Reference posters in confined spaces

In a world where postit notes and google keep lists rule as our memory triggers, there is nothing that beets a good old poster on the wall.

My memory is at best swiss cheese and as runny as John Cleese’s camembert. So the need for reference posters for music or photography abounding my walls is important. Or at least they would if I had walls. Well I have walls but none of them are a clean slate on which to post, often kerfuffled with cabinets or book shelves etc. I needed a way in which to store multiple reference sheets on a small area of wall. Pretty simple, efficient and cheap. Enter the $3 4 ringed binder.

ring binder screwed to wall

Remember those flippers to help you choose the music on the juke box? Same idea. A 25mm deep folder can hold a bunch of reference material. The idea of the visual mental trigger is to see it all around you so it sinks in, ie they need to be on display. However we also don’t want to be bombarded by dozens of wall posters, so this idea works well. In the example below I’ve chosen a basic bass guitar pattern that I might be working on this week and a piece of music that I’m also trying to learn. Perhaps you are into art, these could contain colour wheels and palettes or even cooking recipes or craft building info. No matter what reference info you are after they can be popped into the folder and displayed. Sure this sort of thing can be on the PC, but having it “available” here on display all the time helps it to sink in or the quick glance to “remind me”.

Magnets hold the pages in place but there are other ways to do this. The metal strips either side, not only hold the folder to the wall but also act as the keeper for the magnet.

Two reference areas but with so many possibilities.

I have a number of hobbies and so flipping between references is paramount. Depending on whether I’m in craft mode, photography mode or music mode and with limited wall space I had available I needed to work out a way to display these wall posters efficiently (you can even get A3 size versions). It’s easily re arranged and modified and is cheap to boot.

Lock, stock and four smokin barrels

reticle sight on long lens camera. Shoulder stock stability

Adding rifle sights to a camera with long lens.Prototype&POC.

One of the issues with big lenses, as in magnification, is keeping track of your target. Big slow things are no problem but try and follow a swallow in flight and see how you fair. We tend to try and fill the frame with our subject or at least 2/3rds and with it zipping around our heads this becomes a problem. Now I’m a little bit lucky as I am left eye dominant. I can peer with my right eye through the eyepiece/viewer and still have my left eye open to see what’s around me. It’s just a matter of switching the brain to decided which eyes view to process. Unfortunately with the larger lenses the camera body and the the lens barrel itself blocks an enormous part of the FOV. Bird flies in there and its hidden. Birds move fast and can come from anywhere so having a large FOV helps us to find our target but then we have to get them in the eyepiece.

Now there are different types of bird photography. I am talking about the random, take whatever is in the skies type as opposed to the stake out style. So wide observation, quick swivel the lens and acquire are the name of the game.

Astronomy steps in

I own a large telescope and one of the things I love most is randomly roaming the sky, eye glued to the eyepiece but if I do decided to find something specific you need a wider FOV so as to spot larger visible patterns to recognise and then allow homing in. Its called a spotting scope. Its central cross hairs is aligned to the big scopes centre of FOV. Where ever you point the spot the big lens follows.

Riflery a shoot of a different kind.

We can also take our cue from riflery. Think the sniper in the woods. Their eyepiece is sort of perched clear on top of the rifle there is lots of FOV around it not blocked.

Whilst complaining about such things one day to a good photography mate of mine he mentioned the approach of mounting a reticle sight on a camera via the hot shoe. Shortly after, with said unit in hand, I set about trying this out. Keepers or birds that were actually in the frame increased dramatically. with little to block your FOV its much easier to put the crosshairs on the bird as it flies thither.

