View Full Version : Drilling your own...

Scott Davis
31-Oct-2005, 10:49
Does anyone here have experience with drilling their own lensboards? I've got two new(to me) lenses arriving in the next week, and I need to mount them. I've got a Calumet C-1, which takes aluminum lensboards. Can I get specialty metal drillbits to drill the mount holes, (I realize that absolute precision is not required, as long as I'm within a millimeter over or so) or should I just ship the lens and the blank board off to someone? I live in the Washington DC area, so if anyone has a local recommendation for someone who does this, it would be much appreciated!

Herb Cunningham
31-Oct-2005, 11:11
Having done both, I finally located a machine shop who owner does small jobs. I went to the biggest shop in town of Raleigh NC, area population over a million, and got the old guy who does not do any production work, just small jobs, to drill, or more precisely, use a four jawed chuck on a lathe. He gets $60/hr, usually winds up about $15 per board.

I have used hole saws in a drill press, but it can be pretty scary for the unitiated. By the time you have bought a few hole saws you will have paid a machinist.

Several camera stores will sell used boards, that is another option. Check with Jim Andraki at Midwest.

good luck

Richard Rankin
31-Oct-2005, 11:33
You don't HAVE to use a metal lensboard anyway. I used old wooden Deardorff boards on mine with no problem. As I recall, it takes 6x6 boards and you can often see them on Ebay, plus, as mentioned already, I'm sure Midwest would have them. Cheers, Richard

Peter Galea
31-Oct-2005, 11:36
I use a General Circle Cutter here (http://www.generaltools.com/product.asp?action=prdupc&prid=56&sectionid=2) on a drill press. Very easy and clean.

Mark Sawyer
31-Oct-2005, 11:38
If you have woodwoorking tools, you might switch over to wood or composite (like Pergo laminate flooring) lensboards. I've made about two dozen lensboards for myself and a few locals, and really like the Pergo; it's a little tough on cheap hole-saws, but cuts well with a tablesaw and router. Woodgrain finish on one side, flat tan on the other, (which you could paint.) Tougher and more resistant to splits and warps than wood, but not as tough as aluminum.

31-Oct-2005, 12:45
If that's the 4"x4" lensboard, then I have an aluminum one with only a pilot hole drilled. I THINK I still have it. Couldn't GIVE it away last month. So, if it's 4x4, I'll mail it to you. If I have a hole saw of the correct size, I'll even drill it for you. No charge. Click on my initials for my email address.

Scott Davis
31-Oct-2005, 13:12
JJ- thanks for the offer. the C-1 takes a 6x6 board. I've stuck with using the Calumet-made boards because of the funky lip on the back of the board they supply- I'd be concerned about light-tightness using a perfectly flat homemade lensboard.

Pete Galea - do you have a source for getting that General Tool cutter? The webpage had no pricing info or ordering recommendations, and I searched the Home Depot and Lowes websites to no avail.

Do you think my RotoZip would be an acceptable tool to do this, or would I be inviting far more trouble than its worth?

One of the lenses I'm getting shortly will need for certain a CLA, so I'm thinking of sending it off to SKGrimes to have them drill the board, CLA the shutter and mount the lens all in one swell foop.

Terence McDonagh
31-Oct-2005, 13:18
I use an adjustable hole-cutter bit in a hand drill attached to a drill guide. I use the tempered hardboard from 99 cent clipboards and build up the back with black matboard as required. Cheap and almost indestructible.

Peter Galea
31-Oct-2005, 13:30
Scott, click here (http://www.ehardwicks.com/product_line/pros/GEN-55.htm) for a link to the #55 circle cutter that I use. I imagine you could hand hold it as long as you clamp your work piece securely (though I have not tried it) . Max reccommended rpm is 500.

Conrad Hoffman
31-Oct-2005, 13:33
Best way is to find any local machinist to put it in a lathe with a 4-jaw chuck, and bore it. He'll also measure the lens so the hole size is right, and put a small hole in the right spot for the anti-rotation screw, if there is one. You can do nearly as good a job with the above mentioned adjustable circle cutter. Any large hardware store, or Sears, may have them. You want the single arm type, and you *have* to use it in a drill press. Put the lens board in a vise and screw the vise down to the table so it doesn't catch when you finish the cut. Though you can certainly hack your way through it with a hole saw, there's a certain pride of workmanship if you do a better job- lens board aren't cheap anymore.

