View Full Version : Removing bellows from B&J?

9-Jun-2009, 04:39
I have an ugly grey, but quite usable B&J 4x5. Despite my better judgement, I am hankering to strip the navy grey paint and refinish it.
The red bellows are leak free, and I would like to keep them that way.
How can I remove the bellows without tearing them up? It is not readily apparent to me how they are attached.

Kevin M Bourque
9-Jun-2009, 05:28
If its like the one I had, they're glued in there. I have no idea what kind of glue they used. You *might* be able to dissolve it with some kind of solvent without hurting the bellows. Alternatively you could slide a razor blade between the bellows and the wood. Either way, it's not as easy as if they were in a frame.

Doug Herta
9-Jun-2009, 17:47
I am in the middle of a B&J Orbit 8X10 restoration. Beneath the ugly grey paint appears to be tight grain maple, so strip away. The bellows are glued, and can be gently separated from the wood frame. They can be reglued with a good contact cement. As an alternative you could also glue a square wood frame to the bellows with thin plywood and then come up with a way to attach/detach them.

These are not collectable cameras, so no harm in modifying them. I built new bellows for the 8X10 (see the Western Bellows thread) and installed a Sinar shutter between the bellows and the rear of the front frame so I can use barrel lenses.

Have fun!

Doug Howk
10-Jun-2009, 02:31
From what I remember, there was a period in American culture where paint, linoleum, carpeting, etc. were preferred as more modern than exposed wood grain. Thankfully, wood is more appreciated now.

I have an 8X10 B&J Grover studio camera, and the stripped wood is beautiful. For the bellows, I carefully removed with a utility knife, then glued to a frame that is screwed onto the camera.

10-Jun-2009, 07:02
Before you start cutting things up, take off the back and look to see how the bellows is installed. It's been a long time since I had a B&J, but most wooden view cameras are constructed to that the bellows is glued to frames, one front and one rear, which are then attached to their respective standards using wood screws. The screws can be removed and the bellows removed intact. The frames may be a little difficult to remove because they've been tightly attached to the camera for 60 years. But with a little gentle persuasion, they will eventually yield. The screws can be difficult to find sometimes, hiding behind folds in the bellows. Extend the camera out a ways to open the bellows a bit. Use a long shank screwdriver then to reach them. I purchased one at Ace a few years back which is my "bellows screwdriver". A good flashlight or an articulated desk lamp will help greatly, too. The rear frame may be attached using screws that insert from the front (lens side) of the frame. Use a stubby screwdriver and be patient. This is not a good place to strip a screw head. Other cameras like the Deardorff use screws which insert from the side. An old bellows can be removed from the frame and then reglued, but that's much more work in my estimation and risks damage to the bellows. If your B&J bellows attaches directly to the camera without frames, though, you're faced with little choice. As I said, it's been several years since I worked on a Burke & James, so YMMV.

W K Longcor
10-Jun-2009, 09:46
I once bought a B&J Grover 8x10. Kind of classy looking with its bright red bellows. The guy I was buying it from assured me that the bellows was light - tight. He set the camera up on a tripod and stretched it out to full extension. There was a loud ripping sound and the bellows popped off the front standard. ( There was only glue on them -- no wood frame.) He quickly came down $50 and I bought a camera,:D

Pete Watkins
10-Jun-2009, 14:03
I've seen pictures of B&J's stripped down to the wood and in my opinion there is no contest. Leave the grey and go to the local auto store and get some red paint to match the bellows for your lens boards. If you have the 90* tilting platform strip off the green baez and replace it with red to match the bellows....beautiful, and a lot less trouble. I've done it......fantastic!!!

Brian Bullen
10-Jun-2009, 18:20
I refinished an 8x10 Grover as well and there is no frame for the bellows. With gentle pulling the bellows came off perfectly. Re-glue with contact cement and you're ready for action and adventure. :cool:

Lynn Jones
11-Jun-2009, 06:39
My B&J 8x10 VC has natural finish and is beautiful.