View Full Version : Home-Brew Super Graphic Lens Board...

Scott --
21-Mar-2007, 10:42
Hey, all -

Ok, so I've got on loan the Raptar 90/6.8 in a funky little Rapax shutter. I had it kind of wonkily installed in the Super board that had my Optar 135/4.7 in it, but it was sloppy and, more importantly, limited me to only one lens option at a time. I went trolling for lens boards, but the off-sized Rapax would require me to get a blank Pacemaker board, which is surprisingly expensive. And I'm cheap.

I found this guy (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=018&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&viewitem=&item=280095349821&rd=1&rd=1) on eBay, who makes custom "Graflex Graphic" boards. They're 4x4" square (my Super board, which is supposed to be compatible with Pacemaker boards, is 3-5/8"x3-11/16"), but he says he'll make them to any size. They're cheap ($8), but ugly, made of plywood, and have only a rabbetted edge to supply the light seal. The rabbet might actually work, but the edges of the standard on my Super are rounded, and there are some inclusions around the edge which would require special fitting.


Having a well-stocked woodshop in the garage is advantageous sometimes. I'm also an incurable do-it-yourselfer. I had some 1/4" resawn cherry sitting around, so I figured I could cobble something together myself:




This board took about 45 minutes to make. About 40 of that was consumed with cleaning the tablesaw off, digging out the drillpress, and finding the appropriate Forstner bits floating around the mess I call a garage. But it was pretty easy. Almost brainless, really. Cut the board on the tablesaw, rounded the edges with a rasp, rabbetted the edge with a horizontal router table and straight bit, fit the rabbets with a rabbet plane, and made the cutout with a 1/2" chisel. The recess for the shutter retaining ring is 1-1/2"; the hole for the shutter is 1-1/4". The cherry needs a coat of oil on the outside, and some flat black spray paint on the inside. But, surprisingly, it seems completely light-tight. Should it prove otherwise, I figure a strip of Interslice foam around the perimieter of the rabbet will seal it off nicely.

I'm fixin' to cut out a few more blanks while I have everything set up. The cherry looks a little funny on the Super, but I think I'll be able to deal with it.

Thanks for looking.

21-Mar-2007, 10:49
Ooo... I happen to need some 100mm/4" square lensboards.

I need to find some nice woods (not fibreboard/plywood) and get my neighbour to cobble up a few for the Kodak I've half-restored. :D

21-Mar-2007, 11:01
The Anniversary Speed Graphics had only a rabbatted lens board, which will fit the Pacemaker and Super models, but they have an additional flange to help prevent light leaking.

21-Mar-2007, 11:52
I once made a lensboard for the crown graphic out of corregated cardboard and black electrical tape. Worked great. So well in fact, that I never bothered to replace it with a "real" lensboard. The cherry wood looks much nicer though.

Mark Sampson
21-Mar-2007, 12:31
Don't forget to paint the inside and the edges flat black.

21-Mar-2007, 12:40
I bought one of "that guy's" boards for my Anniversary Graphic not long ago. It is inexpensive and good-enough made... but yours is PRETTY! Nice work!

Dave Moeller
21-Mar-2007, 14:59
Very nice work Scott...congratulations. If you're anything like me, I suspect you'll be making more lensboards than you need. :)

Scott --
21-Mar-2007, 15:25
Thanks, everyone. Backside's been painted (ought to take forever to dry at our current temperatures), front's got a coat of wax on it (a few dozen more after the paint dries - I'm impatient...). Planning on trying it out for good on Friday. I'm pleased. :D

Dave, I was outbid tonight on an old Wollensak 7-1/2" lens in a beat up Betax. I was really looking forward to mounting it in a new cherry board... ;)

Brian Wallen
24-Mar-2007, 00:03
Scott, now you've infected me with the need to try to make recessed boards for a couple of short lenses that I can't focus with the SG because Graflex removed the articulated rack that they used in the Pacemakers. How thick did you make the front flange portion?

Are you now considering a veneering project for the case???

Scott --
24-Mar-2007, 08:30
Brian, the board edges are right at 3/32" on mine, but I'd get it down to about 1/8" and start fitting from there. Easier to remove material than put it back.

