Cirkut camera mainspring repair

Discussion in 'Panoramic Cameras and Accessories' started by c.d.ewen, Nov 5, 2007.

  1. c.d.ewen

    c.d.ewen Subscriber

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    Here's an anecdote to add to the Cirkut knowledgebase, along with a request for information:

    The mainspring on my No 10 Cirkut broke at the end of the Summer, and I looked around for someone to repair it. After some telephone conversations, I sent it to Bill's Clock Shop in Fairborn, OH. In addition to clocks, they also repair antique Victrolas, so I figured they had a bit more capability than an ordinary clock shop. They had some different sizes of springs in stock, so in the best of all possible worlds, I'd have the mainspring repaired in two weeks.

    This isn't the best of all worlds. They had to special order the spring. When it arrived, they rejected it (I guess this is a good thing), and ordered another. Bottom line: the repair took nearly two months. When the spring did finally arrive, I was happy with the workmanship.

    I had always read the warnings against opening the mainspring case, as there were supposed to be 25 feet of razor sharp spring wire eager to leap out at astonishing speed and hell-bent on lacerating any available flesh. The folks at Bills' told me a slightly different story - that the mainspring was not one continuous spring, but was three springs wound together.

    This latter fact lead to a little sticker shock at invoice time. They had quoted me a price of $60 to clean, inspect, polish and lube a spring. To repair a spring, they estimated less than $100. The bill came to $190 - $60 apiece for the two good springs, and $70 for the replacement spring.

    I had also shipped them an unbroken mainspring from a No 8 Cirkut. They told me this was one continuous spring, and they cleaned, inspected, polished and lubed it for $60.

    The common belief amongst Cirkut users is that the lubrication in a mainspring is provided by graphite. This was universally derided by all clock repair people I talked with, all of whom use some proprietary lubricant. My local guy uses Slik 50. One opinionated 85-yr-old stated that no informed manufacturer used graphite after the 1890's.

    Now, here's my quandary and questions: the mainspring in my backup No 10 is also broken. Where shall I send it for repair? Back to Bill's, for another $190? Has anyone else gotten their mainspring repaired? Was yours also three springs wound together, or do I have a Franken-spring? If everybody else's springs are really just one spring, I'd be happy to send the broken one to Bill's, since they've now got experience.

    Waddya think?

    Charley
     
  2. jamie young

    jamie young Member

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    Hi Charlie
    On all the springs I've opened the housing on, they were one piece. I've taken a few out. I wouldn't call them razor sharp. they just aren't very blunt. The big issue is if they let go they are hard to control and one coulld get hurt, but if one is careful it can be done. I've taken out my #16 spring to clean and got it back just fine. I've replaced a #10 spring as wel as cleaning a few others.
    If I were you I would contact Ron Klein and see if he would replace it for you. No one would do a better job. Technically, He knows cirkuts better than anyone I can think of. He's also a great photographer. The cirkut is not a clock, and oil is very bad. Use graphite and ignore the clock people. A clock spring unwinds slowly, whereas the cirkut spring unwinds quickly and the oil gets sticky and is more likely to cause banding.
     
  3. panoramic

    panoramic Member

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    Main spring repair

    Charley:

    I'm sorry I don't have time to write a shorter letter.

    I hate to tell you, but the clock guys are feeding you a line of BS about springs. I have taken dozens of them apart from different #10 cameras and can assure you they are one spring. I even have five or six brand new from the factory #10 springs and they look exactly the same.

    I have had great success repairing broken main springs. It has been my experience that all the springs seem to break at one end or the other so shortening the spring is the most logical solution. It is not difficult to remove a mainspring even without the proper tools. A good pair of leather gloves and common sense as to restraining the spring when you uncoil it and it will easily come out. The most important thing is to not let go of everything in the middle of unwinding it.

    Anyhow, the spring ends can be heated red hot for a couple of inches and then cooled slowly. This softens the metal and then you can easily reshape it, drill a new hole etc. You do not need to re-temper the spring as it is only a few inches in length and has no great overall effect on the amount of power on the spring. The inner part of the spring needs to be curled tighter so it can start to wind on the shaft so it must remain soft anyhow. If you look at an original spring you can see the color change where the tempering was altered on the ends.

    If you decide to drill a hole in a spring that still remains tempered, it can be done with this simple trick - Use a drill press and a piece of blank steel the same size as the hole but totally flat on the end. When you try drilling the hole, it makes the spot red hot but can't drill through. This is perfect as it is now annealed and you can replace the blank steel with a drill and easily make the hole you need.

