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View Full Version : Building a ULF 14 x 17 to 20 x 24 Camera



Jim Fitzgerald
8-Mar-2015, 21:43
First off let me say that I do not have many plans for the cameras I build. To date I have built in order an 8 x 20, 11 x 14, 14 x 17, 8 x 10 and another 14 x 17- 20 x 24. Yes, two 14 x 17's. Each camera was a different design and the reason I built the second 14 x 17 was two fold. First someone gave me a bellows from a process camera so that helped and two I found that my tail board design 14 x 17 was a bit difficult to use in the field.

I used the Phillips/Chamonix design for this camera. Now I have to thank Tracy Storer for the idea to use 80/20 extruded aluminum. Tracy used some of it to build a stand for his 20 x 24 camera I believe and I never forgot about the stuff. My friend Vinny Walsh suggested I get a mini mill and it is a great tool so thank's Vinny. I'll talk more about the 80/20 as we go and how you can use it alone and not laminate the walnut to it.

I wish to thank Haas from Chamonix and Hugo for helping me get the focusing screw. It is really nice to have as my arms are not long enough to focus using a traditional front focus knob.

I'll list the dimensions at some point in this thread and I'll add to it as I get my head around the steps involved. I'll go into some detail and I hope the images will help explain a lot. It weights just under 30 lbs.

One thing you must have in building a camera is patience. You do not need a fancy shop full of tools although I do have one now. My 8 x 20 was built with very few tools but a lot of passion in my one bedroom apartment! Don't tell me you can't do it too!

So I'll start with some finished images and go from there.

Carl J
8-Mar-2015, 21:52
Jim, very inspirational. Looking forward to more photos and description of the process (when you can manage the time). Would be very interesting, if possible, to see the extruded aluminum frame underlying it all. Was it hard learning how to work with the 'mini mill'?

Thank you!

Hugo Zhang
8-Mar-2015, 21:54
Jim,

Very nice camera! Are you going to bring it to the Joshua Tree in three weeks? Can't wait to hike with you again!

Hugo

Jim Fitzgerald
8-Mar-2015, 21:55
So I always start with a crazy idea. I was moving stuff around in the camera storage room and I saw the bellows and as my significant other was over seas still I decided I needed something to keep me busy. After all I had all of these great shop tools waiting to be used. First off I do a lot of research on designs and find images on the net to use as my guides. I then customize it to my needs. I designed the camera's size around the bellows.
The frame is built from 80/20 extruded aluminum and it was constructed in less than a day. I got all of the stuff I needed from McMaster Carr and some off of the net. The frame as you can see is built around the Chamonix design. The center focusing guide is a great thing.

Jim Fitzgerald
8-Mar-2015, 21:58
Jim, very inspirational. Looking forward to more photos and description of the process (when you can manage the time). Would be very interesting, if possible, to see the extruded aluminum frame underlying it all. Was it hard learning how to work with the 'mini mill'?

Thank you!

Carl, the mini mill was not hard to learn at all. Like a router that you can guide very easily and see what you are doing. I used it on metal with the proper bits and wood with my router bits. Cost me about a grand new.

Jim Fitzgerald
8-Mar-2015, 21:59
Jim,

Very nice camera! Are you going to bring it to the Joshua Tree in three weeks? Can't wait to hike with you again!

Hugo

Hugo, this is the same camera I had at out get together in November. I can't make JT as June and I are busy at that time, sorry.

Jim Fitzgerald
8-Mar-2015, 22:05
The hardest part of working with the 80/20 for this was figuring out the right thickness to get and drilling the holes for the connectors. My first go with drilling the holes I was not deep enough so I had to take it apart and drill deeper. I made the base, the front upright, the side rails that support the back and the back frame from the 80/20.

Jim Fitzgerald
8-Mar-2015, 22:11
The connectors and various parts from McMaster Carr but your local hardware store has plenty to offer.

I also found the Deardorff guy on the web to be a great resource. I wanted to use stainless and brushed nickle for the build. The door push pads are great for cutting into small pieces for various parts.

More a little later!

Randy Moe
8-Mar-2015, 22:49
Very exciting. I have been thinking I need a 14x17 Field camera.

Thanks for letting us watch your build!

