Sliders are great tools for video and time lapse applications. That said, to buy a good slider that uses bearings can be expensive. And a reasonable slider that uses friction can run around $100.
Now I understand that there are a number of slider builds out there but I was looking for one that could use off-the-shelf parts, bearings for smooth action, could eventually accommodate a motor for time lapse projects, and would cost under $100. As an added bonus: I think this one looks pretty good, too.
So let’s get started!
(NOTE: Please use caution and safe practices when working with tools.)
After stumbling onto OpenBuilds.com, I realized that building a solid slider at a reasonable price was probably within reach. It took some time to get familiar with their parts and pieces – and after looking through a couple of other slider projects – I was able to start cobbling together the following list:
The one sub-unit that I couldn’t see an elegant way of sourcing through OpenBuilds were the legs. For those, I turned to Home Depot. Now if you don’t have a Home Depot close by, I think most hardware stores should have something similar on hand (or you can buy the pieces online).
Not much is needed for the assembly:
- Safety glasses
- Metal file
- Small wrench or two
- 3mm hex wrench
- 1/4”, 7/32”, and one more very small drill bit
Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to assemble the wheels and how to adjust the eccentric spacers so as to have a smooth gliding stage. Note: you’ll want to make sure the washer in the middle of each wheel is lined up correctly. The video shows you how to do that.
And if you find the 40mm OpenRail Gantry Plate for $8 on the OpenBuilds site – don’t buy it. I did this the first time thinking I’d save $4 and now have a very nice plate on the shelf looking for a project. It won’t work without the OpenRails. This build doesn’t use them and instead locks the stage to the slider by way of the V-slots.
And just to save you a bit of futzing – here’s a quick visual of the holes that I used to mount the plate using the 40mm wide V-slot.
If you’re unfamiliar with eccentric spacers, note that they’ll both be used on the same side of the rail.
The plate, as is, won’t accommodate a 1/4”-20 bolt in the center position that will readily fit your ballhead. I simply widened the center hole with a 1/4” drill bit (the photo above was taken before I widened the hole).
How to keep the stage, with your camera, from sliding right off the end of the rail? As I already had T-nuts and 8mm screws on the way, I simply added $0.80 of spacers to the order and cobbled together some stops. And they work great!
That said, after the entire assembly was together, I learned that the length of the 40mm screws used on the stage actually will hit the legs as they’re shown here. So, technically, you could probably choose to leave the stops off your plans (but I plan on keeping mine).
For the legs I looked at a few different ideas but ultimately decided on angled aluminum. To be honest, I wanted to use flat bar – but it flexed. Using fairly lightweight angled aluminum resulted in essentially no flex.
The furniture levelers allow for some adjustment on uneven surfaces.
And just in case you’re thinking of using wing nuts in place of the nuts on this assembly – they won’t fit on the underside with the angled aluminum.
Here are the measurements for the legs. WARNING: I’ll be moving between Metric and Standard units in the drawing. Yes – I understand that it’s not a “best practice”. But it works here. Also, the drawing is not to scale.
As for building the legs – pretty straight forward.
- Cut two 12” lengths from your angled aluminum.
- Smooth the cut edges with the file. Measure and drill your holes. I did use a a piece of sandpaper that I had on hand to smooth the drilled holes just a bit.
- Attach the levelers to the angled aluminum.
Connect the sub-assemblies and attach your ballhead to the stage with a 1/4”-20 bolt that is between 3/8” to a 1/2” long.
At this time, this slider isn’t designed to be attached to a tripod. I’m still working on an elegant solution. Ideally, it would be something like a plate with a center threaded 1/4”-20 hole that could be attached to the 40mm wide v-slot with t-nuts / aluminum spacers / flat M5 screws…
Hope that helps and if you build this or have ideas for improvements – please, let us know in the comments. Thanks!