View Full Version : Cleaning up an Acme-Ilex shutter?

11-Feb-2006, 11:09
Hi there,

I have an Acme-Ilex #3 shutter in which is mounted a 7.5" Kodak Commercial Ektar. I'm trying to decide if there's anything I can do at home to help my shutter along a little bit.

There's a couple issues, #1 the focus preview button is stuck. I don't really care or need this, but I mention it as it may have something to do with the problems I do care about. I remember it worked once, but not much else about it. The tip of the plunger is about 1/16" of an inch from its mount. It moves in neither direction.

#2, when I cock the shutter, sometimes the blades open just slightly in the middle. The shutter blades will jockey around a tiny bit whenever I press down on the lever to cock the lens. Sometimes upon firing, the blades will also not fully close all the way. Again, recocking the lens usually fixes this.

#3, the big one, is that its sticky. Go figure, right? This and the above are what I'd like to try and fix up a bit. When I fire the shutter, the blades sometimes don't snap open, isntead opening a fraction of their size and freezing. Placing my finger under the cocking lever and gently pushing out on it will make the shutter open and close. Usually when I first pick him up, it takes one or two times at this and then it seems to function almost reliably until I let it sit again, then it needs to be exercised back to life.

So, can I do a little desktop shutter repair, or am I really out of luck and only encouraged to send it in for a proper CLA? I'm not looking for perfection, but I'm going on vacation soon and would like to bring this lens with me. I've been told these shutters are easy to open up, and I can see the two screws holding the face down on it.

What leaves me nervous is splashing the entire contents of my shutter with lighter fluid (Ronson, no doubt) only to find out my shutter blades weren't made from a substance that could handle that. Does anyone know if the liberal dousing in Ronson will ruin this shutter, or is it possible that its all it will take to bring him back? I'm assuming there's just a little grime inside that's stopping up the works, and if I could flush it out I'd be back in action.

I've been told that the Acme Ilex shutters were made to run dry, no lube, so I at least feal that flushing it out wouldn't be detrimental in that regards. Or, are you still encouraged to put some form of dry lube back into place?

How about an old, old Compur 00? I've got a Goerz Dagor 111mm in one 'o them that seems to forget to open the shutter from time to time.. Although, I figure that one is probably too delicate for home care and is best suited to a proper CLA...

11-Feb-2006, 11:55
Your shutter sounds like it might have a bit more than "just a little grime" in it. It sounds extremely dirty.

If it were mine, I might consider opening it and cleaning it myself. I've done this numerous times before and have been extremely successful. But I also have a background in clock/watch repair so I might feel a little more confident than someone who's never cleaned clockwork.

With your shutter, I'd be concerned about not taering it down completely since it really sounds gunked-up. Flusing with lighter fluid might help... or it might just drive the dirt further into parts of the mechanism that can't be cleaned without tearing the shutter down.

Compur 00 isn't any more delicate... only smaller parts.

I'll bet that if you have them professionally cleaned they will serv you well for years to come and you'll be much happier than seeking a partial fix. What's more... you'll have a much greater reasurrance that they'll perform properly for you when you really want them to.

I've never used Coral Flutot for service, but you might want to look her up on the WWW and decide for yourself. I've read reports (here and on other forums) that she is affordable and quick.

Ole Tjugen
11-Feb-2006, 13:08
If it doesn't succumb to a little lighter fluid (used with care, some shutters don't like it!), I would send it to Carol Flutot. I would do that, even if I live on another continent. She's THAT good!

11-Feb-2006, 13:14
Despite the length of the first post, I didn't really make it clear that I'd much rather pay to have someone properly repair the shutters, but my financial situation combined with the three weeks before my trip sort of rules that option out.

That's why I'm hoping to do a little magic on my own.

The Dagor in the Compur shutter seems to work 90% of the time, and since I've had him for over three years, I've grown used to a secondary shot when I use him.

I'm not, as noted, a clockwork repair specialist. I'm not even the most handy guy, but I do have a healthy respect and interest in these things, combined with enough paranoia that I'd like to keep my current internal mucking around down to the fluid flush. :)

So, has anyone here used lighter fluid in an Acme-Ilex, or are the blades inside him prone to destablizing? What makes me think this might not be TOO bad is the somewhat forward method to expose its insides, and the fact that I've read they were designed to run lubeless. Its these two qualities that make me think opening and de-gunking might be do-able..

Dan Fromm
11-Feb-2006, 15:05
Aren't Ilex shutters' blades made of a hard rubber compound that dissolves in many common solvents?

If you decide to do the "Ronsonol flush," please report back on the outcome.

Michael Dowdall
11-Feb-2006, 17:18
I can't say anything about the Compur but I've cleaned a couple of Ilex #3's with lighter fluid. The Ilex shutters are wonderfully simple and can be disassembled and cleaned very easily with only a couple of tools, small screwdriver, tweezers and a small soft paint brush. The shutter blades on mine where made of metal so the solvent did them no harm. I took a photo of the shutter at each step as it was disassembled so it could be put back the right way. A good idea is to take the shutter apart inside of a deep box, that way any parts that go flying arenít lost. Good luck.


Jim Noel
11-Feb-2006, 19:11
I Have cleaned several Ilex shutters with lighter fluid. NO problems.
If I had one as dirty as yours apparently is, I would douse it liberally and then blow the fluid out with air pressure. This should help dislodge some of the gunk after it has been softened with the lighter fluid.
After it dries completel, I would flushit again with lighter fluid.

