Help with Conley 4x5, please!

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by marke, Feb 11, 2009.

  1. marke

    marke Member

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    Hi, I'm new to LF and I just picked up what I believe is a 1912 Conley Model XVIa. I would like to try it out but I'm looking for some advice. Is there a source for replacement shutter bulbs? Anyone know of a sorec for copies of an owner's manual?

    Thanks!

    Mark Ehlers
     
  2. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    You probably don't need a manual to operate it; just do some reading on general large format work and it should become clear what to do.

    Some hints:

    1. You need film holders. I'm not sure if standard 4x5 holders fit the camera - you may need some obscure plate holder or older wooden 4x5" holder size. Try picking up one or two standard, modern lisco / fidelity 4x5 holders to see if they fit. If not you can resell them. If your camera came with holders you're set - unless they're plate holders. In that case you may need to manufacture an insert to get the film in the right position. Someone who's done this may be able to guide you.

    2. Can you operate the shutter without a bulb? Presumably you mean an air hose / bulb, right? Don't turn any dials on the shutter until you note any arrows (if any) denoting a direction to turn them. Some shutters (e.g. dial set compurs) require that you turn the dial in the indicated direction only when you change shutter speeds, otherwise you can mess up some springs or something.

    3. You can process 4x5 film in trays, in the dark, but a rotary tube is an easier way. Some also use hangars and big tanks.

    See this description:
    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/unicolor/
     
  3. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Bulbs should be available from Packard, the shutter folk. Harbor Freight has a bulb that may work cheap!
    The one from HF is about 4" long X 2+" dia. with a brass nozzle.
     
  4. marke

    marke Member

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    Thank you, gentlemen.

    Walter: I just thought if I could possibly get a copy of the owner's manual it would be a neat thing to have. :smile: But I don't expect to find one. The camera came with 5 wooden holders, and they all seem to be in great shape. Are the inserts you mention to help install the film the same ones that are removed and replaced when exposing the film? If so, it seems I'm all set for those too.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Yes, there is a lever shutter release to trip it without the air hose/bulb. Thanks for the warning about turning dials. I don't seem to have that problem with this shutter. But I don't seem to have any change in ss when comparing 1/2 to 1/100. And 1 second ss just sticks when set to that. Is there a type of lubricant that's safe to use on the shutter?

    I've been looking into different types of developing tanks on ebay. What do you think of the Yankee square-shaped Agitank? Or would I be better off getting a rotary tube? Can you develop in a rotary witho only hand agitation?

    John: Thank you for the resources for a bulb. That one that HF has looks like a good deal, but I'm hoping to find something smaller that will fit inside the box when the camera is folded. But maybe I'll give this one a try and see how it works. And maybe it nees to be this large to trigger the shutter? The one from Pakard is $15 and I don't know what it looks like.
     
  5. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    You might be able to get the shutter working by using it a few times. On the other hand that might do more harm than good. I don't know much about these air piston shutters. Even if you can't get it working quite right you can always just make sure you're always shooting 1/2 second exposures (or whatever your single speed times out to be), and use a hat or lens cap for other situations... or flash in a darkened room.

    The film inserts I'm talking about are not the same as the darkslide (the black sheet that you pull out to expose the film). They'd be like thin metal sleeves inside the wooden holders. Do the holders look like they're set to hold a thin sheet of film inside them (ie, with ridges along the insides under which the film would slide)? If you can't see any obvious way to insert a sheet of film without it flopping around inside the cavity then the holders are probably for glass plates.. but you can make adapters fairly easily, or you may be able to just stuff regular film holders into the back of this thing.

    There are very few cameras of this age that don't need a bit of work to get them working properly, but it's worth it!

    Cool camera. You'll have fun with it once you get it working.
     
  6. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    I have a similar camera (seneca from 1908). They're fairly simple considering there's little-to-no movements. It's the same idea with the bulb, but unfortunately my camera doesn't have shutter speed settings, so all my exposures have to be 1sec or more to accurately expose the film. The guy who had the camera before me bought it with a non-operational shutter. He took it apart and fixed it himself as the setup was relatively simple. If you're feeling brave you might want to do this.

    Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
     
  7. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    A side note here: I have some nagging feeling that you should *not* lubricate these air piston shutters. I think the pistons and tubes might need to be cleaned but I vaguely remember reading that lubricant will throw them way off and basically ruin them. I might be misremembering, but that's my vague nagging recollection. If you take it apart, just clean it.

    I've run into similar issues with simpler rotary shutters (these mechanisms are really dirt simple; two metal plates, each with a hole, that slide against one another, so the holes line up briefly). I found one in an old folding camera that had been lubricated and it was gummy and stuck and pretty much impossible to fix (though the camera was cheap and common and I just wanted to tear its lens off so I didn't bother trying). The others I've seen have not been lubricated and also did not work at all, but a bit of a cleaning with some fine grit sandpaper got them working as snappy as if they were brand new.

    The other risk if you lubricate would be to put lubricant on the wrong parts and have it transfer to the aperture blades or shutter blades, and then the thing is pretty much guaranteed to gum up.
     
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  8. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Your shutter "times" the speed you set by how high the piston rises on the right side of the shutter. The left piston is for the shutter hose and bulb, the right piston is the shutter time piston and it descends a measured amount to "time" the length of exposure. It descends a longer distance for longer exposures. This piston and sleeve have to be super-clean and dry to work properly. No lubricant of any kind. You can take the piston out of the cylinder and clean both to help restore correct shutter speeds.

    Another source for bulbs would be the bulb used on a blood-pressure tester. If you have any surgical supply stores in your town, you should be able to get a bulb, and surgical tubing.

    The film-holders you have are for glass plates. Sometimes you can find them with film inserts. These film inserts fit where the glass plates would fit, and hold sheet film like a normal sheet film holder does. Many glass plate holders and glass plate cameras are not standard size for holders as used today, and your camera may, or may not accept modern film holders.
     
  9. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    ...to add to PHOTOTONE's comment, you can make your wet plate holder into a film holder with some work. You can put a piece of matting board that is the same thickness as the glass plate in (I'm not sure what this is off the top of my head) with a couple of guides on the side for the film to keep it flat. It's not perfect, professional or easy by any means, but if you want to put in the work, you can get a pretty interesting setup. My seneca is rigged for 4x5 film and it works really nice and produces great vintage looking photographs.
     
  10. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Just a minor correction here. The holders the OP has are "dry" plate holders, not "wet" plate holders.
     
  11. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    I've adapted plate holders for film with simple black paper sleeves. This isn't as precise as finding the exact thickness of plates and making a high quality insert, but it's a good way to get shooting quickly.

    Here, DannL gives a good description:

    http://www.lightcafe.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=13576&start=25

    Note this is for a slightly different style of plate holder from a falling plate camera (they don't need darkslides or anything because they're all kept inside the camera body). I realize this link might be somewhat confusing for you, because if your plate holders have the film inserts I was talking about they'll probably look somewhat like the metal plate holders in those instructions, in which case this won't be necessary. In any case this should give you an idea of what you might be able to do with these holders.

    Now if you open your plate holders and they have removable metal inserts in them, those inserts are in all likelihood film adapters, and you don't have to worry about it. In any event the flaps around the edges should give you a clue; if the space is narrow (film thickness) it's for film. If so thick that the film flops around, well, its for a glass plate.
     
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  12. marke

    marke Member

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    jordanstar: Thanks for the help. I think for now, I want to disassemble as little as possible. I guess I have two issues for now. First, I'd like to get the airpiston shutter mechanism working. Last night I was able to move the piston a bit with just blowing hard into the tube with my mouth. But I don't think it's moving as far as it should be moving, so I'll continue to look into this. And the second thing is I'd like to get the different shutter speeds operational, if possible. Do you know what actually happens mechanically that changes the speed? I'm referring to when I trip the shutter with the lever and not the air piston.

    walter: thank you for the warning to NOT lubricate the air piston. I was able to get it moved a bit last night with just blowing hard on the tube, so maybe there's still hope to get this part working again. I understand how this can cause a problem else where if the lube migrates into other areas. I have a Russian LTM (Leitz copy) lens that someone lubed up at some point, and you can smell the oil as soon as you open up the bakelite canister!
     