Drawbacks

There are a few issues. chances of focusing catching the eye diminishes.In fact I moved quickly from singe focus point to d25, a larger spread of active focus points. No real way to swap mid flight from reticle to eyepiece(not yet anyway, I’m working on it). Like a rifle crosshairs you have to mentally adjust up or down if the target is closer or further away. ie the crosshairs match the centre of the lens at one distance. This mental adjustment tho is very easy. The biggest issue however was now the camera was hovering in front of my face. With the eyepiece pulled into my eye I had a 3rd point of reference and stability. My solution was to nock up a prototype shoulder stock. Now I’m aware there are a number of commercial units around with triggers on the pistol grip etc But I actually like having my hand around the lens barrel and happy to push the usual shutter button. with a few adapters and a few minutes on the saw I created a short shoulder stock that mounted via arca swiss plate to the bottom of the camera.

Voila

I now have my 3rd point of stability back. My chin rests on the camera body just to the left of the eyepiece. Comfy and stable, both eyes open, reference on the crosshairs just pull the trigger I mean shutter 🙂

Twas a quick afternoons prototype.

But it’s looking very promising.

Andoer M-12 monopod head jam

Andoer monopod head jamming up?

Andoer M-12 monopod head

Whilst waiting for a wimberly monopod head I needed something quick and cheap to allow me to use my monopod with larger lens/camera combinations. Now don’t get me wrong these Andoer heads are nothing like wimberly but I did at least expect it to get ,me out and taking photos. For most of my monopod work I just need to give the arms a break from the weight of the camera. I’m never going to let go of it, (that’s tripod territory) So I really just need a head that allows me to pivot the camera. For $20 the Andoer, which honestly looked like a clone of some “other” better known devices, should have provided such a simple requirement. TBH if it was made with just a little more attention to detail it would have.

The good news is if you have one that jams up like mine did, half an hour in the workshop and its certainly useable. Now those that follow me or have read other hacks and repairs will know I have access to a decent workshop but really this can be fixed with a file.


The sides are not square

The problem is that out of the mass produced mold the knuckle parts are not parallel sided, it doesn’t sit square.Which means as you pivot there is a good chance at some point its going to catch. The above image clearly shows the jam point and how off square the whole thing is.

not centred which jams the bolt head to one side.

The axis too is off, ie the hole through the unit is not central. This happens in a number of places. First the outer knuckle that houses the bolt head. The hole is not central to the hex indentation. I suspect during factory assembly, in mine at least, it was forced into position which caused the thrust washer to distort.

It also meant the inner knuckle was not horizontal. Not that it would have been anyway because the hole bored through the inner knuckle was not central either. Please note all these pivot tests were done with it completely loose, un tightened.

All we really need is a horizontal spindle.

Just a horizontal pivot and two ends to hold the shaft. Not rocket science.

After some machining we have faced the side so its square. You can see how bad the hole is and the alignment to centre is out.

It’s an axle Jim but not as we know it.

So now that that’s square it should pivot fine but we have lost some material in the process and as mentioned the original thrust washer was stuffed, we need a replacement. For this I used a mylar washer, I needed less than half a mm, Teflon would be nice but I couldn’t find my supply of scraps. A little bit of your favourite lubricant to both surfaces and away you go.. I generally don’t tighten or lock the spindle so no need to over engineer this bit for now.

As for the rest of it?

It’s fine, the QR Arca swiss is nicely machined and contains the safety screws.Knobs and such are fine. For $20 and some file work it will do the job I intended it for. Hold the weight of the camera while I wait for the bird to decide to take flight.

DSC_3119
the swan and I
C clamp

hack for cheap c type speedlight clamps

There are many cheap speedlight mounting options on the market. I switched over to S-type bowens mounts from the B type hot shoe mounts some time back for reasons I wont go into here but we still have to mount them to our stands. Now I haven’t blogged my Pergola cube studio yet, a project I started back in 2019 during lockdown. I ‘ve also made a number of adjustments since and hope to get around to blogging that later. But for the purposes here I have 25mm pipe around the roof outline of the studio and use it to hang lights n things from it. This saves a good deal of precious real estate that would otherwise be gobbled up by stand legs.

C clamp
C clamp with spigot

Initially I used these cheap C clamps to attach to stands rather than the arm spigots because it allowed me to place the light anywhere on the stand instead of just on its end. However the love affair did not last long. The C clamps often would not hold a grip and they started to mark the stands. I switched over to super clamps. In the meantime the old C types collected dust in a box. Last weekend during a shoot I was one clamp short(always the way isn’t it?) so unearthed the Cs. It got me out of a jam and I decided to have a closer look at why they fail.

