Flat-Pack Camera Arm

by gianteye, published

Flat-Pack Camera Arm by gianteye Apr 23, 2017


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While writing MAKE: Soft Robotics, I've discovered I need more hands than I actually own to properly document all of the projects I've been developing. I built this plywood camera arm and foot switch to try and extend my project documentation powers.

You can find photos and videos of the cutting, finishing, assembly, and final thing here. You can also find some more project notes here.

I designed this in SolidWorks, cut it out on a ShopBot with a 1/4" endmill, and finished it with shellac. The arm works well, though I have a few edits I'd make to it if I had to do it all over again - tightening up the tolerances on the friction fits and giving it longer lever arms on the upper screw handles, but I'm very happy with the results despite.

You don't need SolidWorks to build your own camera arm based on these files, but you'll likely have to do some shimming or sanding on the friction fits and mortise and tenon joints if you aren't able to adjust the CAD for the specific thickness of plywood you end up with. Since plywood is a natural material, no two sheets are ever quite the same.

Also, before you post in all caps in the comments, I know I'm mixing metric and imperial, here. I tend to work in metric fasteners in my shop, so have them on hand. However, I live and work in the great US of A, so the Imperial system is unavoidable. You're smart folks. I know you can keep it straight. If you have trouble, Google can convert measurements automatically, now.

Bill of Materials

Bill of Materials

  • 1/2 sheet of 3/4" plywood (high quality veneer ply for best results) x 1
    Lumberyards or home improvement stores - $30-50

  • Freud 04-110 1/4" Diameter by 1" Double Flute Straight Router Bit with 1/4" Shank x 2
    Amazon.com - $12.99

  • Pixel Wired Remote Shutter Release Control compatible with NIKON MC-DC2, for NIKON Nikon D7000 D5100 D5000 D3200 D3100 D90 x 1
    Amazon.com - $7.15

  • Uxcell Foot Pedal Switch x 1
    Amazon.com - $5.86

  • Breeze Power-Seal Stainless Steel Hose Clamp, Worm-Drive, SAE Size 28, 1-5/16" to 2-1/4" Diameter Range, 1/2" Bandwidth x Pack of 10
    Amazon.com - $8.80

  • Zinc-Plated Iron Wing Head Thumb Screw
    M6 Thread, 1mm Pitch, 25mm Long x 1
    McMaster #92595A409 - $2.70

  • 18-8 Stainless Steel Hex Head Screw
    M6 x 1 mm Thread, 80 mm Long, Partially Threaded x Pack of 10
    McMaster #91287A254 - $5.72

  • Zinc-Plated Steel Wing Nut
    Class 5, M6 x 1 mm Thread x Pack of 25
    McMaster #94300A330 - $5.55

  • Black-Oxide Steel Knurled Head Thumb Screw
    Low Head, 1/4"-20 Thread, 1" Long x 1
    McMaster #90200A547 - $3.28

  • Zinc-Plated Steel Tee Nut Inserts for Wood
    M6 x 1 mm Thread Size, 9 mm Long x Pack of 50
    McMaster #98965A310 - $8.90

  • Black-Oxide Alloy Steel Hex Drive Flat Head Screw
    M6 x 1 mm Thread, 50 mm Long x Pack of 25
    McMaster #91294A250 - $8.24

  • Zinc-Plated Steel Wing Nut
    Class 5, M6 x 1 mm Thread x Pack of 25
    McMaster #94300A330 - $5.55




  • Download all of the files on this thing into the same folder and open up "camera_arm_01.SLDASM" in SolidWorks
  • This should open up the master assembly with all the referenced files - if not, go hunting and fix those broken links
  • Adjust the variable that sets the plywood thickness according to the thickness of the 3/4" plywood you have on hand (individual sheets vary quite a bit)
  • Export a vector file from the SW drawing, and do your path planning in your favorite CAM tool


  • The "camera_arm_01a.AI" and "camera_arm_01.crv" files were made for a ShopBot with a 4' x 8' cutting area using a 1/4" router bit - if that doesn't suit your machine you'll need to rework the path planning in your CAM tool
  • The work holding for this process involved screwing down the plywood sheet to the spoilboard, cutting all the straight holes and interior pockets, putting screws into those holes to hold down individual components, and then milling the exterior cuts. Some of the components needed bridges to prevent them from rotating during cutting


  • Test fit all parts to make certain nothing needs to be recut
  • The friction fit parts at the top and bottom of the arm use the pipe clamps to attach together. The lower ones work well, but the coupling that is attached to the wall mounting component is a little stiff. If I were to do everything over again, I'd make the slot that fits those parts together tighter and the relief cut that allows the pieces to flex a little longer
  • Knock the M6 bolts into the screw handles until the heads are flush with the wood, and then glue on the round pieces that accompany those parts (as seen at the top of this image)
  • The camera arm is mounted to the wall in my shop using 1/4"-20 threaded rod and drywall toggle bolts. It was originally designed for standard drywall anchors and screws, but these ended up being too short to bite into my shop's odd vintage walls
  • The 6.8mm holes in the arm components are for the threaded tee nut inserts. Knock them in with a hammer
  • The camera arm initially had a hard time staying in a position without sagging, so I added rubber pads to the joints that slipped to give it some more staying power. This helped a ton. I would like to redo some of the screw knobs to be more like a handle with a longer arm to increase the torque I can apply to the joints that bear the most weight
  • The part that mounts to the swivel plate (at the top of this photo) will need to be cut square so it can attach flush to the swivel plate itself. That was an oversight on my part. Also, that component doesn't use a wing nut for the joint, but a threaded insert
  • The wing nut-headed bolt attaches to the small laser cut component that's generated by "delrin_screw_clip_01.AI", which goes on the end of the camera arm to secure any camera with a 1/4"-20 screw mount. I used a sheet of 1/8" delrin for the clip, but you could use just about any flexible plastic, and even cut the part out by hand. It's just there to accept a little rubber pad to help the camera clamp down and keep the screw from falling out of the camera arm

Foot Switch

  • I hacked a foot switch together with a shutter release for my camera after my camera remote control started acting up
  • The original shutter release is simple as heck - three wires connected to three metal strips. When the first strip touches the second, it completes one circuit, and when they both touch the third, it completes both circuits. For the camera to take a photo, it needs the first and second circuits to be closed in sequence
  • I duplicated this design inside of the foot pedal by glueing a pair of microswitches (like you'd find as the limit switches in a laser cutter or 3d printer) together, wiring them like the metal strips in the shutter release, and adding a strip of plastic to the foot pedal's housing so one switch would go off before the other

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