Scott Fleming
31-Oct-2005, 13:42
I've thought about doing this but have so far not had the guts. I just bit the bullet and ordered the correct board. BUT what I was thinking of doing was using an electricians hole enlarger. These are heavy large shanked (1/2') cone shaped bits with steps. They start out at about 1/2 inch and each step is another mil or so. I've never had one that would go more than 1 1/2" and don't know if they go larger. They take a BIG drill with a 1/2" chuck that will drill at variable speeds. Drilling aluminum I would think one would keep the speed way down. You have to be careful as they will jump ahead if you go too fast and you'd end up with too big a hole. These bits are used to enlarge existing holes in metal junction and or utility boxes when you need a bigger hole for large conduit and the box just doesn't have that size hole. What ever you are drilling has to be held VERY fast and solidly.

Struan Gray
31-Oct-2005, 13:47
I use a laser from space.

However, if it's cloudy, the old machinists trick of drilling a series of holes to remove the centre and then hand filing or Dremelling out to a previously-scribed circle works well enough for photographic use. A mounting flange is more tolerant than a jam-nut or ring. If I'm not in too much of a hurry I blacken the exposed edge with model-making paint.

Terence McDonagh
31-Oct-2005, 14:03
Before I bought the hole-cutter (same as Pete's) I used Struan's method. For a couple old lenses without flanges I actually left the hole rough and just screwed the lens' threads into the board [gasp]. My 19" apo-Artar, which is no lightweight, has survived two years of use like that and is more tightly fit than some of my lenses with flanges.

ronald moravec
31-Oct-2005, 14:18
Draw a circle the proper diameter and drill a series of holes that touch around the edge. Then put rotary rasp in the drill press and file it smooth. Mine looked as if they were bored out.

John Berry ( Roadkill )
31-Oct-2005, 14:39
I use hole saw in my half inch drill motor that I put in a drill press assessory stand. As a retired mechanic I already have an assortment of hole saw cutters. I have only had to buy 3 so far. If I need a tool I go get it. I also have the gen-55 cutter. I use the hole saw as I can hold the lens board by hand. DO NOT try to use the gen-55 by hand, been there survived that. I cut a little over halfway thru then turn it over and cut thru from the other side to prevent splintering on the other side. I use 3/8 five ply plywood and paint them black, for my 8x10 dorff. Warpage? I havent had any problems yet. Who cares anyway, I make a halfrack of boards at a time and drill as needed. Less than $2 a board. John

Edward Mast
31-Oct-2005, 15:23
I've owned various 4x5 cameras and have always made my own boards, using either aluminum (found in small sheets at arts&crafts stores), masonite, or 1/16" or 1/8" plywood found at my local lumber yard. I cut it to size with a hand saw and drill the apropriate size hole (some filing may be needed) with a hand drill and hole-drills any hardware store should have. As you say, the measurements are not critical. If you screw one up, you're out pennies (or at least less than a dollar). When drilling, just be sure to clamp the board securely so it stays put while you're drilling.

31-Oct-2005, 15:32
Struan I use a laser from space.

Well, if it's gotta be known, sometimes I jest shoot a friggin hole in the board. Guns is tools up here in the North Woods.

Guns is also the tool I (ah mean ah) use for doin proper reviews of bad books. Worst one I ever reviewed got five .44 specials, ten .22s and both barrels of Bettsy the Ten Gauge. Submitted it, too. Then the publisher sent it back to be autographed! (True story.)

Mike Kovacs
31-Oct-2005, 16:26
I cut mine on an inexpensive (<$2K) laptop controlled CNC milling machine we bought at work. Does a wonderful job, to well within 0.2mm.

Obviously not the solution for everyone, but I do the odd job on it for friends.

Mike Kovacs
31-Oct-2005, 16:27
I think I'd need the 30mm Cannon from an A-10 to even cut a #0 hole :)

Jeffrey Sipress
31-Oct-2005, 16:46
I'm just waiting to hear from some guy who cut a hole in his lensboard with a sawzall!! Hole saws are crude and risky. Be safe and sane. Bring it to a machine shop and have it done on a lathe or a Bridgeport type milling machine with a boring head. Or send them to me. I own a precision machine shop.