Also, here are a couple pages with suggestions on recessed boards:

I need to see if I can come up with something for the Raptar - I still can't get infinity with the bed dropped. :rolleyes:


Brian Wallen
25-Mar-2007, 00:23
Scott, the tale of the muffin tin board for the 65mm Angulon is my page. Apparently that adventure had the effect of circumscribing my thinking about the problem, since I was considering the only way to make a lensboard for a Graphic was to use the original extruded design. Your example got my thinking moving again outside the box. Working with wood and the possibility of using a flat lensboard opens up some new possibilities. So now I am going to offend the sensibilities of the classic audience and the precision audience.

I've used .64 and .90 mil aluminum stock for flat lens boards. Whichever is the right thickness for the SG mount, that could make the basis for a strong front apron. A tub wall could be made of thin strips of walnut or cherry, sized so that its external dimensions were slightly smaller than the CG's "well" creating a bit of a light trap as well as a tub. Even with butt joints, it should be possible to make a lighttight tub. The lens board could be aluminum. .64 mil would be strong enough and it is easy to make lens openings with ordinary hole saws and a basic drill press. Some combination of adhesives and small wood screws could attach the wood frame to the aluminum parts. Even painted black to hide the dissimilar materials, this would be the ugly sibling of your cherry board, but for those of us who have restored Graflex models, this marriage of metal and wood seems natural enough.

I asked Bruce Wehman about the recessed board shown on his page that describes creating a SG back with movements. He said he started with a stock board, then made the tub from brass sheet stock. I think he said that he had a 65mm Super Angulon mounted and the tub looks to be more than an inch deep, enough that he said he had to make some control extensions.

Scott --
25-Mar-2007, 05:29
Ok, Brian, I'm chuckling at myself now. I am the king of keen observation. Duh. :rolleyes:

Well, for what it's worth, I was impressed with the muffin tin recessed board. I hate metal work, though. Always cut my fingers. What I was actually envisioning for my first pass at a recessed board was to take a thicker piece of wood ('cause I have a bunch of it lying around) and excavate the recess. I'd take a guess at how deep it'd have to be, based mainly on the geometry of the Super Graphic. Would drill out the recess with a Forstner bit on the drill press. Don't know as my drill press can manage such precision work, but it'd be worth a try. Once the tub was sized and excavated, I'd attach to a flat board, probably with some polyurethane glue. Paint and varnish.

Coincidentally, I also emailed Bruce Wehman. Great minds. ;)

On your new design, I'd think that butt joints would be more than adequate. Again, I'd use poly glue - stronger'n all get-out, and bonds wood to metal. If there were any gaps, you could essentially fill them from the outside (film side, that is) with plastic wood. Gonna be painted over, anyway.

Let me know what you end up doing, and document it while you work. I'll do the same. At the very least, it'll be a good exercise.


25-Mar-2007, 05:57
If I needed to make a recessed lensboard out of wood, I'd use a plunge router to evacuate the center of the wood. (I do have the clamps to hold the wood safely)

I've made a number of wood lens boards in the past, I first use my power planer to get the right thickness, then stick the original lensboard to the wood stock with double sided tape, then use a Pattern bit on the router table to cut the board. From there it's either a Rabbiting or Straight bit for the back side as needed.

I've also gone down to the sheet metal shop and had them cut aluminum sheet to the sizes I want, then glue felt (obtained at a hobby store) to the back of the board. The felt is cheap and makes a nice light-tight seal.

Scott --
25-Mar-2007, 07:35
You're right, Salty, but I don't have a plunge base for my router... ;)

What I do have, now that I think about it, is a hollow chisel mortiser. Might be a better way to go about it, but the mortiser is buried, and the drill press is already on the bench.

I'm not 100% convinced that wood cmilled that thin is going to be resilient enough for this. Guess we'll find out.

25-Mar-2007, 07:46
Most of my wordworking stuff is buried also. It was a special occasion last year when I dug out almost everything to make new base moulding. I wanted to make some new lens boards at that time, but by the time I got done with the mouldings I decided I didn't need the lens boards that badly.....

Scott --
25-Mar-2007, 08:46
My wife's all over me to clean out the garage. About the only thing motivating me to do it right now is the thought of making this lensboard thing work. That's sad... ;)

Ralph Barker
25-Mar-2007, 09:09
If making a recessed board from solid wood, I, too, would be concerned about the strength of the side walls of the recess. The thin cross grain at that thickness isn't going to be very strong, even with tight-grained woods.

