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Besides being a photographer, I am also a website developer and consultant here in Colorado. It is a lot of fun for me when I get a project where I can use my skills from both areas. Such is the case this week, where I am working on a couple of websites for a Boulder glassblower. My existing light tent was not adequate for this project (no underlighting), so I set out to build a new one out of PVC. This isn’t rocket science, and a lot of people have done it, but I needed mine to be just a little bit different. I decided I was going to shoot the glass items on top of a glass riser, with a fluorescent light fixture underneath. To that end, I set of for Home Depot.

Fluorescent Light Fixture Shopping list:
– 8 1/2″ PVC Side Outlet 90’s
– 4 1/2″ PVC T’s
– 8 1/2″ PVC Male Threaded – Slip adapters
– 4 10′ x 1/2″ PVC Pipe
– 1 Low profile fluorescent light fixture
– 6′ 14/3, rubber coated extension cord (just cord, no ends)
– 15A Outlet Plug
– 1 18″x36″x3/16″ plate glass

Riser brackets Why I bought some of this stuff:
– The threaded male / slip adapters were because the side outlet 90’s have one outlet that is threaded. Instead of spending the time with a Dremel removing the threads, I just spent a few cents on the adapter and called it done.
– Fluorescent fixture and associated cord, plug was purchased because the selection of plugin light fixtures was not adequate for my needs. Total cost for the fixture, cord and plug was around $35, IIRC. If you are not comfortable with wiring together electrical devices, you should look for a pre-wired fixture suitable for your needs.

Construction was pretty simple.
1. Measure 14 sections of 30″ each (or whatever length you want to use) on the PVC pipe. After cutting, I used a file to clean up the edges.

2. From the remaining length of pipe, cut 4 pieces 3″ long. These are the risers to go higher than the light fixture (depending on your fixture, you may need to go higher than 3″).

3. Put together the 90° outs and the slip/ threaded adapters.

4. Using a rubber mallet, put one piece of pipe into one end of a 90° out. Continue doing this, making a square base such that the threaded/ slip adapters are facing upward.

5. Insert the 3″ lengths of pipe into the threaded/ slip adapters.

6. Attach 2 PVC T’s to a piece of pipe, and then set the completed piece on top of the 3″ lengths on the base. Do this twice.

7. To the top of each T, insert a 30″ piece of pipe.

8. Same as step 4, construct a square frame from the remaining 4 pieces of 30″ pipe and the 90° outs (with the threaded/ slip adapters facing up).

9. Invert the completed square frame from step 8 and attach to the top of the frame from step 7.

10. Completed item should look similar to the photo above.

11. For good measure, I took a wet paper towel and wiped down all of the pipe.

That is all there is to it. You will of course need sheets or fabric to make the shell of the tent, and some kind of material for the backdrop. So far I used 3 single-size sheets to cover my tent, a piece of posterboard for the backdrop, and my clamp lights for lighting (I have 3 of those).

My immediate plan is to hit a fabric shop and get white and black muslin for the backdrop, and also get enough white fabric to make a proper slip cover for the tent. But for now this setup is working well. Here is a photo from the tent.

Red Stripe glassware

This tent is pretty big and portable. If it is too big for your needs, you could try this alternative design. I just might have to build one of these and try it out too.

[1/19/08 - I updated the fabric for the curtains and backdrops]

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8 Responses to “DIY Monday – PVC Light Tent w/ Glass Riser”

  1. [...] my PVC Light Tent, I was originally using posterboard for a backdrop and some old white sheets for the [...]

  2. [...] my PVC Light Tent, I was originally using posterboard for a backdrop and some old white sheets for the [...]

  3. [...] a flat fluorescent light fixture I picked up at Home Depot, and a piece of black craft foam, and my large DIY light tent with glass riser, I was able to get the photo above. I cut a hole in the black craft foam that was roughly the same [...]

  4. [...] a flat fluorescent light fixture I picked up at Home Depot, and a piece of black craft foam, and my large DIY light tent with glass riser, I was able to get the photo above. I cut a hole in the black craft foam that was roughly the same [...]

  5. Absolutely, I believe these kind of tips are so important. Thank You.

  6. Hi, just doing some research for my Dremel site. Amazing the amount of information on the web. Wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but interesting page. Have a nice day.

  7. [...] PVC Piping frame with “Underlighting” — This one is cool! [...]

  8. […] to add a nice reflective base to their shots. There are tasty products that help you do this, or DIY option. I’m considering working on adding this DIY option to my photo tent. Pretty […]

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