Bruce Batchelor
11-Feb-2006, 21:13
I have cleaned an inoperable Ilex #3 by submerging it in parts cleaner in a wide glass jar and swirling it around well. Amazing amount of guck came out and the thing was like new afterward. There are a couple of cams inside, like on the flash-delay clockwork, that you could oil after such a treatment.

Glenn Thoreson
12-Feb-2006, 18:15
Sounds like your biggest problem is goo on the shutter blades. If either the shutter or aperture blades are made of a composite material, proceed with caution. If not, there's no need to take the shutter apart. Just unscrew the lens cells and squirt the thing full of Ronsonol. Run the shutter through all speeds while sopping wet, several times. Shake out the excess fluid and repeat until your satisfied it's doing what you want. Set it in a warm place to thoroughly dry. Don't worry about lube. Ikex shutters ar e designed to run dry and can be inconsistent if oiled. When you're sure it's absolutely dry, put the cells back in. Take proper precautions when using flammable Ronsonol. If it doesn't work, send it to Flutot's.

14-Feb-2006, 06:57
Well, the shutter and aperature blades all LOOK like they're metal, but then so do they all to me.

However, I'm fairly positive these are some variation of steel juding from the way they've got wear marks in them that go all nice and shiny, so presumably we should be good from that aspect.

I was really trying to get a feel for people coming out and telling me the Acme-Ilex shutters were in fact made from a compound that reacts poorly with the lighter fluid, but looks like no one has. We'll give it a shot tonight, I guess.

I find it interesting that most people suggest just hosing it down, not removing the top and really getting in there. I figured that keeping it closed only made the filth clog up somewhere else, but, I guess the theory is less likely to go wrong if my fat fingers aren't inside.

Thanks all, I'll post a status update when I'm immediately done and then one when its had a few days to recoupe.

Kevin Crisp
14-Feb-2006, 10:42
I checked some of my Ilexes (Ili?) and they have a cardboard material in a ring on the backside of the shutter blades. The blades look like blued steel, but I don't think I'd just flush it if I had one like that.

15-Feb-2006, 10:00

Could you give some more details? I didn't have a chance to do anything last night (Valentine's Day with the new wife, she took priority over a 50yo shutter, heh) and at work now, so I still am cut off from eyeballing the paitent.

Kevin Crisp
15-Feb-2006, 11:47
I'm not sure what you mean. Unscrew the two elements. Turn the shutter over so it is face down. Look inside the hole in the back -- several of mine have what appears to be a cardboard ring between the body of the housing and the shutter blades. That's what I am referring to.

12-Apr-2019, 14:37
What ended up happening here?

Louis Pacilla
12-Apr-2019, 14:56
What ended up happening here?

Hey Pepe the OP of this thread posted it 12+ years ago. No trouble posting on an old thread but if your looking for the OP's answer/outcome i believe you'll be waiting awhile. I'm guessing the OP (gfen) is long no longer an active member seeing his last post was also in 2006.

12-Apr-2019, 18:07
Hey Pepe the OP of this thread posted it 12+ years ago. No trouble posting on an old thread but if your looking for the OP's answer/outcome i believe you'll be waiting awhile. I'm guessing the OP (gfen) is long no longer an active member seeing his last post was also in 2006.
Thanks. The beauty of this LFF is that serves as a library where we find solutions. Those guys left me waiting for the end. Maybe someone has the solution 12 years later. ;)

Mark Sampson
12-Apr-2019, 21:29
\rant on\ People will find any rationalization to avoid having a shutter serviced properly. Lighter fluid may work for a while... but it just redistributes the dirt, so long-term? Many of the problems reported nowadays may be the eventual result of someone else's home-brew 'fix' a long time ago. Mechanical leaf shutters are in general quite robust; I am happily using lenses purchased used 30+ years ago, and the shutters in them are still working fine. Once a shutter (by any manufacturer) is properly serviced, it will likely outlast your own photographic career. If you've got one with an issue, let a professional repair it, and shoot happily ever after. \rant off\

13-Apr-2019, 15:02
I agree with this.

I'm retired on a limited income and I fully understand the need to limit the expense of our hobby as much as possible.

That said, if the shutter is important and I really do want the long-term, trouble-free use of the device then I have found that it is far better to send it off for a proper servicing.

Obviously, if you are handy, and/or experienced with shutter repair, then opening up your shutter and cleaning it out is no problem. But this is still preferable to just shooting it full of lighter fluid and hoping for the best.

Or, perhaps you are only trying to gain some experience and want to try to work on your own shutters. In this case I would recommend that your first attempts are on shutters you are not too dependent on because it may take a few tries to get it working right again (speaking from my own experience here.) Doing this with a shutter you want to take on vacation in a couple of weeks may not be best, but only you can be the judge of that.

But...just shooting it full of lighter fluid and hoping for the best seems very chancy and I can't say that it is something I would want to try if I really needed that shutter to work. I would really hate to return from vacation and develop my negatives only to find that my quick and dirty lighter fluid cleaning hadn't worked quite the way I had hoped.

13-Apr-2019, 16:58
There are a couple of YouTube video's available which go through the process of disassembly and cleaning of, I think compur shutters.
Gave me the courage to try myself, I have now brought two old shutters back to life. One did die on the operating table. RIP