DIY Macrophotography rail slide

  • Hi folks,
    I don’t have much free time so I’m not sure I’d ever be able to make it in on Wednesday to check things out but my reason for joining the forum was to see if anyone could help me source some parts.
    I e-mailed Kile a while ago about finding a rack gear that was small enough and fine enough to use in a DIY macrophotography rail that I am trying to build. While it would be nice to know if there is a small scale manufacturer of these kinds of things -every rack gear I find online is for larger industrial applications, the smallest length being 2ft and usually only sold in bulk- I did manage to locate an 8mm lead screw with 1mm pitch and 1mm lead plus some other parts for $40 cdn.
    Not looking to motorize it, I need it light and portable, as the main reason I am using it is for snowflake photography.
    Currently I’m now searching for a handle to turn the lead screw and trying to think of a design for the carriage for the camera was well as a method of firmly locking the slide.
    Maybe one day I can get in on Wednesday to check things out.
    my e-mail is
    eg from last year trying to manually slide my tripod centre post up and down for focus:

  • @gmphotography said:

    macrophotography rail

    I found these on Amazon. Is this what you’re trying to build or are you looking for something else?

  • Essentially yes. Those cheap ones though are a dime a dozen. Don’t positively lock when it is in the vertical position. They’re fine for horizontal work but the build quality just isn’t there. To get one that is of high quality costs anywhere between $250-700 U.S. Thought I could make one that locks well myself for the same amount as these cheap ones on Amazon, and if not, then I didn’t really lose much. Much better than spending a huge amount of money, I’d rather save it for my astrophotography.

  • I found this article that has a picture of one.
    It looks a lot like a z axis of a 3D printer
    Another site has someone building one by gluing a bolt to a bench vise. You probably want to do better than that.
    Halfway in between the two is some 1/4-20 threaded rod and two precision rods for stability. We still have lots of rods left over from dismantling the photocopiers.

    Other than that you just need to design the mounting blocks that can work with that hardware.

  • Look on eBay for “linear slide”. You can usually find a used one for not too much. The new Chinese ones are OK for light duty use. This would be a good start. Add a piece of threaded rod and a locking clamp. You should be able to print all the brackets, etc.


  • @gmphotography said:

    To get one that is of high quality costs anywhere between $250-700 U.S.

    If you were working in that price point, you could get this CNC linear axis from Sherline…

    And have 1/100mm precision, fully locking adjustable gibs, and the ability to handle cutting forces. It is not even funny how much overkill that would be for focusing a camera.

    How much travel do you need? I have a neat idea for a cheap and simple build.

  • Thanks all for the ideas.
    I thought of ready rod but didn’t think it would provide fine enough control. However, as stated earlier I did find a canadian supplier of 3d printer parts and bought: an 8mm lead screw with a pitch of 1mm and a lead of 1mm. Super fine and definitely good enough. I also bought two 8mm linear bearings from them and a t-nut for the lead screw. Cost was $30 with $10 shipping. 1mm lead is plenty fine enough and the tolerance is far better than a home depot ready-rod.

    Today I bought 2 steel 8mm shafts from interior crafts so now I just need to figure out a way to build my camera carriage, the frame for the slide, a way of turning the lead screw, and a way of locking it firmly.

    One advantage of my work place is that I have an employer who has a couple CNC routers (albeit for wood) and a CNC Laser. One of these days we may hang out and see what we can come up with. I’m sure if anyone wanted to hang out on that day and participate in the build, he’d be happy to show you around his shop. I work for Lee’s Music, where Riversong Guitars was born. (not a huge group mind you, maybe 1 or 2 folks).

    I’m sure you know of the 3d printing parts company, but here is the link in case you don’t:

    And if you’re curious to hang out when I get the chance to try and assemble this, my e-mail is

  • Classroom

    Thanks for posting the followup @gmphotography, this sounds like a really interesting project! Keep us posted, and if you feel like taking any photos of the parts when they arrive, and the build as it progresses, that would be really interesting. I’m assuming you have an interest in photography, but I don’t think thats a bad assumption given the project and your handle ;)

    To post images here, they have to be small. I forget the exact size but I usually just format to <1000 pixels on the long side. Or even a link if you end up posting anything elsewhere related to the project.

  • And yes, I am into photography. Mostly landscape, some abstract/impressionism, snowflakes, and recently astrophotography with a small telescope, my DSLR and a tracking/goto equatorial mount.
    Best place to see some of my work:

  • Classroom

    @gmphotography, WOW!

    Thanks for sharing, you have some incredible work!

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