John Jarosz
9-Mar-2015, 06:09
80/20 extruded structural aluminum is wonderful stuff. McMaster has it all but they are expensive. A lot of it is sold on ebay. Just search there for 80/20

Using 80/20 for ULF cameras is a perfect application Jim.

John

Michael Roberts
9-Mar-2015, 06:16
The finished camera looks beautiful, Jim.

I agree with Carl--very inspirational--and thanks for the insights into new methods and materials, too!

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 06:42
80/20 extruded structural aluminum is wonderful stuff. McMaster has it all but they are expensive. A lot of it is sold on ebay. Just search there for 80/20

Using 80/20 for ULF cameras is a perfect application Jim.

John

John, you are right. McMaster is high on pricing. I got many things from e-bay which was overstock from 80/20's site. Now I was a bit extreme with this build. For the next camera that I build when I retire this year I'd like to do anodized aluminum and Walnut where needed. I think a black frame and Walnut would look great and also cut down some weight. The nice thing about the 80/20 is it is very rigid.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 06:47
The finished camera looks beautiful, Jim.

I agree with Carl--very inspirational--and thanks for the insights into new methods and materials, too!

Michael, thanks. I know that when I build another camera I will use the 80/20 for the structure. It is easy to work with and very solid. When you go big like this you need a solid base. The camera is awesome to use. If you noticed I added a bail back which was very easy to do.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 07:07
My purpose with all of this is to give ideas to others who may wish to build a camera. You do not need a big shop although it goes faster if you have one. I was lucky in that the new place we are renting has a nice big garage that I can use. I put all of my stations on wheels so I can back the car out and get to work.

With that said my first camera was built with a minimum of tools. Drill, Dremel, Dovetail saw and plenty of passionate sweat equity. This was built in my one bedroom apartment. I've done some revisions to the camera now that I have the shop but nothing major. I must say though that the Mini Mill is sweet!

The thing is you need to do a lot of research as to what fits your needs as a photographer. My 8 x 10 and the latest 14 x 17-20 x 24 are the same design. The others are all different. For field use the Chamonix design works great, for me.

Like I said before I use minimal plans because I am a visual person so I went to the website and got images, visited my friend Tri to see his 14 x 17 and 20 x 24 Chamonix's and took some measurements.

The hardest things I feel in building a camera are the bellows and the back. You have to have a film holder to design the back. Now building film holders requires some fine woodworking skills that I don't have yet. As I get more into this when I retire I will try my hand at bellows and film holders.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 07:52
The camera frame is built with 80/20 extruded aluminum. You can source it here http://www.ebay.com/itm/370227288701?_trksid=p2060778.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT. This size is just right. The frame was then covered with 1/8 Walnut. This took time to cut all of the wood and match it up but was worth it. You could build this camera much faster without doing this but I have this thing for Walnut and I have a lot of stock. With my new bandsaw and tools it was also a learning experience using the new tools. Cutting the strips of Walnut down was easy. Good tools are nice to use.

So the back will support a 20 x 24 horizontal format but I have a reducing back on now as I only have 14 x 17 holders. This was easy to do as I have a Century 8A that I used as my design for the back. I have holders so the film plain was not hard to figure out. Just take your time with this measurement and you will be fine.

The extension bed was a nice idea I thought. I found a piece that glides along the center rail that has special shims that you add so it remains tight and smooth. To this I attached my bed which was laminated from different Walnut species that interlocked for strength. It rides very smoothly in the top rails that support this structure. The focusing screw is attached to the underside and it is a joy to use. I've got about 34" of extension. My longest lens is my 30" Artar. I have a 24" Artar, a 14 x 17 to 16 x 20 New York Lens Company Portrait Group Lens, and my French 14 x 17 Mulholland and Sharp lens to round out the kit. These are all wonderful lenses for this kit and I even use the Brass ones for portraits in the field.

sanking
9-Mar-2015, 11:53
Jim,

Congratulations, beautiful work. Having built a few cameras and film holders myself I know that this work can be addicting!! There is nothing quite like the smell of sawdust, freshly cut wood.



Sandy

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 12:07
Sandy, thanks. I must say that the 4 S&S 14 x 17 Walnut Holders that I have for this system sure do look nice with the camera

Vaughn
9-Mar-2015, 14:05
Must be great having more room to work in (and to fill with tools)!!! In the photos I did notice a possible safety problem -- it looks like you might be blocking quick and easy access to your beer. Be aware of that...

