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Photography addiction drives Woodworking habit

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Blog entry by Don Butler posted 10-03-2014 10:34 PM 1482 reads 2 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

If you count how long I’ve been working wood by my oldest machine that would be my 28 year old ShopSmith. But truth to tell, it all started when we moved into this house which we believe was built around 1804. Even new houses need care, but when they’re more than two centuries old, they’re REALLY needy.

An even older habit with me is photography. I’ve been in and around photography since I worked in a large photo developing plant at the age of 18. Turn those numbers around and you have my present age – 81. So That old occupation still looms large in my life.

Awhile back I decided to build a camera room where I could make portraits and product photography. The room was available, and I have a decent camera and other gadgets, but what was lacking was actual studio lighting. I’m a tight as the paint on the wall and professional gear is costly, so I decided to build my own lights. The following is the result of the design and production of the first unit.

My criteria were as follows. I wanted real lighting, not strobes and I wanted it to but adjustable in intensity. It should also be either direct or soft light as needed and be able to be adjusted for height. Not too heavy, either. I knew I’d have to use the lightest materials and make the design result in a device I could move myself without help. So here’s what I did:

The lamp head is a box made of .25” plywood and has four lamp sockets, each independently switched. The box is lined with mirror mylar film and a muslin diffuser slides in front of the box. The stand is a tripod with adjustable feet and the center column is made with .25 plywood that I drilled out for lightness.



This is my main light, now to get the fill light built.

Don

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.



13 comments so far

View lew's profile

lew

11334 posts in 3215 days


#1 posted 10-03-2014 11:24 PM

Thanks, Don, for posting this.

I have been toying with building a light source- nothing this fancy but it does give me a starting point. May I ask, what “degree” lamps you used?

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View tinnman65's profile

tinnman65

1297 posts in 2874 days


#2 posted 10-04-2014 12:12 AM

This is great Don. Was this posted as a project and I missed it, if not it should be. I believe more people would see it that way. I would love to build some of these for photography. What is a muslin diffuser? Is that muslin fabric? I know about light diffusion but my knowledge is very limited.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1086 posts in 2855 days


#3 posted 10-04-2014 01:06 AM

Lew, I use daylight balance lamps. These CFLs aren’t rated by degrees Kelvin.

Paul, It;s just a single thickness of muslin fabric stretched on a light plywood frame.
The diffuser drops the light intensity by one f-stop. so I would use all the lamps at once for that.
I could also use a slave strobe in one of the lamp sockets. That would give a big boost in light output.
The idea of diffusion for portraiture is to spread the light source so it doesn’t cast hard shadows.

Don

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Texcaster's profile

Texcaster

1138 posts in 1133 days


#4 posted 10-04-2014 07:54 AM

Nice work Don. It looks like it could walk and talk. I’ve been happy enough till now just taking snaps with available light. Now I want more control.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View stefang's profile

stefang

15512 posts in 2794 days


#5 posted 10-04-2014 12:26 PM

Your stand and lighting look very good Don and it’s great to have dedicated room to use it in. Altogether a very nice and worthwhile project.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View albachippie's profile

albachippie

757 posts in 2495 days


#6 posted 10-04-2014 09:07 PM

This is a great build Don. I am also very keen photog, and would love to set up a wee portrait studio. This gives a brilliant starting point.

Thanks for your share,

Garry

-- Garry fae Bonnie Scotland - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Garry-Macdonald-Woodwork/425518554215355?ref=hl

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1086 posts in 2855 days


#7 posted 10-04-2014 11:12 PM

I’m now working on a hair light.
You may be surprised with my design.
Pictures by Tuesday, latest.

Don

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Roger's profile

Roger

19855 posts in 2263 days


#8 posted 10-05-2014 01:24 PM

Gr8 info. Thnx for posting Don

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. Kentuk55@yahoo.com

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3962 posts in 2624 days


#9 posted 10-05-2014 05:12 PM

I remember the shop lighting you did using CFL’s and mylar film. That made me think a little different about lighting.

My first application of that general idea was to revamp a light box my wife had. The circular bulb ballast that came with the box blew out the second time she turned it on. Couldn’t find a replacement readily, so I reengineered it, painted the whole inside white, used just two daylight CFL’s and their sockets. It works at least as good as the original, but now with easy to find and cheap to replace CFL’s. I also added a socket for a steam iron and redid the cord to carry the amperage.

Then in La Conner, my garage shop there had three globes, up about 10 feet, and almost useless for lighting. I replaced two of the globe lamps with outdoor dual sockets, and then put 150 watt equivalent bulbs in each socket, 4 in all. No reflector, just bare bulbs. Totally transformed the shop. Great light. I am adding two other wall mount duals to light up some dark areas. Cheap and functional solution.

So thanks again for your basic idea about the CFL’s, I didn’t exactly copy what you did, but it was the germ for other creative lighting solutions.

Because the CFL’s are markedly more efficient than incandescent, you can beef up the light in a lamp and still end up using fewer watts, and have a much cooler fixture, with less heat production.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1086 posts in 2855 days


#10 posted 10-06-2014 11:30 AM

Jim,
Thanks for reminding me of the lamps I did for my shop. If LEDs were cheaper I’d use them for everything, but we’re not there yet.
Speaking of the light box, My wife asked for one and (as usual) I couldn’t bring myself to buy what I could build. So, I built a shallow box of .25” plywood with box joint corners. the top was a piece of .25” glass I had laying around, waiting for a project. Inside I used the mylar film to minimize light loss and for light source I went to Lowe’s and bought two LED under-cabinet strips.
It works very well.
I’m waiting for the prices of LEDs to decline so I can use them for studio lighting because they’re even better than CFLs. Smaller in size, lower current requirement for power and far longer lasting. I see that professional studio LED lamps are beginning to come down in price. Perhaps I can quit making the lamps and just buy them?

Don

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3962 posts in 2624 days


#11 posted 10-06-2014 09:43 PM

I just noted your byline…........yarn for tools. My wife has more yarn, and more quilt fabric than…......well….......most anybody.

She had a yarn shop, spinning and weaving, too. Highly successful, profitable, but sold it when her partner left the state, she didn’t want a different partner.

Simplifying….....quit for personal reasons.

So, she ended up with some of the inventory.

And got into quilting.

You think woodworking is an expensive hobby!!!???

OK, looking for cheap LED’s myself.

Have a good one Don, winding down from a little too much work this week….......
........for an old codger like me…..........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1086 posts in 2855 days


#12 posted 10-07-2014 12:27 AM

Jim,
How extraordinary!
My wife just closed her knit shop a year ago in August!
She also has a huge stockpile of fabrics!
She is into weaving and wants me to build a spinning wheel!!!!!!!!!!!

You should see the inventory we were left with.

And yes, I still think woodworking is expensive even though we didn’t liquidate as much inventory as we wanted to.

Marge is 76, I’m 81.
Retirement was pretty much the next thing.
You think you’re an old codger, eh?

Don

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3962 posts in 2624 days


#13 posted 10-07-2014 03:20 PM

I showed my wife our last posts, and she got a good chuckle.

I have been resisting retirement for a variety of reasons, but it is getting more difficult to get the work done, and have any energy left for other things. I suspect I have another year in me at least, but it is a grind, even at my tender young age of 73.

My wife mentioned the spinning wheel as a project as well, but the amount of work for a one off was beyond my hobbyist approach to things, at least at this time.

Keep your lighting adventures posted, because light is inevitably an issue with woodworking, and I have spent some time at it in both of my shops.

Have a good one, off to the races again….......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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