" stud and the parts list.