How to build a C-Stand box you can RocknRoll for around $100 in parts!

The fun of a problem is you get to be creative, and you get to try and find a solution! Over the years, I have had a lot of fun creating things like a fan system to quiet the Canon C500’s internal fans, movie lights and modifiers, drip systems for fish tanks, and much more…

This article is about one item, that I hope some of my friends and colleagues will make and find beneficial to their video production business!

If you are like me, you’d have C-Stands on every shoot. They really are one of the most import tools on a shoot.

Sometime around 2012, I got tired of laying C-Stands on top of my cases, and strapping them to a RocknRoller cart. (If for some reason you don’t know what a RocknRoller cart is… They are kind of the industry standard cart for lower budget day to day video production work, at least in the Maryland and Washington, DC area. They are great carts for the money. Check out their webite, here. ) Occasionally, a crew member would not properly tighten the straps and the C-stands would slip, and give us a good scare.  The last thing you want to do is have a C-Stand fall off a cart and onto a marble floor! It never happened, but it was the kind of nightmare that would wake me up at night.  I found the whole thing to be a problematic mess, and it often took two crew members to carefully unstrap that mess.

My solution was to design a wooden box that could hold 6 – C-Stands in an upright configuration. I also wanted it to fit nicely on a RocknRoller cart, and make life easier on small sets. What I ended with was a box that could hold so much more… The first box I made could hold 6 – C-stands, other stands, gel rolls, break apart frames, 5 ft. pieces of speed rail, and more. Another cool perk was it allowed us to connect bead board and a 4 x 4 black floppy to the c-stand knuckles.  It has been amazing!

I know you can buy carts for c stands, but they can be very expensive. They can also be difficult to fit into any vehicle smaller than a full size cargo van. Washington, DC has low hanging parking garages, so I needed to fit all my gear into a small cargo van or SUV.

I wanted to keep the build as simple as possible.  I used a jigsaw, a drill, a T-ruler, and other small tools to accomplish my first C-Stand box. For this post, I decided to build a smaller box to fit more easily into my SUV.

Before we get started, the following things are really important, and you will likely read them more than once during this post. Please take careful note!!!

  1. Always, always, always, ratchet strap your box to your cart before you start loading it!
  2. Always, always, always, counter balance your cart with something heavy like a sand bag box or grip box. In my case, one of the carts becomes a dedicated grip cart!
  3. If using a RocknRoller cart, don’t fully extend the cart to its widest setting! You are likely going to push the cart to max weight, and the cart will be stronger and more maneuverable if it is not full extended.
  4. Don’t load your cart beyond the manufactures’ weight limit for the cart!

This post is more of a guide on what to think about while you are making your C-Stand box, and not a step by step “how to”.  This is important to note, because my C-Stand box was designed using Matthews B756040 C-Stands. There are other flavors of C-Stands out there and I can’t guarantee they would fit this box. My stands can fit into a box with a front to back depth of 20-inches. You should measure your C-Stands before you get started! If they measure under 20-inches, you will likely be good to go. If your C-Stands measure over 20-inches, you’ll need to adjust your box accordingly. Also, you will need to measure and create a support shelf that is based on your C-Stand’s measurements. See photo.

I started out by making a simple reference sketch for the box I was going to create. Things can change a little, but it gives you a guide to look at during the build.

For this blog, I decided to make a shorter box than the original box. That box has been amazing, but I like the idea of having a box that takes up less space. If you are going to make your own box, I suggest keep the box between 24-31 inches tall. The shorter box is smaller, a bit lighter, and more portable, but I feel the taller box is a little more secure. If space is not an issue, maybe go with a taller box.

When I first designed my C-Stand box, I was happy to find pre-fabricated boards that matched my dimensions in all but height. I found these boards at Lowes. I looked at Home Depot, but was unable to find them at my store. If you can’t find these boards, you may have to make more cuts. If you need to make more cuts, a jigsaw may not be optimal.

You will be putting a lot of pressure on the top walls of the box, so you will need metal support braces to strengthen these areas. I found the ones in the photograph below at Home Depot.

Here are the tools you’ll need, minus the T-Square used to pencil in the measured lines.  These tools include a Jigsaw and a Drill with bits. You may also want to use a sander or sand paper to smooth out the box edges and prevent splinters.

I placed my original box on a piece of the new wood, to give you a visual reference of how this box comes together.

