When presented with a problem I like to find a simple, inexpensive, effective and often novel or innovative solution.
The Dawning of an Idea
A couple of years ago my wife bought me a wildlife camera as a birthday present, which I’ve been using to film wildlife in our back garden, particularly the foxes. We also take it with us when on holiday.
Because it’s been so useful, this year, my wife treated me to a second wildlife camera, and as with the first one, the camera kit included a mounting arm.
I didn’t bother using the mounting arm with the first camera because it needs to be permanently fixed in one location to a vertical surface, such as a wall or fence. As I move the camera around all the time to different locations around the garden, it seemed pointless. Therefore, I just put the first mounting arm somewhere safe in my workshop (yet to be found)!
However, on receiving the second wildlife camera, it occurred to me that perhaps it might be useful if I could design and make an adjustable stand for the mounting arm, which I could then use in various locations around the garden.
Formulating the Idea
Having come up with the idea, the next step was to formulate it into a design that would meet specific criteria.
- For the stand to be adjustable to allow the wildlife camera to be positioned at different heights.
- To be made from materials that would weather well, e.g., hardwood or pressure-treated softwood.
- To recycle salvaged wood, rather than buy new, so that it wouldn’t cost anything to make.
- For the legs to be on feet to make it easier to use on uneven ground.
- To keep the design as simple as possible to make.
- To keep the wildlife stand as simple as possible to use.
- For the stand not to be an eyesore when left outside in the garden.
- The option of making it multipurpose, e.g., also double up as a coffee table for the patio.
First Draft Proposal
My first concept was to fix the metal mounting arm to a wooden plate that would slide up and down a wooden pole and be fixed in place at the desired height with pegs.
The design would have been a little complex to make and use and look a little too clunky. I wasn’t too happy about various aspects of my design for the legs.
Consult a Friend
Therefore, I drew up a rough sketch and, over a cup of coffee, consulted a friend for his ideas.
Once I’d explained what I wanted to achieve and what my criteria were, my friend quickly drafted his own sketch for a design, which I loved and adopted for this project.
My friend’s design was simplicity in itself.
- Make the wooden plate for securing the metal mounting arm from a piece of wood with two cuts of sections from a broom handle fixed to it as the pegs, which could be secured on the other side of a wooden post with a metal tent peg.
- Use a square post for the stand, with lots of holes drilled at regular intervals down the whole length of one side of the post, and another set of holes on the adjacent side at intermediate intervals, for greater flexibility.
- The holes in the post were drilled a little wider than the diameter of the broom handle for easy operation and to reduce the risk of the pegs getting stuck due to wood expansion in a damp environment.
- A simple cross design for the legs to maximise structural strength while minimising encroaching on the height of the post, e.g., to keep the option of fitting the wildlife camera to the pose low to the ground.
Sourcing the Materials
In rummaging through my wood store at the back of my workshop, the wood I found ideal for this project was:
- Spare broom handle for the pegs for the mounting arm base plate.
- An off-cut of pressure-treated pine decking, ideal for making the mounting arm base plate.
- Pressure-treated 4-inch square pine fence post, ideal for making the post for the camera stand, and
- Four pieces of 2-inch square teak hardwood (salvaged wood) are ideal for making the legs.
Also, at the back of the shed, I had an assortment of metal tent pegs and durable plastic feet salvaged from old home office furniture.
Construction Step-by-Step Guide
The base plate for the mounting arm was constructed in three phases as an integral part of making and testing the main post, with the other main elements of construction being the post itself, the legs, and then fitting the feet.
Base Plate for Mounting Arm
A piece of decking off-cut is just the right width for the mounting arm, and being pressure-treated, pine will weather quite well.
So for the first part of its construction, all I needed to do was:
- Mark a centre line for drilling one hole at each end to snuggly fit the broom handle; with a tape measure, square and pencil.
- Drill two 25mm (1 inch) holes (one at each end), the diameter of the broom handle.
- Cut the wood to length with a mitre saw.
Post to Mount the Base Plate
The two pegs (made from the broom handle) that would be fitted to the base plate would slot into the post at whatever height I wanted to mount the wildlife camera.
Therefore, to ensure the holes were correctly spaced, I used the base plate as a template.
