Whenever I can, I like to tether my camera to my computer so I can see the shots on a real monitor. One night trying to do some star track shots I wanted to tether my camera, but had no where to put my computer... until now! I checked out this 'ible, but wanted something a little more engineered for my big, heavy laptop. Using mostly recycled materials, I made a platform which can be connected to a tripod mount (3/8ths in screw) or a camera mount (1/4 20 screw) and two clamps, one on either side, to hold the computer down.
Step 1: Get your materials
For the base material I used some MDF type board from an old picture frame. Since it was less than a 1/4in thick I had to use multiple layers of this, adding up to about 3 square feet (this area will depend on the footprint of your laptop). I used a small 3in x 8in steel plate (less than 1/8th in thick) for the mounting plate and 4 small wood screws to attach it. For the clamps, I used two small knobs, some 1/4-20 threaded rod, 2 1/4-20 nuts, and 4in of shower door framing (for the clamp frame). A thin piece of foam protects the computer from the clamp. The clamps are connected to the base of the stand with two 1/4-20 tee nuts. Finally, a short piece of 1/4-20 threaded rod and short piece of 3/8th in threaded rod are used to store the two mounting wing nuts, one 1/4-20 wing nut for the standard camera mount and a 3/8th in wing nut for tripod mounts. Just to avoid any confusion, let me clarify that most tripods use the 1/4-20 standard and connect directly into a camera. However, for some tripods that you can change the head on, a 3/8ths in thread is used to connect the head to the tripod base.
Heres the summary of items to get-
Step 2: Cut the baseboard
First off, you're going to want to trace out your laptop on the baseboard and cutout your laptop's footprint. After this is done, you need to check to see how many layers of baseboard you need to get the correct clamp opening and mounting wing nut clearance. More specifically, you want your laptop to be able to (just barely) slide into the clamp when the thickness of the baseboard, thin foam, and one nut is taken into account (the tee nut also adds a little because it doesn't fully embed in the MDF). You'll also want to make sure the baseboard is at least thick enough for the tee nut not to stick out. See the picture to get a better idea of what I'm talking about. You also want the center of the board to be thick enough that the top of the mounting wing nut does't scratch the bottom of your laptop. For this reason, the sides of my baseboard are 2 layers thick while the center is 4.
Once you figure out the right thickness, cut additional baseboard parts if you need to.
Step 3: Clamp together and cut out the wing nut holes
Before we glue everything together, we need to cut out some holes so that the wing nuts can secure directly to the steel plate (in the plane of the base board). Decide where you want the two holes and then clamp all your boards together. 1 1/2in provides enough clearance for the 3/8ths in wing nut and 1 1/4in is big enough for the 1/4-20 wing nut.
Note that mounting these holes away from the center of the board is not a bad idea since the center of gravity of your computer will be offset to one side when the screen is raised.
Step 4: Glue it all together
Now its time to glue the baseboards and steel mounting plates together. Use normal wood glue for the MDF to MDF layers and epoxy to connect the steel plate to the MDF (wood glue wouldn't work too well there). I pre-drilled and screwed in the wood screws to provide a little more security to the steel plate after gluing and clamping because the screws would have been in the way of the clamps.
The more clamps (or whatever else you have) the better!
Step 5: Make clamp pieces
While the glue is drying (ideally 24 hours or overnight), you can make the clamps. You'll want to cut 2 pieces of your extruded aluminum and then shape them however you find aesthetically pleasing and practical with the grinder. I made mine about 2 in long with rounded corners- pretty straight-forward.
Now you'll want to drill out a hole for in one side of the clamp. Note that you want this hole to be aligned with the tee nut when it is embedded near the edge of the baseboard, about 1/4in in from the open side in my case.
Next, you'll want to cut a length of 1/4 20 threaded rod so that it can be screwed all the way into the knob, go through hole you just dilled, through a nut, and through the tee nut. Also, make it short enough so that it doesn't stick out about the baseboard surface. For me, the end of the tee nut was just below the surface of the baseboard.
Finally, cut a small piece of foam to glue to the top of the clamp so that it doesn't mar the surface of your computer.
Step 6: Cut wing nut holders and drill mounting holes
We've just got a couple more cuts to make and holes to drill. First off, drill a couple holes for the tee nuts. I placed mine right in the center, but be aware of what usb etc. ports the clamp may block. These holes should be drilled so that the tee nuts fit snugly (but don't put them in yet).
The steel mounting plate needs a hole for a 1/4-20 screw centered on the 1 1/4in hole you drilled before and a hole for a 3/8ths in screw in the center of the 1 1/2in hole.
To create a place to store the wing nuts when not in use (because otherwise I would have to worry about losing them...) I cut a couple lengths of threaded rod just long enough to hold the wing nut and be embedded into a shallow hole in the baseboard. Cut these pieces and drill the corresponding holes.
Step 7: Final gluing!
Okay, now we have everything ready for our final gluing binge! We're going to use all epoxy this time because it works well on metals and MDF. Heres the list of things we need to glue together.
Step 8: Put it all together!
After about 30 minutes or so, your epoxy should be cured enough that you can do the final assembly and try this contraption out! Screw in your clamps on either side, screw the steel mounting plate to a tripod with a wing nut and slide that laptop in. Hopefully, you measured carefully and theres just enough space to slide it in there, thus giving the clamp screws plenty of range to tighten down while minimizing the overall profile of the stand. Mine fit, just barely, and secures very well.
The only final mod that I needed to do was grind down the tips of the larger wing nut because it was just a little too tall and was scratching the bottom of my laptop. I also found that to mount it more securely to the tripod you can twist the wing nut and the base at the same time for that little extra torque.
Thanks to mikeasaurus for his version, and I hope the 'ibles community keeps on improving and modding this idea!