View Full Version : Seems like a really good easy DIY bellows page..

Nathan Appel
21-Aug-2011, 11:21
sorry if this has been posted before. I'm going to try this out today, seems pretty easy and put in 'layman's' terms

Joe Smigiel
21-Aug-2011, 13:51

Having made a few bellows, I would like to mention a couple points. First, the method you've linked to does not have any acutely-pointed stiffeners to help define the corner folds. It appears the method just lets the corners happen when the bellows is folded. I'm not sure if this impacts the standard shape or strength and longevity of the corners.

Second, a great deal of time will be spent drawing the pattern manually, punching the holes at the two ends of each panel fold line and then lining up the metal rule. According to the directions, "3 or 4 passes with the knife" then need to be made for each edge of the panel fold line. This also requires the rule to be held in place while cutting and I would suspect that is very difficult, especially for the second edge cuts where very little material is left from the other edge cut.

Having all the pattern on 4 large pattern sheets certainly simplifies the gluing of the stiffeners to the fabrics, but I'm not sure the extra labor involved getting to that point is worth it. Also, you may find the camera requires bellows that taper at different angles between the sides and which also may have several different widths of stiffeners. (I am currently working on an Agfa replacement bellows that requires 7 different widths of stiffeners.) The widths may change in order to have the bellows avoid camera hardware or attach to certain frames.

There would be more labor involved at the gluing stage, but I would recommend cutting out the complete stiffeners and gluing them individually. To get to that point, I have drawn the pattern in Photoshop along with guidelines for cutting each individual stiffener. I include a center guideline through all of them to help align them when gluing and I also number and color each individual stiffener to help keep them in order. I cut the stiffeners out with an inexpensive scrapbooking cutter. It still takes a lot of time to cut the individual stiffeners, but I suspect less so that the other method. The real difference is the time and effort that will be needed at the gluing stage where the method you've linked to is certainly easier at that stage.

Even if you choose not to do the method I've described, I believe it would be simpler and more accurate to draw the pattern in Photoshop rather than by hand, and then use the knife or scrapbook cutter to cut the fold line areas. (Unlike a rotary cutter, the cheap cutter I use has a cutting blade that can be positioned anywhere inside the pattern to start a cut.)

I've put the pattern files for a Rochester Universal whole-plate camera online (http://smieglitz.tumblr.com/post/8784923807/roc-bellows) if anyone would like a visual. The patterns are scaled @ 100% to print on letter-sized paper. Here's a pic of the ROC camera with new bellows followed by reduced views of a portion of the top/bottom pattern and side patterns:


The scrapbooking cutter used to cut the stiffeners. Cost was about $15 IIRC.

In the method I use, the pattern is drawn in Photoshop, printed on cover stock in an inkjet printer and then cut. The overall taper and size of the bellows is drawn on a sheet of poster board and then cut out to form a stencil. I use this stencil to draw the shape of the bellows on the fabric, and the draw lines for the stiffener pattern directly onto the fabric using a light-colored fabric pen. That pattern is used to align the stiffeners as they are glued individually to the fabric. I use contact adhesive on the fabric and stiffeners and do the gluing in a well-ventilated area.

I plan to document the construction of my replacement bellows for the Agfa and hope to write an instructional webpage if all goes well.

With either method, making a bellows is very time consuming. It is a simple thing to do, but I would not call it easy. For many, it would not be worth the effort when other alternatives are available for certain cameras. I notice in addition to traditional sources of replacement bellows such as Custom Bellows, Ltd., there is a new company from China selling inexpensive replacement bellows on ebay.

21-Aug-2011, 17:27
making a bellows is miserable, especially if you are only doing one. Just for the record.

When Soren was doing his kits, it was pretty awesome.

I mean, unless you love doing pretty boring, tedious tasks. Which I guess a lot of people around here love doing (cough*darkroom*cough).

Joe Smigiel
21-Aug-2011, 21:13
Tonight I tested cutting a pattern remaining in a large sheet such as Bardells' with the scrapbook cutter. Didn't work very well. So, I'm convinced the stiffeners are best cut out completely and glued individually into place. Next time I think I'll get some small pins to secure the paper stiffener strips to a piece of cardboard when applying the adhesive. An extra step, but it should make the overall process go smoother with less mess.

Here's a link to a very helpful pdf file on bellows construction (http://jbhphoto.com/articles/bellows/bbuildingjbh2008.pdf) by JB and Susan Harlin (http://www.jbhphoto.com/). They have made bellows for a couple of their vertical banquet cameras that are quite impressive.

I agree that making a bellows is a very tedious thing but it can be rewarding. I've learned some things about camera design and function by making my own bellows. It is also a good project on a cold rainy day with not much else going on. And, making the bellows gives you a lot more freedom with materials. So far I've made standard black bellows but have also experimented with different fabrics. I have made iridescent burgandy bellows for the ROC above, a green leatherette for the same camera, and a metallic iridescent copper bellows for a small camera I'm designing made from copper pipe and stained lacewood which is coppery in apearance. I also want to make a camera with a silver theme using highly polished nickel, chrome, or stainless steel hardware along with a silvery alumenized nylon taffetta for the exterior fabric. Ooohh, shiny!

22-Aug-2011, 01:49
making a bellows is miserable, especially if you are only doing one. Just for the record.

When Soren was doing his kits, it was pretty awesome.

I mean, unless you love doing pretty boring, tedious tasks. Which I guess a lot of people around here love doing (cough*darkroom*cough).

I agree. But where are those who boasted about how easy it is to make bellows? I remember one saying that it is "remarkably easy"... Search for "Need bellows help" thread...:)

Nathan Appel
23-Aug-2011, 21:08
Bellows making is not for the faint of heart, oh man. Anyways, first attempt: failed

23-Aug-2011, 21:16
I think I will make a negative, not a bellows !!

24-Aug-2011, 08:20
I wish Soren would come back. A lot of perfectly good cameras out there. I did beta testing on his kits and they were awesome.