Cerebral Gibberish

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DIY: Spiderlite

Posted by heymoe on June 15th, 2008

Last Updated: 6/26/2008 (See the Updates section towards the bottom)

I recently started to experiment with off camera lighting and in order to try and save money I thought I would try and build my own version of a Spiderlite TD5 which are made by Westcott for $364.00. The speaker at a recent seminar I attended seemed to think highly of the these fixtures, granted I’m pretty sure this was due to Westcott sponsoring the event. None the less, they seemed to be flexible from a lighting point of view and the design seemed to be pretty basic.

The goal of my design was to build a Spiderlite all from off-the-shelf parts while needing only basic tools (IE: screw drivers, needle nose pliers, etc..) to assemble it and to provide light controls similar to the Westcott Spiderlite TD5.

After exploring my local home improvement stores for about an hour I was able to find all the parts to build my Spiderlite and this is what it looks likes.

DIY Spiderlite-4891
DIY Spiderlite-4895
DIY Spiderlite-4901
DIY Spiderlite-4893
DIY Spiderlite-4902
DIY Spiderlite-4909

The total cost before taxes and not including the bulbs was $56. Throw in 5x 27w daylight (5500K) compact fluorescent bulbs (which I don’t think are bright enough) and the total comes to $91 before taxes which is a savings of ~$368 over the Westcott Spiderlite TD5 + Westcott TD5 bulbs.

A quick disclaimer before we go any further: I can not be held responsible for any damages, death or anything thing else that could possible go wrong by building this project. You take full responsibility if you should take on this project. As a side note, since I’m new to this type of lighting and have never used it for photography yet, I don’t know how good this design is or if it will do what its suppose to do. I’m sure for it to be useful a softbox will be needed which is the next project I plan to work on. Hopefully I can come up with a simple mounting bracket to attach the softbox to the Spiderlite. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. So now on with the build.

Parts List:
* 1x Leviton Triple Rocker Switch
* 1x Leviton One Gang Wall Plate
* 1x 8ft Light-Duty Replacement Cord
* 1x Single Gang Outlet Box
* 1x Wire Nut
* 1x Round Outlet Box
* 5x Outdoor Lampholder
* 1x 1/2″ Offset Connector
* 1x 10-24 x 1/2 Clamping Knob w/ Male Stud
* 1x 1/2″ Threaded Nipple
* 1x Single Hole Lampholder Cover
* 3/8″ – 1/2″ NM Cable Connector

Below are the pictures of all the parts more or less in the order listed above. I did my shopping at my local Home Depot and Lowes but you should be able to find these parts at any home improvement / electrical store since they seem to be standard items.

DIY Spiderlite-4873
DIY Spiderlite-4874
DIY Spiderlite-4875
DIY Spiderlite-4876

Assembly is pretty straight forward. You should be able to build most, if not all, of the Spiderlite by looking at the fully assembled photos above.

* First take the 1/2″ Threaded Nipple and use it to screw the back of the Single Gang Outlet Box to the back of the Round Outlet Box.

* Next screw 4 of the 5 Outdoor Lampholders into the 4 outer connectors of the Round Outlet Box and adjust them 90 degrees to point forward away from the Single Gang Outlet Box.

* Next screw the 5th Outdoor Lampholder into the Single Hole Lampholder Cover and adjust it to point straight up.

DIY Spiderlite-4881

* Now screw the 1/2″ Offset Connector into one end of the Single Gang Outlet Box. Replace the screw that is included with the 1/2″ Offset Connector with the 10-24 x 1/2 Clamping Knob w/ Male Stud. This will be used to secure the fixture to your stand and also defines the bottom of the fixture.

DIY Spiderlite-4883

At this point you pretty much have the main assembly done. Now we need to get it wired up.

* First screw the 3/8″ – 1/2″ NM Cable Connector into one end of the Single Gang Outlet Box.

* Feed the wire end of the 8ft Light-Duty Replacement Cord through the 3/8″ – 1/2″ NM Cable Connector and securing the cable by tightening the 3/8″ – 1/2″ NM Cable Connector around the cable. Make sure to strip back the cable so it is long enough to feed through into the Round Outlet Box.

DIY Spiderlite-4884

* Feed the white neutral cable from the 8ft Light-Duty Replacement Cord into the Round Outlet Box.

* Use the Wire Nut to connect all 5 white cables from the Outdoor Lampholders and the white cable from the 8ft Light-Duty Replacement Cord together.

