View Full Version : help with graphex shutter on crown graphic

7-Aug-2009, 12:15
Hi All,
This is my first post. Yesterday I received of a crown graphic with an optar 135 f/4.7 lens in a graphex shutter. I am mostly pleased with the condition of the camera (bought from ebay) but the shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/25 second don't work properly. The shutter opens fine but then remains open until I twist the shutter speed dial back to the T setting. Does anyone have any idea what the issue might be, and any potential remedies to the problem? Is disassembly and lubrication something that might help, and doable by an amateur?

Ivan J. Eberle
7-Aug-2009, 13:05
Yes, press camera shutters can often be salvaged quite easily and inexpensively. Google "Ronsonol soak". Ronsonol is common lighter fluid, pure naptha.

(With one caveat-- a prolonged naptha soak might have some negative consequences for the paper washers used on flash synchronized Graphex shutters).

The lube in shutters can solidify after several decades.

Fortunately, most of the shutters of the press camera era can often be cleaned without major disassembly (IOW, removing only the lens front and rear cell assemblies and the shutter top cover.) I successfully cleaned a slow Rapax shutter this way, though it took a couple of baths until I got all the 60 years of accumulated gunk out.

It's debatable whether such lubrication is actually needed with some shutters, at all. Used to be standard practice to remove all oil from a shutter to "winterize" it for use in cold climes.

Next, Google "Sound Card Shutter Tester" for an easy cheap way to time the result.

7-Aug-2009, 13:46
Thanks, Ivan, that is helpful. When googling, I found this link (http://presscameras.graywolfphoto.com/graphex.html) in which the author suggests that the soak can do more harm than good. He claims the ronsonol will dissolve the grease but leave behind damaging grit.... and also reiterates your point about the paper washers. When you say prolonged soak, about how long do you think is safe? And how likely do you think it is that the problem of the shutter not closing is simply due to gummed up lube/dirt, as opposed to a more serious problem?

7-Aug-2009, 13:53
You may need to have the shutter cleaned too Flutot's Camera Repair is a good choice. Also SK Grimes in Rhode Island

Vick Vickery
7-Aug-2009, 14:03
I'd second the motion to seek out Carol's help at Flutot's...she's a wizz and is very reasonable to boot! www.flutotscamerarepair.com The site has instructions for sending in your shutter and alot of other good information.

7-Aug-2009, 14:09
I'd second the motion to seek out Carol's help at Flutot's...she's a wizz and is very reasonable to boot! www.flutotscamerarepair.com The site has instructions for sending in your shutter and alot of other good information.
THanks for the tip. The only thing is that I can buy a working shutter off ebay for for about the same price as the listed CLAC service and I live in Canada, so dealing with shipping and customs in both directions adds to the cost. I am hoping to find a diy solution to getting these shutter speeds working, and if that doesn't work I'll likely spring for a lens on ebay.

Ivan J. Eberle
7-Aug-2009, 14:15
Sticking shutters are the norm when they've not been touched in a couple of decades. The cause can involve any number of things, congealed grease being at the top of the list. Do you have the flash synchronized version? Perhaps disassembly is more appropo. Googling further, you might also find instructions for total disassembly/reassembly.

I can see where if the flush is incomplete, you could leave gunk behind. But it's unlikely that this will ruin your shutter; more likely, it'd just be as it was, sticking and rather useless. Bear in mind that if you happen to destroy one of these once extremely common shutters, you're out of pocket not but perhaps $50-- roughly the cost of the least inexpensive professional CLA (Clean, lube & adjust).

Instead, I find it gratifying to do projects like fixing and especially timing my shutters, so the DIY aspect is for me, at least, part of the lure of large format using classic equipment. YMMV.

7-Aug-2009, 20:35
Well, I will definitely be taking a DIY approach, the only question is whether I should do a simple soak or try to do a full disassembly and clean. I do feel that the latter is a bit (a lot) beyond my skill level. Has anyone here tried this? How hard was it to put all back together? What did techniques/substances did you use for cleaning? Did you apply lubricant after cleaning?

7-Aug-2009, 22:34
If you go to graflex.org and do a search for ronsonol or "lighter fluid" you'lll find more answers than you're looking for.

In a nutshell, the lighter fluid works just fine and no one has ever reported a problem in doing it. But no one that I know of uses a prolonged soak either! The best way found is to take off both lens cells, then squirt the fluid into the shutter allowing it to immediately drain out (someplace safe and outdoors!). The shutter itself will need a day or two to completely dry out so you won't know for sure if it worked until then. It really helps to squirt the fluid into the areas that need to be cleaned. You can get a copy of the Grafex shutter repair manual from:
http://www.southbristolviews.com under Graflex Manuals.
Most often just squirting enough into the shutter to have it drip out the bottom will be enough. Sometimes it needs more though.

Some people mix graphite with the fluid before the squirt. Some people blow dry graphite into the shutter after it dries completely.

I have done it both ways. I prefer blowing dry graphite into a dry shutter. On the other hand, I did have one stubborn shutter that preferred the graphite mixed with the fluid and a good overnight soak. I have cleaned a dozen Grafex type shutters this way and they have all worked as good as new afterwards.

Saying that, I will take no responsibility at all if something nasty happens to your shutter ;-) After all, they are all slightly different and who knows what's inside? The gunk might be all there is holding something important together?

Grab the manual and see what you're working with first. Then try the quick squirt. It won't hurt and there's nothing to lose. Good luck with it!

8-Aug-2009, 06:06
Thanks Rich, that's a lot of great info. I'll definitely give it a go.


14-Aug-2009, 16:03
Hey All,
I just squirted the ronosnol into the lens, and it worked like a charm! None of the speeds are sticking now.... Regarding the idea of blowing graphite into the lens, what kind of graphite should I look for? Any ideas of what kinds of stores might sell it?

14-Aug-2009, 16:06
Regarding the idea of blowing graphite into the lens, what kind of graphite should I look for?

Don't do it. You got lucky once and revived your shutter... now go use it and don't tempt fate! If it jams up again consider a professional cleaning.