Cleaning or repairing dirty shutters

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by Tom1956, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I wish I could think up a better title to this thread to get it to show up in the most internet searches on the subject of old, sluggish shutters. You know--the old lighter fluid trick; naptha, paint thinner, or your favorite potion. Well I have news for you: say you've done the lighter fluid trick and have got your shutter nice and snappy again, and you're happy.
    Truth is, NOT A CHANCE. It's nowhere near accurate, I promise you. And if you go off and start your film speed and development testing based on that shutter, and reporting your results on these forums, then you're totally polluting the information supply. And your tests will be so fouled up, a good actual photograph will be 75% luck.
    I performed an experiment and sat here for hours testing press and view camera shutters, and you won't believe how far off most of them are. Of note, I've got a Compur here for a 135 Schneider from a Graphic Special. Absolute mint, never-used condition. And every speed on it is nearly exactly 1/2 as fast as the dial says. That means whatever film you thought was ASA 100, is really ASA 50.
    The moral is, to either make a shutter tester from the photodiode of an old computer mouse and find out what your speeds are, so you can paste a chart on the camera, or send the lens off for a proper CLA.
    Good luck.
     
  2. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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  3. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    While I'll second Ken's input, I also would like to say that when you get to a certain age, 1 year is equal to 5 actual years. And the shutter you "just sent off for CLA not long ago" was actually 5 years. And then you realize it's probably out-of-whack again. It's for the best to cut up an old computer mouse for a photodiode and use the computer you are reading this thread with, and hook up your little home made tester. With a couple search-engine searches, you can get it all working, and know where you REALLY stand.
    Sure would make darkroom test strip labors a whole lot easier. So if you're too poor to send the shutter off, you are not too poor to scrounge up an old computer mouse, a piece of cardboard, and a little wire, and find out for sure. There's really no excuse for NOT doing it.
     
  4. momus

    momus Member

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    Old leaf shutters that run a stop off are normal. I clean shutters w/ lighter fluid or high proof alcohol or carb cleaner or whatever is needed not to make the speeds accurate, but to clean the blades mostly so they don't stick. You need to buy or build an inexpensive electronic shutter tester that runs on Audacity (free download) so you know at what speeds the shutter is really firing at, and write them down on a piece of paper when you go out. 1/60=1/25, 1/125=1/60, that sort of thing. I can usually leave the cheat sheet in my pocket, as the speeds are often one stop off consistently, at least above 1/60. This goes for focal plane shutters in SLRs. Old cameras have weakened shutters, and you need to compensate. Even the electronically timed shutters I test, and they tend to be off too. Beware of leaf shutters that exhibit bounce (two peaks on your Audacity histogram, or whatever it's called). I know of no way to fix that, as it's usually due to worn parts. Better to sell it and get another. Some of my old folders have had 1/500 only get to 1/175 or 1/200. I don't care, since when I know the REAL speed I set my light meter accordingly and just shoot away.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2013
  5. mr rusty

    mr rusty Member

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    There's two sides to this. Undoubtedly shutters need a complete CLA and adjust IF the value of what they are being used for justifies. So if it is a shutter on a ULF and the film is ££s a sheet you don't want to waste it and need the best accuracy possible.

    But, if we are talking about getting an old Retina or a folder with a prontor or compur working again so we can use it, then the lighter fluid process is fine. I recently did a Zeiss Nettar - when I got it is was gummed solid. Removed and soaked in alcohol followed by careful oiling of the pivots and contact surface bits I could see and it's snappy and taking great photos. Stripping a shutter right down is a bit too much for me - I have done it once but time/eyesight make it tough. My results from the cameras I have just cleaned are fine and don't point to massive discrepancies. Perhaps there is a stop error somewhere, but with most film exposure latitude and variability achieveable in the darkroom, I don't worry about it.

    So, if anyone reads this thread, don't be put off. Give that stuck shutter a good soaking in lighter fluid or whatever, oil the pivots with a little light oil. If it works, go and take pictures. If it doesn't you are no worse off and can still go for the full CLA if it's worth it.
     
  6. 02Pilot

    02Pilot Subscriber

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    There may be a considerable performance discrepancy between simply dousing the shutter in lighter fluid, which will remove soft surface contaminants, and actually cleaning the shutter thoroughly. The latter involves using metal polish on the blades to remove hardened contaminants, which will impede travel due to drag and surface irregularities. For focal plane shutters the problem can be more complex.

    All that said, proper testing is absolutely the way to go to determine just how accurate things really are. But having a shutter that doesn't stick is better than having one that does.
     
  7. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

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    I have not looked at the mouse audacity method.

    I made a tester using a photodiode and oscilloscope, after some trials.

