Super easy hardware store light-backdrop stand

diy_hardware_store_light_stand Tim Boesenkool has sent this awesome idea on how you can make a DIY backdrop stand that reaches all the way to the ceiling, without getting in a fight with your wife.

I have two sturdy light stands but with the work I’m doing it isn’t really enough, and I’m tired of propping reflectors on wobbly chairs etc. Because I don’t have excess room I needed something with a small footprint as well.

So cruising around the hardware store I discovered a great cheap, no assembly required solution and I have two stands for under 50 bucks.

Go to the paint section and see if you can find painter extension poles that twist lock. This is important, the have to be the twist lock variety that can be extended to any length. (About $20 each.) There are painter poles that use pin locks, but these won’t work. Next walk over to the plumbing aisle and get a toilet plunger head. (About $3 each.) Make sure you get the big black ones. Chances are good that they use the same thread and you shouldn’t have a problem twisting the plunger head onto the painter pole.

diy_hardware_store_light_stand - pole and plunger

When at the till, make sure you have some explanation ready, because you will get funny looks standing in line with a 4-12 foot toilet plunger. I just mumbled “the toilet in the basement keeps plugging up”. I’ve rarely seen a more confused look on a store tellers face as she tried to figure out whether she was dumb and not getting what I was talking about, or if she thought I was a serious idiot. I had a good chuckle on the way to the car and congratulated myself on my ingenuity.

Here is how the pole and plunger fit together

diy_hardware_store_light_stand - together

diy_hardware_store_light_stand - fitted

Now to use the poles. Just push plunger up against the ceiling until the plunger pops inwards. Then make sure the pole is on the floor, sturdy and straight. Twist lock the handle while keeping upward pressure and you have a cheap reasonably sturdy lightweight, transportable lightstand. The plungers should even form a suction lock on the ceiling. I’ve used these in rooms with an angled ceiling as well, and they worked perfectly up to 12 feet. Be careful in clients homes because the rubber can leave dark rings that need to be wiped off.



Be careful not to crank on clamps on too hard or you will collapse the pole, but it should be capable of holding at least a light or a roll of paper between two poles.

Also It may be a good idea to cover the plunger with something to avoid marks on the ceiling. You can use a Nylon Baggy or a balloon cut in half. (David and PANZERWOLF, thanks for the tips).

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  • Rea

    This looks very portable and easy to use, but what do you use to clip the backdrop to the pole?

  • Justyn

    I’m going to harbor freight. Those look great. What we used in Filmschool was coffee filters to avoid marking up the walls.