With a big footprint on the “v” part of the clamp I looked elsewhere to discover why they slipped. The circular foot that screws in was one of the two main problems.

worn through
Round foot worn through

As shown, the foot has a thin rubber like push on cover which sits over a plastic disc and the the screw bolt can push through all this! We now have a small end of metal in direct contact with the stand, pipe, whatever instead of a nice rubber foot. Small contact no grip and it also has a very big disadvantage of leaving scratch n chew marks behind.

Now I have one of these C clamps that does not do this and its because the shaft distance between the collar or thread and the disc ie the neck, is much shorter. In the image below you can see the neck of the shaft protrudes past the end of the cap.

Protrusion
Shaft protrudes

We need to make a spacer to push the cap further up the neck so the end of the bolt does not sit proud of the disc, well not by much.My solution was to make a spacer washer from ABS. It really doesn’t matter what it is so long as its reasonably tuff. Mine were 3mm thick. You can’t go much thicker because there wont be enough clearance to put the circlip back on…oh Im getting ahead of myself here.

circlip
circlip

To remove the cap we need to pull off the circlip. Note taking it off is easier than putting them on. To Get to the circlip you will need to pull off the rubber boot. Its pretty straight forward really

Now we are left with putting on the spacer and then the cap, circlip and rubber boot.

We have our clamp back together but there is on last thing. Go back one and just before you put the boot on Notice I have added a nylon, mylar or hey a washer made from an ice cream container lid will do, circle that sits between the metal shaft end and rubber boot.

mylar washer
mylar washer

Help spread the load and removes direct contact between the metal and the rubber.

We can now apply some decent compression and really grip the bar, stand, pipe. Our only deficiency now is the clamp metal itself will bend and spread itself wider if you try too many turns. There is not much we can do about this. But really anything that is causing that much torque(to spin this around the bar) should probably be mounted in a different way. Its still a cheap clamp, I still prefer super clamps but we have given them a new lease on life.

3d speedlight mod adapter

These cheap ebay E23 SLR mini speedlight softboxes with their crazy velcro ties drive me nuts. The velcro strap design just fails. Its hard to strap on, is not firm and doesn’t stay in place. Did I mention it was floppy? For a while I have been meaning to do something about it. I like the softbox size. Works well for macro work and fill flash etc. Thought about redoing the strap design to fall more in line with Lastolite Joe McNally Ezybox Speedlite Plus
I had already made a number of S bracket/ bowens to softbox adapters and used the same initial CAD with a tweak to magsnap it.

The idea was to be able to just drop on the softbox but still have it stable enough to stay there. I used the same style of magnets Neodymium 10x12mm as found in magmod/selens etc. (Edit: although this prototype shown is using 2 stacks of 8x3mm until its larger brothers arrive)The 3d print provides a friction fit for these magnets. The ring simply clips, is held in place by the tension of the softbox sides(spring steel).


Speedlight head simply slides on in. Best to try n get the elastic collar in shape first. Its distance from adapter plane does not help. Oh don’t forget to remove the velcro straps completely. I unpicked them and re sewed the seam but I think a scissor trim would do just fine. This prototype works but I might tweak the overall shape.

speedlight inserted into adapter(shown without e23)

We don’t have a lot of clearance between the softbox “wing” to pass between the magnet holder and the sides of the speedlight. 4mm to be precise but it clips and positions relatively well.

Solidworks CAD file 3d rendering
Solidworks CAD file 3d rendering

All in all pretty happy with the first attempt. It works, its light, no fuss and slips on. Next up is a field test but I can tell you its way more stable than its velcro failed predecessor.

magsnapon E23

The Italian Job

Seems like its hollow body month. I rarely get these types to work on and yet here I have two in the same month. But this time she’s a koool bass of vintage Italian design and she’s a mystery girl at that.

