View Full Version : How to Repair A Hairline Crack on a Wooden View Camera?

Peter York
17-Aug-2004, 11:48
Hi All, After 2 years of the 4x5 diet, I decided to try the 8x10 diet. I recently acquired a Century Universal 8x10, largely because of its light weight (for backpacking!). Anyway, this camera (made of cherry wood) has a hairline crack on the baseplate, running in a straight line from one tripod screw mount in the center of the baseplate to another tripod screw mount towards the edge of the baseplate. The crack is not wide or deep (it does not extend through the baseplate), but I want to ensure that it does not get any larger.

I asked the folks down at a local woodwoorking store, and I got mixed messages. One person told me to use thin superglue, while another told me to use a wood filler. I'm concerned that the filler will not be strong enough, and I'm somewhat suspicious of the superglue treatment. So, I though I would check with the experts at this forum before making any decisions. Any suggestions?

Many thanks!

Peter York Dobchinsky@yahoo.com

Peter York

17-Aug-2004, 12:04
super glue works wonders...i know from experience...

Mark Erickson
17-Aug-2004, 12:07
The prettiest way to stabilize such a crack that I've seen is via a "butterfly repair." I have a large Hawaiian Koa bowl (a wedding gift) whose workmanship includes several of these to stabilize natural cracks in the wood. Here's a website that illustrates butterfly repair:


Mike Cockerham
17-Aug-2004, 12:29
The best way to repair a crack is to use epoxy. Open crack enough to get epoxy onto it, then clamp back using woodworkers f clamps, use wood block between clamp and camera to avoid marring the surface. Epoxy will dry to be stroger than original wood.


17-Aug-2004, 12:32
These cracks are fairly normal for the baseplate/cover. First off, I wouldn't worry about it.

However, I did on my CU ;-)

The 'standard' for fixing such cracks is a good marine epoxy. The two problems with such a crack are that it's messy & hard to clean up. And it's not easy to get the stuff into such a small crack...

I would not recommend super glue. It's not flexible enough and really doesn't have the bonding power to wood. Wood filler has the flexibility, but deffinitly not the bonding power.

The solution I chose to fix mine was "Elmer's Carpenter's Wood Glue" 'for darker wood' (it a much darker color than the standard yellow glue).

The advantages to this glue are: It's the exact proper flexibility for the wood. And it has about the best bonding power you could ask for. This is what it was developed for after all. It's also water based, so it's easy to clean up. A side benefit is that it is reversible. You can take the repair apart (or remove the glue) with a warm water soak.

Since your crack doesn't go all the way through (mine did), you can't inject the glue to see it come out the other side. But you should be able to force glue into the crack. If you hold the glue bottle tightly against the surface of the wood and squuze, it works just juke a syringe. After that, use a pin or the corner of a sheet of paper to 'slide' glue into the crack. Wait 5 minutes to see if it sinks in or absorbs into the wood and apply more. After that, give it a wipe with a damp sponge or paper towel and let dry to 24 hours.

If you can manage to get enough glue into the crack, it will be as strong as the origninal wood, and not show.

The only problem you may have is if the camera was refinshed or waxed. If any type of was or oil has entered the crack, the glue may not adhere. In this case, you could lightly soak the crack with alcohol to remove the wax & oil before gluing, but this may affect the outer finish!

I use Bogen quick releases on mu CU's and from what I've seen, these cracks do not weaken the mount to any extent to worry about, especially after being glued.

Good luck with yours! A great camera!

Mike Cockerham
17-Aug-2004, 12:33
Also if you use super glue there are different kinds, use one a litte thicker than normal super glue so as to fill any voids in the wood surface. Check with woodcrafters.com for these kinds of glue and epoxy.


Ralph Barker
17-Aug-2004, 12:52
I would use either marine epoxy or a glue product called Gorilla Glue, which is considerably stronger than traditional Elmer's carpenter's glue. Use a putty knife or similar stiff, flat-ended implement to press the epoxy or glue into the crack while holding it apart. Naturally, a second pair of hands will come in "handy" for the operation. Then, clamp (with protective spacer blocks) as noted above, cleaning off any excess adhesive that is squeezed out when the clamp is applied.

Michael Jones
17-Aug-2004, 12:55

If it's anything beyond a "hairline" crack, use Carpenter's Wood Glue, just like the original manufacturer did when assembling the camera. Superglue is not as flexible and may break under certain flexing. If possible, squirt it all the way through the crack, wipe off the excess witha damp rag and then clamp for 24 hours at room temperature. If it's really a "hairline" crack, either ignore it or cover the crack with the glue, allow it to settle in, wipe off the excess with a damp rag and then clamp. I've done this (as recently as Sunday afternoon) when restoring several cameras and it works fine. Filler is just that, filler, not adhesive. It's used for restoring edges, filling screw holes, etc. It will not keep your camera base intact. As Rich points out, the biggest challenge is making sure the surface is clean. Also, the glue line will not finish like wood. Just consider it an honorable scar and ignore it. Good luck.


