If you’ve ever put a camera onto a tripod, you’ll be familiar with the ‘screw hole’ on the bottom of the camera, or the ¼ - 20 female — the smaller of the two most common thread sizes that you will find on virtually every camera, with ⅜- 16 being the larger variety. You’ll find these threaded holes all over cinema gear and anything camera or video related, they are the 2 standard fasteners.
Let’s explain these thread sizes quickly
These are standard fasteners, UNC standard, or inch, these are not metric, albeit the striking amount of cameras produced in predominantly metric countries. These are right hand threaded, typical of most common hardware. Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. A great trick is to actually rotate the screw anti-clockwise, to make sure it is straight and then the threads should catch and tighten easily once you rotate them clockwise.
⅜- 16 inch diameter with 16 threads per inch, the larger variety.
¼-20 inch (2/8) diameter with 20 threads per inch, the smaller fastener.
Unfortunately with abuse, neglect or sheer ignorance you'll find threads can be become damaged or unusable, fortunately there is a way you can repair and create new threads.
If you're dealing with poorly maintained rental gear or a careless accident yields your hardware unusable, you'll save the day with a tap and die in your kit.
A tap and die is a very common machinists tool, there are some different varieties you will find; bottoming taps, taper taps, forming taps, chasing taps. The most basic hardware store variety tap and die will serve you well in a pinch, but if you're a tool fiend like me you might look in adding a thread restorer kit/ rethreading kit to your owner/operator's kit.
Technically speaking there are differences in taps and dies used exclusively for forming holes, and taps and dies used for chasing threads — which will be softer and less likely to take off extra material and cause a loose fit, and even those are still slightly different compared to a dedicated thread restorer tap or die.
With a tap, you can create a hole or "chase threads" to clean or repair damaged nuts, female threads.
With a die, you can repair damaged bolts, chasing the male threads.
And if you get creative you can do things like tap ⅜- 16 holes into 15mm rails, I did this years ago and they've come in handy more than you can imagine!
You can even modify camera cages, baseplates, and the possibilities are beyond endless with scrap aluminum or steel.
Fabricated anything cool? Share it here!