Dick Streff’s Camlock Tripod

The tripod has handcrafted reversible ash legs with spike and rubber covered ends. The legs lock via an over center cam action. The legs join at a turned maple yoke. The head is a surplus Majestic gear head with a handcrafted camlock quick release plate. (Shown holding my newly refurbished Eastman Century Universal view 8×10)

This is the tripod about 2/3 extended. The tripod in the current configuration has a working range from 9″ to approximately 80″. It stands 50″ folded. It weighs about 16.5 lbs., of which 3 lbs. is the head assembly. Its not a lightweight but I don’t really do anymore backpacking than from my pickup bed to the location.
(left) Here is the camlock in the closed position. The U-shaped brass actuating rods are threaded at each end and the tension can be adjusted by tightening the nylon insert lock nuts on either side of the leg. The spiked feet are simply two plumbing fixtures, a copper reducer and a brass hose cap, fitted to the turned end of the leg. The spike itself is a lag bolt screwed into the end of the leg and sharpened. It was then bent slightly to the inside face of the leg to facilitate better contact with the ground when the legs are spread. The silver rod in the circle is the footsteps shown folded so that the leg could be reversed. The leg members are 1 1/8″ thick and the assembly is about 4 3/8″ wide.
(right) With the camlock in the open position the leg center section can slide on the V-shaped ways of the leg tops. The footstep is folded down to facilitate planting the spike in the
ground.
The end of the leg opposite the spike is covered with cord reinforced rubber radiator hose for traction on smooth surfaces. It has adequate grip for all but the smoothest surfaces and a tie string between the legs would be in order. The tops of the outer legs are banded in brass strip to deter splitting. Also the pivot holes in the legs and in the yoke are bushed with brass tubing to stave off sloppiness caused by excess wear.
(left) This is the quick release mount on the tripod head. It has V-shaped ways and a beveled cam that interlocks with the plate mounted on the bottom of the camera (right). Both are made from 1/2″ Baltic Birch plywood.

Current Impressions and Future Modifications

  • In the effort to lighten the load, I removed too much material from the center sliding sections. They flex somewhat when clamped at the midpoints and some of the clamping tension is lost. On future versions I plan to drill a series of holes instead of the elongated ovals seen here.
  • I still need to add a velcro strap to bind the legs when folded. Maybe also a detachable sling.
  • Future versions of the tripod will be shorter. I really didn’t account for the additional height the geared head provided. (80″ extended! What the hell was I planning to shoot!)
  • On future versions I’ll reduce the diameter of the yoke significantly. It really needn’t be any larger in diameter than what is necessary to accommodate the tops of the legs and their mounting hardware. I was looking to increase the stability from rotational torque by spreading the pivot points in as large a circle as possible.
  • For a future 4×5 version I intend to reduce the thickness of the leg sets from 1 1/8″ to maybe 7/8″. They are plenty rigid for the 8×10 as is, and hopefully I could pare some more weight off.

I recognize this is more tripod than most people would need, but I think anyone wanting to make a large format tripod could adapt many of ideas from it. The leg design and locking mechanism works slicker than I would have imagined. The folding step pads also are a real convenience. I think the quick release mount works great also and could be scaled down for smaller field bodies successfully. Other than the tripod head (which I found at C+H Sales Co. from a newsgroup post, thanks Steve Grimes) all the hardware is off the shelf fasteners, plumbing fittings or brass stock from the hardware store variety bins. If anyone has any other ideas for tripods, I’d love to hear from you, especially if someone comes up with an adjustable center column design.

© 2016 S.K. Grimes
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