John Jarosz
9-Mar-2015, 14:50
Jim, I'm sorry but that workshop is waaay too clean. Could you mess it up a little for the next photos? :D

john

Carl J
9-Mar-2015, 16:53
Thanks, Jim, for the text and photos. I don't think you mentioned (I might have missed it or you might have mentioned in another post) weight, and about how much might be saved without the walnut? One of the few other cameras built with 80/20 I've noticed is Michael Shindler's 14x17 wetplate portrait camera (more traditional tailboard-like design) but this gives some nice insight into how one might work with that material.

You have a very impressive looking shop (and I do appreciate your encouraging words that it can be done with fewer tools)!

Carl

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 17:02
Must be great having more room to work in (and to fill with tools)!!! In the photos I did notice a possible safety problem -- it looks like you might be blocking quick and easy access to your beer. Be aware of that...

My brother that will never happen. Now one of the freezers is for film and the fridge is well for beer and dead water!!! I'll have to get a photo of that.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 17:06
Jim, I'm sorry but that workshop is waaay too clean. Could you mess it up a little for the next photos? :D

john

John, I have no choice but to keep it clean as I have to keep my car in there as well! I bought my dream car last November.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 17:17
I built a solid Walnut Tailboard 14 x 17 camera as well and it is about the same weight. If I did not do the lamination's I'm thinking I'd save about 3 lbs. Now remember this camera will allow me to do 20 x 24. So 27 LBS. for a 20 x 24 is not bad.

The reason I'm posting this is to dispel any thoughts that it can't be done unless you have a shop. Yes it is faster with a shop full of tools. My first camera the 8 x 20 took 18 months! Almost all with hand tools. This camera was started on the 21st of July and finished on the 12th of October. So 81 days from start to finish.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 20:15
So I've been asked how big is it? The camera at full extension is 36". The width of the rear is 28", Height at the rear is 25 1/2", Front Standard is 19" high and 12" wide. Lens boards are 9"x 9" and I have a Packard shutter mounted to a reducing board that takes 6" x 6" lens boards. The weight is 30 LBS.

Folded it is 28"x 10"x 22". It fits into my Kondos Canoe pack for transport either on my back or in my double wide jogging stroller.

Add the lenses and four holders and misc and you have some weight to deal with but when you see a 14 x 17 carbon print it is all good!

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 20:28
The hinges for the back were from Rockler and are Lid Stay Torsion hinges. I used the 15 Inch-Pound hinges and these are great for a ULF camera. I have them bolted into the frame via a special box I made from 80/20. The detail shot shows a hinge and the detail of the wood leaves something to be desired when it comes to the joinery. The hinges are 25.00 a piece and worth it as they are very solid. Having the front standard built from the 80/20 allows me to use some heavy brass lenses. I currently have my big Brassies mounted on 10" boards for the Century 8A but the front standard can handle some serious weight.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Mar-2015, 20:30
The camera and the backpack!

Fr. Mark
10-Mar-2015, 21:59
Nice work and thanks for sharing. I'm STILL building an 8x10 Around a huge projector lens and a desire for enough bellows to get 1:1 or a little bigger with an 18" lens. This is no back packer. It was also designed around left over marine plywood from my son's boat project and other scrap wood. Tools: radial arm saw and dado head, drill, chisels, low angle plane. Inconsistency in the alignment of the RA saw lead to much hand fitting of parts...some other day will start a thread and post pictures. Point is, with patience, and a lot of it, LF cameras can be built w/ minimal tools.

StoneNYC
10-Mar-2015, 22:16
Where does one get 14x17 ground glass at a reasonable price?

Jim Fitzgerald
11-Mar-2015, 05:17
Where does one get 14x17 ground glass at a reasonable price?

Stone, thanks for bringing this up. I used a piece of acrylic for the ground glass. I went to Lowe's and got a roll of window frost which is like window tint but it is a translucent material that gives me a fairly bright image on the GG. I like this because it is light and if it ever breaks I should not have shards of glass in the bellows which may destroy it. I had the store cut it to size and the frost is easy to apply.

