View Full Version : Corner "leathers" on Continental Bellows - repair

Steven Tribe
19-Feb-2012, 16:45
I have about 8 of these cameras that have four piece fibre/paper bellows, joined at the four corner by 4 strips of "leather" (with black cloth underneath). This is really good system. The paper bellows last well and only 2 of my cameras have leather folded corner damage.

I have done some temporary repairs with tape which makes the compression thickness for the stowed camera difficult or impossible.
I have measured the thickness of the leather to under 0.5mm. This is not a thickness that is commercial available in the usual hides.
Rummaging around my female relatives dress making scraps has revealed that snakeskin is a possibility and I know that tanned fish skins have the right thickness and have used for telescopes.
Snakeskin has the advantage that it is the right length (65cm) and width "from the hand of nature". This may sound a bit overdone but the Continental cameras did have quite colourful leather edges.
Would be pleased to hear other opinions/experience of working with these materials, like giving it a fold and strength over time.

I have found a local source for both snakeskin and fishskin. Both are produced commercially and not on the CITES list.

19-Feb-2012, 18:20
I was able to buy some 'skiver' leather off ebay a couple of years ago, 3 medium-sized pieces for perhaps US$25 plus shipping if memory serves. I find the thickness varies a little over the hide (maybe 0.25-0.6mm range), but I have no problem finding a large enough section to repair bellows or re-skin a small or medium format camera. I did buy a package of colored snake skins that same year, but I haven't tried them on anything. I was thinking of making a red cobra-skin Canon FTb when I bought it, but I don't have the heart to do it. The skiver leather is very flexible, the snake skin is not.

Steven Tribe
20-Feb-2012, 06:25
I have made a purchase of two brown sea snakeskins (approx. 70cm x12cm). I have chosen these as they are without colour patterning - other than the usual reptilian appearance. I will report back on experience with "backing" these with material, bending, glueing etc.

Steven Tribe
1-Mar-2012, 13:29
I have just done some experiments with cutting, glueing, putting creases in, flexing and measuring the thickness of the compressed folds.
The backing and skin were joined by ordinary spray glue.
It seems quite satisfactory, so I will remove the old corners and attempt replacement.


Jon Wilson
4-Mar-2012, 21:09
I don't know if this will work for you Steve, but I got the idea from reading a 1910's photography magazine which recommended using old kid gloves to repair bellow corners. See: Ebay item 400280694943 kidskin leather hide

Steven Tribe
10-Apr-2012, 06:39
Just some experience of trying to fix this type of bellows with the bellows still mounted on front and rear standards.
Don't try it!
Although it may take some time to unglue the ends, it saves time, in the end to remove and open out the bellows into a 4 double sheet. In thory, the bellows can be stretched in situ to do this repair - which is what I tried. But in practice, it is not possible to obtain a flat, even and attractive result with the outer skin and the internal material taping is just about impossible to do!