  13. marke

    marke Member

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    Interesting. So if I understand correctly, the left piston should rise higher when at 1 sec exposure than at 1/100? I'd like to disassemble this mechanism to clean out the piston, but I don't know where to start. What about the right piston - does it play any role in this operation? It doesn't seem to move at all.

    Thank you for the idea! My wife just called a friend who works in a hospital who said he should be able to help me with that.

    I'm not so sure these are for glass plates, since the side grooves appear way too shallow for any glass to slide through there. Where as a piece of photo paper seems to fit perfectly. I can honestly say that I've never actually seen a glass film plate, but I can't see anything this thin being made out of glass and not break even with the most careful handling.
     
  14. marke

    marke Member

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    Okay, I took the left piston assembly apart and cleaned everything out. Then I hooked up the bulb of a Giottos Rocket blower to the other end of the shutter hose and it actually worked! The piston now goes up and down freely with the air pressure, and trips the shutter. :D

    Now I'm wondering about taking the shutter apart itself. I don't see any noticable difference between 1/2 second and 1/100 second and I'm wondering if there is something I can do to change this. Does anyone know if I might possibly screw the whole thing up by releasing some kind of spring or part that I'll never be able to get back together again? How ARE the shutter speeds on these things adjusted anyway? I don't expect to be able to make any kind of accurate adjustment myself, but I thought if I could get some kind of variation between shutter speeds, then at least I have more to work with when I try to make some pictures.

    I also saw some small light leaks on the folds of the bellows. Does anyone have a suggestion as to how I might be able to patch these up? I know that pinholes on the cloth shutter curtains of Leicas can be patched up with liquid rubber painted over the leak. Would this work in this case also?

    I still haven't seen a purpose for the right piston on the shutter.

    Thanks to everyone who has been so kind and patient with this LF rookie.
     
  15. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    the holders you have are indeed dry-plate holders. You will probably have a hard time finding metal film adapter sheaths to fit them, as these things were not standardized. What you CAN do, although it is a little bulky, is to get some glass sheets cut to the size of your holders, then put your film on top of them. Put a dab of some viscous fluid like Caro syrup or blueberry jelly on the glass plate to hold the film in place (when you process, the jam/syrup will come off in the pre-wet and not affect the film).
     
  16. marke

    marke Member

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    I'm confused. Please excuse my ignorance, as I'm totally new at LF.

    These holders have grooves on two sides of the metal plate that lies within the wooden framework. It appears that the depth of these grooves would accomodate a sheet of film. I honestly can't visualize any way a plate of glass could be used with these. Here are a couple pictures that might explain it better. The yellow arrows are pointing at the groove I assumed was where the sheet of 4x5 film would fit into.

    And thank you for your patience.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


     
  17. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    ok- you have film sheaths already installed. So you're good to go.
     
  18. marke

    marke Member

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    Whew! Thank you for confirming that. :smile:


     
  19. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Facing the front of the camera, the piston on the left side of the shutter is for tripping the shutter from a hose and bulb "cable" release and that is its sole purpose. The piston on the right side of the shutter regulates the shutter speeds. They both need to be able to rise and fall with no friction or sticking. The shutter works under an internal spring that is tensioned when you cock the shutter, depending on what shutter speed you have set, a cam raises the RIGHT piston to a greater or lesser extent. It will raise the piston higher for a slower shutter speed. When you trip the shutter the spring pressure will open the shutter blades and apply pressure to the RIGHT piston, which has a controlled air hole in the bottom. The air restriction allows the piston to descend at a predetermined rate (if clean) and the piston descending into its cylinder "retards" the closing of the shutter to give you the shutter speed you have selected.

    Bellows pin-holes: Some people use a plastic dipping compound that can be found in hardware stores for putting a coating on pliers and other tool handles. It is available in black, and is a thick syrupy liquid that dries to a flexible rubber like substance. Apply sparingly with something like a toothpick to the pinholes, let dry and you should be OK. You would normally find this in the paint department of a hardware store. However you are only prolonging the inevitable. The bellows is near 100 years old and will need to be replaced, as the original rubber inside is drying out and cracking and will continue to get new pinholes.
     
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