    1. The light hitting the photodiode must be collimated so that the light received off the groundglass is from a small spot (1.2 mm) and nearly at 90 degrees.

    2. The photodiode must be biased so it is always in its active region. It must not be in off state in the dark, and it must not be saturated in the test light.
    That requires adjustment of both the bias resistor and the test light intensity.

    These are necessary for the photodiode current pulses to be accurate analogs of the light pulse, otherwise it can give pulses longer than the incident light.

    Once I had the tester sorted out, I was able to reset the blind tension on the Speed Graphic to the spec in the service manual.
    above 1/100,there is a fair amount of penumbra on the focal plane shutter, and some on the lens shutter, so I used a visual average of the pulse width on the oscilloscope.
    Here are the measurements from the last test of the focal plane {setting, measured millisecond)
    {1/30, 55}, {1/50, 30}, {1/125, 11), {1/250, 5}, (1/500, 2.2}, {1/1000, 1.3}

    So the Graflex focal plane shutter is less than +1/3 of a stop in error.

    Here are the measurements from the last test of the Graflex Wollensak shutter on the Optar 1/4.5 135mm {setting, measured ms)
    {1/1, 900}, {1/2, 400}, {1/5, 180), {1/10, 103}, (1/25, 32}, {1/50, 19}, {1/100, 10.5}

    So the Graflex Wollensak shutter is quite accurate, plus 5%, minus 20% in time which is less than +/- 1/3 stop
     
  8. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    By cleaning the shutter with any solvent you are removing the lubricant and leaving a dry mechanism, which causes other damage and ultimate failure of the shutter.
     
  9. mopar_guy

    mopar_guy Subscriber

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    I was looking at the manufacturer's service manuals for my press camera shutters, and "that lighter fluid thing" is NOT a recommended service practice.

    Those people that recommend the lighter fluid flush must know more about the shutter than the original manufacturer.
     
  10. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Now mind you, I'm rather early on in my shutter studies and work. But it's becoming more evident that spring replacement is the correct remedy for getting these shutters back to speed--the Betax. Rapax, Compur, etc. This of course is leading to the need to learn spring fabrication, since no parts I know of are available.
    If regular users are going to do the naptha-related tricks to get a dead shutter at least working again, then fine. But if you are not following it up with a little tester, so you can make a conversion chart to stick on the back of the camera, then you still don't have much of nuttin'. You'll be all over the place on finding film speeds and development times. Banging your head against the wall.
    Find out where your shutter really is, and the rest of procedure will start clicking into place. Voice of experience.
     
  11. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

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    Yes, I think opening these shutters should be left to the experts who, I understand use ultrasonic cleaning.

    This thread motivated me today to measure the shutter on my new-to-me Century 2x3 with the Wollensak Syncromatic C / Graftar 1/4.5 103mm
    { speed, ideal, measured millisecond}
    {1/10, 100, 95}, {1/25, 40, 40}, {1/50, 20, 25}, {1/100, 10, 15}, {1/200, 5, 5}

    Below is a trace of the 1/50 measurement showing how I use the mid-point of the rise and fall times - (shutter is halfway to maximum transmission)
    I don't know how they measured them back in the day.
    The ripple on top is 120 Hz ( 8.33 millisecond) from the test lamp I use. I should put a rectifier filter, however it allows a useful cross check of the time, in this case 8.33 ms by about 3 cycles.
     

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  12. fotch

    fotch Member

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    The only way you can truly clean anything is to take it apart. Just flushing it with some fluid is not really a cleaning.
     
  13. gleaf

    gleaf Subscriber

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    Thin precision parts not designed for a high vibration environment... in an ultrasonic cleaner. Not in any precision shop that cares about fatigue life. Be very careful. Ultrasonic are fairly violent due to hi rep rate and creating cavitation.
     
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  15. ChuckP

    ChuckP Subscriber

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    wombat2go,
    Since the pulse will only be there when you fire the shutter do you need a storage type oscilloscope?
     
  16. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

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    Yes but my storage scope it out of action. Here is how I did it with an old analog scope and a digital camera.
    (Sorry: I have been posting links on this forum but now I can not. Mods say it is because i am new member... but I have quite a lot of posts already with links)
    So please refer to my thread on PentaxForums >Articles>DIY "K-01 Oscilloscope Adaptor"
     
  17. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Nonsense. Rubbish. I use shutters from the late 1950s to before WWI. They are accurate and still have the original springs.
    One thing you haven't had occur to you yet is: The shutter blades are often, if not always, steel. Steel can become magnetised. Magnetised shutter blades stick together. Stuck together shutter blades will make the shutter run slow.
    You also have to actually clean the parts, with a brush and peg out all the pivot holes - not just slop them around in solvent. An ultrasonic will damage springs if they are left in long enough.
    Clean the thing, assemble it correctly with degaussed blades, lubricate it properly, and unless it's badly worn or has been butchered by some half-baked autodidact the speeds will come bact to their marked values with gratifying accuracy.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 30, 2013
  18. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

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    The three Graflex shutters I measured over weekend (above posts) are quite accurate.