One solution would be allow a bit of extra clearance, and laminate the bellows side of the board with fiberglass and resin.

25-Mar-2007, 09:10
My garage is clean, yet I don't have the room with all the stuff I have. It's a nice problem unless I forget where I put something and have to dig through everything.

I need a "hat" lens board for one of my longer lenses and was thinking of making it of wood some day. The other option is that I bought some of those aluminum "welding" rods that are supposed to be used with a propane torch. In the very back of my mind I was thinking that I could go to the sheet metal shop and have a bunch of aluminum cut, then use the rod to put it together. I haven't tried the rods yet, but it might be an easier solution than wood. I also have some high speed grinders and die grinders to clean up the unsightly welds.

Ralph Barker
25-Mar-2007, 09:21
I tried welding aluminum once, having had some experience with welding and brazing steel with an oxy-acetylene rig. It didn't take long for me to see I didn't have the knack for aluminum. If you use aluminum, I'd cut and shape the components and then take them to a pro.

Of course, you could always make a steam chamber to make the "hat" with wood and mitered finger joints. ;)

Scott --
25-Mar-2007, 09:39
Uh, oh - I have a steamer. Was into making Windsors for a while. That's an interesting thought...

25-Mar-2007, 13:59
I tried welding aluminum once, having had some experience with welding and brazing steel with an oxy-acetylene rig. It didn't take long for me to see I didn't have the knack for aluminum. If you use aluminum, I'd cut and shape the components and then take them to a pro.

I have 5 oxygen and acetylene bottles (different sizes) and numerous torches, gauges and tips. Naturally the bottles are empty and need a hydro before they can be refilled. My late father used to be able to gas weld aluminum. As for me, it seems like too much of a hassle to get the bottles hydro'd and refillled just to melt holes in the aluminum. At the shipyard I spent most of my life at, the aluminum welding was done by TIG and quite easy to lay a nice bead.

These new type of aluminum rods are supposed to be able to weld with a propane torch and supposedly repair things made out of pot metal.

Scott --
29-Mar-2007, 10:38
Ok, just for the sake of archiving:

I'm working today on a recessed board for the Raptar. When shooting vertically, it's not possible with this lens on my Super Speed Graphic to drop the bed and maintain infinity focus. I thought about making an offset lensboard, but the coverage is so small that the top of the image on the ground glass is cropped. So, it was time to try a recessed board.

I'm only about 3/5 done, but I'll tell you that excavating a recess in a thick board is not an option. For this lens, the sides of the box need to be about 3/16" thick - any thicker, and either the shutter won't fit in the box, or the box won't fit in the camera. I tried a few times in some nice hard maple to bore into the long grain with a hollow chisel mortiser. While the end grain was plenty strong at that thickness for the application, the force generated by the mortiser was too great for the end grain, and it blew out consistently. I suspect that a plunge router would do the same.

I'm currently making a butt-joint box around a floor board to house the shutter. Looks like it'll work. When it does, I'll post a little writeup.

30-Mar-2007, 09:05
I hate thin fibre-board crap. It's impossible to work with.

Just made another lensboard for the kodak. 100mm x 100mm, and it's COVERED in parcel tape. That's the only way to avoid dust, and get a secure fit for the big Ross Xpres lens.

I'm gonna have to source some fine hardwoods somewhere. I'd like to have lensboards that don't fall apart before use.

Brian Wallen
2-Apr-2007, 01:49
I'm back with an idea. If it works it will be a solution for a recessed board for the Super Graphic and also for boards for my Meridian 45B and Wista VX. The general strategy may have some value here.

I have found a couple of PVC fixtures:

One is I think for a toilet-- that has a large flange and a pipe fitting that is the inside diameter of 3" pipe. The wall is about 4mm thick leaving an ID of about 69mm. It is possible to cut away most of the flange leaving a round flange of about 6-12mm to fasten to a lens board. This will fit into the ports of the Meridian and the Wista.
Another fitting I think is for gutter spouts that converts 4" round pipe to a square pipe with an OD of 72mm and an ID of 66mm. The structure of this fitting also will allow a flange to be shaped to fasten to a flat .90mil aluminum lens board with an appropriate hole. This is about perfect for the SG.