    With your old spring out, you can dress it smooth with very fine sand paper and files. Make sure there are no nicks or breaks in the metal as it will break again in a heartbeat if left. Then wash and wipe it really good before installing. USE GRAPHITE. That worked for 80 years without problems and you can still buy it in any good auto parts store. Using grease, even Slick 50 poses serious problems when shooting in low temperature conditions and it sucks power out of the spring. I can't remember how many cameras I have fixed by simply washing grease or oil out of the spring and putting graphite back in. Unless you are going to Baghdad to photograph troops in August, use graphite.

    Clock guys are OK people, but they think clocks and not motors. Motors are used in Cirkut cameras. Clocks must run with very little friction to maintain accuracy. Even the gears in clocks are different from Cirkut cameras as they are designed to have low friction but are not always in contact with their mate. The Cirkut gears are designed to run smoothly without interruption. They do not mix. Also a clock guy will repair a worn bushing by reducing the thickness of the metal with a special punch. Less surface area is again good for clocks but bad for fast running motors.

    You would think the people you dealt with that repair victrolas would have an understanding of all of this but I guess not. Also, new spring material is readily available, the last time I looked is was around $75 for 500 feet. That's a lot of Cirkut cameras.

    And yes, you have a Frankenspring, but that's not a bad idea to use three springs coiled together if you can figure out the amount of power it puts out. They would have to be three times thinner and that might be a problem. I suspect the spring would run nicer and longer, but not have much power. A good spring with a 64- 66 tooth gear will run the Cirkut camera for 2 and 1/2 full circles. Originally you could order a stronger spring but it was shorter too because it was thicker. I've seem them and wasn't impressed because they were also harder to wind.

    You should be clever enough and brave enough to work on your own springs without getting one stuck in your forehead. I've been doing it for 27 years and still have all my fingers etc. The only time a Cirkut ever drew blood was my fault removing a broken ground glass. I might even hold a record by having removed springs from six #16 Cirkuts without killing myself and they are 40 feet long.

    Hope this helps,

    Ron in Alaska
     
  4. c.d.ewen

    c.d.ewen Subscriber

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    Thanks, Jamie and Ron, for your replies. It good to hear the voices of experience, particularly without the 'don't try this at home, kids' warnings.

    How thick is the spring material? The spring from the backup camera seems to be 0.020". McMaster shows item 9036K217 - 1095 spring steel, 0.020" thick, 1" by 100' for $97.05. Does this sound like the right stuff? My Frankenspring, as I recall, was 0.010".

    I guess I'll try pulling the spring out of the backup camera's case and anneal the end (both springs broke at the arbor). My real fear isn't getting hurt extracting it, but that it'll be difficult to get back in the case. It's always easier to make something into parts than make something out of parts.

    If that works out, I'll see about replacing the Frankenspring.

    Thanks, again.
    Charley
     
  5. panoramic

    panoramic Member

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    Spring thickness

    .020 seems too thick. That might be the heavy duty spring that I don't like.

    It's been a while since I've measured one, but I believe .013 was the correct original thickness. I suspect .012 or .014 would work.

    I guess I'm just lazy because I can get to my spare springs easily. I'll try to measure one today for you.

    Ron
     
  6. c.d.ewen

    c.d.ewen Subscriber

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  7. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Long ago in my youth I once repaired a main spring on an Edison Phonograph. Not even having the knowledge already given here, I feared ruining the "temper" so I made my new holes with a chain saw grinder. Just started at an angle and worried a hole right through. It worked perfectly and I was quite proud of myself.
     
  8. c.d.ewen

    c.d.ewen Subscriber

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    Just a quick update: extracting the spring was quite easy. Using leather gloves (and eye protection, of course) and starting at the broken arbor end, I pulled it out half-a-turn at a time, holding the unwound part into the case with a finger.

    The spring is 20 feet long, 0.015 inches thick.

    For the curious, I've attached pictures of the spring and case, the case with arbor and side attachment points, and the tempered end of the spring.

    I won't be able to do anymore on this project until next week (or maybe next month), but I'll let everyone know how it progresses.

    Charley
     

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  9. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    Might as well revive this old thread, since I came upon it while searching for what to do about a broken spring! The spring broke on the original #10 I bought, which helped convince me that the second, or "parts camera" that I bought should really be the base upon which I should build my one running camera. But I'd still like to fix the original one, because that's the motor I'm trying out ideas on for lubrication, etc.

