I've just received my first large format camera in the post. This is a Thornton Pickard Imperial Triple Extension. According to Wikipedia it was introduced in 1913 and produced for decades, but I don't know how accurate that is. I paid 65 for it, which I don't think qualifies as a bargain, but I wanted a little project and there were no other half-plate examples around within my price range. I know nothing about these cameras, so this will be a learning experience for me. I thought I'd share in case anybody else gives this a go, and can learn from my mistakes. Hopefully other forum members will also be able to offer me some tips.

It arrived in the filthiest, mouldiest box I have ever seen. No other packaging was used, except that the box was wrapped in a dirty towel. This was what it looked like when I got it all out:

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The bellows are white. With mould. I took them outside, put my face mask on, and brushed it with a paintbrush to remove all of the mould from the surface. However, the real problem is that there's mould in every fold. I decided that the bellows might possibly be salvageable, so they are currently absorbing a good quantity of Neutrogena hand creme. When it's all absorbed, I will take them outside again and very gently open them up and remove the mould with a damp, soft brush. I saw one corner tear of about 2-3 inches, but I suspect they may actually be in reasonable shape. Apart from the disgusting mould, which is making me feel sick.

The rest of the camera was very, very dirty, but mostly intact, including the ground glass.

After a quick (but not comprehensive) clean, this is what I'm left with:

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One annoyance is that the shutter doesn't belong to the camera. It's the wrong size to fit the panel on the front, and the wrong colour. I may see if I can make a replacement for the board on the front. In the future, I may try to make an adaptor for the Sinar copal shutter anyway. The shutter looks quite good, I'd expected it to be a wreck. I can't get it to do anything much, but then again, I don't know how it's meant to operate. I need to do some reading on that. It would be nice to get it working, even if it's not a perfect fit for this camera.

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Can anybody please identify the wooden item to the right of the camera in the main 'clean' picture above? I've no idea what it is. It has a metal plaque attached to it, advertising 'The Service Company' in Higher Holborn, which was a company which dealt in everything from cars to cameras, to 'talking machines', furniture, tailoring and sports goods.

It comes with three wooden double dark slides. These look very well used. I opened one up, and found a glass plate in it. I suspect it had been exposed, because the slide had been hooked onto a piece of metal which I had to unhook to open it. I didn't guess what that was for until it was too late. I closed it quickly just in case it could be exposed in future, although I expect it's too far gone.

I will post an update when I've had a chance to clean the bellows at the weekend. Fingers crossed it's not a total disaster, since I doubt I have the skills to make new ones, and I can't really afford to buy them.

Any tips or advice welcome!

Oh, and if anyone knows how to fold the front standard down, that would be very helpful, because I've not got a clue.