PDA

View Full Version : LF camera building from scratch -where to start



dimento
5-Mar-2016, 04:01
I've had an inkling for a few years to build a camera, maybe 11x14 or larger, I'd like to do most if not all the work myself. I'm not in a rush, but here's the catch
I am literally starting from zero, back in school some misguided bureaucrat decided that kids could either take woodwork/technical drawing or French, and as you needed a third language for Uni that's the way I went.

I'd like to learn the basic skills, take my time and build from there, there aren't any camera makers in this part of the country (Cork) although I think there may be a guy somewhere further North, short of apprenticing to a camera maker, is there anywhere else that you guys could suggest.

I suppose, really what I'm asking is, is there anyone else here who started from zero skills (no wood/metal work or similar) and who managed to learn, how did you acquire the skills?

I've never even worked in a workshop setting, I've always taught, worked briefly in a research lab etc.

So how did you acquire the skills, maybe some suggestions for affordable tools and materials to work with. Maybe it's been discussed on the forum before.

All helpful suggestions appreciated, thanks, D

Sean Mac
5-Mar-2016, 05:25
Everyone starts off with zero skills.

Mr. Richard Ritter says that a camera can be built with just a table saw. That makes perfect sense to me but I already have a few routers anyway.

There is surely a joinery shop near you that you might be able to work a "trade for" deal with. Quality images have a real commercial value. Table saws are kind of dangerous and unforgiving so it's better to be taught than learn the hard way.

Adult education courses might give you access to the equipment and let you build what you want.

I have a little project planned for this summer and I'm not too far away if you need help.

Good luck anyway:)

Randy Moe
5-Mar-2016, 07:04
Stay tuned to this thread. A few have already done it. Research here and WWW. I am starting down the same path but I have a head start. I already have Richard Ritter film holders. I consider them the most difficult part to make.

I also know I would hate making bellows. Too much fiddlely work. I now await bellows from far off lands as it seems USA has no suppliers left.

I also have decided on film size.

Look at the problem as baby steps.

#1 Choose sensor material and size. Wet plate, dry plate, film, digital.
#2 Buy or make sensor positioning devices. Holders.
#3 Focus viewing and method of changing the above. GG back, monitor.
#4 Fixed box or adjustable box by slide or bellows. Variable focus.
#5 Anything to hold all the above in position. Camera, box.

I am still sketching, my bellows on the way.

Now I will make a first iteration using crude hand tools and little skill.
I will make something that will work. I am confident.
I will design it so the expensive bits, film holders, bellows and lens can be easily used on the second iteration as I learn.

I am trying to expedite as I want to use it this summer.

I study every DIY and commercial camera I can find online.

The best visual tutorial I have found anywhere is available right on this forum. Look for LFPF member 'Vinny' and click on his website which is at the bottom of his posts. I only viewed it 2 days ago.

Dream and draw a lot.

Jim Fitzgerald
5-Mar-2016, 07:30
I built my 8x20 years ago with mostly hand tools. I'm "visual". I looked at pictures on the web of cameras and copied them and asked a lot of questions. I was in no rush and it took 18 months! Bought holders and bellows. Get a holder first as you will need this to build the back first. Determine the size and weight of lenses you want to use now and in the future. Movements you need and ones you can live without. Read and research a lot.

barnacle
5-Mar-2016, 10:27
As Randy says - get someone else to do the difficult bits.

Everything revolves around the film holder and while you can make one, better if you have one (or more) to start with and make the camera to fit that.

One tip: plywood. Aircraft grade birch is probably best, but anything with a reasonably fine layer thickness will do - at least for the first one, where you'll make all the mistakes so no point spending lots on materials if you can avoid it. The reason for suggesting plywood is that cameras are basically lots of flat sheets with big holes in the middle. If you use plywood, it's strong in all directions while a single sheet of wood has the grain going in the same direction and will split too easily on the short grain.

The alternative is what I've done with my sapele camera; use thin wood strips overlapped at the corners, so the grain always runs along the sides, for strength.

A place to get thin sheets in the UK is SLEC - model aircraft suppliers. They provided my sapele sheets.

Neil

HMG
5-Mar-2016, 13:15
Find an old, retired, woodworker near you. Explain what you want to do and see if he (probably he, but could be she) will work with you. I'll bet it's a mutually fulfilling exercise.

el french
5-Mar-2016, 13:40
I'd say the place to start is on a napkin :) Sketch your plan, then put it into a 3d modeling program (I use Fusion 360). As far as actually building the camera, a Japanese style pull saw will be more efficient and safer than a tablesaw.

John Kasaian
5-Mar-2016, 14:00
I'd hazard to guess that the first thing you'd want tp know is which focal length lens(es) you'll want to use. From that you'll be able to determine the dimensions of the bed & extension(s,) bellows length and lens board size.
A decent start.