DIY Spiderlite-4889

* Connect the hot black cable from the 8ft Light-Duty Replacement Cord to the common terminal on the Leviton Triple Rocker Switch.

DIY Spiderlite-4886

* Now feed the two black cables from diagonal facing Outdoor Lampholders across into the Single Gang Outlet Box and attach then to the middle terminal on the Leviton Triple Rocker Switch.

* Repeat the above step with the other two diagonal facing Outdoor Lampholders and connect them to the bottom terminal on the Leviton Triple Rocker Switch.

* Now feed the black cable from the Outdoor Lampholder that is attached to the Single Hole Lampholder Cover into the Single Gang Outlet Box and secure it to the top terminal of the Leviton Triple Rocker Switch.

DIY Spiderlite-4887

* Next secure the Single Hole Lampholder Cover to the Round Outlet Box

* Then secure the Leviton Triple Rocker Switch to the Single Gang Outlet Box

DIY Spiderlite-4888

* Finally screw Leviton One Gang Wall Plate to the Single Gang Outlet Box

DIY Spiderlite-4885

Now all you have to do is install your bulbs and test it out. This is how the Leviton Triple Rocker Switch controls the lights:

0 lights = All switches Off
1 light = Top switch on (middle light only)
2 lights = Middle (or Bottom) switch on (2 diagonal lights on)
3 lights = Top and Middle (or Bottom) switch on (middle and 2 diagonal lights on)
4 lights = Middle and Bottom switch on (both sets of diagonal lights on)
5 lights = All switches on (all lights on)

DIY Spiderlite-4903
DIY Spiderlite-4904
DIY Spiderlite-4905
DIY Spiderlite-4906
DIY Spiderlite-4907
DIY Spiderlite-4908

Hopefully I’ve provided enough details on how to build this version of a Spiderlite but if there are any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to give you the answer you need. Enjoy!

More Photos Here (PicLens PicLens Button)

: ::UPDATES:: :

* Rob left a comment about needing to be able to mount an umbrella to the Spiderlite. Originally I did not think I had the needed parts but as it turned out my current umbrella mount (Manfrotto 2905/026) came with the necessary spigot adapter. It does look like the standard 27w bulbs are not bright enough when shined through the umbrella. So time to find some brighter bulbs.

DIY Spiderlite-4912
DIY Spiderlite-4913
DIY Spiderlite-4914

* Here are some alternative bulb options:
TEC28942-51 42W CFL (150W Incandescent Equivalent): 2800 Lumens, 5100K Color Temp.
SKQ80EA50 80W CFL (400W Incandescent Equivalent): 5500 Lumens, 5000K Color Temp.
– Reference 27W CFL (100W Incandescent Equivalent): 1300 Lumens, 5500K Color Temp.

* Here are some sample shots using the light without a softbox or umbrella. The shadows are not the best using the light as is but a softbox should clear that up. The light is located about 3 feet from the subjects in all the pictures positioned in this order: Left of Camera, Above Camera and Right of Camera.

DIY Spiderlite-CL-4990
DIY Spiderlite-C-4989
DIY Spiderlite-CR-4980

* I spent some time last weekend building a softbox based on a slightly modified version of this design since I was able to find form core board at my local office supply store a lot easier then coroplast / corrugated plastic. The mounting bracket I came up with does not work as well as I would like so back to the drawing board for that. Here are some samples photos this the work in progress softbox. The shadows look a lot better using the softbox. Feel free to leave a comment with what you think. The light is located about 3 feet from the subjects in all the pictures positioned in this order: Left of Camera and Right of Camera.

DIY Spiderlite-CL-5048
DIY Spiderlite-CR-5049

And using a different subject in the same order.

DIY Spiderlite-CL-5053
DIY Spiderlite-CR-5052

* Here are some pictures of the work in progress softbox. The softbox design is based on this one with the following changes: I lined the inside with silver mylar (IE: emergency survival blanket) and cut a 8" x 8" hole in the back with some wood reinforcements used to mount the Spiderlite to. I’m still working on a better mounting method. The softbox with Spiderlite will attach to a stand which is how i took my other sample shots above but took it down since I have a light weight stand.

DIY Spiderlite-5071
DIY Spiderlite-5072
DIY Spiderlite-5074

25 Responses to “DIY: Spiderlite”

  1. Rob Miracle Says:

    This is a great idea. One suggestion though. You need to have a way to mount an umbrella to the fixture. I know your coming up with a softbox ring, but a translucent shoot through umbrella works pretty well.


