Anyone who follows my YouTube Channel will know that from time to time I am out doing vids in other people's shops, art galleries, shows and so on. I always use a tripod when I video tape, either inside or outside. When shooting inside I have often wished I had a tripod dolly with me. I checked them out on-line and found that most of them seem to start around $100 price and go up from there. After carefully looking at them, I think I can make something at least as usable as what I have seen but for a lot less money ... and for the amount I need it, the cost of a 3 wheels and a few nuts and bolts it should be fairly easy to make.
The only real disadvantage of mine is the arms will not be adjustable, which I really don't need or care about anyway.
It will fit all my tripods and that's all I care about. To figure out the size, I dropped a plumb-bob down from the center shaft of my favorite Slik Tripod and adjusted the legs to where I would like to have them for indoor shooting. I discovered that the length was 21 inches from the centre ...
I already knew the width of my wheel mounts was 1- 1/2 inches so a safe width would be 1-5/8 wide, x 3/4" deep, the actual length of the legs would need to be determined by where they would "fold" from. All tripod dollies fold otherwise they are too big. I found that if I drilled hole in the end of each leg about 1/2" from the end, then positioned that leg on some scrap lumber it gave me rough idea where the 2 legs that would pivot, needed to be positioned from. I seems that a 4" circle is almost a perfect reference. By marking where the 3 legs need to come out at it is easy to see how one stationary leg will allow the others on each side to pivot in, thus making the dolly foldable.
To make the center support housing, I cut some 1/2" - baltic birch plywood at 12" square, found the center of each square then used that to draw a large 12" diameter circle on each piece. The purpose of the circle is to help find the furthest outward part where the second support screw hole will need to be drilled for each leg. If you need more support you could go with a 14" square, but I found 12" was quite adequate.
Finding the leg positions is easy, on a 360 degree circle, divided by three equals 120 degrees between each leg. drilled my inner support / pivot holes first, then made sure the top and bottom plywood piece fit precisely .. not difficult to do if you make sure you lock the top and bottom together with a bolt through the first hole you drill on top and bottom then on he second as well. that way all holes will line up.
Drilling the otter holes is also easy and you it's best to drill through the top plywood support, through the leg, then through the bottom plywood support all at the same time, that way they all line up nicely.
Moving on to the ends of the legs, it's best that the tripod be somehow secured to the dolly, it makes the tripod even firmer a less likely to tip over. I found a simple solution by using screw-L bolts for this. I pre-drilled each hole as my dolly arms were oak and if I did not pre-drill there was a high probability the L-screws would split the wood, especially that close to the end of the arm.
Next I needed to fashion a moveable cupping device that would secure the very bottom of the tripod. I found that a 35mm forstner bit that I use for installing European Hinges worked perfect for me. I also noticed that the cupping part did not need to be the full 3/4" thickness so used my band saw with a thin blade to make a bit more elegant looking sliding cupping device.
After fastening all the wheels on the underside of each leg, it was time for assembly and it was bit of a challenge making sure each hole lined up where they had all been previously drilled. I had marked a place on each piece of wood so this would be easier at final assembly and I'm sure this saved me a lot of time putting this jigsaw puzzle of parts together.
I first tried the folding and unfolding ... worked like a charm, then I put the dolly on the floor an mounted my Slik Tripod which went on quickly and easily. Then I finally got a chance to try it out ... the dolly could spin easily and moved around smoothly and effortlessly. I tried picking up the who tripod with the dolly attached, it was easy to lift, not too heavy and the dolly was firmly attached ... didn't slip or knock, the tripod and dolly worked as though they were one unit. I also tried my Manfrotto tripod which also happened to fit the dolly well ... bonus, no adjustments and fits great too ...
This is one project I am going to enjoy using, I only wish I had made this years ago ...
Copyright Colin Knecht