Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 13

Thread: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    236

    Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    I am taking my shot at correlating Wollensak lens serial numbers with production dates. Original documentation appears lost to the ages, but significantly improved understanding is possible.

    This is a call for volunteers. If your Wollensak lens includes a date, would you consider sending me a private message with the relevant information: lens type, serial number, date, and mounting? For example, Velostigmat Series II, 235592, 11/26, Studio Shutter.

    Does your Wollensak lens have a date? Well, some do and some donít. Hereís what I have found:
    - Nearly all Betax shutters have a date penciled (early, picture #1) or scratched (late, picture #2) on the rear diaphragm plate. If you unscrew the rear lens cell, you should see it. Very rarely I have seen early Rapax and Alphax dates in the same location. Other shutters (Optimo, Auto, Regular, etc) may be worth a look, but I have not had success with a very limited sample size
    - Some Studio shutters have a date scratched into the enamel on the back of the shutter (picture #3)
    - Similarly, some older barrel lenses have a date penciled on the rear of the diaphragm ring. Like with Betax shutters, remove the rear cell to view (picture #4)

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you in advance, and I look forward to sharing the results of this study with the community.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	A435683D-E6F2-4B8D-8DBB-B6913BB51302.jpg 
Views:	17 
Size:	93.6 KB 
ID:	203429Click image for larger version. 

Name:	C8C9A0B6-21E6-4543-A96B-0B6DDB1CD565.jpg 
Views:	17 
Size:	66.9 KB 
ID:	203430Click image for larger version. 

Name:	E459F4BF-F10B-496F-893E-3EB02C01DDF2.jpg 
Views:	18 
Size:	45.0 KB 
ID:	203431Click image for larger version. 

Name:	EA4D10FC-5434-45C3-8AF0-F68DFBEF74E4.jpg 
Views:	17 
Size:	85.0 KB 
ID:	203432

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    now in Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    3,081

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    I'm sure you know that there was a long thread here, some years back, about trying to determine the serial numbers and ages of Wollensak lenses. And that the quest has never been completed... I don't recall any data mentioned then such as you've shown here; that should certainly help things along. Perhaps you could glean some useful info from that previous thread and incorporate it. The company had a nearly 70-year history, as you know, and there are lots of lenses that had nothing to do with LF. For example, I recently found a Keystone 8mm movie camera, probably pre-WWII, that has a (tiny) Wollensak lens.
    I wish you the best of luck, and will help where I can.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    236

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    Mark, you put your finger on the challenges of this task. Here’s what I’ve found, and why I think we can make progress:

    - Royal Anastigmat/Velostigmat/Raptar serial numbers appear sequential from beginning to end
    - After WWII, Wollensak put all lenses on the six digit “Velostigmat” sequence, including lenses that never bore serial numbers in the past, such as cine lenses
    - When the six-digit odometer rolled over in late 1953, Wollensak started over with AXXXXX, with the notable exception of Optar lenses for Graflex, which started a separate sequence beginning with GXXXXX

    The post-war story, if not yet well characterized, at least appears straightforward. I’ve gathered many data points that constrain the early 1940s to mid 1950s, as well as some more at the tail end.

    The pre-war picture is much fuzzier, and what I most hope this data call can shed light on. It appears that pre-war lenses were on separate sequences by product line. Consider the following:
    - Velostigmat Series II, 235529, Studio shutter marked 1926
    - Series IIIa E.X. WA, 10845, Betax shutter marked 1927
    - Vitax #5, 5293, Studio Shutter marked 1928

    I am hopeful that we can get a pretty good understanding of the six digit sequence, and at least chart some islands of known dates for other pre-war serial numbers that can be improved over time.
    Last edited by Whir-Click; 27-May-2020 at 13:37.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    4,410

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    How do you know those penciled and scratched dates are by Wollensak? They had ledgers and knew what year and month each serial number was made I'm sure. To me those look like the marks by a camera repair person. Pocket watches have that on their inside cases, dates the watch was last cleaned, lubed, and adjusted. But it wasn't a law or anything to do that, just a practice a lot of watch repairers did. I'm thinking these dates are the same, just marking when a repair was done.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    California
    Posts
    3,620

