Awesome DIY PVC Flash Housing

I have said it before, and I will say it again: The best thing about running a lighting blog is the cool stuff you guys throw at me almost every day.

Exhibit "A" is this inexpensive DIY PVC water resistant ("water proof" does not really exist) housing for an SB-800. Or any small flash, really. It was posted in the comments of this post, which was either inspired cheapskate thinking, or a botched suicide attempt. Not sure which.

The guys over in this wakeboarding discussion board are kicking butt and taking names with water-resistant flashes.

I noticed that they are also using Ewa-Marine bags. Very expensive, though. I'll take the DIY PVC any day.

They are shooting lit shots of one wakeboarder, with another wakeboarder doing the honors by holding a nearby protected flash. Sync is courtesy a Pocket Wizard, which is also tucked inside the housing.

Whaddya wanna bet Chase Jarvis has four of these things built by the end of the week?

A bonus: Since the flash is wrapped in foam, it makes it pretty darn shock resistant, too. I could see using these for tandem rock climbing shots, just in case. Not that I am built for that sort of thing.

This is just pure ingenuity. Kudos to Strobist reader Hildoriffic for the idea, and the drawings, too.

Maybe he'll be nice enough to help us out in the comments with questions. I know I still have some. I have to either source the acrylic as a circular disc, or learn how to cut it.

UPDATE: Commenters to the rescue, once again. You can get the Acrylic here, and Hil says you have to get it a little big and cut it down for a good seal. Looking for a good source or the O-rings now.

Is this thing cool as a moose, or what? I want me one of these. Or maybe three.

I am going to let this design percolate in my head for a few days before I build it, to see if I can get ideas as to how to improve it.

First on the list: A small PVC tube glued along the side of the fixed cap to help the user aim the flash. That means you could run it at 105mm zoon and get better range with more accuracy and lower power. (Thus, shorter recycle times.)

Any other ideas on how to amp this thing?

(BTW, the cool night shot above is by Ryan Taylor, of


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Blogger SoulJah said...

Just when I was about to do a super soaker/pool party themed shoot... Nice...

July 23, 2007 3:01 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

You could make the tube longer and put a big battery in there for more flashes.

July 23, 2007 5:11 AM  
Blogger Steve Leibson said...

4" acrylic circles are $1.15 each at Tap Plastics.

July 23, 2007 10:59 AM  
Blogger Patrick Smith said...

I'd add a gun-type-handle to that bad boy for better aiming

July 23, 2007 12:02 PM  
Anonymous craig said...

But will it work with CLS? ;-)

July 23, 2007 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can get o-rings from McMaster, I found mine at a local hardware store. Sometimes they have them at auto parts shops as well. Its a 4" oring with a 3/16 cross section.

July 23, 2007 2:28 PM  
Blogger Marc Littmann said...

how about painting inside of tube white for greater light efficiency as it emerges out of tube opening? Could also find a way to clip in or mount a gel in there so you throw some CTO at subject at sunset. could even use small amount of ticky tack and mount right on to acrylic to hold the gel. many ways to do it.

July 23, 2007 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Eric Au said...


You could laser cut the clear acrylic discs. Make sure it is INDEED acrylic b/c most shops will not cut lexan or any kind of polycarb b/c of the off gassing.

I have one here at school, but I am not even sure if you want to build one.


July 23, 2007 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Steen said...


Maybe a fresnel in front to give a long reach a la 'Better Beamer'?

July 23, 2007 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Gayman said...

Hi David,

I wasn't sure whether to email you or post this in the comments, but after reading your email page, I opted for the comments. I have been a fan for quite some time and I wanted to thank you for all the great content on your blog. I have been following Strobist since Lighting 101 and although I’ve been a bit of a slacker as far as the classwork, I am always learning new techniques and tricks. I also really enjoyed your Flickr and You series. It was really interesting to read your thoughts on how a web app like Flickr is changing the landscape of professional photography. I couldn’t agree more. It is for this reason, that I’m writing to you about some shame-less self promotion.

I am the creative director for a company called Simple Spark. We have recently launched a comprehensive catalog of web apps and I think you’ll be surprised at how many are out there. We are currently tracking more than 4100 individual apps, and among them we have a large section that deals specifically with photography. In fact, as of today there are more than 340 apps currently listed in our catalog including photo editors, photo sharing portals, social networks, and utilities like photo storage etc. Take a look, I’m sure you’ll find something interesting that you didn’t know existed.

Thanks for your time, and congratulations on taking the plunge into full-time blogging. Keep up the good work!

Jonathan Gayman
Creative Director
Simple Spark, Inc.

Simple Spark
Web Apps for Photography

July 23, 2007 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of people are concerned about the acrylic piece. You can buy a piece of acrylic or plexiglass at most decent hardware stores. If you get the right kind of blade you can just cut it with a jigsaw. If you cut the piece a little big you can finish the edge real nice with some sand paper. I cut mine using a band saw and finished the edge with a sanding wheel. I used 3/8 thick acrylic...


July 23, 2007 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI...a 4" round piece of acrylic would be too small to be used with a 4" ABS pipe. ABS pipe is measured by its inside diameter so you wouldn't be able to sandwich the piece between the cap and the pipe which will increase the risk of it popping out. If you buy a pre cut piece buy it bigger so you can trim it down to the correct size.


July 23, 2007 10:03 PM  
Anonymous blindmike said...