Peter Galea
31-Oct-2005, 18:00
Sorry to be sarcastic, but OMG if you can expose a sheet of Ektachrome properly, you can surely cut a hole in a lensboard.

Alan Davenport
31-Oct-2005, 22:04
I've got a Calumet 540 that uses the same boards as the C1, and I also drill the aluminum lensboards using a circle cutter like the General Tools one mentioned above. That's a great solution ONLY if you have a drill press, also you must securely anchor the lensboard to the drill press table; it's way too much to safely handhold IMO. If you don't have a drill press, drill small holes just inside the periphery of the desired hole, then finish using a Dremel or even a curved file.

I have also made several perfectly serviceable lensboards for my 540 using 1/8" aircraft plywood, sold in modelling (hobby) stores. The only challenge in making a Calumet lensboard is routing the little groove in the back; and a drill press with a Dremel bit works well for that if you don't have a router table. I've used my plywood boards with rather heavy lenses (10" f/4.5) and never a light leak.

1-Nov-2005, 06:52
The only challenge in making a Calumet lensboard is routing the little groove in the back;

For the tool-challenged, be aware that the expressed ridge is not needed. Put a thin layer of flocking over the inside of the board and be happy. It also blacks out the rest of the board very nicely..

Ole Tjugen
1-Nov-2005, 07:30
I've drilled both wood and aluminium lensboards with a simple hole saw. Take it slow and careful, and it's not difficult at all. Sometimes you'll need to trim the hole a little afterwards; I have used a file on the aluminium and a knife on the wooden ones.

Not difficult at all.

Jay W
1-Nov-2005, 11:16
"Do you think my RotoZip would be an acceptable tool to do this, or would I be inviting far more trouble than its worth?"

RotoZip can work very well for soft materials like drywall, but since it uses the flutes to cut, it's difficult to cut harder materials like wood...particularly if you're trying to cut a hole. The tool wanders easily and the bit flexes.

I was trying to cut 8" holes in 1/2" MDF (wood/glue), and the tool jumped about 8" and bumped my knuckle. A Rotozip cuts skin very well, and I have a scare to prove it. Don't be as stupid as me.

Jay Wenner

Calamity Jane
1-Nov-2005, 14:18
I have made quite a few lens boards over the past 2 years and have used hobby shop plywood for all of them.

I have tried various methods of of cutting the hole and found that cutting in the lathe gives me by far the neatest and most accurate hole. By the time one considers the time spent filing, sanding, or whatever is required to clean up holes made by other methods, the lathe is also fastest.

If you have a friend who has a lathe (either wood or metal) do yourself a favour and buy him (or her) coffee in eachange for cutting the hole

Steve Bell
1-Nov-2005, 23:38
I've only cut one lens board, and used a circle cutter that looked identical to Pete's. Mine came from RS Components in the UK, luckily I had it left over from a previous project nothing to do with photography. I held down the Toyo field lensboard while using a hand drill, scary as it pulls away from your hand. It really does need clamping down. I cut first from one side, then finished on the reverse. It made a neater hole than the holes my cameras previous owner had comissioned in other boards.

Alan Davenport
2-Nov-2005, 09:04
I have tried various methods of of cutting the hole and found that cutting in the lathe...

I have a little bitty Unimat lathe, not large enough I think. But now you've got me trying to envision how to mount a piece of plywood six inches across so you can turn it on any size lathe. And I'm stumped...


Calamity Jane
3-Nov-2005, 02:47

I have an 8" Southbend and I made a faceplate for it (for other reasons) that replaces the chuck. You could even make a faceplate from a piece of stout plywood and a wooden dowel if your Unimat will swing the lensboard.

I mark the centre of the lens board and use the dead centre in the tailstock to hold the lensboard against the faceplate while I secure it. If you make a wooden faceplate you can secure the lensboard with woodscrews and washers if you don't spin it too fast.

Grind a toolbit to suit the diameter you have to cut and then cut your lens hole. I prefer to cut the hole small and then open it out until it JUST fits the step on the retaining ring.

Alan Davenport
3-Nov-2005, 14:35
Thanks. My lathe experience is rather limited. You have expanded my vision!