In an effort to improve the characteristics of my new Losmandy GM-8 mount, but more likely just because I can't leave well enough alone, I decided to alter the feet a bit on the stock LW tripod in the same way I've done with regular camera tripods...though those alterations weren't quite so sporty.
While they do a great job of pitching and rolling the stock feet are a bit narrow for the desert where solid rock can give way to quicksand in a matter of inches. There's also the theory that putting the feet on a bit of rubber helps calm vibrations.
The original plan seemed easy enough. Get three hockey pucks, carve out an area the same size and shape as a foot with something like a Dremel tool, slip the pucks under the feet when setting up and observe happily ever after. I found white hockey pucks! I figured they would show up better in the dark. I have never seen these before. They are for training goalies. We used to train the goalie by beating the crap out of him with the regular black pucks when I was a kid. These pucks would have made that a lot easier.
After an extended period of time, and trying a reasonably complete sample
of Dremel bits, above was as far as I got. It's a bit more chewed up than
it should have been because I started to just try random things to see if
I could make some decent progress. They didn't work. After this I'm not sure
hockey pucks are even made of rubber. It seemes to be some substance dreamt
up by the Devil...or Canadians. I was thinking of going down about 1/4".
I almost got down about 1/8"...in spots.
Now I know why I bought four pucks.
I contacted Losmandy to see if I could order a set of feet. Scott Losmandy got back to me. He was on vacation. I told him to stop reading his email. He said that no one had ever wanted them before, but yup, they had them. Once Ms. Tanya got them safely in the mail I proceeded with Plan B. I'm a fan of plausable deniablility when things go wrong. "Look! They're fine. I didn't screw up any tripod feet while doing something stupid. Where did you hear that??"
Plan B avoided all of the ugly carving nonsense and had the pucks bolted straight to the feet. I originally wanted to use two holes per puck to keep things from spinning, but couldn't find enough of the bolts in town that I wanted to use. I drilled 5/16" holes (11/64" actually) through each foot and then through the puck for that foot. I sort of countersunk the hole for the head of the bolt by drilling with a larger bit, but I didn't have one large enough to do it right.
I finished enlarging the countersunk area with my pocket knife.
The 5/16"-18 1-1/2" flat hex head bolts reached through the pucks and up into the nylock nuts just the right distance. I over-tightened the nuts a bit. I wanted to make sure that the bolt heads were pulled up into the bottom of the pucks to keep them from scratching something like a wooden floor, and I wanted to make sure everything was tight so the pucks wouldn't spin. How embarassing would THAT be!? I threw a little Super Glue on the bottom of the piece of foam rubber on the bottom of each foot then bolted it all together to help. I was going to use stainless steel bolts, but they were properly 1-1/2" long. These black alloy ones were improperly a bit short, but that worked out overall. If the end of the bolt sticks out of the top of the nut too far it will start running into things that it shouldn't.
One thing I noticed when I took the feet apart was that the 1/4"-20 3/4" bolts that act like pins for the foot to tilt on, and that bear the brunt of the 100 pound weight limit of the tripod, reached JUST BARELY from the hole on the outside of the lower section of the leg to the hole on the inside. That didn't seem right. The two bolts on either side of each foot, that are the same as the pin bolt, keep that pin bolt in place, and a couple of them on my tripod were loose. The pin is not threaded into anything. It's free to work its way out. Only the friction of screwing the two side bolts against the pin bolt keeps two side bolts tight and this pin in place. It all made me a bit nervous, so I replaced the three pin bolts with ones that were 1" long which is plenty to get all of the way through, and then some. I also put a drop of medium Loctite on the side bolts. Now I'll be able to sleep better at night.
Finished product. Together they look like a small drum set. Nice.
Sigh. Now all of the tripods in the neighborhood are going to want a set. I'm not sure how much vibration damping these hockey pucks will provide -- they're not very springy -- but with the weight of the tripod, the mount and two telescopes they might become springy enough to do some good. However, even the small amount of surface area increase (about double in this case) will help out when the ground is sandy. They'll also help keep the bottom of the legs out of the dirt and moisture. In addition they look cool, don't add to the trip hazard rating of the tripod, and are attached, so I'm not likely to pack up everything and forget them.
2016-01-19: Got the new feet from Losmandy. They come with a hole pre-drilled. Must be for anchoring them to one of those Y-shaped trolly thingys? They have the same short pin bolt.