Build a DIY "SaverStrip" for less than $30

March 06, 2014  •  1 Comment

What's the deal with this SaberStrip?

There's no denying the original SaberStrip is a very portable and versatile piece of kit. However, at $135 each you might find yourself with other priorities photographically.

I have been curious about this type of modifier for a while and have really wanted to try it out for event photography. Inspired by the original SaberStrip design and the DIY work of my friend Todd Gardiner, I set out to see if I could build one myself. I'm pretty happy with the results of my home-built "SaverStrip" and in the end the project only cost me $27.50 and left me with enough fasteners, fabric, and tape to build several more.  

Click on any of the images below to enlarge the view.

DIY SaberStrip

What you'll need:

  • (1) 4" X 48" Mailing Tube (you may be able to use a 3" depending on the size of your speedlight)
  • (1) Roll white duct tape
  • (1) Roll tin foil duct tape
  • (1) Door handle
  • (1) 1/4" - 20 X 1/2" round head machine screw (shorter possibly if you can find them)
  • (4) 1/4" fender washers (takes up the slack in the 1/2" fasteners, more on this later)
  • (4) #8-32 X 5/8" tapered head machine screws
  • (4) #8-32 nuts
  • (4) #8 washers
  • (1) yard white rip-stop nylon
  • Pen / pencil 
  • Razor knife
  • Awl, punch, or drill
  • #2 Philips screwdriver

The photo below doesn't show the foil tape but it can be found in the HVAC section of most major hardware stores. 

Putting it all together…

The mailing tube can be modified easily and has plastic end caps which are fairly sturdy. We'll use one of these caps later on to make a mounting base for the speedlight.

You'll need to draw two parallel lines on the face of the tube to mark your cutout. My very clever wife Susanne came up with the idea of laying the pencil flat on the table and scoring a line. This ensures your marking device can't wander. Once you have your first line, just roll the tube the same distance as the width of your cutout and do it again. I ended up doing a bit of experimenting to get the width right.  

I found out via their website that the commercially made SaberStrip is 39" long. I opted to make mine 40" long because I was going to have a little dead space at the end of the modifier to give me an area to apply my tape to. The opening is 40", minus the width of the duct tape (top) and the height of the speedlight (bottom). Mark around the tube as needed and cut out the unwanted strip using a razor knife. 

After cutting, the edges were a little tattered so I edge-taped them with a bit of the white duct tape. 

Next we need to line the interior of the tube with foil tape to make it more reflective. The material is pretty easy to work with but I suggest peeling off the backing only a little as the time and work from one end to the other. 

Once you've got your tape covering all the brown cardboard on the interior, trim the excess off the ends with your razor knife. Very nice!

I opted to also apply foil tape to the top cap as well. 

I needed a way to secure the speedlight inside the modifier. Fortunately the little stand that came with the light is perfect. I just placed it on the cap, marked the 1/4" - 20 thread location, and cut a hole. 

Using the 1/4" - 20 X 1/2" machine screw and 1/4" fender washers, secure the stand to the cap.

I mounted the speedlight inside the tube and tested the balance point.  It was just above the lower section where the light itself sits.  Place the tube on the edge of your table so that it lays flat on the open edge that you cut out. This will make the tube sit flat. Then position your handle and mark the fastener locations.

Using an awl or drill, create four holes where your handle will mount. 

Using the #8-32 screws, washers, and nuts — tighten down your fasteners. 

Next cut a strip of your rip-stop nylon that is a bit wider than the opening in your modifier.  Using the white duct tape, secure the material to the tube.  I started by securing the top, then the bottom. Then, by applying a strip the entire length of the opening to the fabric only, I was able to stretch the material tight to pull out wrinkles.  

That's pretty much it! Here's my first test fire with the speedlight inside.  

My default test subject: my clown collection (yes, I have one of those).

And here are a couple quick shots with the new modifier.  I like the catchlights!

Thanks for checking out my DIY SaberStrip tutorial.  If you appreciate this please like or tweet it. Also, if you create your own please comment and let everyone know how it went. Feel free to include links to example photos!

 

 


Comments

1.John Masters(non-registered)
Andrew, thanks so much for your detailed explanation of how you built your homemade SabreStrip.
A few years back I attempted to find long rectangular boxes to do something similar for photographing guitars, which average about 38-40 inches long. I failed. Boxes too flimsy.
A couple of weeks ago I came across the SabreStrip site and thought that was perfect for what I had wanted, but the $135 per light modifier was too steep for me.
Searching for DIY versions of the SabreStrip quickly led me to your site and this page.
I have since built two light modifiers similar to yours, with just a few tweaks of my own to strengthen areas I wanted to be really sturdy, and to create inner, angled reflective pieces in each end to maximize the spread of light a bit, above and below the ends of the opening. This was a work-around since I could only find 36 inch mailing tubes. I also cut openings in the lower rear large enough to place the flash, change settings, and remove the flashes without taking the bottom cap off.
Using your ideas and a few additions to make them easier to use for what I wanted to do, allowed me to make two light modifiers, buy two nice light stands with adapters at the tops and a decent folding table for a mini guitar studio that I can set up and take down and store very quickly and easily, all for just less than the price of one "real" SabreStrip.

Here's a link to a photo of my own SaverStips in action photographing my Les Paul:
http://jamasters.smugmug.com/Other/Miscellaneous-Things-And/i-mMqjjqK/XL

Thanks again!
John Masters
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