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Thread: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

  1. #1
    cyberjunkie's Avatar
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    Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    After an endless number of 5x7" and 8x10" "project" wooden cameras, which i bought very cheap, but never get finished (i start one camera, then i leave it mid-way, then i start another one, leave it because i need a missing part, then i restart an old one... and the lathe of a friend suddenly dies!) my partner took pity of me, and purchased a well restored 8x10" camera as Christmas gift.
    As my only perfectly working 8x10" cameras are either practically unusable outdoor (a tank-like DeVere monorail), or very unlikely to be carried too far from the car trunk (a black Calumet C1), the choice went for a very light one: an F&S Century Universal.
    It's the same camera i had already seen in a personal homepage, with pictures taken before and after the restoration. It's the camera that came with the two adjustable aluminium braces... i guess that the seller is/was a forum member, and that the braces got sold to another forum member.

    The camera is restored very well, so it didn't come cheap. I would not spend that money for a camera body, but i must admit that i'm cheap... and of course my partner is not
    Apart from the holes left by the stabilization braces, which weren't filled, the only aesthetical glitch is a missing ground glass clip.
    Unfortunately the clips are not made like the common ones used in other cameras. The shape around the screw hole is not round, but crown-shaped.
    You can see the shape in the picture i am posting.
    I know that the ground glass is probably as secure as with all the four clips, but the present i got is so wonderful, that i am feeling like i have fix that only imperfection!
    No way to cut the clip from a brass sheet, cause it's nickel plated.
    All the pictures i have seen show the various examples of CU cameras with standard GG clips, only mine has that strange clip design.
    Whatever... the clips must come from somewhere.
    The previous owner reports that the camera came to him with the same clips, so i have no useful informations, my only hope is that one of the many forum members involved in the restoration of old wooden camera could find a spare clip in the "parts" drawer.
    That would be super-nice!
    Of course i am willing to refund postage, disturb, etc. etc.

    Just a small side note.
    I am pleasantly surprised by the camera!
    I must confess that i had more than a few doubts about the Century Universal.
    I knew that the wood of the case is very thin, and i had seen too many unrestored examples in very bad conditions (sign of an intrinsic fragility of the design, or possible problems with the construction process). It is not so uncommon, some Ansco Universal cameras literally come apart because of the bad quality of the glue that was used to assemble the wooden parts.
    The braces that were originally attached to the front and back of the camera reveal that at some point it developed a wobbly front - other way there won't be any need for them.
    I own a Technika III, so i know all too well what it means!
    I am always over critical of the equipment i use (not like some photographers, who always have the best of the best... just because they own it!), and while i believe that you have to try to "play over" technical shortcomings, there is no meaning in denying their existence.
    Now i have just barely handled the camera, used all the movements, extended to full bellows length... so i can't comment about its usability, but i can't deny that i was impressed by the nice mix between light weight and decent rigidity.
    Probably the tension of the new, robust bellows (by Custom Bellows, UK) helps in some way, but i found that the front standard does not flex, and my impression is that all, but the most weighty lenses for a 6x6" lensboard, can be used. Even at full extension, and with the camera inclined towards the ground.
    It could be the quality of the restoration, and probably not all Century Universal cameras are as tight and smooth as mine, though i am not so sure that a Deardorff V8 would be a better choice for heavy optics. Not any more, after i handled mine for some time.
    I would be happy to learn what other people think about this matter.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails missing clip.jpg  
    Last edited by cyberjunkie; 8-Dec-2012 at 19:55. Reason: typo
    have fun
    CJ

    WTB (and pay good monet for):
    soft back cell for Ilex Photoplastic 5x7
    disks for Imagon 420mm
    5x7 back for Calumet C1
    5x7 conversion for Bi-System

    for sale
    Photographica

  2. #2

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    I'm sure the glass is fairly secure, but for the sake of protecting your investment you might think about buying a replacement clip that's functional until you can find one that matches those on your camera. One of these new clips might work for you-
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Deardorff-4x...-/230877765312

    If you're worried about it not matching, you could always buy two pairs and replace all four of the clips!

  3. #3

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    Have you thought of chemically etching a set of those clips out of the correct type and thickness of brass ?

    They won't be silver in color but shined brass always looks better to me on those old Kodaks.
    The etchant is readily available at electronic parts stores ( Ferric Chloride ) I experimented
    with it trying to make the standard GG clips ( the half moon type ) and it sort of worked, etchant ate underneath
    the resist and the clips were smaller. if I didn't try to etch thru I think it would have worked, just some filing
    afterwards to clean up the edges.

  4. #4

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    A jeweler's saw, some brass sheet and a set of Swiss pattern files will let you duplicate the clips to whatever level of accuracy your patience allows. There are kits available for small-scale electroplating, and nickel onto brass or copper is one of the easiest combinations to work with.

    If you could connect with a trophy-and-tee-shirt shop that has one of the old-fashioned engraving machines, it should be possible to make an enlarged template and use the pantographic reduction to mill out a whole set of matching replacement clips. (The next best thing to a CNC mill.....)

  5. #5
    cyberjunkie's Avatar
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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    Thanks for the advice.
    I saw those Deardorff clips on Ebay, they look exactly like the clips i have seen mounted on original Century Universal cameras.
    Though F&S made this model for quite a long time, so it could be perfectly possible that different clips were mounted at different times. The finish of the brass hardware changed as well over time, as the design of the front standard (no tilt, single knob, double knob).

