Handyman’s Corner: Better Than Botox

Skin wrinkled, cracking, dried out, sagging or scaly? If the skin is on one of your cameras I can help. (Anywhere else try the Yellow Pages; Cosmetic Surgeons are the best bet.)

Older cameras sometimes show the ravages of time when their covering fails. Covering material has ranged from the inexpensive embossed paper, to exotic reptile leather, and everything in between. No matter what it is, age extracts a toll. The question is then to repair, restore, or to re-cover?

Real leather lends itself to restoration rather well. Saddle soap, neatsfoot oil, and other commercial preparations often do an excellent job. Minor repairs are often possible, IF, and this is a big if, matching material can be found. Sources to be considered include old wallets, pocketbooks, leather book coverings, old gloves, and anything else your imagination can come up with.

Artificial leather normally doesn’t restore well, but vinyl repair kits sold in auto supply houses can go a long way if you are willing to experiment. These kits can provide a number of surface types and also can be colored to taste.

Finally, embossed paper can be improvised sometimes, but again, a lot of trial and error work is involved and in many cases the cameras involved aren’t worth the effort required. (But remember, a challenge keeps the mind working overtime.)

Attempting to re-cover a camera is usually beyond the average person’s abilities. If you want to try, I suggest that you start with a very simple body that has panels that are square or rectangular in shape. A pattern is helpful as it prepares you for making templates that are more complex if you continue on to more advanced projects.

Finally, there are several companies that make covering kits for any number of cameras. In some cases the coverings are still available from manufacturers or other parts sources. A company that I have experience with is Leathercrafters. Their products have been excellent and their instructions are also excellent. One source of these kits is Morgan Sparks of Burlington, VT. The photos of the Yashica, before and after, were made during a project of re-covering using one of their kits.

Speaking from experience, this type of project is very rewarding but also very time consuming and tests patience and skills considerably.

Handyman’s Corner: Dead Battery (RIP)

As you settle down in front of the fire with a glass of very good “medicine,” you gaze fondly at your newly acquired Photofantsiamatic. You jump up when you realize the battery it uses is no longer made.

Rushing to the workshop door, you tear off your shirt revealing a grease stained, oil splattered tee shirt emblazoned with Super Fixer. A few pieces of plastic tubing, a couple of assorted springs, a bit of Superglue™ and voila, a workable battery! As strange as this sounds, the photos show proof it can and has been done.

To accomplish this, imagine the unimaginable. A glass of good “medicine” helps the thought process, or at least dulls the pain of failure.

A Yashica Electro 35 (1966) used an E164 5.6 volt mercury battery that is no longer manufactured. Using a 6 volt battery will have some effect on the exposure meter, but the wide latitude of today’s film should more than compensate for this.

An A544 is a current 6 volt battery. It fits easily into a piece of 3/8” OD plastic tube, 1 5/8” long, after the tubing is slit lengthwise. A couple of spare spring battery contacts soldered to copper washers for spacing and contacts complete the product.

An Olympus 35 EC2 (1966) used a pair of EPX640 1.4 volt mercury batteries. Again, no longer produced. In this case, a common A76 battery is used. Slipped inside a piece of plastic tubing, negative contact made with a spring and washer allows for business as usual.

No plastic tubing? You can roll thin cardboard, construction paper, poster board, heatshrink tubing, etc. for the outside. This was done by maufacturers as the photos show.

For springs, use your imagination. Old clocks, flashlights, cameras. Perhaps a trip to the local hardware store.

In some cases, it may be easier to solder a couple of batteries together to insure good contact and correct spacing. A warning — use a very minimum amount of heat!

Proper cleaning and fluxing are required, as is wearing protective eyewear. Too much heat can cause a battery to rupture, sometimes violently. Not a pretty sight.

Finally, have fun with this.

Handyman’s Corner: ThereIsAFungusAmongUs

You have just opened your camera case, the one you have not opened since who knows when. You reach in and take out your prized Teliflorist Telephoto 290mm 11.4 and swiftly mount it on your Doeverythingmatic SLR, planning on using it to capture that once in a lifetime shot of a Doublebreasted Yellowbellied Stool Pigeon on your birdfeeder.

“Why can’t I get it to focus clearly?” you ask no one in particular. A quick assessment discloses that there is an obvious growth on the lens surfaces. FUNGUS! If you are very lucky, the fungus will be on an exterior surface. But, in all probability, it will have grown on inner surfaces.

The first and best method to solve this is “Do not let it happen.” Proper storage will, in most cases, prevent fungus. All bets are off if you store your cameras and lenses in a climate that has continuous periods of hot and humid weather.

Storing gear in an airtight container with an ample amount of a good desiccant (silica gel), along with very regular examination to assure that the desiccant is still working, is the best and simplest method. It helps to maintain fairly constant temperatures.

A quick warning: simply putting the gear in a plastic bag that can be sealed is not a good idea. When stored, the gear may have enough moisture in or on it, even though it is not visible, to encourage a growth of fungus.

If the fungus is on an exterior surface, start the cleaning process by using a blower to remove any loose dust. Follow this by using rubbing alcohol, available at any drug store (not denatured alcohol since the agent in it is usually sodium hydroxide, a very corrosive material). Use the alcohol as you would use any other cleaning liquid.

If the lens is coated and the coating is very soft, it is possible that the coating will be removed. This is the choice: leave the fungus and not be able to use the lens or try to remove the fungus and have a usable lens without coating.

You can try a mild abrasive material if the alcohol treatment does not work. Common tooth paste works very well. Use a well dampened cleaning tissue, put a small amount of tooth paste on the tissue, and use a circular motion over the entire surface with minimal pressure. The fungus, if left in place long enough, will actually etch the glass, and only professional polishing may remove the etched mark – and it may very well not.

For fungus on interior surfaces, the task is probably best left to professional servicing. In order to expose the interior surfaces, the lens has to taken apart. Not too many do-it-yourselfers will have either the specialized tools or the expertise to reassemble the lens correctly.

If you really want to try this cleaning I strongly suggest that you attend the next PHSNE Auction. Buy an inexpensive lens that fits one of your cameras and experiment with it. Take several photos of subjects that will be available after the experiment. When the cleaning is completed, take repeat photos and compare them for quality.

Many older lenses will have their elements permanently spaced and this will allow reassembly without the need for collimating the lens. Newer lenses may require adjusting elements to achieve proper focus. This requires considerable knowledge and equipment making it more difficult than the average person can do.