Will the real ID please step forward..

It has only one guaranteed identifying feature, a made in Italy stamp on the back. Other than that the rest is conjecture and familiarities to a host of possible close relatives.

EDIT: We may have a winner.

The folks at Scotts bass lessons put me onto a Reverb advert that pretty much nailed this lady down to a

67 italian Made landola/Crucianelli Espana EL-38 Bass semi-hollow archtop

Now in their specific description of the bass it mentions a problem with no tone control.

there is likely a loose solder point which is bypassing the tone controls.

So its a common fault? and here is why. The pots are installed with spacers but no lock washer. This means as time goes on the wood, squished by the pot nuts, thins which now means they loosen and thus can turn in their holes. Over time this can rip the wires and in our case the caps, from the solder joints. My advice, replace the spacers with lock/star washers.

the Beatles influence..

The 1960s/70s saw a massive spike in the manufacture of guitars of this type mainly due the to popularity of the Beatles. VOX produced the Cougar bass which is very close in a number of ways to this baby. Lynx guitar, Imperial Tonemaster also close relatives. Vox purchased guitars from the likes of Italian EKO and Crucianelli and if one looks at these enough, certain tell tale factors start to stand up. The machine heads are a specific type, the volume and tone knobs very specific, the truss rod cap and pickup covers again specific as is the bridge and tailpiece. I have found all of these exact parts on makes of this era but never found them all together on the one guitar and this guitar has no badges.

It’s a mystery to me
The game commences
For the usual fee
Plus expenses
Confidential information
It’s in a diary
This is my investigation
It’s not a public inquiry   ~Dire Straits Private investigations

She no speak..

If only she could tell us her story but at present not only is she non sentient but also outputs no sound. Onto the surgeons table for a prod and poke. The input jack was noisy as were the pots. The selector switch was having no fun and something was troubling the pups. An internal colonoscopy through the fhole revealed a few traumas and a nice collection of dust. The tone pots seemed disconnected and a tone cap was left sulking in the corner, its mate missing in action completely.

busted pot

Pot wire broken, full of dust bunnies

Busted cap

Dejected tone capacitor sulking in the corner.

Busted input

Birds nest of dust and sad input jack

during this invasion of her private bits, a good scrutiny was undertook of the many surface cracks to see if it was simply cosmetic old girl skin or problems within. The xray like, careful, inch by inch scanning gave her the all clear.

fhole too small..

Unlike the Artcore job previously, these fholes were way too small for any tool or part transplanting. We will have to go in through the bridge pickup. At this stage we are still unsure where the problems are. Like a current pandemic, the more we test the more problem areas we find ;(

bridge pup dismantle

Surgery will have to be through the bridge pup.The switch is dead

First the switch is dead, these old wafer types often need a clean and a re-align of the wafers. Interestingly the switch feeds the two pup signals to the output, one via a resistor the other via a cap.

pup switch

Wafer 3 way switch

Two problems on the switch. The contacts I cleaned up with fine emery paper. The toggle position holder thingy was a little more tricky to get right and in alignment. This is what holds the toggle in position.

toggle switch

toggle switch and the position thingy

With the switch now working it was obvious we also had a issue with the input jack. Nothing left but to remove all the inner organs.

gutted bass..

gutted bass

entrails removed

With everything out now we can get a clearer picture of what’s going on. We have two volume pots,two tone pots not connected by any wires to anything. A disconnected capacitor, a missing capacitor and four very dirty but period original LESA made in Italy pots.

Its not a clear picture but the bridge pup has some issues. Its too wide for the screw mount housing. The springs have been riding on the coil’s wire for decades, crushing them in some places. The pups still seems to function so the best we can do is use smaller diameter springs and carefully nudge it aside some more so the pressure is at least resting on the cover plate and not the coil like it has been since the day it was born.

potty time..

These pots of old are resilient fellows see my post on pot luck repair. So much better than the current crop of plastic fantastic (IMO) and thus worthy of repair rather than replace. Each one was similarly dismantled flushed and reassembled.

whats in a name…

While Im at it here are a few more ID images.

