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Old Camera Restoration... Part 3

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Having restored and built an old Victorian half plate mahogany camera for a friend last year, and been playing with the old B&J press camera more than any of my more modern stuff, I have recently been considering doing more work with these older beasts. I am gradually selling off and moving away from all but my most precious 1970's and onwards cameras. The main reason for this is that these horrible modern things (70s and onwards!) have a lot more going on inside a very small package. There are meters, shutters, film transport systems and quite a lot more electrics and things to go wrong that I don't understand with my small brain (that is gradually getting smaller), and that I should definitely not be touching with a screw driver...

It's a long story and I won't bore you with the build up as it's not that exciting, but I ended up with a 'Hare' Mahogany half plate camera as part of a job lot of old lenses and parts. I didn't even give it a second look really as I was only bidding in the auction to get the nice, but dusty, old collection of old brass and glass bits. The old camera that was in the lot came with another front part off something else, and the camera itself looked like it was missing loads of bits & bobs. It also looked like it had been at the bottom of a canal for 70 years. The ground glass focusing screen on the back was missing, and various bits were seized up, but after a really intensive clean up there was a glimmer of hope...

My able assistant cut me a new piece of ground glass that we fitted to the back for focusing and we have given it a good going over with oil and vinegar cleaning all the old dirty varnish and restoring the lovely deep red of the wood. There is one out of the 3 plate holders included that sort of fits, but it's a bit leaky, so I have taped that up a bit for the time being. One of the lens mounts just so happened to fit into the front standard, so that's in now (with just 2 screws for the time being). I'm just going to give the bellows a good clean on the outside, and then hopefully we'll see if we can get an image out of it. I will shoot paper for the time being as I don't have any film of that size (well I do, but it's untested!) The lens I have fitted is a J. Lancaster Rectigraph which I think should cover a whole plate, I think, but I'm only guessing... Mainly as it says 1/1 on it but that could be relating to the aperture settings on the barrel not 'whole plate'. We will see. I need to work out the focal length and the 'f' stops too, but that's probably going to be a job for another day. Watch this space.

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