B.S.Kumar
5-Mar-2016, 16:50
Maybe start with a simple 4x5 plywood camera with a sliding box for focus, to get some practice cutting wood? An existing Graflok back could be fitted at the back. I think there are lots of plans available on the net.

Kumar

Leszek Vogt
5-Mar-2016, 17:25
You could easily do this even with 2D software = isometric drawing. I've had mech drafting in HS (vo-tech HS) and I did quite well in it. But, when I did the remodel of the house + garage....everyone switched to computer and AutoCAD by then. It took me a while to learn this (+ computer), but I prefer that to having an architect do this....for some serious amount of ca$h.

My woodworking started with a need of creating a table back in 1981. All I had was a crappy jigsaw and Bosch router. Local mill jointed the mahogany boards for me. The table could use a fresh surface (urathane), but it's still strong enough to dance on it.

Wood is great, but some woods tend to cup if improperly joined together. It helps if the wood is properly dried...to average interior moisture level of around 8%. Some woods like mahogany (from Honduras and not Phillipines) or cherry tend to be v. stable....and the reason why many LF cameras were made with such.

Les

Jim Noel
5-Mar-2016, 20:21
If you don't have woodworking knowledge or skills, investigate your local Community College for wood working classes. I have a friend who was shy of the same skills and waned to build a guitar. Last month he shared it with us - a thing of beauty bothin construction and in sound. All his skills were learned at a Community College. He was the only one building a guitar or other string instrument.

Light Guru
5-Mar-2016, 20:49
Find an old, retired, woodworker near you. Explain what you want to do and see if he (probably he, but could be she) will work with you. I'll bet it's a mutually fulfilling exercise.

^^THAT^^

Several years ago I guild a 4x5 from a bulldog kit and because of the crappy MDF they make the kit with the back broke the first time I tried to put in a film holder. I needed to have a new part made from real wood.

To find someone with a wood shop I went to a small hardware shore and asked them for the makes of people with wood shops. So a small mom and pop hardware store is a good place to find someone to teach you woodworking.

barnacle
6-Mar-2016, 00:42
Regarding software: I like free, particularly since for something as complex as CAD programs it can be expensive otherwise to find out whether you can actually get on with the interface, and whether it does what you need or not.

LibreCAD is available for Linux (my choice), Windows, and Mac. The workflow can get a bit confusing to start with, but it's easily learned and while 2D has isometric grid modes so basic 3D drawings are easy. It produces standard DXF files.

Draftsight is also available for Linux and Windows and the last time I looked was free; it's very similar to older versions of Autocad.

For 3D design, Tinkercad is an ideal way to play with shapes and see what fits together. It's not too hot on curves, but since most of the camera parts are basically blocks or sheets stuck together with holes in them, it's great. It outputs STL files which can be passed straight to most 3D printer companies to have parts made in various materials.

Neil

dimento
6-Mar-2016, 02:58
Everyone starts off with zero skills.

Mr. Richard Ritter says that a camera can be built with just a table saw. That makes perfect sense to me but I already have a few routers anyway.

There is surely a joinery shop near you that you might be able to work a "trade for" deal with. Quality images have a real commercial value. Table saws are kind of dangerous and unforgiving so it's better to be taught than learn the hard way.

Adult education courses might give you access to the equipment and let you build what you want.

I have a little project planned for this summer and I'm not too far away if you need help.

Good luck anyway:)

Thanks Sean, might take you up on that, cheers, D

dimento
6-Mar-2016, 03:03
loads of great suggestions, thanks guys, I have a friend who makes Mandolins, so he might be a good place to start. Cheers, D

Steven Tribe
6-Mar-2016, 04:49
I personally think that starting from zero is a long and, probably, demotivating road to take. Even with the best preparation, you will make design and manufacturing mistakes. A question of one step up the ladder, followed by two steps down! In my view, the back, holder fitting and holders that fit are the ultimate challenge! If you must do it, get hold of an orphan back and film/plate holders (and perhaps some other useful parts) and build on these.

Of course, doing it as I suggested (from parts) is pretty difficult with the ULF camera you have in mind. But 12x15" UK cameras in poor condition do appear a couple of times every year (auctions, rather than Ebay). I have a friend who built a 30x40cm camera in Sweden ( Tailboard, little brass and in Walnut) in connection with an evening class in joinery with the right machines available with plenty of professional advice at hand. Beautiful camera, but not that suited to transport.

Drew Bedo
7-Mar-2016, 10:41
This may not be a great suggestion, but:

You could first buy a Kodak 2D or a B&J. It doesn't need to be a museum quality item, just a barely working beater, so it won't be too expensive.

Dissamble this camera and replicate the parts. You will be able to reuse the metal parts or duplicate them. This will give you an understanding of what is needed in your skill and tool sets. Then you can jump into building a ULF camera.

As I said; there may be a better first project strategy, but I think this approach would work.