Headstock, with no badge, very frustrating but fairly grunty tuner cogs. Mind you one is damaged.

lemontreebass-plate

she’s Italian

The only text on the bass, apart from the LESA stamped pots.

return of the bits..

Space is premium inside these semi hollow bodies and there is no ease of part re-orientation and manipulation once inside so I find it best to wire it up on a template board made from scrap wood. I use a 1mm 18awg copper wire to serve as the earth and keep things in relative positions to each other. The pots go in two by tow hurrah hurrah!

lemontreebass-w-tplate

wiring template

We get it all wired up , new input jack, clean pots, new caps, fixed switch and test it all before insertion. Trust me you don’t want to have to do this too many times.

holy pots..

You may have seen my heat shrink trick to help pull the pots through on the artcore but these come with handy holes in the shaft. A necessary advanced technique too because we have to weave these pots around some internal structures and body supports. We need a good tug at times. Wire wrapped and pull em through. Oh and don’t forget the lock washers! One was reluctant (not shown as it came after the image) as there was zero clearance in the corner of the body cavity. Patience and gentle persuasion required at all times with a little help from the colonoscopy.

potsin

pulling the pots through

the switch..

is last to go in and a little fragile compared to the others so it was a little tricky too but everything back in order and we can test here out as a bass.

lemontreebass-rustic

rustic and vintage beauty

A fair amount of general cleaning and dismantle, reassemble and re positioning of the pups took place after this before I was happy with the way it sounded. But in the end there is just something about and Italian and a lemon tree.

a new life

lemon tree bass

don’t you think?

If you know her name, I and its owner would be really interested.

 

Fhole surgery-Electronic transplant for an Artcore

It has been a while since I put up a music related repair. I was asked to fit a new pot,switch and wiring kit into a semi hollow body. As anyone who has worked on semi hollow bodies before will tell you, its all done blind and thru the f hole. Here is how.

Special tools are not necessary but they always help.

Tools to help work in tight spaces

Removal of pot knobs can be troublesome especially if you are concerned with possible damage to the body surface.

Knob removal

I use  an auto dash removal tool to gently lever them off.

Again minimising damage is the thing here so we tape up the edges of the f hole.

Tape up

The input jack, volume and tone pots as well as the pickup selector switch all come out and go back in thru this sound hole. Its tight but doable.

old out new In

 

But before we get too excited I noticed the shafts on the new pots are bigger than the originals. We are going to have to do some drilling.

Big shafts and small holes..we drill

I like to put some tape around anywhere I’m going to drill, it helps the drill bit from slipping and limits the lacquer chipping.

bigger it is

The input jack was also slightly larger too. Make sure we clean up , nothing worse than sawdust and chips bouncing around in someones prize instrument. I made up a little hose from PVC to attach to my vacuum cleaner. Its gets in everywhere.

suck out all the wood bits

Having the pots, switch etc all prewired is a useful thing for two reasons. One its neater and easier to slide it all in and two we can verify it all works first. The pickup wires are removed from the old harness and soldered to the new one out of body so we can test it all first. They are generally only just long enough to do this.

heatshrink on the pots shaft

Helping hands to hold things whilst I solder makes for good connections and a length of heatshrink shrunk onto the furthest from hole pot allows me to gently drag it into position. I have seen string, rubberbands and all sorts used to achieve this. This is my take, they all work. Its usually enough to just have that on the one pot, the others can normally be persuaded into position with fingers or my next tool to feature. Again from the auto dashboard tool kit.

Tool to help push the pots thru the holes.

You can see the heat shrink has pulled the pot pretty much into position. With the bent fork like tool thingo we can push it up and through.

Its worth getting a mirror in there and ensuring no wires are pinched between the body and pots.

mirror view

All looks good. In amongst all this the input jack is pushed onto my jack feeder tool and dragged back thru the whole.

