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Thread: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

  1. #1

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    Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    Hello .
    I've bought a used , DIY built 10"x12" Large format camera and film holder .
    It only cost me 45 , so I'm quite happy with it .
    I need to replace the missing focus screen and make a few modifications to so it can be dismantled for transport and improve stability .

    There's one area I need a bit of advice on though , and that's the bellows .
    Their not leather bellows , there some sort of cloth based one that has stiffened up with age .
    If I were to use them as is , the corners will go in a short space of time . ( I reckon )

    So I need to know what to apply to them to soften them up again .
    I'm in the U.K , so need to know of products that are available over here .

    In the description of the sellers listing for the camera , they had this to say regards to the bellows ;
    "Bellows have stiffened with age and will need conditioning to become supple. They have softened slightly with some silicon treatment but will need to be softened more for proper use"

    So is silicone the right thing to use , and in what form ?

    I have included some photos of the bellows to help identify the material used .

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks in advance .

  2. #2

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    The camera seems homemade, and good chance the bellows were also... Check if a fabric used for them may have been painted to seal them (look carefully for brush marks etc)... They may have been stiff from day 1... It may benefit from new bellows as camera looks a little flimsy, so the stiff bellows will work against it in use... It's corners are not collapsing correctly, and will hard to collapse completely... Since it was cheap, get a quote from Camera Bellows/UK for a set just out of curiosity...

    But the next bigger issue is how long will the camera extend with your choice of FL lens on it, and will it still focus close and far??? Finish getting a GG on the back so you can test this... Camera doesn't seem to have a long bed/rail, maybe only enough for a WA lens for that format... And stiff bellows won't help there...

    I see there is a lot of room for many upgrades, but maybe too many for practical purposes (like fixing a leg on a chair, where you soon have ended up rebuilding the entire chair)... And camera might be hard to use just for something simple, so maybe better for a prop camera on display...

    Steve K

  3. #3

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    Custom Bellows (.com) in the UK makes excellent bellows. Contact them. They just gave me a quote of 99.00 for an 8x10 bellows that I plan to send them.

  4. #4

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    The camera seems homemade, and good chance the bellows were also... Check if a fabric used for them may have been painted to seal them (look carefully for brush marks etc)... They may have been stiff from day 1... It may benefit from new bellows as camera looks a little flimsy, so the stiff bellows will work against it in use... It's corners are not collapsing correctly, and will hard to collapse completely... Since it was cheap, get a quote from Camera Bellows/UK for a set just out of curiosity...
    The camera is a homemade camera , and no doubt the bellows are too .
    There no way of knowing how old the camera is , but I do think they are much stiffer than when it was made .
    They are not painted , they seem to be vinyl based .
    I will look into new bellows , but I want to see if I can improve these first .


    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    But the next bigger issue is how long will the camera extend with your choice of FL lens on it, and will it still focus close and far??? Finish getting a GG on the back so you can test this... Camera doesn't seem to have a long bed/rail, maybe only enough for a WA lens for that format... And stiff bellows won't help there...
    The camera bed is in two pieces that bolt together , doubling the total length .
    I haven't measured it , but I guess a total of around 40" .
    The lens came with it and is supposed to cover the format , I also have a Symmar 300mm that will just cover this size .
    being a convertible lens , the bellows should be long enough still to suite my needs .
    In the picture above , the camera is set to the minimum distance between the film holder and lens .
    Not because of the bellows material preventing it going any further , but because of the design on how the standards are mounted on the bed .
    This might be an issue when I mount the 10x8 back on it , the widest lens I have for 10x8 is a Fuji 250mm SF lens , and as it is I might need to shorten the feet to achieve infinity focus .
    Until I fit the back , I won't know .


    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    I see there is a lot of room for many upgrades, but maybe too many for practical purposes (like fixing a leg on a chair, where you soon have ended up rebuilding the entire chair)... And camera might be hard to use just for something simple, so maybe better for a prop camera on display...