    The spring broke way in the middle somewhere, not just at an end, so the trick mentioned here wouldn't work. I was all set to buy 50 feet of 1" wide .015" thick spring steel from McMaster-Carr for $50 and use the information here to make a new spring. But on a lark I decided to see if that NOS spring that's been for sale on ebay since the dawn of time could be had for less than his crazy $129 Buy It Now price. Sure enough, he took my $50 offer. So yes, I only get one spring instead of 2 (plus 10 feet left over) but it's a lot less work involved!

    Here are a few pictures - my broken spring, plus the new one:

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    I was hoping that it was coiled extra-tight inside that massive keeper wire, such that the spring with keeper would fit down inside the housing, at which point the two ends could be attached, and then the keeper pried out, and voila! But alas, it's not quite that small. So what's the approved method for installing one of these original replacement springs? I could just carefully remove it from the keeper until all 20 feet of it is out, then carefully wind it back into the housing like I'd do if I had bought raw spring steel... but it seems like there should be some more elegant method than that. And if there is some trick to installing it without unfurling it first, how does one get graphite all over it while it's coiled up like that?

    Thanks,
    Duncan
     
  10. Len Robertson

    Len Robertson Member

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    As I recall, you hook the spring to the post in the middle of the case, then wrap the spring down inside the case until it is all inside. Finally hook the outer end of the spring to the post inside the case. I may have sent you a file from Bill McBride on serving the No. 5 so you might look for that. Here is what Bill wrote on putting graphite the spring:

    "Clean off the old graphite on both sides of spring with a solvent. then wipe spring clean with a soft cloth. Coat the brass spring case interior with new graphite, then coat the spring on both sides with new graphite. Coil the spring and install back into the spring case. Add a light coating of graphite to the top of the spring then replace the spring case cover. "

    What I remember about reinstalling the spring in a #8 motor is that it is really messy, since it is graphite coated. You end up with as much graphite on you and your clothes as on the spring. So you may want to do it in the garage or back yard (or do you still have snow back there?), not the dining room table.

    I've very much been enjoying all the posts and pictures you have been posting. I've just been too busy to comment. Keep up the good work. It is all valuable information to keep my Cirkut enthusiasm going.

    I considered making an offer on that #10 spring on eBay, but I always hesitate to make really low offers. I was thinking of offering him $80, but never got around to it. I'm glad you got it so I don't have to think about it anymore.

    Len
     
  11. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    I can imagine it's going to be a very messy process! Thinking about it, it just has to be that you hook the outer coil to the case first, then feed the spring in towards the center. Then you're only having to bend the spring enough to keep it feeding into the decreasing diameter hole, not fighting to keep wedging spring in between the existing spring coils and the case. But I could be wrong! It does seem like the keeper wire is just for transporting the spring; I'll have to carefully(!) get it out of the keeper and have 20 feet of unfurled spring in front of me, before winding it back into the case.

    With the ebay guy first I had to try to verify it was a #10 spring, since he only thought it was, and I didn't know what the other springs looked like. I guess I'm still only 99% sure I got the right one, but I think so. Then I figured there was nothing to lose with my lowball offer. If he wouldn't take that, I'd just spend the $50 at McMaster-Carr instead and make my own.

    Duncan
     
  12. Len Robertson

    Len Robertson Member

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    Duncan - You very well may be correct on hooking the outer end of the spring first. When I think about it that makes sense because all the pressure of the complete spring will be toward the outer part of the case once the spring is installed, making it difficult to then manipulate the spring to hook it to the case. When I did this in my #8 years ago I made notes on the procedure, which of course I couldn't find last night before I posted. I will look again today since it drives me crazy not knowing what I wrote.

    Even though your original spring is broken, would it be worth measuring the length and thickness to compare with the eBay spring? But then there is no way of knowing if the broken spring is really a Cirkut spring or some clock spring someone installed. Maybe Ron Kline would have time to reply to an email even if he doesn't have time to post on here.

    I'm curious how much difference there is between a #8 Outfit spring and a #10 Camera spring. The #8 isn't all that much lighter in weight than a #10 and the film length is approximately the same for 8" and 10" (I believe, although maybe 10" film is longer). I have the motor from an #8 around here somewhere. I can measure the outer diameter and height of the spring case and see how it compare to your #10 case. That would be somewhat an indication of the sizes of the two springs.

    I don't know if you have unwired the new eBay spring yet. One thought would be to place it down inside a 5 gallon bucket with a scrap of plywood pressing the spring down when you cut the wire. Probably even a cardboard box would keep the spring more or less under control as it unwinds. Wear safety glasses while wrangling the spring. I've never been intimidated by Cirkut springs, but I've spent my life working around farm machinery, so I'm used to cutting myself and smashing fingers.