Oh and here is a tip make sure all the washers(star types) which stop the pots spinning as you tighten the nuts up have been previously placed on the shafts. A dob of glue will be enough to hold them whilst we wrestle them into position.

Input Jack

That’s about it. Tighten everything up, plug it all in and test it.

ready to rock

Resurrect cheap speedlight mounts- Pt1

Cracked speedlight mounts? Let me show you a fix.

The typical online cheap speedlight mount, like the one here are made of very low quality plastic.

sppedlightmount_3

Cheap Speedlight mount repair

They tend to crack very easy if you tighten the stand lock . After trialling various glues which never held and a number of encapsulation techniques I decided this approach was the quickest and cheapest way to get these mounts back in my kit bag.

Two problems…

The first issue is the internal lock nut. They often don’t sit flush. The outside of the flanged nut is tapered and thus as you tighten, pulling the nut into its too small a hole, it begins to force the plastic apart. We need to ensure the forces are well and truly on the flange and not on the sides of the nut. Trying to machine out this hexagonal hole for a better fit would be almost impossible. However the plastic is a low temperature type.

Solution 1…

Unscrew the bolt and the nut often falls out. Using pliers and gripping the flange hold it over a heat source, hot air gun, hair dryer it really does not need much heat. Certainly don’t over heat it as it could melt too much into the plastic. With it nice n warm drop it into the hole(aligned with the old hex shape) and using its heat and your pliers push it home until the flange shoulder is hard up against the plastic.

sppedlightmount_1

Make sure the nut is flush

Cracked or not- fix no2…

Our second issue is the cracks or possibility of it cracking along the mould lines or pretty much anywhere. I have a number of these of varying type and all have cracked in different locations. Using a small round file add grooves to each corner.

sppedlightmount_2

Create grooves to hold the wire.

The grooves make it easy to keep the wraps of wire in place. You don’t want the the wire covering the openings(where the stand mounts). AWG25 seems about right. Plenty of strength and allows a little bit of stretch. Wrap the wire around 4 or so times. Get it good n taught, twist it off and then solder on each side to make it all one. Think of it aka a dentist tooth band. The crack is still there but we are stopping it from getting any worse. There is enough space top and bottom of the mount hole to put two bands.

Wrapped up…

That just about wraps it up. I have applied this hack to all my mounts now, those cracked and those yet to crack. These cheap mounts are not the best, they will hold a speedlight ok but add any modifier, umbrella or softbox and the weight is too much to bare. I would not recommend their purchase but if you are like me and started out that way, then you have probably collected quite a number of them. I hate to throw things out and this hack gives them a new lease of life.

Whats Next?…

Stay in touch for Part 2 of this exposè on speedlight mounts. Next up we will discuss why I have moved over to S-type/bowens mounts. But lets not throw these out just yet. I hacked these old E-Type mounts so the speedlight lays parallel to the umbrella pole just like an S-type.

Selens Softlight -Review

Also referred to as a bar light, out of the box and wrapped up, its a little bigger than a speedlight so fits in the kit bag fairly well but is it any use?

Fair fight?

This is a quick review on the Selens softlight speedlight modifier that is kicking around the net for about AUD$35. When I was looking to buy this product I couldn’t find a review anywhere so figured I’d chime in.

I feel this is an attempt to compete with the ICE light and if you are expecting a fair fight consider first the difference in cost. With the Bar light $35 and the ICE light $700 the bar light is not going to knock anyone out of the ring but it might just be enough to get you out of a hole.

Strangely enough the bar light does not appear in a search on the Selens online site, and as its referred to by Selens as a softlight but various sellers as a bar light, it can be hard to get any info on it.

Review..

At 61cm tall its easy enough to work with and large enough for that close in face or head shoulders work. It would certainly be difficult to get this sort of light shape from a flash otherwise so just on that alone I’m giving it a thumbs up. I tend to roll mine up length ways, opposite to that supplied. I find it quicker and it fits in along with my tripods fine I also believe in time it will hold its shape better.

