Foldable Kitebox w/ Spacerbracket

A foldable softbox DIY

by Marc Englund

Updated 2007.06.28 09:50 GMT+3

A lightweight foldable softbox with a diffusion area about 70×70cm, folds down to a 30×3cm round package [images 6,14].

Materials used:

  • Folding Nylon Kite, 4×3
  • silver/black fabric, less than 5 (used only a fraction of the piece I got)
  • spacer, 3.25 / 2pcs
  • L-bracket, 1.85 / 4pcs
  • disposable raincoat, 1 - enough for 4 kiteboxes
  • tape, thread, screw, nut - found in the house

    Total spent: about 20, much less if you plan ahead :-)

    Inspired by the Lastolite Ezybox (and some other similar softboxes I've seen in magazines), this project has been in the back of my mind for some time now. I was thinking about trying a small version using foldable sun shields, but when I stumbled upon this 'Folding Nylon Kite' [1] in a store, I just knew this was it.

    Initially I was hopeful the kite would be the right shape to begin with - the graphic on the package looked like a pretty symmetrical triangle. Of course I was being overly optimistic (it was an irregular shape), so I started by cutting the nylon of the frame, leaving only the thicker fabric hem that shields the frame. The hem will shield the thinner fabric later, but also help when trying to make a triangle...

    To make a somewhat symmetrical triangle I measured the 'frame', devided by three, and taped it to the floor [2]. I ended up being quite sloppy, and did not plan much, as I was making this up as I went along. You might want to plan the shape of your softbox beforehand, and be more careful when you tape it to the floor...

    Because the floor of our apartment would not fit in the sewing maching, I tied the corners together using the string that came with the kite, sewing it (manually) trough the hem - good thing we left it intact, huh? ;-) Try to make the corners as symmetrical as possible. Rinse and repeat to make four triangles - try to make them all the same shape [3]. This was actually the most annoying part of the project - partly because I had no idea if it would work...

    The following steps are pretty obvious (if we try to forget for a while that I have no idea how to do this sewing stuff 'right') , but feel free to ask if you need more info: I cut the fabric a little wider than the frame [4], folded it as a hem over the frame, secured it to the frame usig needles (so that it would stay in place while sewing), and sewed as close to the frame as I could.

    Yay. Four triangles later it started to look like this might work. I then joined the triangles by manually stiching [5]. First in two places for each triangle pair to get the general shape, then in some more places to adjust the shape of the whole thing, and to make hole for the flash even smaller. I'm planning to stich along the whole side when I'm sure I'm happy with the shape - I'm sure that will make it even more rigid.

    Next comes the part I'm most happy with: the 'bracket' that attaches the softbox to the flash/stand. I actually managed to make a working prototype [6,7] from parts I had at home (piece of metal and a ring from an old camping stove), but it was a little instable and not very professional looking... A visit to a local hardware store turned out better than I could have imagined: I found something called a 'spacer' that was the right size and shape [9], light yet very strong, and above all cheap (3.25 for the pair). It's an aluminium plate used - I think - to for instance obtain a wider track for cars. I picked up a regular L-shaped metal thingie (angle bracket?) at the same store - 75mm turned out to be the perfect size [10] and fit my budget (4 for 1.85). A wingnut makes it possble to easily dismantle the thing for transportation...

    You might want to (or have to) adjust the size of your flash-end opening to match the size of your spacer [11].

    Finally, the diffusion is cut from a disposable raincoat [12]. I taped the edges for durability, and I'm going to add velcro and added velcro for easy attachment to the softbox.

    The diffused area of the opened softbox measures about 70x70cm [13]. Folded, with bracket and all, the package has a diameter less than 30 cm, and is about 3cm thick [14]. It slips conveniently into the camera bag.

    Still on the TODO -list:

  • sew black fabric over the parts of the softbox that extend beyond the diffusion panel done
  • add velcro to the diffusion panel done
  • put it to use [15,16]

    Head over to strobist.com and the strobist.com flickr group for instructions on how to use it. There is a thread for discussing this DIY at flickr too.

    Feel free to check out the mini softbox DIY as well.


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