    I never thought to use ferric chloride to etch brass part, but i am well aware that the same technology is used to design custom circuits.
    As you discovered, it's not easy to control the acid if the brass sheet is not super-thin.
    I guess that a pair of large scissors, especially made to cut metal sheets, would be much better, but you need a little of practice to cut rounded shapes.
    I have at home a brass sheet which should be thin enough, and a pair of scissors for metal cutting... but the result would be quite ugly.
    Even a small clip in brass color would stand out, with all the other brass hardware nickel plated!
    When i was young there were many small shops doing electro-plating, even for a single part provided by the customer.
    Now there are stricter anti-pollution regulations, so i don't think there are many laboratories doing the same work on a small scale.
    I don't know if there are paints which could mimic the color of a chrome or nickel plating. I tried a so called "paint" crayon in silver color, but i found they are joke.

    I am afraid the only choice left is finding a nice soul on this forum, who happens to own one of those crown-shaped clips.
    Buying a DIY kit would be an overkill... at least until i have to restore a camera and need it for MANY parts, not just one...
    have fun
    CJ

    WTB (and pay good monet for):
    soft back cell for Ilex Photoplastic 5x7
    disks for Imagon 420mm
    5x7 back for Calumet C1
    5x7 conversion for Bi-System

    for sale
    Photographica

  6. #6

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    Where there's a will there's a way
    True it is difficult to control the etch, or in this case the chemical cutting, especially in thick brass
    I've only attempted it once but plan on revisiting as soon as I have the free time.

    Cutting radii that small with shears is futile, use a drill.
    Figure out what diameter drill you would need to match or get
    close to the radius of the scallop pattern and drill, some filing afterwards should
    get you the scallop pattern. The "wings" of the GG clip are another matter.

    I didn't notice that the other hardware was plated, I should pay more attention
    especially when you posted a picture !
    I've used reflective chrome like paints they're very fragile and very expensive.
    Alsa Corp is one manufacturer of this type of paint.

  7. #7

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    Electroless nickel plating - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroless_nickel_plating

    Find some brass sheet of the correct thickness. Using an original clip, scribe the outline on the stock. Use the shears to cut the new piece from the stock, don't worry about cutting right up to the scribed lines. Using some hardwood strips, clamp the new piece in a vice and file to shape. You will need Swiss pattern files for this in #5 or #6 cut, coarser files will snag and bend the piece. To reduce clogging of new files rub chalk or soapstone on them, keep the files clean with a fine wire brush used in the direction of the cut if the teeth i.e. transversly. Files cut on the forward stroke only, lift the file slightly on the backstroke or it will clog.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  8. #8

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    An elaboration on technique, if I may:

    Instead of trying to scribe the outline from a loose part, drill the holes in the brass stock first (transfer punches are great for getting the holes to line up, or you can very carefully use the original part as a drill guide). Then use appropriately sized screws to clamp the original on top of a brass blank which sits in turn on a piece of 1/8" Masonite or MDF (I notice that you seem to be in Italy, but there must be some local equivalent). After scribing the outline, remove the original and reattach the blank to the substrate.

    Trying to clip out something this small with shears is likely to give you a part resembling a potato chip; a jeweler's saw will allow you to cut through both the brass and backing with no trouble, and come quite close to the line. When you have half of the outline, reverse the blank on another piece of Masonite and finish the cutting. You may either do the filing as you go, or return when you have a suitable profile---in either case, the Masonite will support the piece and give you something large enough to handle easily.

    One advantage of this approach is that the final part will already have the necessary screw holes---putting them accurately into such a small component is usually harder than it looks.

    E. von Hoegh's comments on files and filing are right on the mark---with modern machinery, this sort of thing is becoming a lost art, but it is amazing what a competent jewelry maker can do with hand tools.

    If you want to replicate only the one missing clip, you will have to pay attention to the edge contours and the surface finish. Unless you aspire to a career as a forger, it might be better to make a complete set of clips---if they are all plated together, and there are no other original parts physically close to them on the camera, it will be very hard to pick them out as reproductions.

  9. #9

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    Thanks Harold, I forgot to put in the part about the screwholes.

    As for files, they're the one tool - you can make all the other stuff with files.
    One test of an apprentice machinist was to file a cube of steel, to a tolerance of .001". Try it, anyone who thinks it sounds easy.
    If you know how to use a file, you know more about how steel or whatever cuts than the guy who went to school for CNC machining, and you'll do a better job of utilising whatever machine tool(s) you use. An entire clock can be made using no other tools than a set of files and a couple drills.

    Sadly, good files are becoming hard and expensive to find. They're not available at hardware stores, even many chainsaw files are only case hardened.
    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

  10. #10

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    Re: Missing clip for Century Universal 8x10"

    A cube of steel---ah, yes.

    My father was a Georgia Tech engineering student in the 1930's, and the (mandatory) shop course involved making a cube of steel---starting by forging it to rough shape. It was then milled, filed and finally scraped. Subtractive methods of fabrication are unforgiving---round off one edge, and three sides of the cube have to be reduced to regain the shape. I think Dad said that there was no time limit for the project, but the final grade was based in part on the volume of the finished piece! (As the cube gets smaller, the work needed decreases as the square of the edge length, but the volume goes down as the cube.)

    Makes a tiny brass ground-glass clip sound almost trivial, doesn't it?

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