The unit zips up with overlapping flaps to stop light escape, silver lined all the way on the inside except of course for the double diffused slit. The little removable cap sits on top with a minimal of Velcro to hold it in place but this does allow its use of a really long snoot or perhaps two speedlights, one either end.

I found attaching to a speedlight easy enough, they provide one of those silicon stretchy’s which I applied to the speedlight, then dropped that inside the unit and zipped it up.

500_2637

Speedlight with silicon stretchy then zip er up.

Even output?

As you would expect the light is not going to be an even spread when there is only one source at its end. With the speedlight set to widest spread(@24mm) there was a good 4 stop difference from top to bottom.

500_2614

4 stops @24mm

Setting the speedlight to its zoomed up 105mm yields a better result of 2stops.

500_2618

2 stops @ 105mm

It may be hard to judge by the images, the review was an after thought whilst I was doing a quick “unboxing” check to see if it works. But the light meter was consistent at indicating the 2 and 4 stops of difference.

Results..

Again with little time for the task, a quick image of something tall n skinny, my Washburn bass as the model. It certainly provides a quick and usable strip of light. If all you are after is the occasional need, then this might plug the gap.

500_2611

Roundup..

For me it will do the job until the money bags pour in. I like the idea I can always have it in the kit and not specifically have to decide to take an ICE like device, especially if you are on the travel and running lite:)

500_2636

Lighting a long edge

The featured image (above) was an attempt to show off the curves of the bass and the way the light picked up the fretbars and markings. I feel I’d need some trickery adn ingenuity to get that sort of image with just a speedlight.

selensbarlight

image grabbed from the net for Identification purpose only

 

Manfrotto 055 Pan Repair

Manfrotto MH055MO-Q6 Ball Head

I haven’t posted for a while due to just simply being busy but I think you will like this one.

I recently purchased a second hand Manfrotto MH055MO-Q6 Ball Head. I wont say where from and perhaps the “good price” should have triggered alarm bells. I took the bait, I was assured it was in good working “near new” condition. It was Manfrotto. What could go wrong with these robust and lovely engineered beasts?  It arrived in good time and the un opening indeed revealed a pretty unscratched, clean looking ball head. I put it through some basic tests and noticed the pan lock was weird and  not locking. I hadn’t touched one of these before and there is very little info in its “user manual” or on the net. So I was a little unsure. I put it aside, this was going to require more time.

Next day I spent 3 hours learning, discovering and researching this beast. Eventually we would have a happy ending but it took a few tears and anger management to get there. I’d like to point out here that I feel its a bit of a design flaw on Manfrotto side, perhaps its been addressed in the later revisions but the design does allow the user to get it wrong and potentially wreck it.

Pan-screwplate-burred

Pan plate screw thread

Tale of two pieces.

Lets get straight to the problem and then we will reverse engineer the solution. As you can see above this pan assembly screws up into the ball head. It’s all a little bit interactive. It sets some pretension on the ball head friction so you can’t just screw it all the way in, more on that later. As you can see in the picture the thread is burred and flattened. This is because the threaded plate has spun around and become out of sync with the pan lock pin. The lock pin should protrude through those holes and clamp on the black inner plate NOT the aluminium thread.

alignment

Pan lock pin alignment

If you remove the pan lock knob and its pin you should see this above. A clear hole through to the black plate. In my case all I could see was mushed silver thread. To be totally sure its correct. When you put the pin in it should almost be flush with the outside. If not something is stopping the pin going all the way in and it will grab and mush whatever is in its way.

alignment-pinin

Pan lock pin pushed all the way in.

Lets dig a little deeper.

How it Works..

Disclaimer first. I am not a repair centre. All the information here was gleamed by pulling it apart and thinking it though. As a side note I did find a schematic (spare parts drawing) of similar heads here.

