Building a Copy Stand

I usually write on maps themselves, but today I want to write on imaging maps. I wanted to get high resolution images of my maps, but didn’t want to buy a large format scanner or commercially available photographic copy stand. My phone has a great camera, and with sufficient lighting I get incredibly crisp, detailed photos. With the imaging device decided, I set out to build the hardware myself.

I did some internet research and toyed with several candidate designs: all wood versus wood/plastic/metal hybrid, black or white base, multiple or single rail, etc. My choice was to use a white melamine faced MDF base and platform to hold the camera (Home Depot) with aluminum pole and angle (Amazon) to support the camera. Further, I decided to make the pole and camera platform removable so I can store my stand easily, and to make the camera platform adjustable.

Sketches of copy stand.


This is only the second time I’ve worked with melamine board so I did some reading on how to cut it cleanly. Good tips, but I didn’t follow them, instead I took the suggestion of another site that I use a fine finish circular saw blade and tape the line of cut. And I’m glad I did, it came out perfectly smooth. I repeated the process to cut the stock for the camera platform, then used a 2 inch hole saw to cut the aperture; this cut came out with a few chips in the surface however since the maps will not come into contact with it I am not concerned.

Cutting the aluminum was a job for hand tools since I don’t have a chop saw at my disposal. I ordered the square tube to the desired length of 2 feet but the angle required cutting into one 6 inch piece and two 3 inch pieces.

24 inch aluminum square tube (rear) and angle (front) cut into two 6 inch pieces.

After cutting I filed the edge to knock off the sharp burrs. Following this I drilled holes in the brackets to attach them to the melamine board, and matching holes in the melamine board to affix them with ¼ inch bolts.

Copy stand base and pole bolted together. Platform dry fitted to the pole.


I drilled holes 3 inches apart in the brackets on the platform, one in the upper bracket and one in the lower, and holes in the tube 1 inch apart so the platform could be adjusted. Again using ¼ inch bolts I affixed the platform to the pole, securing it with bar knobs.

To get a crisp image I need good lighting. I procured 2 clamp on spotlights and 25 watt incandescent bulbs to clamp on the edges of the camera platform. While bright light will fade the maps, exposure will be short.

Completed copystand.
Completed copystand.

It came out looking great, especially considering it cost around $75 and was made in my garage. The lighting was a little hot in the center of the map, so I might have to replace that, but all told, the images came out sharper and less shadowed than when holding the camera in hand.

Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken by hand.
Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken by hand (own work).
Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken with copystand.
Tallis 1851 Comparative View Western Hemisphere image taken with copystand (own work).















© Peter Roehrich 2015

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