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Thread: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

  1. #1

    Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    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.

  2. #2

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    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    I think that item in the "clean" picture is a tilting tripod block, I can just make out the pins
    for the legs on the notched circular part.

  3. #3

    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    Thanks Jim. It has a lever which, when pushed, causes pins to come out. That does make sense.

  4. #4
    Ron (Netherlands)'s Avatar
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    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    About the TP Triple Imperial Extension is some info on 'Historic Camera': http://historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/li...et&app_id=1039
    and on 'Early Photography': http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/site/entry_C854.html

    Very nice camera which is somewhat similar to my TP Imperial Perfecta

    Your focal plane shutter seems to be an original TP shutter that came with the camera. They can easily be restored if they do not work. See if you can open the shutter to ascertain what's wrong with it.
    If they are ok, they should work as follows:
    1. With the knob at the side you can set the shutterspeed
    2. By a first short pull at the string, the shutter opens and stays open so you can focus the camera;
    3. by a second pull, the shutter closes (and some show the word SET on the shutter cloth);
    4. if you pull the long black lever at the side, it fires the shutter.


    ...and a TP used in a very nice historic movie :-)
    https://youtu.be/41cq68b-cSU
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  5. #5

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    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    Absolutely disgusting condition!!
    I suggest you remove all brasswork, clean and replaced AFTER the wood has been refinished. Screws go walkabout.
    The good thing about belows is that a dark cloth can be placed over the bad corners before the dark slide is removed - as long they don't split into two!

    I fear the front standard/lens board/tapered bellows do not provide a basis for a Sinar/Copal shutter mounting. I did this with a tailboard camera and square bellows and there was only just enough space!

  6. #6

    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron (Netherlands) View Post
    Your focal plane shutter seems to be an original TP shutter that came with the camera. They can easily be restored if they do not work. See if you can open the shutter to ascertain what's wrong with it.
    If they are ok, they should work as follows:
    1. With the knob at the side you can set the shutterspeed
    2. By a first short pull at the string, the shutter opens and stays open so you can focus the camera;
    3. by a second pull, the shutter closes (and some show the word SET on the shutter cloth);
    4. if you pull the long black lever at the side, it fires the shutter.
    Thank you! With some jiggling and playing about, I now have the shutter completely working. However, I can't for the life of me work out how it would reattach. The board beneath it seems designed for a larger shutter to slot onto it. Also, I'll need to make it light tight, since the material is no longer completely opaque.

  7. #7

    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Tribe View Post
    Absolutely disgusting condition!!
    I suggest you remove all brasswork, clean and replaced AFTER the wood has been refinished. Screws go walkabout.
    The good thing about belows is that a dark cloth can be placed over the bad corners before the dark slide is removed - as long they don't split into two!

    I fear the front standard/lens board/tapered bellows do not provide a basis for a Sinar/Copal shutter mounting. I did this with a tailboard camera and square bellows and there was only just enough space!
    Unfortunately the bellows proved just slightly too far gone, and they disintegrated. It's a shame, because mostly they were in reasonable condition, but the mould was sickening and the areas of damage were just too brittle. I'll have to try and make something up to replace them.

    The wood will all need refinishing, as you suggest. It's not very attractive as-is.

    Another task is to find a lens that fits - I have no idea about the lens mounts of this era.

  8. #8

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    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    You already have the lens mount (lens flange) attached to ubiquitous Thornton- Pickard curtain shutter! Diameters were pretty standard so you should be able to find a UK lens that fits.

    The triple extension might be a standard bellows at a custom bellows in Birmingham (that is, at a reasonable price).

    I hope Jeeves will help you with this project!

  9. #9
    Ron (Netherlands)'s Avatar
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    Re: Thornton Pickard Imperial restoration project

    Quote Originally Posted by BertieWooster View Post
    Unfortunately the bellows proved just slightly too far gone, and they disintegrated. It's a shame, because mostly they were in reasonable condition, but the mould was sickening and the areas of damage were just too brittle. I'll have to try and make something up to replace them.

    The wood will all need refinishing, as you suggest. It's not very attractive as-is.

    Another task is to find a lens that fits - I have no idea about the lens mounts of this era.
    I would advise to wait buying a lens before you have built any bellows. Having them made my a third party is not really worth looking at the condition of this camera considering the relatively high price (even Chinese ones are prized). Therefore I would rather sell the camera for parts and buy another one with bellows that are still ok (not long ago bought a full plate camera in not such a good state, but...with perfect bellows for very low price);
    IMHO bellows are the first thing to look at when buying an old camera.

    Restoring that old shutter is a nice project though!
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