Octagonal softboxes (aka octa boxes) are great for when you want nice diffused light. They have a very distinct catch light which some photographers love (and some don’t). In this tutorial, David Schöppe shows how to build a wooden octa.
Is it the cheapest way to get a big octa? At ~$30 it probably is. Assuming that you have way more time than money.
What do you need?
- 1M 13x13mm beech wood bar
- 8 x 2,5M 10x10mm pine wood bar (8x30cm)
- 70 cm beech wood pole 5mm
- some small 16mm woodscrews
- some bigger 16mm woodscrews
- 3x horizontal 90°metal brackets 20x20mm
- 2x vertical 90°metal brackets 20x20mm
- Car windshield winter protector for reflection surface
- Thin white polyester fabric for diffuser thicker black fabric for cover
- 2,5M Velcro, hook & fleece, for diffuser mounting
Several tools: saw, driller, stapler and sewing utilities.
Lets go! – the flash hole
Start with the flash hole, this part is a bit difficult because you need to cut the little wooden pieces pretty exactly to make them fit together. Each with a 22,5° angle at each side. The easiest way of doing this is with a miter saw.
I drilled angular holes for screwing the pieces together. Then I used some wood glue to hold the pieces in place. After they hardened out I screwed them together. Note: predrill every hole for the screws in the wood with a little smaller driller, because the wood will break if you screw a big screw in it!
The flash and remote-trigger holder
The second part would be the flash and remote-trigger holder. I personally use the Yongnuo 560-II and a RF-602 remote trigger. So my holder will fit this combination. If you use other stuff try and mesure by yourself what you need. Could be easier because my flash trigger need to be mounted this way.
My holder is made out of some beachwood and a bunch of metal brackets. 2 vertical 90° brackets, 1 horizontal 90° bracket and a metal connection plate. All could be found in your local hardware store. Make a plan of what you need and get what you think what will fit your needs best. I just needed to drill some new holes in the brackets and the plate.
The softbox will probably bend the holder a little bit, make sure it is torsion-resistant.
Here is what it should look like:
The outer ring
The next step is the outer ring, it is made with a diameter of 60 cm. I chose pine wood (10x10mm) for the ring, because the ring doesn’t need to be so hard and pine is easy to work with.
Make 8 pieces, 30 cm long with a 22,5°angle at both sides each. Ttogether they will give you 45° angle. (With a little math you can see that eight 45° angles will give a full 360° what means, surprise, surprise, a circle
At first I glued the pieces together and when the glue was dry I used little pieces of beech wood (30mm long) to hold the 8 pieces together permenantly. See the image below. The little beech wood bars and and holes for the screws in the pine wood need to be pre drilled! In the middle you need the same 6mm hole like the one we did in the flash holder, where you insert the wooden pole.
After that you can prepare the beech wood poles what connect the flash hole with the outer wood ring. measure the needed length by yourself because it depends on how you made it and how much you want to bend it (be aware it could break if you bend it to much or if you got a bad piece). Plug the eight holes into the poles of the outer ring and bend them to fit in the flash holders holes. Connect all the holes together and your wooden frame it ready.
For the next step we need to “destroy” the car windshield protector. You need to cut it into 8 fitting pieces and cover the entire wooden frame.
I stapled them to the outer ring and the flash hole. I used little long pieces of the black fabric to avoid the reflector from breaking but fabric tape at the ends of the reflector will do the same. I than used some fabric tape to connect the reflector pieces to each other.
Now I applied the Velcro to the wood frame with hot glue and stapler.
The inner diffuser
Now we need an inner diffuser, an outer diffuser and the black cover fabric if you want a good looking softbox. This means sewing skills are needed.
But let’s start with the inner diffuser, cut a octagonal circle out of the thin white fabric, little smaller than the outer ring, I chose 20 cm less in diameter.
On every edge make a small hole and mount a little wire in the hole. Glue it to the fabric with some hot glue. Now turn the Wires around the poles.
I have set a little drop of hot glue to the point of the pole where the inner diffuser need to stay, so it can’t slide inside the softbox.
This is how the inner diffuser looks like
The main diffuser
If you can’t sew or have no one who can sew for you and has a sewing machine you are lost at this point.
Cut the thin fabric into a nearly fitting piece (but leave some place around), and stick it to the wood frame with some needles. Mark the outline of your diffuser and then add 2 cm to the cutting line. You will need this 2 cm for a nice folded border at the edge of the diffuser under the Velcro.
Now sew the Velcro to the diffuser, be careful – it’s better to make it a little too big than a little too small.
Place the diffuser on the softbox, you are now ready for the first test shot.
And here are some pictures of the pretty nice light flow in the softbox.
At F6.3 with ¼ flash power
At F16 with ¼ flash power
You are nearly done, just need to make some nice cover for the softbox, I used black fabric and sewed it together and to the softbox.
Here is my result:
Have fun with the guide and new softbox.
This tutorial is also available in PDF form here.