  2. heymoe Says:

    I was able to mount the my Spiderlite to my existing umbrella mount (Manfrotto 2905/026) without any problems. No additional hardware was need to make it work. See the updates at the bottom of the post for pictures.

  3. Joseph Hoetzl Says:

    Wow, that could work pretty well!
    I’ve been using my smaller version of a similar DIY product for a while now and am happy with the results. Your idea for mounting looks sturdier than mine – might have to borrow that idea! Also – if you buy the two holders and box as a kit, it is slightly cheaper, then you only need the 3 additional holders.

    As far as softbox mounting – what about a round extension electrical box, behind the lights – drill whatever you need, and use some spray foam with a “form” to route the wires through the center.

    Excellent documentation!

  4. heymoe Says:


    Thanks for the information on buying the kit. I think I saw the kit when I was pulling all the parts together but, if I remember right the, the lampholder cover included in the kit I saw did not have the center mount point just the two sides. I’ll have to look at it again when I’m at the store again. I’ll also take a look at the extension boxes while I’m there too.


  5. Carl Hoetzl Says:


    I’m familiar with Joe Hoetzl’s idea and yours really is icing on the cake. From your photos, it looks like you don’t direct the light into the umbrella with a reflector. This reduces the efficiency of the light source significantly. Since you have an umbrella shaft hole already, try putting the light unit in a 45″ Westcott Round Halo.



  6. heymoe Says:


    Yeah, the fixture installed as pictured with the umbrella does not work all that well. Like you said the light is going in all directions and very little is actually making it through the umbrella. I thought about making a quick cone shaped reflector to bounce more of the light toward the umbrella but have not got around to it. I also figured that building the softbox will have better results then using the umbrella in the long run. Thanks for the info on the Westcott Round Halo. It looks like a quick but not really cheap solution in the grand scheme of things. Maybe another DIY project to work on later.


  7. van johnson Says:

    where did the stand come from? and stock numbers or sku’s would be helpful too…

  8. heymoe Says:

    Hi Van,

    The stand I’m using is a Lowel Uni-TO Light Stand (UN-55) but I’m sure any light stand will work. If you’re asking about the part I’m using that connects the Spiderlite to the stand, its a 1/2″ Offset Connector (#49006) I found at Lowes in the electrical conduit box section. Hope this helps.


  9. Zack Says:

    Great tutorial! I made it yesterday with 100W equivalent daylight-balanced CFLs using parts all from Home Depot–it was $91 AFTER tax. Thing’s giving me great results. Thanks a lot! Now I just need a light stand 😛

  10. heymoe Says:

    Hi Zack,

    I’m glad to hear you found this tutorial helpful and are getting great results from the light. Happy shooting!


  11. Karri Says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I’m going to work on making one this weekend.

  12. Brenda Says:

    I just have a quick question on the tut — the round outlet box and the single gang outlet box that are by the outdoor lamp holders at Lowes are metal outdoor type. The ones in your tut appear to be plastic with no holes in them like the metal ones — is the plastic a better way to go or is it just because it’s lighter? Also you’d have to punch out the holes in the plastic ones right? Thanks so much for your help. Oh also what is the size of the tip on your stand? Is it 1/4″?

  13. heymoe Says:

    Hi Brenda,

    I was initially looking at using the metal boxes but the store I was at didn’t have matching metal boxes. You do have to punch out the holes in the plastic boxes but it’s pretty easy to do with a screw-driver. I have not built one with the metal boxes but I’m sure they will work just as well.

    I’m using the 3/8″ tip on my stand to mount the light to. The offset connector is bigger then the tip so it’s not the most secure setup but works for now.

    I hope this answers your questions. Let me know if you have any others.


  14. Alex Smith Says:

    Gary I owe you the biggest thank you for this blog!

    I’m making my first steps into photography and you just saved me close to a grand on my first lights!

    I can’t wait to get the bulbs I’ve ordered to get to business!

    Highly recommendable and enjoyable project!!

  15. heymoe Says:

    Hi Alex,

    You’re very welcome. I’m just glad others are finding this project helpful.

    Just as a FYI, I’ve heard reports that the bases of some CFL bulbs are a little bigger then the lamp holders will allow so you might have to modify your lamp holders to make them fit.

    Happy Shooting!


  16. Alex Says:

    Thanks for the hint! My bulbs arrived today so I’ll check them out when I get back from work.

