I don’t know if this is the cheapest monopod, but it is very cheap. It is also easy to build.
What is a monopod?
A monopod is a rod that holds a camera steady. The name is derived from the Greek words “mono” for one and “podi” for leg. Most people are familiar with a tripod. It has three legs and is great for setting up at a location and taking your photos from that one spot. A tripod isn’t so great at moving around quickly.
A monopod is easy to move around, but it isn’t very stable. Letting go of it results in it falling down and the camera getting damaged. But, if it is held, it can be quickly moved from place-to-place. For that reason, you will often see it used by professional sports photographers.
I could have bought a new monopod for well under CDN$100 (or US$100). A refurbished or used one would have been even cheaper. But, I wanted to experiment before I commited to a professionally made monopod, so spending less than $1 and building my own seemed like the right thing to do.
How I built my monopod.
The photo below shows almost all the parts and tools I used. An old broom handle, an electric drill, a drill bit, a hex nut (1/4″-20 thread) and a hanger bolt (also 1/4″-20 thread). Not shown is a wrench, which was handy during the assembly of the bolt. I also wore safety goggles.
Since I found the old broom handle and I possess a drill and drill bits, my only expenses were the hex nut (CDN$0.10) and the hanger bolt (CDN$0.27). Both purchased at the local building supply store.
Hanger bolts have one end that is meant to go into wood and another that is meant for hex nuts or other threaded components.
The broom handle I found already had one end cut off, otherwise that would have been my first step. The center of the flat end of the handle was marked off and then it was “pre-drilled” for the hanger bolt. (Pre-drilling allows the hanger bolt to go in easier and reduces the risk of the wood splitting.)
My trick for selecting the appropriate drill bit is to put the drill bit on top of the screw. If the drill bit covers only the body of the screw, and not the spirals, then it is the right size.
Since I chose to use a hand-held electric drill, I needed a method to make sure I didn’t drill too deep. An old technique is to put some masking tape on the drill bit at the depth of the required hole. The only requirement is to stop when the masking tape reaches the material.
Of course I didn’t hold the broom handle with one hand and drill it with the other. That would be foolish! I secured it to my work table and was never at risk to hurt myself.
I installed the hex nut on the hanger bolt and then secured both to the broom handle. Most of the hanger bolt went on by hand, but the for last turns I found a wrench useful.
The final step was to screw on the camera. Most cameras have a threaded hole on the bottom. Without the threaded hole, it cannot be mounted to a monopod or a tripod. This film-based Ricoh had the hole on one side, but it was still stable. (The camera taking the photos had the hole closer to the middle.)
Testing the new monopod was fun. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself as a professional photographer. (Of course, I couldn’t take good photos with my eyes closed.)
Notes for future versions
Painting it black would make it look more professional. Since it was only an experiment, and I may want to reuse the broom handle, I chose not to paint it.
The monopod I built was too short for me. (Professional ones are height adjustable.) Still, it was good enough to get the feel of what a monopod offers.