View Full Version : DIY Lens caps.

Ramiro Elena
4-Mar-2012, 11:50
I just gave it a go following the book "Restoring Classic and Collectable Cameras".

I was wondering if anyone here had tried it and what their thoughts were. I had to use fake leather since I couldn't find the real thing. The process seems to have gone real nice but when I came to folding the "leather" around the inside rim I found I had too much fabric to make a neat finish.
Anyone found the same problem?

The cap looks awesome nevertheless. I will post a couple pictures in a while.

4-Mar-2012, 13:12
Yes, I have the same problem. It is hard to get thin enough leather and stretch it enough. My solution so far has been to turn the liner (felt) out first, then, to bring the leather to the edge and trim it there. My liners are two piece: first like yours and then a stip 1/4 wider than the depth of the cap glued around the inside and turned out.
I have a bunch ready to line so I will be watching this thread first.

John Koehrer
4-Mar-2012, 13:19
Similar problem here but if you glue the inside surface of the cap and then install it, it flattens out pretty well.
I haven't tried making the cap another mm or so larger to accept the folded section more readily but will. Next time?

Sources for thin leather I use old purses, vests or skirts from resale stores or flea markets. Plenty thin for lens caps, not so much for bellows.

alex from holland
4-Mar-2012, 14:08
Here you go.
Regarding the leather. Search for sheep or goat leather.
You need to make it wet to give it a good stretch and that doesn't work with artificial leather

Lachlan 717
4-Mar-2012, 14:31
Have you checked the "safety" of PVC/fake leather/Vinyl gassing off and ruining the covering(s) of modern lens' elements?

Ramiro Elena
4-Mar-2012, 14:34
From your comments:

1- Try real leather. Like you say Alex, I didn't even try to wet artificial leather as I knew it wouldn't work. Folding might be easier with the real thing.
2- I should probably try to cut the leather AFTER I fold it around the inside like you did. I will do so with one cap waiting to dry (artificial leather).
3- I found the rubber band somewhat difficult to handle. The tie wrap is a great idea and have many at home. It didn't occur to me.
4- Flea markets! Good idea...
5- I only used white glue for the cardboard part. All the fabric I used contact glue which left me a bit worried about its effect on the lens in the long run.
edit: Yes, Lachlan. I was writing while you posted. Fake leather too, but maybe better than having the glass scratched from not having a cap... but yes.

More tomorrow.

Dan Dozer
4-Mar-2012, 18:02
I've been making them this way for years (also have the book), and the technique works very well. Problem is that the leather in the local craft stores around here is sometimes too thick making it hard to make the caps. I tried to get some on an internet leather source, but it was too thin. The bunching up around the inside of the cap happens just about every time - I just don't worry about it. With real leather, when you soak it it water, it gets much more pliable and stretchy - I don't know if imitation would do that as well.

4-Mar-2012, 18:41
I know some use the covering of old books (encyclopedias) when replacing damaged leatherette on old 35mm and medium format cameras. Don't know how it would work for lens caps. You can usually get old encyclopedias for a song at flee markets and yard sales.

Lachlan 717
4-Mar-2012, 19:14
Can't you just cut a disk for the top, a belt for the outside rim and one for the inside (if you're not felt-lining it)? This would overcome the bunching issue.

Ramiro Elena
5-Mar-2012, 01:51
Dan, the artificial leather is very elastic. I am thinking even more so than real leather even when wet but I need to experiment a little more. The real thing sure seems the way to go though.
Randy, I wonder how hard it is too pull appart the leather from the book cover. They're usually glued pretty well.

Steven Tribe
5-Mar-2012, 02:17
I have done a few caps and quite a lot of other thin leather work.
It is possible to get thin leather down to around 0.5mm. Almost all leather used in clothing will be thicker than this.
If you want thinner than this (down to 0.3mm), you will have to use snake/sea snake skin or Shagreen (ray skin) - all of which are perfect to work with.
There is at least one very good supplier on e**y (UK).
With thin skin you can cut just past the bends and use the traditional velvet for the internal surfaces.

Jay DeFehr
5-Mar-2012, 09:20
Kangaroo hide is another potential source of thin, tough leather, but it's not cheap. Then again, it doesn't take much to make a lens cap, even for a big lens.

5-Mar-2012, 10:36
I have made a couple of these with goat leather. My best recommendations are:
~to get it really wet with warm water
~do not completely wring it out before gluing on. it should still be kinda wet, but not dripping.
~I use a bookmaker's 'bone folder' to smooth it out. It works really well on the inside corners.
~It will take many days (prolly a week) to completely dry
Also, I love the flowers on the inside...nice touch.


Ramiro Elena
5-Mar-2012, 12:09
Thanks for the tip Steven. I ordered some shagreen. I'll also check my wife's drawers for leather purses and bags :D
The second cap for a 300mm Xenar came out better. Still not happy about the way the leather wraps around the rim. I tried cutting the fabric in a star shaped manner to avoid overlaping but still not perfect.
Another thing that puzzles me about the instructions in the book is how it says to lay the felt before glueing the leather over the rim. I think the felt should be applied last.

alex from holland
5-Mar-2012, 13:20
Ramiro, real leather will work much easier.
I have tried the artificial and the result is by far not as good as with leather.
Just give it a try and notice the difference.


Steven Tribe
5-Mar-2012, 13:32
Yes, all the genuine old caps have the internal velvet covering the bent-over edge of the leather.

Ramiro Elena
5-Mar-2012, 14:09
Will do Alex. Yours look excellent.

5-Mar-2012, 16:00
I have no idea. I think they must soak the covers in water. If I find out I'll post.

Randy, I wonder how hard it is too pull appart the leather from the book cover. They're usually glued pretty well.

Jim C.
5-Mar-2012, 17:18
Book binding suppliers have assortments if leather as well as artificial, they're a good source to check into.
Found that out looking for materials for camera bellows. If they're close enough you could go there and look
thru their closeouts and scrap bins for lens cap leather.

Ramiro Elena
9-Mar-2012, 11:58
I now see what you meant Alex. Leather is a whole different thing. As Steven pointed out too, thickness is an important matter. I bought an 80's women jacket at a thrifstore fro 3. Really horrendous but the leather is very nice and soft.

One problem I found with leather is that (when wet) it often deforms the matboard ruining it sometimes. I like the way artificial leather looks on the outside. The inside is just impossible to work. This might be due to the thickness of the leather.

Ramiro Elena
10-Mar-2012, 12:31
This one came out nicer, also fine tuning the interior.
I found a plastic lid that fits perfectly on a Tessar and used that instead of the matboard one I had made. It looks perfect.

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7200/6970168405_26deb54567.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rabato/6970168405/)
DIY lens cap (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rabato/6970168405/) por rabato (http://www.flickr.com/people/rabato/), en Flickr