    Len
     
  13. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    I make sure to keep my tetanus shot in date, as I've spent a lifetime wrangling old sharp rusty things ;-)

    From this thread I know that the #10 spring should be 20', so I can measure the new one once I have it free. And the old one too. Since I have no earthly idea what any of the other springs look like (are they all 1" wide but just vary in length and/or thickness? Or can we rule out some of them as possibilities just from this being 1" wide?) I can't know for sure, but the new one sure looks about as identical as you could expect, given that it's wound a little tighter in its keeper wire than the original one still in the case. The pictures don't give a real sense of scale. Maybe I'll take one with the old one (still in the case) and the new one side by side.

    I don't plan to cut the keeper wire. First off, I don't think I have anything up to the task! That is a very thick very strong piece of wire. I figure I'll just carefully extract it the same way I would a spring from its case. Maybe I'll practice with the broken one first. In this case, I think working from the center out would be the right strategy, for the same reasons that loading a new one in from the outside in would work better - you're only fighting the spring tension at that point, not also the crushing force between the spring and the case or wire.

    Duncan
     
  14. Len Robertson

    Len Robertson Member

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    After reading your last post, I went back and looked at your picture of the new spring and the wire around it. Yes, that doesn't look like it is designed to be cut. I was thinking it was lighter gauge wire wrapped around the spring with the ends of the wire twisted together. Your idea of uncoiling it from the center looks to be the best way to get it out of there. I found my notes on spring R&R and of course it says the opposite of what I posted last night. As you figured out, hook the new spring to the case and wind it into the case, then hook it to the center post.

    Len
     
  15. c.d.ewen

    c.d.ewen Subscriber

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    Duncan:

    I always seem to be out of town and out of touch, when you start up these conversations. I'm back now, and catching up.

    Have fun with that spring, but don't get the 100 ft roll from McMaster. If you decide you want some, I'll cut you some off my 100 ft roll. :wink:

    Charley
     
  16. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    Ooooo, nice! Thanks!

    Duncan
     
  17. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    For $4 on ebay I picked up a copy of "The Compleat Talking Machine" by Eric L. Reiss, which Google told me had pretty comprehensive discussions of mainspring repairs for old wind-up phonographs. Just glancing through it, it looks like Google was right! More on this once I get the time to actually work on mine again...

    Duncan
     
  18. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    Haven't had a chance to actually work on this yet, but did finally take that picture I promised...

    Duncan

    [​IMG]
     
  19. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    Don't you hate forum posts where someone says they're going to do something and then they're never heard from again? Me too. So let's continue on with this! (Sorry for the delay)

    I got my long sleeve jacket, my gloves, my safety glasses, a 5 gallon bucket, and proceeded to remove the old broken spring from the case while trying to avoid the explosive guillotine/machete/scythe of death, that these springs are rumored to be. And you know what, once the winding tension is off, these things aren't really under *that* much pressure. I simply started pulling from the center, using my hand to prevent any but one loop coming out at a time, and it just slowly slithered out into the bucket and was all floppy and tame. To be sure, it was trying to come out more rapidly, with multiple loops at once, which would have been a little more frenzied...but it took hardly any pressure to prevent that, and I don't think it would have required any more pressure than that to put it back. It's pretty amazing what a difference in force a few turns in an enclosed space can make.

    The old spring was RUSTY! The rust had thinned out the metal noticeably in places, and it was already half cracked through in a second spot. That spring was bad. Interestingly the rust perfectly corresponded with the stuck on clumps of old graphite. Had the graphite sucked moisture out of the air and held it against the spring, rusting it? Or had the rusty parts of the spring somehow attracted all the graphite and allowed it to stick instead of sliding off? Not sure. I flattened it all out in the back yard (easier because it was thin and weak) and measured it. Right at 217 inches, which is about 18 feet, not the 20 mentioned earlier in this thread. I'm no mainspring theory expert, but I believe extra length, at least until you got so much that it was too tightly packed in the case, would allow for more run time. As long as there is a slack gap spot inside the case, then winding it simply moves that gap from the center to the outside as you go, and more length would allow more turns before you reached the outside. I think. So if you're making up a spring from raw spring steel stock, I would definitely go with the 20 feet (as long as it fits) instead of the original 18. The 1 inch width and .015" thickness specs were dead-on of course.