The strategy would be to take a round PVC cap, trim it down to the outside dimensions of either of these fixtures; bond the flat disc to the fixture with the flange, then fasten the flange to the lens board using an adhesive and some very small sheetmetal screws through the front of the lens board into the PVC flange. The depth of these recessed sections could be as much as 42mm.

Before I start getting complaints about my scatological solutions to photographic problems, let me point out that part of this design adventure will be trial and error in fitting the chosen shutter into the structure and insuring that there is enough room for an angled cable release and fingers to adjust aperture and shutter speeds. These fittings are about 3 bucks apiece. The white PVC can be spray painted black. I've also seen flocking paper mentioned as a good material for reducing flare. If it is sturdy, it might be more permanently lighttight than paint.

Scott, you mentioned use a poly adhesive. Could you be more specific?

The lens board hole for the Wista and Meridian fixture will be round and easy to cut with a hole saw. The fitting for the SG will require a square hole in .90 mil aluminum sheet. That will be trickier, since there will only be about 15mm of metal left on each side after cutting the hole. I suppose a band saw with a metal blade would be best, but not something I have.

All suggestions are welcome.

Scott --
2-Apr-2007, 06:59
Sounds like a decent plan, Brian. Interesting to say the least. Take pictures while you work on it.

Meridian 45B? Ok, I officially hate you. ;)

Don't know if you saw it, but I finished the wooden recessed board (http://nelsonfoto.com/v/showthread.php?t=9478). Don't know 'bout your cameras, but the interior cavity on my Super necessitates an outside dimension of less than 2-7/8" on the tub of the board. Check your ODs before you get too far.

I used to use Gorilla glue, but it's way overpriced, and once opened, never seemed to last that long. I've been using Elmer's Blue Bull Poly glue (http://elmers.com/product/product_page.asp?pCode=P9412) - cheaper, works great. I like poly glue for a lot of joinery applications. Of course, if you're joining PVC, you'd use PVC glue, which bonds by melting the pieces together, which'd make a nice, light-tight seal...

I think, when all is said and done, your muffin tin idea is going to end up being the best option. Even sliced thin, the wood is thick enough as to make it really tight in the recess.

Good luck!

Brian Wallen
2-Apr-2007, 20:48
Scott, I thought the Meridian was so old, like me, that it had escaped the likelihood of hate mail. Incidently its a lovely camera. I am doing a shootout page on the SG, PocketView, Meridian, and my latest indulgence, a Wista VX. The Meridian is holding up very well in terms of objective measures and just the way it feels in my hands. Its salvation is that long ago someone did a very clever conversion of the back from Meridian (Graphic Spring style) to Graflok. I have a 45A also and this was not an easy design task.

Yes, we should go on a campaign to documents steps in our projects. People reading the forums have different skill levels with the work we are describing. Detailed steps are probably boring to some and helpful to others.

I had seen at least part of your description of the "whole wood" project. I had some concerns about grain strength, but it is good to see the results of empirical research. I had also imagined from the aesthetic standards set in the original flat board project that you might migrate toward some kind of lamination for the tub. A laminated structure from different hardwood species, with inside rounded corners could have some of the cachet of the old Chris Craft wood hulls from the 40s and 50s. Some of us would probably be inclined to nominate your for a Large Format Lensboard Design Award if you are willing to blow off a couple of weekends on the project.

I am working on another technique for recessed boards using L-shaped and flat aluminum stock to build a squareish style recessed compartment that may work well with the SG. Basically all of these ideas were jump started by your discovery that flat boards were usable on the SG.

I just got in the mail a 75mm Super Angulon and was stunned by its physical size when compared to my 65mm Angulon. My first impression is that it is going to be nearly impossible to make a SG recessed board for this shutter, since the Prontor shutter body is 62mm without controls. I am guessing that the recessed chamber is going to have to have a depth of about 25mm to be safe and that I should maybe give up the idea that it is ever going to work on the SG. It should focus, at least without movements, on the Wista and Meridian using flat boards.

Graflex included many good design ideas in the SG. Changing the focusing rack just wasn't among them.