How to build a $45 rail-dolly.

DIY-builds and hacks, Film

Summer is coming up and with it a bunch of opportunities to get some nice footage. I’m documenting festivals this summer and I know I’m going to need some dynamic tracking-shots. So I decided to build a dolly. It had to be fairly easy to transport in a car, easy to operate (a 4-year old can handle this one) and not too expensive.

Oliver, 4, testing the dolly out.

My son Oliver, age 4, trying out the dolly with a BMPCC.

I made a shoppinglist of things I needed and it looked something like this (allthough the pricetags came in the end of course).

SL

I always start my D.I.Y-adventures with a trip to the second-hand shops. This time I found some vintage roller skates as I was browsing for a wheel solution. For this build you’re going to need 8 wheels, with bearings. Skateboard-wheels will work as well, but the nice thing about the roller skates, is that they come with all the wheels you need. You’re going to need thick wheels, so rollerblades won’t do. If you can’t find used wheels, eBay is your friend.

1

Your local hardware store should hold all the other supplies. I had them cut the (30 mm) plywood for me at the store, so I paid a bit extra for that. I measured my tripod before going and decided that a 700 x 700 mm square piece would do the trick. I took the wheels with me to make sure all the bolts and washers would fit. I found some cheap 90° metal brackets which had all the holes I needed in them from the start. Drilling a hole in these ones isn’t really a problem though, if you can’t find pre-drilled ones that work for you.

2

After putting two bolts through each bracket the “hard part” is done. Since the L-brackets are 90 °, the wheels automatically angle up perfectly. Secure the wheels with nut and washer.

3

By the end, you should have four brackets, with two wheels on each one. Like so.

4

Before putting the wheels onto my plywood I painted it. You don’t have to, but since the plywood is quite naked, it might be a good idea to put some sort of protective coating on it. Also, it looks cooler. I don’t know if looking cool looking gear is important but I don’t think it hurts. I added some details using masking tape. Better safe than, ehrm, uncool?

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When it’s time to put the wheels on your board, make sure they align with each other so that they run smoothly along the PCV-pipes. I placed them on my board and ran a pipe along each side and marked the spots for each bracket before putting the screws in. Also, it’s easier to get the brackets on if you take the wheels off for this step.

8

To prevent the PVC-pipes from rolling around, I added a cheap shelf-bracket on each end. I found mine at IKEA but any angled piece will do. There are no rules here, if it fits, it fits.

9

To prevent the middle of the track from sagging, I use rubber door-stoppers underneath. Works well and since they are angled, it works on ground which isn’t leveled. I also added some hooks on my dolly for wall-storage, and i found some small metal parts which lock my tripod in on the board. You can add whatever you want and having an extra look in the hardware store will surely give you the inspiration you need. Below you’ll find some test footage shot with this dolly. Good luck with the build!

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