As an alternative to the Ewa-Marine bags and acrylic housings, I've been using a sheet of plexiglass taped to a garbage bag (picture bag over head with camera and arms and whatnot inside). It looks stupid but it's cheap and it keeps my gear dry (well, splashproof at least, swimming with it would be a bad idea).

July 23, 2007 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great idea, David. Another mind expanding thought on your great site.

Two suggestions:

1. use a sealed plastic bag around your flash/PW, inside of the container. Yeah, it's a belt and suspenders suggestion, I know. But it will be hard to be absolutely waterproof, and the plastic bag could save you the expense of a new PW/flash if you mess up.

2. Use teflon tape over the threads, to prevent water from leaking in around the threads. Get teflon tape for about a dollar at any plumbing store.



July 24, 2007 10:39 PM  
Blogger bmillios said...

I'm thinking get one of those forearm crutches, attach that bazooka onto the pole.

Point fist, shout, "O Mighty Thor!" - *pop*

What fun.

July 26, 2007 3:03 AM  
Anonymous Tommie T said...

Read this post and was turning the idea over in my head whilst at the computer looking for materials......Low and behold a light bulb appeared over my head!!! Ive been using pringles tubes for snoots as they are a good fix over my 580ex. If one was to leave the metal bottom on the tube and fire the flash out of the open end all it would take to water proof it would be three or four condoms (i've heard that boiling them makes them more hard wearing + cleans them of lube lol!). All perfectly obtainable materials from most beach sides. Ghetto I know but effective none the less.

July 26, 2007 4:11 PM  
Blogger photo-delta123 said...

I am a friend of hil and just built an acrylic waterproof housing for a flash and pocket wizard. I have one on ebay for sale or I can help you build your own.

October 21, 2007 6:00 PM  
Blogger whiterabbit said...

I have a shrink wrap machine and we shrink wrapped my phone once so I could use it at the pool. might be a useful approach.

February 16, 2008 11:01 PM  
Anonymous eisenjobalquiza said...

I've been planning to do this for a loooong time... but my laziness got the better of me. Went out instead and bought a reliable airtight food container... projects/080614_7599.jpg

good enough to survive splashes and dips underwater... projects/080614_7605.jpg

the clear plastic would also allow for CLS and optical IR triggers but the PVC outfit is way cooler and more professional looking!

June 21, 2008 3:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JUst my 2cents. I have a food saver machine and one could put a flash and trigger in there and seal it tight. Those plastic bags are real nice. And it's very simple and "water resistant".

I use il all the time for cellphone and my PAS camera when camping/fishing/pool party.

July 29, 2008 9:07 AM  
Blogger Dave.J said...

I love this idea. I think I'll make one for fun... I cannot seem to find a small fesnel lens, any ideas steen? =)

For those who aren't creative or crafty, you can get your flash waterproofed...
This was released a few days ago... not on the market yet, but it looked good on the Today Show.

Golden Shellback coating is currently available to companies for application during the manufacturing process. Consumers can expect to get their existing devices shellbacked in the coming months.

For the record, I have nothing to do with Shellback coating.

August 02, 2008 10:45 AM  
Anonymous vw auto parts said...

what if instead of a straight tube you use more of a cone shaped type tube instead? would that work?


August 26, 2008 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave.J said...I cannot seem to find a small fesnel lens...

Most large book stores sell thin, fresnel-lensed page magnifiers. Just trace a circle at the center of one and cut it out with strong shears or a craft knife/box cutter.

April 01, 2009 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice idea, but as I am lazy I had another idae with less work: I am going to buy a lantern like this one here:
Then get evrything out of the housing ad stick a flash with a trigger in there istead. Anyone tried that before?
M. Dobiey

June 27, 2009 7:37 PM  
Blogger Dave.J said...

I haven't tried the lantern, but don't think my strobe would fit inside it. I'd love to see how it works for you, however... maybe it would be worth getting a smaller strobe to fit. I use mine handheld much of the time, anyway.

June 29, 2009 4:00 AM  
Blogger Digart said...

My idea is old indeed, I was teenager when long time ago I used sealed plastic bag to keep flashlight working underwater when hunting for crawfish.
Though now I need it just as survival kit for my new Fuji HD2000 using it when sailing. But may be this can be useful for somebody. Here is illustrated DIY how I made it.

November 13, 2009 9:18 AM  
Blogger Colby said...

Does anyone know where you can get the ABS Plastic. Most of the hardware stores only care PVC which only has rounded end caps


January 21, 2010 2:30 PM  
Blogger Colby said...

Does anyone know where you can get the ABS plastic parts for this project?

January 21, 2010 2:31 PM  
Blogger inboundCalifornia said... has all the parts for this, I'm attempting to go deeper and mimic this guy's device translated thread
Currently sourcing the curved dome.

July 12, 2010 4:04 PM  
OpenID bryharv said...

so, I just got a pocket wizard mini tt and flex with my canon 430ex II. I want to build this system, but no mention here about the ABS effect on the radio waves used to trigger the remote flash. That leads me to believe this is a non-issue. Is that true? I know NOTHING about how radio waves travel...

January 09, 2011 7:04 PM  
Blogger Aditya said...

You could make the tube longer and put a big battery in there for more flashes. may be fresnel in front will give good polycarbonate sheets

March 11, 2011 1:18 PM  
Blogger Janne said...

Would someone be interested to build and sell two of these? I have been planning to build, but locating materials seem impossible here where i live, Finland.

June 13, 2012 1:40 PM  
Blogger Roel Bobis said...

what pvc pipes do you used for that?

November 26, 2014 8:13 PM  

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