It’s Alive!!! ( Large Format Copy Stand)

“The Contraption” as my wife refers to it,  is complete!

its aliveAnd yes it does carry a vague resemblance to Dr. Frankenstein’s work table illustrated above.  Some seven months ago I hit a bit of a wall on making progress on “The Blue Max Project” when I mocked up this copy stand.


I made a number of discoveries with this mock up.  My digital camera was not good enough to allow for low f stop long exposure work.  The masonite work surface was not the right backdrop for the journal photos.  Taking over the dining room with the set up above was not acceptable both from keeping my marraige in tact and having a consistant set up for creating images.  After considering a large format scanner ( too expensive) or buying a standard copy stand ( too small) I decided to build my own….and here it is.


The steel post table base was purchased for $10 from Craigslist, as was the padded stool  in the fore ground.  My original masonite copy stand is set on the table in this picture and is now a small drafting board.  I hope to use the copy stand as my sketchboard for doing ink sketches for the journal.  There is a plug strip attached to the stand below to plug in the clamp on lights.  When setting up for a shoot, there are fold up arms to allow setting the lights at a 45 degree angle from the artifact being photographed.  They can be set at any angle and uses wingnuts to tighten them up once adjusted.



There is an aluminum tube across the top with clamps to hold in place and camera quick release hardware in the center.  I chose to leave the tube clamped instead of bolted to allow for making adjustments.  I am especially pleased with the camera attachment.  I found a website that sells small camera hardware and the $12 “cheese plate” is a 1/4″ steel plate with multiple holes, some threaded some not to recieve camera hardware.  I was able to buy a standard tripod quick release and bolt it to the plate.  It means the camera can be quickly attached or removed, but that the set up is stable and consistent between each session.

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The camera was a gift from Santa, an entry level Nikon DSLR…the 3200.  Many outlets had it on sale over the holidays for $499 with both a 18-55mm lense and a 55-200mm lense and a camera case.  Considering the camera alone was selling for $450 before Christmas, I felt good about the purchase.  It can operate like a “sure shot” style camera or be fully manual, adjusting film speed, shutter speed and focal length.  I purist likely would have used a fixed 55mm lense for a copy stand, but the advantage of having a zoom lense is my camera can be in a fixed location and adjusted based on what is on the stand.  I set the camera so that fully zoomed out I get the whole 36″ x 30″ work surface.  You start getting bending to the image and glare from the lamps when fully pulled back like this.  This is not where I would typically be shooting.


…but I can  zoom into the book alone.  The book in this image is 12″ x 10″…already too big for a conventional scanner.  Most of them are 8/1/2″ x 14″.


And if you open the book up than you have a 12″ x 20″ original.


With the large focal length on the camera you can add objects with thickness and still be in focus.


Yes, that is a Glengarry Bonnet with my wife’s grandfather’s badge from his Argyll and Sutherland uniform.  The book was a gift from my daughter, perhaps I will post a review once I am done reading it.

Still not satisfied with the photography, but will take a lot more testing to fine tune.  A few things are going on right now.  I believe I let the camera select the film speed so it chose a high speed and a shorter exposure length.  The image is good but not great and I think with slower film and a longer exposure the image will get crisper.  Also shiny pages that don’t lay flat cause glare to pop out.  There are solutions to this as well.   All of that will take time and experimentation, but for now I at least have my “sandbox” to play in.

As Doctor Frankenstien once said…”Time to get back to the lab and see if I can bring this beast to life!”

Happy New Year.


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