View Full Version : Dirty Crown Graphic from eBay

11-Sep-2009, 11:39
I received a Crown Graphic 4x5 today from eBay, it seems dirty. There was a bit of oil on the bellows top and on the collapsible metal focusing tent on the Graflok back.

Most of the camera (especially the side rangefinder and top viewfinder thing) have a black oily residue apparent when using a wet nap type cleaning pad to tidy it up a bit. It appears to be paint or oil. Is this expected on a camera such as mine?

It also has a 135mm Optar in OK shape - however - the shutter assembly seems to move just a bit when I release the shutter (I think I can brace my fingers on the biposts while firing the shutter to prevent) but perhaps I should tighten it from the rear. Can I do this without a special tool?

11-Sep-2009, 12:07
I've got a 1951ish speed graphic I got on Ebay earlier this year.

It should be mostly clean and dry. Perhaps someone coated it with wd40 or Hoppes #9 to protect it from rust/tarnish in it's previous environment. The might have been messy lubricating the close/open catch and/or the focusing hood.

There is usefulness in cleaning everything up (alcohol, baby wipes) and carefully lubricating some metal parts. I have used spray lithium grease to lube the hinges on the focusing hood, the closed catch, the opened catch/bracket, the focusing rails/gears, etc.. If I could not properly direct the spray with a nozzle tube, I applied it with a q-tip. It works a lot smoother and easier now. It opens and closes smoothly, and the press of the button fully opens the focusing hood. Take special care to not lube the groundglass or lens.

I did have some pretty hard black grime/buildup/tarnish on the focal plane shutter controls (knobs, levers, etc..) Most of it's still on there. Some alcohol and dilute simple green cleaned up some of it.

As far as the lens, if it's anything more than removing/reinstalling it from the lensboard or removing and reinstalling the front or rear glass element groups, I'd personally send it away for professional evaluation or repair. Chances are good that any lens that hasn't been in regular use for a long time is due for a "cla" service if you want it to work as it is intended. Consider it a part of the ownership experience of complicated mechanical things.

After the basic cleaning/lube and sending the lens away (sk grimes did the CLA for me), it's been a nice rugged functional camera.

Vick Vickery
11-Sep-2009, 12:10
Welcome to group therepy! Your Crown seems to have been at least stored in a dirty environment. I'd clean it up first with a little mild soap on a washcloth and, if that doesn't get it clean, maybe a little alcohol on the same cloth. As long as you are gentle with it (as in, don't punch a hole in the bellows bearing down on it), such cleaning shouldn't do any harm. Don't forget to take a look inside, too...that may need some cleaning also.

The safe way to tighten the lens/shutter assembly is to use a spanner wrench as sold on eBay or by the retailers such as B&H Photo to tighten down on the little retaining ring on the back (inside) of the lens board; In reality, I usually just screw it down firmly with the top of the shutter placed at 9-o'clock when looking from the front and hold the ring while turning the shutter up tight; doesn't work as well as a wrench, but it does work. Be carefull of all the little levers, etc., projecting from the sides of the shutter...you don't want to bend or break any of them.

Frank R
11-Sep-2009, 12:54
Take the time to clean everything; it is good therapy and a rewarding sub-hobby. Use old toothrushes, paper towels, lens tissue, alcohol, soap and water, toothpicks, or whatever gets the job done. Scuffs on black leather can be touched up with a black Sharpie marker and blended with a tissue.

Many many cameras have been rescued by someone taking the time to care for a neglected camera. You will learn a lot by going over your camera. You will then be better able to judge other used cameras that you find. I have found several diamonds in the rough and passed on a lot of junk.

Robert Hughes
11-Sep-2009, 12:57
"Hi, I'm Bob. I'm a Graph-aholic".
"Hi, Bob."

11-Sep-2009, 13:19
You should feel fortunate. I bought one from an eBay seller once in "excellent condition in perfect working order" that was obviously a barn find. It had bird droppings and spider webs throughout and it had been wet many times. The metal bits were all rusted together and the shutter blades and iris were completely locked up from rust. The leather had mold all over it. A complete loss that one was. I couldn't even unscrew the cells from the shutter. The seller refused to reply to my inquiries.

12-Sep-2009, 09:47
Thanks all for the info. I took the lens board off (for back of lens, interior bellows, and
screen cleaning) the lens seemed very tight on the board though it still has a bit of play in it. I think I can deal with by moving the lens counter-clockwise toward the shutter release (thus removing the play) before releasing the shutter. Also a cable on the shutter seems to avoid the issue. Maybe a pad or some other resistance between shutter and board could be added in the future, or maybe it really needs tightening..

I notice the rangefinder shows different parts of the view in focus; vertical-wise things line up, but the in-focus indicator never seems to be right horizontal-wise, any thoughts (this seems to be intermittent depending on plane of the camera)? Ground glass focusing seems to match up with rangefinder with a slight adjustment in the RF - though since I cannot see on the GG great, even wide-open, with a hood, etc., I'm not sure which one is more accurate - should I trust the GG or make the fine adjustment using the RF?

The shutter's B setting doesn't seem to work - it stays open (even when releasing the shutter completely) - and I'm not sure what T does. It just stays open like the broken B. Sometimes I notice on the other speeds slow shutter action while it's opening - but this is only occasional. Should I exercise the shutter more, any tips there?

I'm thinking of using a Caltar 210mm on this and wonder if I should bother to adjust the RF when I do, or just use the GG - I believe graflex.org suggests some compensating option in lieu of RF adjustment, perhaps to make it easier to return to the previous lens..

Thanks for any more info!

Vick Vickery
12-Sep-2009, 12:57
On my previous comments about tightening the lens, I neglected to mention that tighting by turning the shutter while holding the retaining ring assummes that THERE IS NO INDEXING PIN ON THE BACK OF THE SHUTTER!!!! If an indexing pin is sticking out of the back of the shutter into a hole/dimple in the board, REMOVE THE PIN BEFORE TIGHTENING THE SHUTTER BY TURNING THE SHUTTER FROM THE FRONT!!!

Sorry about the ommission, I wouldn't want you to damage your shutter!

Glenn Thoreson
12-Sep-2009, 14:22
I've probably gone through ten gallons of Formula 409 over the years, cleaning cameras. Speed and Crown Graphics, mostly. I don't know what people do to those things, but it's not good.

Michael Cienfuegos
13-Sep-2009, 11:03
I picked up an old 3x4 Auto Graflex which may have had mice living it at one time. It was filthy, but I did manage to clean it up and get the shutter working. It has proven to be a pretty good camera, but it does need a new viewing hood. I have the old one held together with gaffers tape.