    This morning I measure a new-in-box Prontor SVS , box says 1957, the shutter is obviously never used.

    { speed, ideal, measured millisecond}
    {1/1, 1000, 1600+}, {1/2, 500, 700}, {1/5, 200, 220}, {1/10, 100, 250},
    {1/25, 40, 76}, {1/50, 20, 30~50}, {1/100, 10, 12~15}, {1/300, 3, 5~7}

    This shutter is slow, and erratic on the 1/50th, note how the 1/10 speed is slower than 1/5
    What should be done with it?
    I might try - warm it up to 45 C for a few hours, fire it 100 times, then re-measure it ??
     
  19. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Anything other than a proper clean, lube adjust is a stopgap at best. For instance, I have a Yashica screwmount SLR that sat for about 20 years. I did what you suggest with it, and guess what? It sounded - and worked - like new, for a while. The heat and activity moved some lube around. Now the camera still functions at the lower shutter speeds, 500 and 1000 are capping again. Warm it up, or take it out on a warm day, and it's OK.
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    My 1913 Compur is more accurate than my modern Copals, Says a lot about German engineering and the strength of their springs :D

    Most important thing to remember with leaf shutters is they need occasional use, that helps keep them running smoothly.

    Ian
     
  21. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Same experience here... but interestingly they all produce reasonably similar exposure results. The amount of difference in accuracy/precision of well/properly maintained shutters isn't huge.
     
  22. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

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    I sat the Prontor SVS on top of the computer overnight (about 38C) and then gave it a few operations.
    It got progressively worse and now the lower speeds do not work at all, the shutter sticks open while the escapement fails to spin up.
    The escapement can be made to complete by flicking the lever but it is sluggish.

    I downloaded the Gauthier service manuals. It appears mine is an early model SVS (10 ap blades) and the manual notes a few design problems with that model in the first year and later came several versions of the synchronizer,
    reduced number of ap blades, and a cosmetic change for identification.

    For problem that my shutter has per above, the manual says "Rinse mechanism in pure petrol (gasoline)."
    The shutter is not lubricated (strict note in manual)
    Grease is only used on the outer time ring and the diaphagm mechanism.

    I can see some grease starting to appear on one of the shutter blades.
    I might send it to the guy who did my Nettar shutter.
    He ultrasonically cleaned that one and it works OK now.
     
  23. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    By that, they mean what used to be called "white gas" that is gas with no additives, straight distillate. The easiest to find acceptable substitute would be Coleman fuel.
    Warming the shutter in this case allowed the oils from the separated grease to migrate further into where it does not belong.
     
  24. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Well, as of last night I have declared the "soak in naptha trick" to be worthless, and began disassembly of my Graphex-X shutter (which is not exactly like the online material for Graphex). The only way I can hope to be happy with the accuracy of all my speeds is to get this thing all apart, cleaned, lubed properly, and back together again. Wish me luck. I think I can get it done without some spring flying across the room ending up in the upholstery never to be seen again.
     
  25. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

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    The term petrol and gasoline in a 1957 translation from Gauthier's German manual surely refers to the automotive fuels. the English term was "white spirit" otherwise.
    At that time, petrol (as I recall, both grades) contained tetra-ethyl-lead plus other additives including upper cylinder lubricants.
    I grew up in my father's auto dealership/workshop and to clean things including small parts they used half/half petrol/kerosine in a high air pressure spray gun.
    Flammable and a health hazard (although those guys lived long ! ) it sure got the parts clean and probably left some lube on the surface.

    I haven't opened the Prontor SVS here but from what I can see it is not up to the quality of the Graflex Wollensak ones here.
     
  26. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Disassembly Process Tips

    Early on in the disassembly process, I am proceeding carefully. This job WILL turn out correctly. With some previous study of the exploded diagrams on this one, the manufacturer was so kind as to have made them. It's actually step numbered. Adding to this, I laid the slightly disassembled shutter face down on the scanner, brought it into Photoshop and re-sized it for a full-sheet output on 8 1/2 x 11 10pt C1S in Indesign and ran it to the color copier. Now I have a big full-color blow-up of the shutter, and from there, it is simply a matter of pulling parts and laying them on shop rags in order. Simple as pie.
    I can do this, and it WILL turn out right.