I made myself some "Apple Boxes" - Router Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 02:17 PM Thread Starter
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Default I made myself some "Apple Boxes"

I decided last week that my photo/video studio needed some Apple Boxes, so I made two sets of them, partly because I wasn't impressed with the ready made ones that are for sale, and partly because I needed something to keep me busy. I own a full cabinet shop, so it seemed right to make them for myself.

For those unfamiliar with the name, "Apple Box" was given to them by the early movie industry, and they are quite handy for studio work, to stand on, sit on, as prop supports, etc. They are 12" X 20" and in heights of 8", 4", 2", and 1", so that they can be stacked in combinations to produce any height in 1 inch increments from 1" to 15". The usual Apple Boxes are just made from common 3/4" plywood, nailed together, and they are very heavy.

These are 1/2" (12mm) Baltic Birch plywood, with three spaced apart partitions in each 2-8" box, for additional support under heavy loads. They are box jointed at the corners for additional strength, and completely glued together. The outer surfaces are finished with 4 coats of satin polyurethane to protect and keep them looking nice and to reduce splintering. I spent about 2 1/2 days in roughly 1/2 day increments making them, and about $80 worth of materials was used. A set of (in my opinion) poorly made Apple Boxes runs $190 US or more, and not counting my labor, I made these 2 sets for less than 1/2 the price of one of the purchased sets. A full set of the ones that I built weigh about 30 lbs.

When in lock-up we need things to keep us busy. This was my "lock-up project" for this past week. They would have been finished much sooner if I didn't have other responsibilities to attend to., but then I would have been looking for something else to keep me busy.

I have some "in progress" photos in my relatively new cell phone, but couldn't move them to my laptop, so this one "studio photo" is all I can post today.

Charley
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 02:19 PM
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Those are some upscale boxes - do you use them in your photo/video production? What are they use for? (I too am a photographer, so pls excuse my noseyness).
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 02:23 PM
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Very Nice...!

Quick question...did you put a lip on them so they don't shift when they're stacked...?
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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I will mostly use them in place of my short step stool, in my studio, to get my eye up level with the view finder when taking photos with the tripod fully extended, or when I want to shoot down at a subject. At time, these seem better than a small step ladder. I never had my own studio before building one for myself last year, but I have been in and out of photography since being a year book photographer in high school, and have used the common, and usually beat up version of Apple boxes on stage and in studios before. In my junior and senior years in high school, I carried a huge and heavy old Graphlex wide format camera with the flat cartridge film cases back then for shooting sporting events. One strap around my neck for the camera, and the other (almost the same weight) for the leather case containing 12 cartridges (24 pictures). This old man could never do that now. It took too long, but thank goodness for smaller higher quality digital cameras that can put hundreds of photos on a card not much bigger than two postage stamps. After graduating high school and college, I ran a summer stock theater for one Season with 1-2 new movie or stage shows each week. I've been in and out of photography many times since then. I even owned my own commercial photo retouching business 18-22 years ago. Trust me when I say that none of the women in magazine photo ads are really as perfect as they appear. I was one of the one's who cleaned them up, removing moles, scars, sags, etc.

Apple Boxes are just a handy way to get the photographer, camera, equipment, props, or anything else at the ideal height. The 8"height size can even be used on-end for a seat for the model, or yourself. I have made quite a few boxes of this similar design over the past 5 years or so, many of them becoming tool boxes for some of my tools that had so many small accessory parts that I was afraid of loosing them unless I made a special box to keep them together in. Search my posts and you should find photos of some of these other boxes. Box jointing the corners using an Incra I-Box jig on my table saw and using a Freud SBOX8 blade set makes this part easy, and almost fool proof. Since getting them I have made a lot of boxes using box jointed corners.

Without a studio or stage environment, Apple Boxes don't lend themselves to very much use, but are very handy when working in a flat floor environment like stage or studio. A short stepladder taken on outdoor shoots is much more useful. I have an old set of nesting square boxes, open on one side, and nested in a box, that I use when placing small products at varying heights for product or small item photo shoots, and usually covered/draped with a smooth or fuzzy cloth material. These Apple Boxes tend to be a bit large for this type of work, but may get used for that as well. There is such a thing as a Half Apple Box, where the entire set is 10" X 12" with the same 8", 4", 2", and 1" height. I may make myself a set or two of them later, but I don't feel the need for them yet.