    The shape of the keyholes was different between the original spring and the NOS replacement, as seen here:

    [​IMG]

    Seems like the old style would help keep the spring from popping off of the nubs during sudden unwinding...and yet my old spring had done exactly that, as you'll recall. The new style definitely helped when installing the replacement though, so yay for that.

    Once I had the empty case sitting in my hand, it became blindingly obvious how I was supposed to install it. Just look at this:

    [​IMG]

    Yep. Just set it into the case like that and give it a quick push. Poof, into the case. It's wound tightly enough, and the circular retaining ring is smooth enough, that it moved as a unit down into the case rather than even trying to go "sproing!" Then it was a simple matter of hooking the spring to the nub on the center post... well, simply with some small stiff pliers. The spring is a little curved at that point so you need some pressure down in the center there to convince it to get on the nub. But pretty straightforward. Then getting it on the case nub is merely a matter of spinning the spring around in the proper direction until the hole was lined up, then spinning it a little more until it popped on the nub and then slid into the slot. Here is where the centered keyhole comes in handy, because it will simply do that all by itself if you spin the spring, rather then needing to guide it a bit high with pliers or something to get it lined up. The simplest way to turn the spring is with the winding key, but you need something to hold the case while you do that. Well, the motor will do that for you! But then with the lid off the spring case, winding it is a REALLY REALLY BAD IDEA. I mean, even the slightest bit of winding turns it into that potential whirling dervish of decapitation. So I did this:

    [​IMG]

    Perfect! I wound it until the spring was at the nub (you can see there that it has nearly a whole revolution to go to get lined up) and while I thought I might need to get in there with some pliers, I didn't. It popped on the nub and slid down the slot and all was well.

    You might have noticed what's missing here: the step about coating the raw spring steel with graphite before winding it into the case. Yeah, well, OK, but seeing as how the keeper was supposed to allow you to pop it into the case so easily, I just couldn't bring myself to unfurl it into the bucket and rub graphite on it and then wind it back into the case. So I did it this way, and simply worked graphite down in between the winds by repeatedly winding and running the motor, which moves the gap from the center to the outside and back again, allowing me to squish graphite down in there. You'll be happy to know that this still accomplished the part noted earlier in this thread about coating me, and everything I was wearing, and all of my tools and surroundings with graphite.

    Seems to have worked. You have to be careful, but until the spring is wound up it simply isn't quite as dangerous as it's made out to be. If you're handy with tools and careful I wouldn't even call this difficult (just messy!) I would have no qualms about making a spring from raw stock at this point. Other that cutting the keyhole slots in it, everything is really straightforward.

    Duncan
     
  20. c.d.ewen

    c.d.ewen Subscriber

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    You're the man, Dunc!

    I agree with everything you say - after dismantling a spring once, a careful person has no great fear of doing it again.

    I can't remember what I did for applying graphite on reassembly. I suspect I used some oil+graphite stuff meant to be squirted into locks. I guess I figured, at the time, that I'd just take the spring out every once in a while, and soak off the accumulated grunge. Of course, I haven't cleaned the springs in ten years.

    Keep up the good work.

    Charley
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Pictures, or it didn't happen. :smile:
    I've really enjoyed your posts on theses Cirkut threads, along with the posts from others, and wanted to thank you for them.
    At last year's Northwest Alternative Photography Symposium a number of us had a chance to go on a special after hours tour of the Vancouver Archives, with a special emphasis on their photographic collection. They have a very large collection of Circut negatives and prints, and it was awe inspiring to see so many of them in one place.
    Here is a related blog posting - the author, Sue Bigelow, was our tour guide: http://www.vancouverarchives.ca/2012/06/07/panoramic-photographs-the-number-8-cirkut-outfit/
     
  22. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    Last thing I needed was to coat a camera with the evil black dust too! Would you accept a picture of the fingerprints on my forefingers and thumbs, still blackened and uncleanable?

    A couple of years ago I took a photo class at the local community college, mostly to get access to the darkroom. For an assignment we had to do a powerpoint presentation on a photographer we liked. Just to be more entertaining than the usual Ansel Adams or whatever presentation, and because there was such a treasure trove of his pictures online, I chose WJ Moore who supplied the bulk of that archive you referenced (see also here: http://www.vancouverarchives.ca/2011/03/01/the-moore-panorama-digitization-project/ ) Lo and behold I ended up richer for the experience, it turned out to not just be some dumb assignment that I completed for a grade. I can't imagine touring those archives in person, that must have been amazing.

    And in case you missed it at the time, I made an interesting discovery poring through all those photos:

    http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php...historical-cirkut-photos.120568/#post-1598284

    Duncan