Jim Fitzgerald
11-Mar-2015, 05:18
Nice work and thanks for sharing. I'm STILL building an 8x10 Around a huge projector lens and a desire for enough bellows to get 1:1 or a little bigger with an 18" lens. This is no back packer. It was also designed around left over marine plywood from my son's boat project and other scrap wood. Tools: radial arm saw and dado head, drill, chisels, low angle plane. Inconsistency in the alignment of the RA saw lead to much hand fitting of parts...some other day will start a thread and post pictures. Point is, with patience, and a lot of it, LF cameras can be built w/ minimal tools.

Nice to see that you are not held back by not having the perfect tools. Way to go. Also re-purposing materials is a great thing.

StoneNYC
11-Mar-2015, 06:43
Stone, thanks for bringing this up. I used a piece of acrylic for the ground glass. I went to Lowe's and got a roll of window frost which is like window tint but it is a translucent material that gives me a fairly bright image on the GG. I like this because it is light and if it ever breaks I should not have shards of glass in the bellows which may destroy it. I had the store cut it to size and the frost is easy to apply.

Acrylic, do I just use that word? "Hi I would like to buy a piece of transparent acrylic please"?

jon.oman
11-Mar-2015, 07:41
Jim,

Do you have an image of the focusing mechanism? How is it attached? How does it work?

Thanks!

Jim Fitzgerald
11-Mar-2015, 08:09
Jim,

Do you have an image of the focusing mechanism? How is it attached? How does it work?

Thanks!

Jon, I'm. At work right now and I'll. Check it out when I. Get home. In the meantime check out my good friend Vinny Walshs' website as he has images of how it is attached.

Jim Fitzgerald
11-Mar-2015, 08:15
Acrylic, do I just use that word? "Hi I would like to buy a piece of transparent acrylic please"?

Stone, you get a sheet of clear acrylic and have them cut it to size. Then find the window frost. Ill try to find the link and post it.

Joe Smigiel
11-Mar-2015, 12:43
Frosted acrylic is also available. I replaced the glass on a homemade 8x10 box camera and it was OK.

Another cheap route in a pinch is translucent Magic tape on regular glass or clear acrylic sheet I guess.

Jim Fitzgerald
11-Mar-2015, 13:23
Frosted acrylic is also available. I replaced the glass on a homemade 8x10 box camera and it was OK.

Another cheap route in a pinch is translucent Magic tape on regular glass or clear acrylic sheet I guess.

Joe, thanks for that. So many great ideas. Greatly appreciated.

Fr. Mark
11-Mar-2015, 19:11
You can frost glass by sanding it with grey wet dry sand paper or even 220 garnet paper. Or loose carundum powder.
I've often wondered why people use glass when acrylic aka lexan, plexiglas, is more breakage resistant and lighter.
I suspect it is because glass is much more rigid and in modern times, very, very flat.
My 8x10 currently has a glass ground glass but due to the scraps of glass and wood I used to make the holder for the glass, it really only shows 1/2 plate right.
I have plans to make another that properly displays 8x10 and it will be from salvaged acrylic.
Tracing paper, waxed paper could also be used but are v. fragile.
Anybody a Star Trek fan? Where do I get transparent Aluminum?

Michael Roberts
4-May-2015, 17:01
Jim,
Would you please give me some details on the rear frame bracket and knobs? I'm planning a new 12x or 14x20, and this is the only thing holding me up. Your rear brackets look like they are made of walnut--are they? Or are they aluminum and walnut?

I presume the knob and related hardware can simply be loosened and tightened to open/close the camera--but what is the inside part of this--how is it connected to the bracket??

Thanks!

Michael

Jim Fitzgerald
4-May-2015, 17:49
Michael, I'll have to find the info on the 80/20 that I used for this. Basically the arm is aluminum 80/20 that has been covered with Walnut. I slotted it on my mill. The base is a frame of this aluminum and the pivot it attached via a t like nut that runs in the 80/20 track. Same with the arm at the top where the Knob is. The rear frame is the same aluminum covered in Walnut and I drilled a hole where the arm is attached and inside is a t nut in the track. I tightened it down and then ran the bolt for the knob through the front. I hope this helps and I may have not explained it well enough. I'll try and get some close ups of this area and find the 80/20 parts that I used to show you.

Michael Roberts
4-May-2015, 17:59
Yeah, what I'm wondering is what is holding the t-nut in place? Does it square up against the 80/20 track so that it does not spin? Did you weld or solder it in place?