I cut the bottom board to 21 ½ inches, but it’s a good idea to hold your boards together and make your measurement. You will later drill holes along the edge of the board to attached the ¾ inch walls to the base. If you accidently overcut a little, you might be able to use metal L braces to attach inside the inner walls. I built my first box using mostly L braces to hold together the walls.

I decided to cut my box down to 24-inches, which is the shortest height I thought would still be safe. I highly suggest keeping your height between 24-31 inches. The 31-inch height of the old box, still allowed me to place in it, my 20-inch Matthews C-Stands (B756020).

The wider board was tall enough that I could cut 2 boards out of it. This actually saved money and you won’t have to make any extra cuts.

Unfortunately, you will have to make some cuts. A jigsaw is not the most accurate saw, but if you draw straight lines and take your time, you can make decent straight cuts.

Once you have cut the two boards from the tallest board, you will have a left over center board. Measure out two 7-inch boards and cut them with the jigsaw. These will be used as the top of the box partitioning boards.

Carefully assemble the bottom and two corner boards. Hold them in position and trace a pencil line down the length of the inside of the bottom board.  This will let you have a visual representation of the width of the edge of the side boards. I used this to eye the center and drill pilot holes into the bottom board. Then I re-aligned the bottom board with sides boards and drilled through those holes into the 3/4-inch edge of the side boards. I did the first ones, one at a time and then placed in those screws and drilled the remaining holes. This makes it easier to keep everything lined up accurately.

Once I had the bottom and 2 walls complete, I created a resting platform for the C-Stands.

In order to create your resting platform, you will need to measure one of your C-stands. Try to be as precise as you can with the resting platform height. You want to minimize the rocking back and forth of the C-Stands.

Once you have completed and attached your resting platform, you will need to create three sections that fit 2 – C-Stands per section. This will help to reduce the C-Stands from sliding side to side.

After you have attach the sectioning cubes, create sectioning boards along the bottom of the box. See photo.

The bottom sections do not have to be perfectly accurate, but I do suggest making the top partitions different widths. You will likely have items that are slightly wider, and you’ll want those wider sections to place these items. See my photographed measurements for those partitions.

After you attach the 7-inch sectional boards, you will want to cut handle holes. Draw them inside the 7-inch sectional boards. You will be using a jigsaw, so keep in mind that you don’t want to cut into the sectional boards. Safely draw in these handles, and drill a large pilot hole inside each of the ovals. This will allow you to fit the jigsaw blade into the drill hole, and start cutting the oval shape.

Next up, place the metal braces on the top edges of the box. This will add strength and support. The straight braces have screw holes that are off center. I have kept my screw holes to the center to prevent splitting the boards. This means the corners of the metal braces stick out a little. I put a few layers of gaffer tape over all the top edges. The tape protects hands from getting nicks and splinters.

Also, I did not make my resting platform as precise as I would have liked, so I cut down 3M rubber-stair-step stickers and placed them in the box to keep the C-Stands from rocking back and forth. I used a single screw with a washer to hold them down securly. See photos below.

It is important to have a sturdy cart. I have a RocknRoller cart that can support 700 lbs.

Safety first!!! Make sure you ratchet strap this box to your cart. If you don’t do this, you are asking for big trouble!

One time, my team forgot to strap down the box and began filling it. As it was being loaded, the box fell right of the back of the cart into the parking lot. It was a mess, but thankfully there was no damage.

You also need to counter balance the cart or the same kind of thing could happen, but this way the strapped cart will seesaw and fall over on its side. The other end of the cart will be sticking straight up in the air! With this said, if you follow the guide lines, you should be fine. We strap everything down on our cart, including the sand box and the grip box. When we get to the set up loacation, we unstrap the sand box and the grip box, but we leave the C-Stand box strapped all day, and only take it off when it is unloaded. You will have full access to the items in the box, even when it is strapped to the cart.

You are ready to rock n roll!  😉

Check out the photos below to see how much “STUFF” can fit in this box! Don’t forget to always secure your items!

If you make one of these boxes, please send me photos! I’d appreciate it, and would love to see all of you who are building and making good use of your boxes.  Also, it would be great to write blog updates with people’s experiences and modifications!

Peace and Health!

Chris @ PulseCinema

About me: I am a Cinematographer working on film and video production in Washington DC, Baltimore, Maryland, and beyond. I do also Direct but really enjoy collaborating with other Directors and am very happy to simply make images!

Chris McGuinness is the Chief Attendant at PulseCinema. PulseCinema is a full service video production company serving Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD, and beyond.