I built the studio upstairs in a spare 18' X 26' 2nd master bedroom of my home last year, but then some heart problems kept me from finishing it. Since early this year I completely re-arranged it, moving my 6 backdrop roller system and moving even my lighting equipment to the ceiling, using mostly my design of overhead support system for my lighting equipment. This removes almost all of the need for tripods and on-the-floor wiring, eliminating almost all of the tripping hazards that are usually part of a photo studio.

I'm going to try to put together a full description of all of this and post it.
Overhead supported lighting methods for large photo/video studios are very expensive and complex. My way takes a little bit more time to relocate lights, but is much cheaper to install and operate, most of it being made from readily available materials too. Today, the only things touching my floor are the camera tripod legs, the table with the Apple Boxes on it, and the bottom edge of the gray backdrop. I used 4 monolights with softboxes for the Apple Box shot, but all are supported from above. Even the electrical power to run them is on the ceiling. Radio communication between the camera and lights flashes the monolights, and a WIFI link sends the taken photos from my camera to my laptop, as they are taken and without wires. My only wish is that I had a 10' ceiling to do this under. 8' works, but 10' would be much better.

Charley
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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Nick,

You posted while I was typing.

No, there is no lip. A lip is not a standard feature on commercially made Apple Boxes. They just stack together. I'm hoping that the satin polyurethane won't become too slippery, but if it does, I may have to sand it off or coat the tops and bottoms with something, maybe silicone bathtub sealant, to keep them from sliding. It is a concern, and probably why most of these are just raw wood or sprayed with a thin identifying paint color, but I wanted mine to stay clean, and not so rough looking. I'll find a way, or sand the poly off the tops and bottoms if I can't.

Charley
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 06:52 PM
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While not quite as active professionally (weddings/industrial), we have a lot in common with gear and labors in the past. I started in 1965 with an Olympus half frame and went through many 35mm cameras, a nice Mamiyaflex 6X6 system, an old B&J 4X5, enlarging in B&W - then onto Nikon film/digital cameras for a decade. Currently using Sony mirrorless APS-C and FF bodies with about 35 different lens types - adapted, enlarger and current AF models.

You appear equally well setup for woodworking, so show off anything you consider relevant and we will look on appreciatively...

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 08:08 PM Thread Starter
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Brian,

That old Graphlex was the only full frame camera that I've ever used, I've since owned and used many 35mm cameras, and went digital in 1999. Send me a PM with your contact information and email address, and we'll converse a bit off forum, and less public.

Charley

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-30-2020, 11:22 PM
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I painted a front deck on my place once and didn't want it to be too slippery when rained on. Home Hardware up here had packages of grit you can stir in the finish that takes care of that. You stir it into the can and have to stir periodically to keep it suspended. It would probably take care of your slipperiness. It wasn't very expensive as I recall.

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-01-2020, 07:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharleyL View Post
Nick,

You posted while I was typing.

No, there is no lip. A lip is not a standard feature on commercially made Apple Boxes. They just stack together. I'm hoping that the satin polyurethane won't become too slippery, but if it does, I may have to sand it off or coat the tops and bottoms with something, maybe silicone bathtub sealant, to keep them from sliding. It is a concern, and probably why most of these are just raw wood or sprayed with a thin identifying paint color, but I wanted mine to stay clean, and not so rough looking. I'll find a way, or sand the poly off the tops and bottoms if I can't.

Charley
Charley why not use a non-slip strip on the bottom of these boxes. What I had used for my sheet goods dolly is about 3" wide and looks like a dark gray extremely course sandpaper. Those boxes remind me too much of the therapy boxes used after I had my knees replaced.....both times.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-01-2020, 10:57 AM
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I have used a Rust-Oleum non-skid spray out of a rattle can to skid proof several things including a miter gauge fence and it has stood up well, is not too rough, is relatively clear, and super easy to apply. Not sure about the "stops rust" part but it sticks to wood tenaciously.

https://www.amazon.com/Rust-Oleum-27.../dp/B00D0297BS
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