View Full Version : Restoring a very stiff old bellows

Lloyd Shield
18-Jun-2008, 21:47
I would be grateful for advice on how to reduce the stiffness of an old bellows, probably leatherette rather than genuine leather. Apart from the stiffness, with resulting lack of easy extension, it seems to be in good condition. Thanks.

Peter K
19-Jun-2008, 01:03
This problem was often discussed like in http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=33505&highlight=bellows
So it's a good idea to look with the search function first ;-)

Glenn Thoreson
19-Jun-2008, 10:56
Some respond well to a generous application of Lemon Pledge.

19-Jun-2008, 11:24
I used a product called Lexol, some sort of leather cleaner/toner/whatever, to loosen up the bellows on my 4x5 when I had just gotten it. The bellows would hardly expand without risk of damage, although it looked like it was in very good shape. I sprayed this on the collapsed bellows, wiped up the excess, waited a couple of minutes, moved the front standard forward a bit, repeated the previous treatment, until the bellows was fully extended. I then carefully sprayed the entire length all the way around with it again, and carefully wiped up the excess. After this it started working really well, and although I had to patch a handful of tiny pinholes in the very corners I don't really have any problems with it. That was, maybe, 4 years ago now... Should I get a new bellows, sure, but this one is working quite well now and is nice and supple again. It stands up to the flashlight test, or did after I fixed those pinholes. Your mileage may vary obviously...

- Randy

Navy Moose
19-Jun-2008, 16:48
You might want to apply a very light coat of mineral oil using a Q-Tip to the bellows. Apply the mineral oil with one Q-Tip and wipe off the excess with a second Q-Tip. I've done that with the last two cameras I purchased.

Nitish Kanabar
19-Jun-2008, 21:51
I have had good results with automotive leather wipes to clean up and soften old bellows. Here is a picture of the product I use.

Gene McCluney
20-Jun-2008, 18:47
The "key" here is that leather bellows (made from real animal hides) can be softened up again with various products that feed fresh oils into the skin. Synthetic bellows do not have pores to absorb oils and cannot be revived very well.