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Thread: Making bellows - the Continental "square" design.

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Making bellows - the Continental "square" design.

    There are plenty of on-line resources for designing and making bellows. And, of course a few excellent commercial enterprises - both in the UK and the US.

    But I still think it would useful to show how to make a set of bellows for the cameras made in Germany (mostly) for Studio cameras and Tailboard (reisekameras) cameras. This is very much a hobby activity!

    These differ from the anglo-saxon tradition in being made up of 4 separate pieces with 4 corner joins, rather than out of a single piece of leather/material with a single overlap underneath the bellows.

    The material used for these 4 pieces was never leather. It was reinforced paper/card or coated "double duck" material - the same material used for early car hoods. This material stands up to time very well - but not to damp storage. The 4 leather strips, subject to folds and misfolds during the decades, is where the pin holes (and worse) appear.

    I am just starting on making a totally new belows for a 30x40cm camera and thought that a thread would help me keep focussed on getting finished as quickly as possible as well as, hopefully, being useful for others! Will be useful for repairing the 4 corner strips as well - but, based on own experience, this can only be done if the bellows is totally removed from the camera.

    So this bellows design is found on:

    German reisekameras - mostly 13x18cm (there were thousands of these made) and 18x24, 24x30 and 30x40cm.
    German studio cameras - many sizes starting at 18x24cm.
    Perhaps exported Germany cameras, sold as 5x7" Tailback?

    I enclose some photographs showing the varieties I have. The first one is 30x40cm Reisekamera - this is the bellows I am making a copy of.
    The second one is 18x24 ditto. The third and fourth are Görlitzer type studio cameras. The last one has been repaired with stiff vinyl strips but still works to some extent.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails germanbellows 001.jpg   germanbellows 002.jpg   germanbellows 003.jpg   germanbellows 004.jpg  

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2010
    NW England

    Re: Making bellows - the Continental "square" design.

    Heres my attempt....

    I didnt allow for the space between the cards so ended up with a bellows 1cm too wide. Manages to jam it in though....just.
    With hindsight I would stick the leather(?) to the card first thus allowing less taped areas and making it thinner.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Re: Making bellows - the Continental "square" design.

    The solution I found for the 4 side pieces was coated embossed fibre paper.
    This was labelled as Home Decoration Les Cuirs in the only specialist papir/artists supply shop in Copenhagen.
    I have already used the same paper on a taper bellows. Like IKEA, I have done destructive testing, checked glue adhesion.
    I have no illusions that this is going to be as long lasting/robust as the original material, but then modern usage of these cameras is only a fraction of what they were put through originally.

    This bellows has to be approximately 120cm without folds so 8 sheets at 50x70cm were necessary. There was a Sale on at the time and just 8 pieces left!

    My solution to the necessary join is an overlap of exactly the distance between folds (outward and indward) at that position in the bellows. The fold "depths" do vary - becoming shallower towards the rear standard. This is to ensure the 40x40cm opening at the GG/plate holder.

    The visable join is hidden away at the bottom of the fold and the concealed join is at the top ridge.

    As 4toes mentioned, it is very easy to make a bellows that just won't compress enough. This is unfortunate for a Studio/non-folding camera, but a disaster for a "folding" camera!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails germanbellows2 001.jpg   germanbellows2 002.jpg  

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