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Thread: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to treat?

  1. #1

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    Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to treat?

    I have a Century Master Studio camera that I am cleaning up. The bellows are in good shape, just really filthy from being in storage for decades. It is a red bellows, kind of rigid. I am not 100% sure, but I am thinking it is a synthetic material made to look like leather. Slight grain. Anybody know what it is made of? My guess we are talking about 1930-ish, give or take a few.

    I cleaned the bellows as best as possible with diluted Murphy's Oil Soap (which I have found to work well on both synthetics or leather), and a soft hand towel and q-tips. Worked pretty well for all except the darkest dirt stains. Is there a safe cleanser that I could use to readdress those tough stains? Or, just leave it as is, which is the approach I am leaning towards.

    Then, I would like to condition/polish the bellows to bring out the red nicely, and perhaps add some additional years to this bellows. What I use would depend on the material it's made from. Any ideas? I've heard that Pledge has been used with success on synthetics. I have been thinking that beeswax very lightly applied and then dry polished might be good for either leather or synthetic. Howard Feed-N-Wax is a very soft wax that could be applied with a cotton ball, then buffed a bit with an old tee shirt.

  2. #2

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    Re: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to tr

    If you have determined your bellows are actually leather, this is your lucky day.

    The magic stuff for leather bellows is known as "Horween Venetian Shoe Cream". This has been made for by the same company in Chicago for over 100 years and is used universally for everything by fanatics on shell cordovan shoes and swanky caddy's on high-buck golf bags. The objective is to softens the leather without blocking its pores and build a natural, lasting shine. It works unlike many cleansers that contain some form of wax, which Pledge certainly does.

    Good luck - and remember, test first and a little goes a long way.

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    Re: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to tr

    I used 303 Protectant to restore the red bellows on my Master. I think it is some type of vinyl.
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    Re: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to tr

    Thank you much. Sounds like great stuff, and I have other bellows that I know I will definitely use this on. Still have not determined what the red Century Master bellows is made of as of yet, though.


    Quote Originally Posted by carverlux View Post
    If you have determined your bellows are actually leather, this is your lucky day.

    The magic stuff for leather bellows is known as "Horween Venetian Shoe Cream". This has been made for by the same company in Chicago for over 100 years and is used universally for everything by fanatics on shell cordovan shoes and swanky caddy's on high-buck golf bags. The objective is to softens the leather without blocking its pores and build a natural, lasting shine. It works unlike many cleansers that contain some form of wax, which Pledge certainly does.

    Good luck - and remember, test first and a little goes a long way.

  5. #5

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    Re: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to tr

    Lovely looking camera. 303, huh? I have an auto supply store near me. Bet they have it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Shiu View Post
    I used 303 Protectant to restore the red bellows on my Master. I think it is some type of vinyl.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	a5.jpg 
Views:	35 
Size:	48.9 KB 
ID:	113507
    Jon

  6. #6

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    Re: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to tr

    Replacement red bellows were available from Burke and James all the way through the 1960's, so you'll find very old cameras that were still earning a work-a-day living with the infamous red whatever it is bellows. My 9a not only has the red bellows it has the battleship gray paint and the ugly plasticcy gray knobs. Maybe a 1965 model.

    Silk purse out of a sow's ear. I always just make pictures with them no matter how ugly they look. I bought a new black bellows from that guy that sells bellows on ebay for my English Century 7. Waste of money.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  7. #7

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    Re: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to tr

    It sounds like your question really is one of distinguishing leather from some synthetic.

    If you remove one of the frames, you may get access to a free edge from which you can very carefully trim a sliver. Drop it into an old spoon that has been heated to 400 F or so and the smell should give you then answer. (Also, practically any of the non-leather candidates would be a thermoplastic, so if it melts, it isn't leather.)

    There are a few other simple tests that would allow you to narrow down the range of polymers, if you really care, but I'm not sure just how useful that would be in the absence of a good knowledge of polymer chemistry and the exact formulations of the many candidate cleaners.

    I have the impression that many of the early cameras with red bellows used goatskin; I have a Kodak 2D with nearly pristine red bellows, and it really looks like some kind of leather, anyway.

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    Re: Century Master Studio camera question; what is the bellows made of, and how to tr

    I'm 99.9% certain this bellows is man-made material. I agree with Jon Shiu that it is a vinyl-like material. I went to the local Auto Zone to see if they had 303, but they didn't. Instead I got something called Mother's VLR (vinyl, leather, rubber) cleaner and conditioner. I applied it to a soft cotton rag, rubbed it on and quickly dried and buffed with a second dry cotton rag. It dries very quickly. The bellows now has a rich, low luster shine. No stickiness or greasiness. Looks great. Subtle, pleasant odor too. Its supposed to have lanolin and neatsfoot oil in it, which I guess would be good for leather, but for vinyl I would think it would be more of a topical treatment without any negative affects. Especially if dried and buffed quickly. Anyway, for this kind of bellows, it seems to work very nicely.

    I'll post some pictures after I clean up the rest of the camera. I'm not doing a full restoration, and not dissembling either. Just a very light buffing with Howards Feed-N-Wax and 0000 steel wool. Which, in my experience, is a good combination for a lot of vintage wood furniture. It removes dirt and offers a nice luster. You need a lot of clean dry cotton rags on hand to wipe off the wax and buff the surfaces.



    Quote Originally Posted by Harold_4074 View Post
    It sounds like your question really is one of distinguishing leather from some synthetic.

    If you remove one of the frames, you may get access to a free edge from which you can very carefully trim a sliver. Drop it into an old spoon that has been heated to 400 F or so and the smell should give you then answer. (Also, practically any of the non-leather candidates would be a thermoplastic, so if it melts, it isn't leather.)

    There are a few other simple tests that would allow you to narrow down the range of polymers, if you really care, but I'm not sure just how useful that would be in the absence of a good knowledge of polymer chemistry and the exact formulations of the many candidate cleaners.

    I have the impression that many of the early cameras with red bellows used goatskin; I have a Kodak 2D with nearly pristine red bellows, and it really looks like some kind of leather, anyway.

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