I found some locking rivet nuts at McMaster-Carr that might work. Just wondering if you can tip me to what you found since it seems to be working well for you.

Thanks,
Michael

Jim Fitzgerald
4-May-2015, 18:36
Yeah, what I'm wondering is what is holding the t-nut in place? Does it square up against the 80/20 track so that it does not spin? Did you weld or solder it in place?

I found some locking rivet nuts at McMaster-Carr that might work. Just wondering if you can tip me to what you found since it seems to be working well for you.

Thanks,
Michael

Michael, the nut slide inside the u shaped track of the 80/20 and is formed to lock in place when it is tightened. I'll have to find the picture of it to show you. Give me some time.

Randy Moe
4-May-2015, 19:02
Michael, the nut slide inside the u shaped track of the 80/20 and is formed to lock in place when it is tightened. I'll have to find the picture of it to show you. Give me some time.

I think Jim means this, http://www.ebay.com/itm/80-20-10-Series-Bolt-Kit-20-x-BHSCS-Econ-T-Nut-Part-3393-25-pcs-N-/370565940980?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item56477386f4

This seller has a lot of track. I plan on following Jim's plan one day, but now I just research...

Tracy Storer
4-May-2015, 19:07
Lexan is Polycarbonate, Plexiglas is Acrylic. Polycarbonate is tougher, but scratches more easily.
Lexan and Plexiglas are trade names, like Perspex in the UK, which if I'm not mistaken, is Acrylic.
Each material has it's own characteristics. I have used Acrylic focusing screens in ULF cameras for 30 years, starting with the original Polaroid 20x24s, and continuing with my own productions.


You can frost glass by sanding it with grey wet dry sand paper or even 220 garnet paper. Or loose carundum powder.
I've often wondered why people use glass when acrylic aka lexan, plexiglas, is more breakage resistant and lighter.
I suspect it is because glass is much more rigid and in modern times, very, very flat.
My 8x10 currently has a glass ground glass but due to the scraps of glass and wood I used to make the holder for the glass, it really only shows 1/2 plate right.
I have plans to make another that properly displays 8x10 and it will be from salvaged acrylic.
Tracing paper, waxed paper could also be used but are v. fragile.
Anybody a Star Trek fan? Where do I get transparent Aluminum?

Michael Roberts
4-May-2015, 20:06
Jim, no worries. Between your description and Randy's link, I think I've got it.

Thanks!

Jim Fitzgerald
4-May-2015, 20:07
I think Jim means this, http://www.ebay.com/itm/80-20-10-Series-Bolt-Kit-20-x-BHSCS-Econ-T-Nut-Part-3393-25-pcs-N-/370565940980?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item56477386f4

This seller has a lot of track. I plan on following Jim's plan one day, but now I just research...

Randy, I just got back from my workout and I'll look for the links. That is one type of connector but that is the idea. If I knew how to anodize I might try one in black aluminum and stainless steel.

Steven Tribe
5-May-2015, 00:34
This is all very interesting, but I still don't understand why all Jim's building projects are placed here in ULF Cameras rather than the DIY section. There is an awful lot of material/process information and discussion which is just as relevant for building 8x10" and smaller cameras. Sorry to break into the discussion!

Michael Roberts
5-May-2015, 05:24
Steven, you make a good point, but I don't think we are going to get perfect classification of threads. Over in the Image Sharing Forum, there are separate threads for 5x7, landscape, flowers, etc. So, someone could post a 5x7 landscape in the 5x7 thread or in the landscape thread, etc. Likewise, this sidebar discussion could be taking place in the Feedback forum....

I appreciate Jim making this information available, wherever it is placed.

Jim Fitzgerald
5-May-2015, 06:57
Steven & Michael thanks. I just build cameras because I love to. I know that this one because it is a 14 x 17 belongs here but I agree it could go here and in the DIY camera building section as well. I haven't checked where my 8 x 10 build went but I would assume it would be in the camera building DIY section. 4 of my 5 camera builds are ULF so at least I know where to put them should I decide.

Jim Fitzgerald
5-May-2015, 07:14
So for anyone interested, here is the link to the 80/20 that I used for the 14 x 17 - 20 x 24 that I built the frame, front standard, rear frame and rear tilt arms with. If you look at the slot in the channel Michael they have a T type nut that fits in there and when tightened is very stable.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/370227288701?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT