What is a Justin Clamp? A Justin Clamp is an incredibly versatile clamp that retails from Manfrotto for $56.00. Below is a DIY Justin Clamp that I will show you how to make for $23.00.
Why is it called a Justin Clamp and what do you use it for?
It’s called a Justin Clamp because it is named after its inventor – self-described tinkerer and photographer Justin Stailey of New York. Justin, who at the time was working for Bogen, created the clamp to solve mounting complaints from photographer Joe McNally. McNally was running into problems mounting the heavy Nikon speedlights in unusual places with the existing clamps and ball heads that were available on the market. Stailey took some off-the-shelf pieces from Bogen and created this Frankenstein of a clamp that went on to be named the Justin Clamp.
What is brilliant about the design is that it’s incredibly versatile. I would encourage any photographer who does location lighting to have at least two of these in your kit. I will talk about a few of the many ways that you can use it later on.
But for the sake of not having to spend more than a hundred bucks to have two of these in your kit just in case you need them, let’s do some problem solving and build our own Justin Clamps.
Tools and parts
This is a pretty simple DIY project. The only tools that you will need are:
- A drill with a 1/4” Cobalt bit ( A Cobalt bit will drill through the metal clamp easily.)
- A pair of pliers
- A skinny flathead or phillips screwdriver
The parts are a simple spring clamp, like the one below.
I purchased this Husky 2 in. Metal Spring Clamp with Pivot Tips at Home Depot for $3.47. I went with this one because of the tilting grips – since they add just a bit more versatility. You could build it with the basic A Clamp that you can purchase for about $2.00.
I used an Oben BD-0 Mini Ball Head which can be purchased for $12.00 at Amazon or B&H Photo. It is important to use a Ball Head that is designed to handle the weight of your flash. These Oben ball heads support up to 6.6 pounds which is more than enough to handle a speedlight or even the Godox AD200 pocket flashes. Just as a reference, a Manfrotto ball head rated for 4.4 pounds will cost you $59.00. Ouch!
The real challenge was how to add a stand mount since I don’t have a machine shop or welding option. My solution was this speedlight stand mount and umbrella holder from Amazon that also comes packaged with the 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch screw adapter that I need for the side of the clamp and sells for just $5.99 on Amazon.
Those are the three main pieces. In addition, I used:
- Two 1/4 in. flat washers,
- One 1/4 20 x 1/2 in. and
- One 1/4 20 x 3/4 in. screw (Both screws should be the round head combo machine type)
- One 1/4 in. nut.
All I needed to do was to drill four holes with the 1/4 in. cobalt drill bit.
I drilled one hole on each side of the top of the clamp and one hole in each handle of the clamp. There is already a hole drilled in each handle, so it was just a matter of locating the hole and then drilling through the rubber grip.
Next I attached the 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch screw adapter to the top right side of the clamp using a 1/4 20 x 1/2 in. machine screw.
The reason for drilling the second hole on the left top side of the clamp was so that you can place a screw driver through the hole to tighten the screw while holding the adapter with a pair of pliers.
Next, I attached the speedlight stand mount holder by removing the cold shoe, which leaves a long 1/2 20 in. thread. Push that through the hole that you drilled in the bottom rubber handle and using a 1/4 in. flat washer and a 1/4 20 nut, tighten with your fingers first and then a pair of pliers.
For the last step, grab the 1/4 20 x 3/4 in. screw and a 1/4 in. flat washer, slide them through the bottom handle and attach the Oben Ball head and tighten with a screwdriver.
And there you have it – your own DIY Justin Clamp for less than $23.00 and about 10 minutes of build time per clamp.
Watch how I build it here or the full video below.
How to use it
Remember the origin of the clamp… it’s a problem solver clamp. In other words, there is no one right way to use it. It is a clamp that is going to solve problems like getting lights in places that you can’t go with stands or holding gobos or flags, like in the video above, or just about anything that you may need in a shoot.
Remember the cold shoe that I took off of the stand mount adapter? You can add it back to the ball head to mount a speedlight onto your clamp.
And I assure you there are many more. I also made it a point to build one with the stud on the left side and one with it on the right side so that I had more versatility in my mounting options.
I hope this gives you some ideas, take this idea and run with it – go create and show me what you come up with!
Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot. So keep learning, keep thinking, and keep shooting. Adios!