The pan assembly, once removed, consists of three parts. (right to left) the black pan base plate, the aluminium screw plate including the bearing or glide surface and a brass tension/lock ring. The lock ring holds the screw plate onto the black base plate. Looking closely at the brass ring you can see little circles. These are made by the friction or gap setting screws which come up thru the base plate. They stop the brass ring from sandwiching the screw plate to the base so tight that it wont spin/pan. Ill come back to that later. The screw plate simply sits on the base plate , where all that grease is and spins around it. In position, inside the ball head the screw plate does NOT move. It’s actually the black part that spins around. Or its the casing that spins around the stationary base plate which is screwed to the tripod. I guess that’s a Earth around the Sun or Sun around the Earth debate. I’ll leave for the flat earthers to decide.

Pan plates separated.

In my case the lock pin was grabbing on the silver thread and locking that (whilst mushing the thread). This however still allowed the black plate to spin around and thus no pan lock.

The Repair

Was two fold. Repair the damage to the screw thread and then make sure everything was in alignment and the friction was correct across all the surfaces.

As mentioned above the brass ring sandwiches the screw plate to the base plate and with the aid of the set screws sets the friction of the pan. This is where some tooling up is required. In order to remove the pan assembly from the ball head and then the brass ring I had to make up a manfrotto spanner 🙂 Simply a bar of aluminium with appropriate spaced screws that line up with the dowel holes. Shown below is the brass ring end of the spanner.

DIY Manfrotto Spanner

This tool allows me to unscrew the brass ring from the base plate. I cleaned all mating surfaces or mushed aluminium dust and re greased. Re-assemble with just the right amount of pan friction. It shouldn’t wobble but should also not be too tight to spin around. Removal of the pan base from the head requires the other end of my spanner. Here I have a 3/8 hole so a bolt can lock it into the base(via tripod thread) Two 3mm screws thread through the spanner and into the two large dowel holes(left n right) and finally into the smaller holes in the silver screw plate. You may have to rotate things a bit to get this all to line up.  Note in the image below you can also see the black rubber ball (up n down)which normally sits snugly on top of the brass ring set screws. You will need to remove these to adjust the friction and if you are going to separate the brass ring from the assembly.

Removing the pan assembly from the head.

and this is the pan assembly end of the spanner. Ignore the left most hole it was in error and not used. The bolt holds the spanner to the base and the two screws must engage into the dowels on the silver screw plate. Its this plate, the inner aluminium that needs to be unscrewed. Note in my case as the thread was mushed this was a little bit hairy. I didn’t want to cause more problems to the already damaged thread. Take it easy, especially when putting it back in paying close attention not to cross thread it.

3/8 bolt and two 3mm screws to engage and allow unlocking of the thread plate.

 

Once removed I cleaned the screw thread very carefully with small needle files only where it was mushed and hope it wouldn’t derail on the way back in. When screwing the assembly back into the head don’t go all the way as that will apply pressure to the ball lock assembly. I pretty much went in till it stopped then unscrewed until the pan lock hole aligned with the screw thread plate hole as shown previously. This gave me a loose ball but still plenty of friction to lock it in position when required and allowed proper use of the pan lock system.

So here is the $100 flaw.

One may ask, “so what stops the silver plate from unscrewing when you pan the head”? I hope you are still with me and have followed to the end because this is the important part. Apart from the pan knob and lock pin there is nothing else. So if you do unscrew the knob ie loosen it way too much then swivel the pan it can become unaligned. Except for this one little old  grub screw I wonder what you do?

the grub screw

Hidden away almost under the ball lock knob is a small grub screw. If you are removing the base assembly this screw must be removed. It basically screws into the silver thread and locks it to the outer casing..ie stops it from unscrewing itself on the odd occasion someone has removed the pan knob and swivels the pan base. There is no indent or dowel hole and the grub is small compared to the mechanical advantage of the base so it does not provide this, after thought, of safety very well. Make sure you put it back in tho.

All Smiles.

The end result turned out ok. I avoided a financial disaster and possibly saved confrontation with a disreputable seller.  I also have to report the head lives up to its name. Ok it was perhaps abused by a muppet of a user but on the upside and in the hands of someone with even half an IQ point its a super solid robust bit of kit that will no doubt last a lifetime. Even after abuse and misuse Manfrotto lives on.