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06-10-2016, 04:23 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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The $15 Weekend Project

You know that $15 project that ended up costing $55? Remember that weekend project that took two weeks?

Of course you do. We have all had them.

Well, I just had another. I decided to make my own macro focusing rack. From what I read here and other places, the cheap ones are, well, cheap, and good ones are, well, expensive.

So I thought, hey… I can do this myself.

After some (less than adequate) thought and planning I built one - on time and within budget - $15 and one weekend. This first try proved my concept, but it did little else. I used a pair of miniature ball-bearing drawer guides, some 1/4” threaded rod, a few pieces of board, and some spare bits I had hanging around. My primary downfall was the epoxy which just didn’t have the holding power for what I wanted it to do.

So back to the drawing board. The $15 is now gone. And so is the weekend. While cruising around the Internet I found a nice zero-backlash lead screw - now the $15 is now only a memory. A few sketches and some more sketchy thought added some aluminum angle to the project. Somewhere along the way I also bought a rotary tool from Harbor Freight.

So this is what I ended up with. It has what would might be called a sort of “steampunk” look about it. Lots of nuts and bolts. It looks like the very devil, but it works and works well.





The lead screw is 8mm in diameter and moves the camera 1.25mm for each full turn, making it reasonable to move the camera as little as 0.16mm (1/8 of a turn) at a time. While it has passed all its tests, I will put it to the task this weekend.

I don't know what the cost was - I decided not to add it up. It could be thousands, but probably more like $85, counting the rotary tool, of course.

Of course there is no off switch on genius, so I am already designing a new, improved model that will still use the drawer guides and the lead screw, but will have fewer parts and look dramatically different. But it will have to wait until this summer's road trip is over.

06-10-2016, 04:50 PM   #2
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Very clever. I have to hand it to folks as talented as you. I have as much mechanical inclination as a spoiled clam. I am looking forward to the new and improved version. Interesting as all get out and certainly will be very useful to you.

Many thanks for uploading.

Antonio
06-10-2016, 04:53 PM   #3
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Looks nice. Can you add your sketches? I am thinking to do something like this myself.
06-10-2016, 05:00 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by AggieDad Quote
You know that $15 project that ended up costing $55? Remember that weekend project that took two weeks?
Tell me about it...



That looks quite nice!
There are some new ones about $60-100 and up but this has the advantage of Arca-Swiss which only the $200+ ones have.
Also you probably had fun torture/pain/anger making it.

06-10-2016, 06:16 PM   #5
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Nice work, Don. That is something I can use as I am one part away from a setup that requires a focusing rack. I've been thinking I would attempt to score an old microscope from Goodwill or a pawn shop and use it for parts but this has sparked my interest. There is a decent hardware store pretty close to me where I could acquire most of the hardware that you have there. As others have asked, where are the plans!
06-10-2016, 07:30 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Plans!? Oh Dear.

Give me a day or two to make them presentable. Then I'll post them as a full scale PDF.

Just realize they will not include some of the mis-drilled holes and other errors that my version includes. After all, I must protect my product's uniqueness.
06-10-2016, 10:39 PM   #7
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Well done.

I was a l'il less energetic with my solution. I just cannibalized and re-assembled bellows parts.

That red thingy's an A110-Q adapter with a coupl'a extra millimeters of extension included.

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06-12-2016, 06:08 AM   #8
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Now all you need is a small gearbox, a stepper motor,, a TRS jack, some wiring, a basic microprocessor and half a day's programming and you have a fully automatic focus stacker.
06-12-2016, 12:08 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by victormeldrew Quote
Now all you need is a small gearbox, a stepper motor,, a TRS jack, some wiring, a basic microprocessor and half a day's programming and you have a fully automatic focus stacker.
You may have looking at pacerr's very nice rack with the repurposed bellows parts, but I have actually already talked to the guys at an interesting "we got everything" electronics parts store here in Houston. They have a stepper motor that has enough torque (geared, I guess) and the controller. The key is to talk one of their guys into doing the programming.

Maybe...
06-12-2016, 01:48 PM   #10
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What brand controller? I'm fairly well versed with Microchip PIC code. It's a farly simple job, depending how much control is required.
06-15-2016, 04:20 PM   #11
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I've picked up some of the supplies locally and waiting on delivery of the lead screw assembly and drawer guides. I still need an adjustment knob and am trying to come up with something interesting to use.

Victor, do you have any suggestions on a good, not-crazy-expensive controller?
06-15-2016, 04:40 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by TomTom Quote
...... the lead screw assembly and drawer guides. ....
Speaking as a cabinet maker , drawer guides have necessary play in horizontal and vertical planes
and may need to be loaded to restrict it.
06-15-2016, 04:52 PM   #13
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Well...it all depends. Once you're set up with a programmer, a suitable Microchip PIC chip would only set you back a few dollars. You would need to solder it into a board though, with a few other components and some way to set parameters and so forth. As it is an extremely simple program, it needs very little power.

For a one-off though, you might be better off with a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone...even better a BBC Microbit when they're out - all supremely overpowered and much more expensive, but by the time you're set up for one project it would work out the same sort of cost as they're ready mounted on a board, and easier as you can use a monitor and keyboard to program it and to set parameters in use.

Either way you would need to learn a programming code of some sort.
06-15-2016, 05:21 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Transit Quote
Speaking as a cabinet maker , drawer guides have necessary play in horizontal and vertical planes
and may need to be loaded to restrict it.
Well, sure, I knew that...not. I'm working off of AggieDad's parts list and drawings and am hoping, though fairly confident, that he has chosen wisely. I'll find out next week. He can address that when he sees the new posts here.

QuoteOriginally posted by victormeldrew Quote
Well...it all depends. Once you're set up with a programmer, a suitable Microchip PIC chip would only set you back a few dollars. You would need to solder it into a board though, with a few other components and some way to set parameters and so forth. As it is an extremely simple program, it needs very little power.

For a one-off though, you might be better off with a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone...even better a BBC Microbit when they're out - all supremely overpowered and much more expensive, but by the time you're set up for one project it would work out the same sort of cost as they're ready mounted on a board, and easier as you can use a monitor and keyboard to program it and to set parameters in use.

Either way you would need to learn a programming code of some sort.
I have a Rasp Pi model B though am not a programmer.

On second thought, I'll wait to see if anyone else steps up for electronic control.

Last edited by TomTom; 06-15-2016 at 05:30 PM.
06-15-2016, 07:06 PM   #15
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I'll happily have a look at what's possible....I always enjoy a project, but I can't promise anything quick - between work, the missus and my camera, time is short!
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