Witold Grabiec
17-Aug-2004, 13:08
Might be worth checking out this product:

Chair Doctor (http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?page=30261&category=1%2C110&SID=&ccurrency=3)

While meant for fixing loose joints, it should take care of this problem quite nicely. Lee Valley Tools is one of the best of sorts and their claims are quite true most of the time.

Ernest Purdum
17-Aug-2004, 15:02
I think a lot depends on whether or not the crack will close up when clamped. If it does, a glue should work. If it doesn'r. you need additional material in the glue to thicken it up. Sawdust mixed into epoxy is one possibility, Tiny chopped fiberglass filaments are sold for this purpose.

By the way, this problem is very frequent, particularly with the larger size cameras. I am sure it must be the reason for the big aluminum plate on Deardorffs.

17-Aug-2004, 15:09
If you don't want to fix it yourself. Richard Ritter specializes in this kind of repair. www.lg4mat.net.

ronald lamarsh
17-Aug-2004, 18:44
If it were mine I use the Elmers carpenters or a good "Hide" glue, obtain a small syringe with about a 20 to 22 gauge needle load it up(from the rear) with glue and inject away, clean off any overage and clamp til oozes out clean up that excess and let bond for at least 24hrs, 48 would be better. I find hide glue works great. Have fun

17-Aug-2004, 21:37
The best procedure is probably to open up the crack and pour in a very good quality glue, then close the crack and allow the glue to set. I would personally recommend a good marine epoxy but depending on the circumstances Gorila glue, which is a polyurethane glue, or plain carpenters' wood glue might work just as well. The main advantage of epoxy is that it requires less clamping pressure to form a strong bond than carpenter's glue.

Do not use super glue. Super glue is great for some work but in this application it will fail miserably.

Finally, be very careful because you could do more harm than good. The crack is most likely in the direction of the grain and if you attempt to open it up there is a distinct possibility that it will just split completely apart.

Tim Curry
18-Aug-2004, 06:41
I like Sandy's answer the best so far. Super glue is much too brittle, can mar a decent finish and can be real trouble in this situation. Stay away from it. If you make a mistake with it, no other glue will be able to work.

Use masking tape along both edges of the crack to protect the finish, unless you plan to refinish the wood anyway. Make sure it is pressed firmly in place so no glue can squirt under it. Use a squirt bottle, syringe or putty knife to work the glue into the crack (Elmer's glue, Yellow carpenter's glue, hardware store cheap 5 minute epoxy) so it is as far into the crack as possible. Do not try to open the crack further or you may end up regluing two pieces which are broken. If you don't have clamps, use a "Spanish windlass" to tighten the crack and apply enough pressure to make some glue ooze back out of the crack (plain old string with a pencil wound up in it will apply a good amount of pressure in several places). Make sure you protect the edges of the board or the string can actually cut into the edges and deform the wood and finish (tounge depressors, sticks, rulers, etc.). Use a soft, damp cloth to remove excess glue (use a dry cloth if it is epoxy). Leave clamps in place over night and base in such a position that glue can't run out of the crack and create a "starved joint" with gaps in the glue.

Next day, remove the clamps, peel off masking tape. Take many pictures.

18-Aug-2004, 06:51
Just one quick point that occurs: with all this clamping going on, make sure you don't deform the bed while you are doing it...

Bryan Willman
18-Aug-2004, 08:54
You probably want Gorilla glue, as it's supposed to me more weather resistent than "yellow glue". However, any furniture making glue is a good place to start.

You will want to tape the area around the crack, or even tape over the crack and then trace it with a knife, this will help with cleanup.

You might want to get a syringe to inject glue into the crack. A woodcrafter's or rockerler's likely has what you want.

Gorilla glue will require that one side of the joint be wet.

Books on furniture building or furniture repair describe all this in great detail.

Steve Feldman
19-Aug-2004, 19:12

I vote for "Elmer's Construction Grade Professional Strength Weather Resistant Wood Glue" and yes it contains wood fibers. Used it recently on my 50+ year old B & J wood view 4x5. The corner joints were pulling apart. I just opened 'em up a bit and stuffed the glue in with a toothpick. All the joints are now very solid and invisible.

"Super Glue" will crystalize in time. Stay away from it.

lyle allan
20-Aug-2004, 15:15
I got this trick from a master carpenter and have tried it and it works. Use yellow wood glue, spread it on the hairline crack, use compressed air to blow it in. Don't worry, you won't end up with glue all over the place. ...lyle

Paul Ron
20-Aug-2004, 17:08
I am a carpenter and hobby camera repairmen, once a photographer, now only do it for fun.

Cherry wood is a hard wood but since it is hard it is also brittle on the grain when stressed. To me your problems sounds like the crack is structural since it starts at one screw and crosses over to another on the same grain line. What stress point is this? A tripod mount?

The proper glue is yellow wood glue as it is designed to be harder than the wood yet still be flexable to move with it. Just squeezing it into the crack is not enough to cure a stress crack. I'd dowel perpendicular to the grain or as someone here mentioned, a beautifuly crafted butterfly.

Can we see a picture of the crack? Does it spread when the wood is flexed or on the tripod?