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    My repairman who was originally trained in the Compound/Compur factory once told me the penciled dates were repair dates, not date of manufacture.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    236

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    Hi Garret and Jim, I hear what you’re saying. Here’s why I think it’s very likely that these penciled/scratched dates were made by the Wollensak factory at the time of manufacture:
    - I’ve handled scores of Betax shutters and the consistency of the date’s location and format suggests a standard process rather than independent repairers
    - The dates I’ve seen all made sense with the shutter’s age. No late dates on early, bayonet-type speed plates, no early dates on late double-knurled versions, and no dates outside of the Betax’s production range, which I would expect to see with repairs.
    - I’ve seen a few lens and shutter date combinations that were too on-the-nose to suggest that these dates were added later, such as a coated Velostigmat in a Betax shutter marked 1947.
    - The Betax was introduced in 1921, and I recently serviced one of the earliest models which bore 12/21 penciled on the back. This would suggest date of manufacture rather than repair.
    - Wollensak’s Betax shutters don’t have serial numbers, and often were used by other lens companies, so this date may have served for Wollensak’s own warranty purposes.
    - I’ve also seen shutters that have additional, later dates or cryptic marks in different places and styles. These are often inside the shutter case, out of sight, and I would attribute them to the work of repairers, consistent with your watch analogy.

    Long story short: I believe these dates are Wollensak’s own manufacturing dates. It’s a hypothesis, but in the absence of factory ledgers, I think it’s a reasonable one.
    Last edited by Whir-Click; 5-May-2020 at 14:28.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    236

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    For a sanity check on shutter production vs. service date, I looked at the Betax’s two less-popular sister shutters that I have on hand. The Gammax is marked 5-22 on the back, and the Deltax is 3-24. The whole family of shutters was introduced in 1921, so I find this supportive of the numbers being factory production dates.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    4,410

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    Quote Originally Posted by Whir-Click View Post
    Hi Garret...
    - Wollensak shutters don’t have serial numbers, and often were used by other lens companies, so this date may have served for Wollensak’s own warranty purposes.
    ...Long story short: I believe these dates are Wollensak’s own manufacturing dates. It’s a hypothesis, but in the absence of factory ledgers, I think it’s a reasonable one.
    OK, I remembered Wollensaks having serial numbers, so just tested your hypothesis. I just grabbed two Wollesak shutters I happen to have on a shelf by my desk. Both have serial numbers.
    You have to look closely, but serial numbers are on the shutters I looked at. A company wouldn't have used pencil marks on the inside for any kind of official tracking, that doesn't make sense for a lot of practical reasons. I suppose they could be a secondary assembly marking or such. But if we know repair people in watches and shutters did this (and other repairmen, it was common to do this), I think saying it's factory is a stretch.

    Studio shutter, estimated circa 1930s:


    Early Optimo, 1909-1920s:

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    4,410

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    Here is another that I had handy on the shelf. Estimate 1920s based on the font type in Wollensak.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    236

    Re: Wollensak Serial Numbers: Request for Known Dates

    Thank you for showing that Studio and Optimo shutters have serial numbers. Nevertheless, if these’s a date scratched on the back of those Studio shutters, I’d be interested to know it.

    Let me refine the statement above to read: “Wollensak’s Betax shutters don’t have serial numbers, and often were used by other lens companies, so this date may have served for Wollensak’s own warranty purposes.“

Similar Threads

  1. Suter serial numbers and dates.
    By Steven Tribe in forum Lenses & Lens Accessories
    Replies: 49
    Last Post: 26-Sep-2020, 14:01
  2. Goerz serial numbers (post-breakup) question re: 1 million serial numbers
    By John Schneider in forum Lenses & Lens Accessories
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 20-Sep-2016, 16:37
  3. Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers
    By Amedeus in forum Lenses & Lens Accessories
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 15-Sep-2014, 20:45
  4. Wollensak serial numbers again
    By Dan Fromm in forum Lenses & Lens Accessories
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 22-Feb-2013, 07:47
  5. Rodenstock lens serial numbers / production dates
    By Oren Grad in forum Lenses & Lens Accessories
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 19-Dec-2009, 09:50

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •