Easy 6ft Rail Slider for $40

How to easily make a 6ft long Rail Slider for less than $40.

The main component for this is a L.E. Johnson 100PD 6ft pocket door kit. These are available at some local hardware stores and cost about $26. From the kit we will use the rail and the two "tricycle" rollers. The rail and rollers are rated to support doors weighing 125lbs. 

The other components are:

1ea 1/8" x 1.5" x ~6" aluminum bar

2ea 1/4-20 machine screw ~1.5" long

1ea 3/8-16 machine screw as short as possible +nut or washers to shim it 

1ea 1/4" x 3/4" x ~6" aluminum bar OR 8-10 1/4" washers OR 1/4" x 3/4" x ~6" UHMW plastic

(In these pictures it shows the spacer which is actually 1/8" x 1/2" but it was too thin. I didn't make a new one because I went further with the "upgrades" instead.)

Take the two ~ 6" long plates and drill a 3/8 in hole in the center of them. Bolt them together and drill a 1/4" hole ~ 3/4" in from the ends. If you have drill bits that are slightly smaller than 3/8 and 1/4 use those and let the machine scvrews cut threads in the aluminum for a tighter fit. When the screws bottom out, force them further and the threads in the aluminum will strip out leaving a perfectly sized hole. It should look like this.

The 3/8" hole is for the 3/8-16 screw for attaching a tripod head. The smaller holes are for the 1/4-20 x 1.5" screws to mount the rollers. The larger plate is the platform for the camera/tripod head. The smaller plate is a spacer to hold the platform slightly above the rail surface. Assembled it should look like this:

In the above photograph I used a 1/4-20 reducer on the ballhead and a long arca plate mounting screw.

Alternatively, you can use a washer stack instead of the lower shim bar.


But if I were going to do this again I would use the UHMW plastic as it is a tough and slippery material similar to PTFE. Ideally I would get a piece 1" wide and sand/file it down to width for a nice fit in the rail to help eliminate some play. It costs a couple dollars per foot from McMaster-Carr.

THAT'S IT! You're Done!

You simply slide the dolly into the rail and mount your camera!

You can simply attach a couple tripod head mounting plates to the rail using 1/4-20 nuts and fender washers to secure them. It is important to use as large of a fender washer (~ 1.5") as possible to prevent flexiing. The rail is designed to support a 150lb door suspended from it and it works even better if you suspend the camera from the rail. But this means your camera will be upside down (not a big deal if you use a remote release) or you will need to use a lens with a rotating lens collar.

The $10 upgrade:

The basic rail has a bit of play in it and is really only suitable for still images or stop action video. To remove the play and provide variable tension you can add another pair of #1120 rollers.

Simply drill out the threads on the upper rollers using a 1/4" drill bit and remove the 1/4" shim. The dolly is then placed so that the lower rollers are inside the track and the upper rollers are outside clamping the rail between them. The clamping force is adjustable by tightening the roller mounting screws. Now the play is removed and the rail is suitable for video.

The $35 upgrade.

You can purchase #1125 rollers from L.E. Johnson instead of the #1120 rollers that come in the kit (in this case, don't buy the "kit"). These use sealed roller bearings and are rated for 200lbs. They roll smoother and have less play in them.

(In this picture you can see the 3/8-16 bolt/nut being used as intended)


The $15 adjustable feet.

If you don't want to mount the rail on tripods you can easily make a set of adjustable feet. To do this you need:

2ea 3/4" square aluminum box tubing of the desired length. I used two 1' pieces.

2ea 1/4-20 screws ~1.5" long with nuts/wing nuts and 1" diameter fender washers.

4ea 1/4-20 well nuts

4ea 1/4-20 carriage bolts of the desired length

8ea 1/4-20 wing nuts


4ea 1/4-20 nuts

4ea small chair leg caps

First drill 1/4" holes through both ends and the center of the 3/4" box tubing. Then drill out one side of the end holes to 1/2" (or slightly smaller).

The center hole is for mounting the feet to the rail with the 1/4-20 screws and fender washers. You could use wing nuts instead of regular nuts for easier assmbly/disassembly. The outer holes are for the feet. 

In the side that was drilled out to 1/2" insert the well nuts. Since the nuts are not being used "as designed" we are using friction to hold them in place. I used a bit of silicoln adhesive to help. The well nuts are rubber and can act as feet if the adjustable legs are left out.

The 1/4-20 carriage bolts are our adjustable legs. Screw the carriage bolts in from the bottom and thru the 1/4" hole in the other side of the box tubing. Next thread a 1/4-20 wing nut onto the bolt and then add a second wing nut. The second (top) wing nut is for adjusting the height of the legs. It can be secured in place with superglue/locktite or the optional 1/4-20 nuts (I used the nuts). The first (lower) wing nuts lock the legs in place and remove play (there are regular nuts shown in the picture).  You can add the optional chair leg caps over the carriage bolt heads to protect surfaces if you want. It should look like this:

The $2.50 upgrade.

Part #1155 track stops to prevent the roller from leaving the rail.

The whole Kahuna!

Here is a 9ft rail slider (OK, it's 8' 10") with all of the upgrades; 1125 sliders and 1155 stops. All of the nuts/screws/washers are stainless steel. It has the adjustable feet which bolt on in place of the arca swiss plates. Total cost ~$135.00! You can't buy a commercial rail slider of this length for less than around $600.00. And it is EASY to make!

L.E. Johnson does sell rails up to 16ft (it's only $60) but you have to pay freight shipping ($125). So, you could make a rail slider 16ft long for around $250.00 if you really wanted.

Now you're all set to shoot video or some great stop motion animation like this

FaceBook  Twitter