    I tried to post images without success. Here are the urls



    Thanks again

  17. heymoe Says:

    They look great!

    Did you run into any problems following my write up or have any tweaks / updates / recommendations that you would like to share?


  18. Alex Says:

    Hi Gary

    The only change I made was accidental but rather convenient. I couldn’t find a single hole lamp holder cover so I went for one with 3 holes. My power cord therefore feeds into the switchbox from underneath. Very vague explanation but you’ll get the gist


  19. Destination Wedding Photographer Says:

    Very nice tutorial w/ great pix all along the way. I was able to build this after looking yours over in just a few hours – I made a mistake by leaving the wires much to short and had to redo them, that and the bulbs didn’t fit down into the deep sockets – so I had to shell out another $23 for socket extenders… that aside, I added two 3/4″ pieces of ply wood cut to about 8″ x 8″ – stacked, glued, fastened together… drilled a hole… mounted the switch box to a 2″ long 1/2″ threaded piece that went thru the plywood into the light housing – so I ended up with a sandwiched bit of plywood which I intend on building into a softbox or justing using it as a mounting surface for brackets – etc. (yes, I considered sawing off the lamp holders to make the bulbs fit better, but didn’t have time this time around)

  20. heymoe Says:

    Glad to hear everything worked out with your build. I like the idea of using the socket extenders as well as sandwiching the bit of plywood between the housing and the switch box to be used for mounting a light box or what not to it.


  21. Composite1 Says:

    I was pointed to your blog from another VM Member and this is a nice looking rig! Now is this a 2 or 3-wire setup? You didn’t show the wall plug so I couldn’t be sure. Are those housings plastic or painted metal? Also, what size watt equivalent bulbs are those? They look like 300w’s but I saw you mentioned 400w’s. If they are 400’s where on earth did you get them? I also think you’ll get more benefit from a softbox than an umbrella. If you could find a ‘Tin Cup’ type reflector large enough, that would go a long way toward directing the unit’s light output. I saw the configuration on how the lights were lit, but you didn’t show how you got 4 configurations with 3 switches. Oh and I took a look at your mounting setup and it looked fairly stable. Is there any ‘braking material’ on the screw or is it metal on metal?

    Great job, I’ll be seriously looking at this design for my next light build.

  22. heymoe Says:

    I used a 2-wire replacement cord though you could use a 3-wire cord if need and connect the ground cable to the switch which should have a spot to connect a ground to. The article has pictures of all the materials I used including the 2-wire cord.

    The bulbs I’m using are 27W CFL (100W Incandescent Equivalent): 1300 Lumens, 5500K Color Temp.. In the article towards the bottom in the UPDATES section I have links to alternative CFL bulbs such as a 42W CFL (150W Incandescent) and a 80W CFL (400W Incandescent).

    Based on reports from others who have built their own DIY: Spiderlite, these larger bulbs have larger bases that won’t screw into the lamp holders so you either need to cut off some of the lamp holder or get socket extenders.

    I did build a large soft-box and have picture of the setup at the very bottom of the article.

    An explanation of how the 3 switches operate to get the different lighting options is listed in the article as well right above the UPDATES section. There are actually 6 modes (off, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 bulbs on)

    The screw for the mount is metal on metal.


  23. andy Says:

    How did you like your monolight….http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/390686-REG/Impact_EX100A_KI_One_Monolight_Kit_.html

    I am planning to buy one….. starting a photo studio….

  24. heymoe Says:

    Hey Andy,

    Sadly I haven’t really done much with the DIY Spiderlite. I’ve been doing a lot more outdoor nature / sport photography lately so hauling around a studio lighting setup hasn’t really been an option. If I do get back to shooting more indoors it looks like the Impack EX100A kit you linked to is a good place to start. It’s been a long time since I looked around at lighting options so I’m sure there are a lot of new products out there now but when I was looking I had my eyes on some AlienBees. Any ways, good luck with getting your studio up and running.. Happy Shooting!


  25. Mike Sweeney Says:

    Cool article.. I’ve done things along the same lines but I have found that 85 watt daylight balanced CFLs with a 7 dollar workshop socket/reflector from Lowes, works really well. You gotta get close with them but they do work.

    Two 85 watt CFLs.. cheap reflectors..F2 at ISO 500

    CFLs are alot of fun to play with and shoot with. They are cheap, relatively cool, lightweight and a bit too blue 🙂

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