- Placing the base plate at one end of the post and pencilling in the two holes.
- Move the base plate up the post so that the first hole in the base plate was above the pencilled circled for the second hole and then pencilled in the third hole.
- Repeat the above process until the base plate is at the other end of the post.
- Turn the post over a quarter turn and repeat the above step so that the holes on the adjacent side are at intermediate intervals.
Having pencilled out all the holes, I then used a 28mm (1 & 1/8th inch) flat drill bit to drill all the holes:-
- Position the post in the bench drill and drill each hole in turn for as far as the bench drill allows the drill bit to descend, which is about halfway through the wood.
- Use a long drill bit in an electric drill to drill pilot holes through the middle of each hole, making sure it goes all the way through the wood; to give a pilot hole on the other side as a marker for knowing where to drill from the other side to complete the holes.
- Using the pilot holes as a guide, complete drilling the holes on the reverse sides of the post with the bench drill.
Making and Fitting the Pegs to Base Plate
With the mitre saw, I cut two identical pegs from the broom handle, long enough to go through the base plate and post, with a couple of inches protruding on the other side for slotting the tent peg into.
I then glued and screwed them into the base plate.
Making the Legs
I simply cut the four pieces of teak timber to equal lengths, of about 18 inches in length, and securely screwed them to the base of the post, and each other, in a crisscross pattern.
Fitting the Feet
The plastic feet, which were salvaged from redundant modern home office furniture, have a steel thread through the middle, which screws into the base.
Therefore, I simply drilled a hole on the underside of each leg, near the ends, using a drill bit just a millimetre smaller, and screwed the feet to the legs.
The advantage of having the feet is that it makes it easier to reposition the wildlife stand on uneven ground so that the stand doesn’t rock about but stays firm.
Retaining Pin for Base Plate
With the stand and base plate made, the only thing remaining was the addition of the retaining pin to secure the base plate to the wildlife stand when in use.
This was a simple task of pushing the base plate into position on the stand and pencil marking on the two wooden pegs where they came out on the other side of the post.
Next was drilling a couple of holes at the marked locations on the wooden pegs, a little bigger than the thickness of the metal tent peg, so the tent peg would easily drop into position when required.
With the woodwork complete I then quickly tested the base plate, with the retaining pin, in all the holes in the stand, to ensure a proper and easy fit; before giving it a full field test in our back garden.
All the wildlife cameras come with their own strap to fix them to tree trunks, fence posts, etc., but that may not always be the most desirable location, and you are limited in adjusting the angle (especially the vertical angle), and it can be quite a fiddle and time consuming strapping the camera in place.
Advantages of Wildlife Cameras
- The metal mounting arm pivots both horizontally and vertically, so you can fine-tune the exact angle and direction you want.
- The stand allows you to choose the most desirable height for mounting the camera, generally the same height as the animal you wish to capture on film so that you are looking headlong into the animal rather than from above.
- You can put the stand just about anywhere you like; without worrying about trying to find something to strap it to, and
- The stand has been designed so that the camera can be set up quickly, very quickly, and easily, without wasting any time trying to strap it to something and then a few days later unstrapping it.
Although I haven’t yet found the mounting arm for my first wildlife camera, and when I do, I can make a second base plate for it to also fit on the stand, the first camera does strap to the stand quite easily so that I can use the stand for both cameras at the same time and increase the chances of getting good footage.
The advantage of using two wildlife cameras together is that if a fox or some other animal is sitting just outside the viewing area of one camera, it may be in full view of the other camera.
Field Test of Wildlife Camera Stand
Multi-Purposing the Camera Stand
From experience of using my first wildlife camera, the stand doesn’t need to be any higher than the tabletop. Therefore, as I like to make things multipurpose where possible, as a separate project, I’m mindful of making a removable table top (that just slips onto the top of the post) so that optionally I can also use it as an additional table on our patio.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Arthur Russ
Arthur Russ (author) from England on September 25, 2019:
Thanks, yes it's a fascinating project that gives a good insight into what goes on in our back garden when we're not there.
One future project I'd like to do with the footage is a compilation of wildlife in our back garden through the four seasons.
Liz Westwood from UK on September 24, 2019:
I admire your ingenuity. You must be collecting a fair amount of footage now of wildlife in your back garden.