    Steve K
    I'm not so much planning any upgrades , more improvements .
    Take the tripod mount for example , the bush is screwed into a piece of wood 3/4" thick and only 1 1/4" wide .
    Even on medium format cameras have an area about 3" square for the tripod mount .
    As I intend using it outside , certain areas need to be beefed up to improve stability .

  5. #5

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    Quote Originally Posted by neil poulsen View Post
    Custom Bellows (.com) in the UK makes excellent bellows. Contact them. They just gave me a quote of 99.00 for an 8x10 bellows that I plan to send them.
    I will certainly contact them .
    I'm suppressed that 10x8 bellows are only 99 , I thought they would have been much more .
    It would be handy to have some made as the front part of the bellows would benefit from being narrower as the currently rub against the metalwork to lock forward tilt .

  6. #6

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    Some demons may show up, like if the focusing is smooth or does it jump around past your focus point, do the movements lock firmly in place or can "float" around, is everything rigid and locked down well when tightened, does it zero well, warpage etc... Little things that can be big problems, with sometimes minor or major fixes...

    I have worked on early cheaper cameras for myself and others, and there can be "devils in the details" when time to shoot... They can often be worked out once discovered...

    On vinyl based bellows, mink oil based shoe polish penetrates and can soften and protect...

    Good luck!!!

    Steve K

  7. #7

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    Some demons may show up, like if the focusing is smooth or does it jump around past your focus point, do the movements lock firmly in place or can "float" around, is everything rigid and locked down well when tightened, does it zero well, warpage etc... Little things that can be big problems, with sometimes minor or major fixes...

    I have worked on early cheaper cameras for myself and others, and there can be "devils in the details" when time to shoot... They can often be worked out once discovered...

    On vinyl based bellows, mink oil based shoe polish penetrates and can soften and protect...

    Good luck!!!

    Steve K
    I've never heard of "Mink oil" shoe polish before , but found it easily available with a quick search .
    It says it's for leather , likewise a bottle of mink oil is sold as a leather treatment .

    Though you've used it on vinyl and had good results at softening it and conditioning it , rather than just leaving a protective layer ?

  8. #8

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    Yea, that's it... The mink oil penetrates vinyl and replaces plasticizers that dry or migrate in the material... It is also used extensively by doll or vinyl purse or shoe collectors... The shoe polish version also contains silicone, so as the oil penetrates, the silicone "caps" the surface... Does wonders for thin, dried vinyl bellows on older cameras like on Graflexes...

    But your bellows might have been cursed from the beginning, so maybe still stiff later... I would use the current bellows for testing camera to see if it is a practical camera to shoot, and consider new bellows in the future if you use this camera...

    Have fun!!!

    Steve K

  9. #9

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    I've got some of the shoe polish on order and some Pledge furniture polish that was recommended on another forum to try .
    To be honest , I'm not too hopeful that it'll make much difference to the material used .
    It seems to me that its a fairly heave stiff material used to start with .
    So even new , it might have served the makers purpose , but to use the camera with a 10x8 back and the wider lenses , it might never work .
    Still it's worth a try before I buy or make some more suitable bellows .

  10. #10

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    Re: Rejuvenating Camera bellows .

    The mink oil polish is useful for other foto stuff too... Where vinyl gets dry or sticky, it can be used as a last resort... Cases, pouches, bellows, flash cords etc can be treated... On dry items, may take a week or so to penetrate... Sticky items require a cleaning with lighter fluid, detergent solution, alcohol, etc to remove most of the sticky before application, then repeat the next day... Dries to a nice matte surface in a couple of days... Go easy on dried thin bellows, as they can be brittle as dried paint chips and crack before treatment...

    Did many tests with this stuff, including a nice (but sticky) folding Polaroid camera that came out very well, old dried guitar amplifier covering (tolex) that came out great, old vinyl wiring (not sticky now), cases + handles etc... Rarely, it was too late for treatment for some items as vinyl had started melting, but YMMV...

    Good luck!!!

    Steve K

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