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Wooden Tripods

Discussion in 'AP Magazine Feedback & Suggestions' started by RogerChristie, May 21, 2011.

  1. RogerChristie

    RogerChristie Well-Known Member

    As you say, Tim Coleman (AP explains Tripods, AP 28 May 2011), "Gone are the days of wooden tripod legs...".

    What a shame. Apart from Berlebach (Germany), Ries (USA), Kowa, Leica Geosystems, Northwest Instruments, NEDO, Graflex, Takahashi and Oberwerk, no-one makes them any more.

    2 out of 10, Tim. Must do better!
  2. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Yeah, but who actually uses them?
  3. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Me, for a start ... I have a Berlebach Planet sitting under my HEQ5 Pro equatorial head, it's much, much better at reducing vibrations than the stainless steel pipe leg tripod that came with it, and lighter than a steel pipe tripod with the legs stuffed with sand.

    Alloy legs are fine for supporting lightweight / mediumweight cameras used with a short or moderate focal length lens, and are lighter than wood ... but wood is clearly superior to everything else when vibration reduction is necessary.

    The Berlebach tripods are beautifully made ... I can't say that they're cheap, but they should last a very very long time.
  4. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    QED - your requirements are more than a little specific.
    I suspect that only a very tiny percentage of AP users will ever have used one (I have, for the record), and that even fewer still do. For the purposes of a general article, they're irrelevant, I think.
  5. LargeFormat

    LargeFormat Well-Known Member

    Always used them for theodolites but wouldn't dream of carting one around even for large format where a substantial video tripod (tied legs) always seemed the answer.

    Same problem as Beejaybee with a theodolite, it is the high magnification.
  6. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    I've written a little about wooden tripods and their weights etc. in the item below:
    Subtense Bars

    One wooden tripod weighs 17lbs (7.7kg) and is 1.2m high, and the subtense bar tripod weighs 15lbs (6.8kg), and is 0.95m high. These items were intended for Army use. Note the coffin like transport box for the bar itself. Tough squaddies!

    (Links on the page only work if accessed via my home page - which seems to have disappeared from My Profile...)
  7. RogerChristie

    RogerChristie Well-Known Member

    I will suppose that your contributions are just intended to stimulate discussion, Nick. :)

    I suspect that only a very tiny percentage of AP readers have ever used a Hasselblad, or a Canon EOS 1D for that matter, but AP still reviews them (though maybe this is just to give your reviewers the opportunity to play with expensive toys that they too will never be able to afford or justify, even though they’re not actually amateurs).

    In any case, Nick, your comments entirely miss the point. Contrary to the comment I quoted from Tim’s article, wooden tripods certainly are still used, and many of the users think highly of them. As for the objections to weight and bulk, not everyone who uses a tripod needs to carry it on their back for miles. Anyway, Tim’s article refers to Aluminium tripods in the “eye-level A” category of 2 to 2.5 Kg, which is around the weight of the lighter wooden models.

    Personally I don’t really care either way. I still have an ambition to make a split cane tripod (in the style of the lightweight split cane fly fishing rods). I’ll let you know how I get on. Maybe Tim would like to test it someday.
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Certainly in part, Roger. It's sometimes necessary to be rather blunt to provoke a response from people who might otherwise keep quiet.

    I would suspect that the percentage in this case is a fair bit higher,though. And they're not my reviewers, I don't work for IPC.

    Yes, they are still used, and yes, an article that claims to explain "all you need to know" should for completeness include wood, I agree. However, I almost always get the feeling when reading web-based user reviews and comments on wooden tripods that they're very much in the self-justifying category - although there are some engineering advantages to wood, there are plenty of downsides, and I really don't think they're a sensible alternative except in the larger sizes for large format cameras and studio use - they need to be fairly big and heavy to get the advantage of the material. That said, I do like the sound of your project and would be interested in the result - it's almost as though it's a composite material you're thinking of using.
  9. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Indeed - wood is a composite material; as usual with technology, nature got there first & has been developing composites for supporting plant structures for several hundred millions of years - lots of different solutions for lots of different problems. Man made composites can be superior in some respects because some of the compromises that apply to naturally grown materials don't apply - e.g. channels for sap to flow through - and they can certainly withstand higher temperatures and have better anisotropic properties (stiff in one direction, yielding in others). Nevertheless certain natural woods (ash, hickory), properly selected and correctly dried and treated with preservative, are very fine materials indeed for the construction of tripods.

    I'd expect bamboo cane tripod legs to have rather too much flexure, and there would seem to be an issue in making an extendable leg using such a material, but for a one-piece leg to support a lightweight camera and with very careful selection of material, it would probably work well. Whether they would better in terms of lightness, stiffness and vibration absorbtion to man-made carbon composite legs is an interesting question, which I don't think is likely to be answered commercially in view of the convenience of extendable legs.
  10. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    I still use an MPP one made either during or just after WW2 It is a Hybrid... wooden split top legs and alloy lower leg. It is both light and strong, and with far less vibration than an equivalent metal tripod. ( I use it with a modern magnesium head)

    I used to have a very heavy Gandolfi tripod for use with LF cameras. They had virtually nil vibration. ( they were the standard tripod used at the London school of printing and graphic art ( back hill) after the war.)
  11. Damien_Demolder

    Damien_Demolder Well-Known Member

    And me too. Have just acquired a rather nice set of old Gandolfi legs.

    Actually, they're not nice at all, and need more than a bit of restoration, but when you find yourself restoring wooden tripod legs you know you've taken a wrong turning somewhere.

    I'll still do it though, just not this week.
  12. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    All gandolfi ones I have seen are painted black with galvanised steel straps.
    Some have straight lift centre columns, and some wind up.
    Restoration would be a doddle.
  13. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Why can't we have a wood filler/spacer for damping and carbon fibre reinforced resin for strength and stiffness? Metal bits to be forged from mag aluminium alloys where necessary except where titanium is more expensive and desirable.
  14. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Cast iron is the best damper... But who has the muscle.
  15. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    No, no, no! Cast iron rings - jou can make bells from the stuff. Hit wood (ash, hickory) and you get a dull thump - the vibrations are rapidly damped out.

    Don't confuse weight with damping - extra weight reduces the size of the deflection with the same impulse, damping is what makes the vibrations die out.

    If you want extra weight, try osmium, or depleted uranium - both of which are several times as dense as iron. Hollow legs filled with mercury would be pretty good too.
  16. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Cast Iron is used in machinery for its excellent vibration damping. Wood is often used in musical instruments because at sound frequencies it resonates beautifully.
  17. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't it crack when the clapper struck it? I thought cast was quite brittle.

    Please, in the name of all that is holy, do NOT try to make bells from steel. The Victorians did, and they sound absolutely awful!


    PS So Damien's got a pair of old legs, has he?;)
  18. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    There is an M.P.P. tripod on ebay at the moment
    They have a price of over £100 including pstage on it.
    This is high onsidering there is a design fault in the leg locks ... They are cast zinc alloy and split. I replaced mine woith brass ones.

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