need some tips for building a LF camera

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by JennyG, Jun 15, 2009.

  1. JennyG

    JennyG Member

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    Hey everyone,

    I just got a about 200 pieces of weather treated mahogany. About 8.5x3.25x0.75 inches and I really want to make a nice field camera out of some of them.

    I have been thinking of making a camera for some time and now that I have some nice wood I am ready to jump on it.

    I already have a few large format lenses for 4X5 format.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on where to start? (I would like it to be able to fold for easy travel)

    Any help is much appreciated!!

    Thanks a bunch
    Jenny
     
  2. sv@diycamerakit.com

    sv@diycamerakit.com Member

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    You did not say what tools do you have access to and what experience you have using them. While building a camera can be done with basic tools, it may take quite a bit of time. I am in the process of designing a field camera and I will be making the plans available for free when it's completed, but that is at least a couple of months away. There are other plans available on the net that you could find now, but since I have not tried them I cannot recommend any one of them in particular.

    I have to say though, a folding camera is a lot more complicated to make then a monorail, so you may want to take that into account.
     
  3. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    There are several DIY plans on the internet and most of the good ones have been mentioned in this forum so I would suggest start with a search here then branch out with google. That said I've never built one but may get to it some day.
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    If I were to do this, the very first thing I would do is buy a beat-up crown graphic or poco or such and take it apart. I bought an old kodak somethingorother for $50 or so and did this and learned a lot.

    I really like the basic, light ~1902 poco field design and if I were to make a camera I'd base it on that; if you wanted to add more movements you could do that but I think step one is to make a solid "box" and figure out how to make it stable.

    Mind you, I am not dissing the plans online and so forth, I just think that you can cannibalize some useful joints and rails and ideas from the older field cameras... and probably fall in love with those cameras while you do it. The craftsmanship was extraordinary.... needless to say since I am still happily using these 100+ yr old cameras and I am not exactly gentle with my gear.
     
  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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  6. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    And then there is always... What's the worst that could happen? You make a bunch of fire wood.

    The idea of getting a beat up old something-or-other is probably sound advice.

    I'd still probably find some plans for a monorail and dive in and start making firewood.
     
  7. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I would say if you don't want a monorail, don't make one. Go straight to the style you want.

    When I first thought about making an acoustic guitar, plenty of people told me to make a simple spanish model first, but that was not what I wanted. Instead I got the plans for a Selmer Model Jazz and made one.

    (one of these: http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/2/2/0/273220.jpg ).


    Steve.
     
  8. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Oh yes, I have some CAD drawings inspired by the design in Rayment Kirby's site. Send me a PM if you want them.


    Steve.
     
  9. AlanC

    AlanC Member

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    I agree with Steve. No point in making something that you don't really want. Having said that , if you really know what you want you are lucky!

    Great guitar Steve, you did a very nice job.

    Alan Clark
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Actually, that wasn't the one I made, it was just a representation of the style!!

    I did post a picture of mine once. I will see if I can find it.



    Steve.
     
  11. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    I figure a monorail would be a good place for me to start, maybe even a bag bellows since they are slightly easier to make than a folded bellows, and certainly easier than a tapered folded bellows.

    ANd if she knows exactly what style she wants, then jump right in and start cutting. You might also find some plans from Barry Young (a member here) and he might have the odd metal bits made for you to complete the camera. Sorry I forget his contact info but it is scattered throughout the forum if you search for him.
     
  12. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    What Steve said about Rayment Kirby's site.
     
  13. sangetsu

    sangetsu Member

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    If you have the wood, you just need the hardware. For a first-time camera, I would probably buy an old, broken clunker off of Ebay and salvage the standards/hardware that came with it.
     
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  15. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    What he says about hardware.
    But, being hardheaded and obstinate I'd wander down to the hobby shop or big box store & pick up some brass or aluminum angle and sheet & start filing away 'til I had something that looked right(to me) Once it's polished up use a clear coat to keep it from tarnishing & go.
    I just realized that most(all) cameras I've seen have had the hardware on corners surface mounted. It would be different if they were inset so the surface of the metal & wood were even. Me, I'm going to use box joints.
     
  16. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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  17. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    Hi Jenny,

    Having gone through the process of designing and building an 8 x 20 camera a couple of years ago, I can safely say that it can be a complicated and long process to go through depending on how exact you want things to be and how dedicated you are to the final look of the product. I used Makori (very similar to Mahogany) and it worked very well.

    Assuming you have the tools (table saw, good router, access to a planer/jointer) and the experience in wood working, it can be a very enjoyable experience. If you don't have the tools, you can do what Jim Fitzgerald did with the two cameras he built and do it all by hand in his apartment (but he's slightly crazy as some of us know). Contact him if you want his advice - he will be glad to talk about it.

    You can do everything basically from scratch including making your own bellows which is what I did. or you can do like some have suggested and get an old beat up camera cheap and salvage the parts. After going throught the experience, I would recommend that latter and use what you can fine from other cameras. It will make the process much easier and getting the metal parts and pieces will contribute to probably a tighter fitting and operating camera. If I had to do it all over again, that is the way I would go.

    Regarding the camera type, there are basically three different types to consider - a monorail type (like a Bender), a drop bed (like an old Kodak or Korona), and a double or triple extension bed (like a deardorf or newer modern types). The monorail will be less flexible in the field but will likely be the easiest to build. The drop bed will be the easier to build from scratch than the Deardorf style but may have stability problems with long lenses. The Deardorf style will likely be the most stable to use but more complicated to build. Just my 2 cents worth.

    Regarding building your own 4 x 5 camera (as opposed to building one 8 x 10 or larger) - buying a used 4 x camera from Ebay is not expensive and you may actually be spending more to make one yourself. If you want to build it for the whole experience and have your own hand made camera to use, that's a different thing altogether. There is something about using your own camera that you spent all that time working on it yourself.

    Hope this helps. Good luck in your experience.
     
  18. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    Maybe a tip for the bellows: on ebay they sell good new chinese bellows for several diferent camera's for below/around $ 75,-

    I am planning to build a Shen Hao PTB 54 from Brazil wood.

    Peter
     
  19. Venchka

    Venchka Member

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    What exactly do you have?

    "weather treated mahogany"

    Never heard of it. What is it? Mahogany is one of those names that gets attached to a lot of trash wood. There is only one real mahogany.

    The wood is the least expensive component. Yould be better off buying some really nice walnut or cherry or pattern grade Honduras mahogany.
     
  20. claudermilk

    claudermilk Member

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    Jumping back on the forum here...

    I'm going down a similar road myself. I have had an itch to build a 4x5 for a while and finally decided to scratch it. I'm basing mine off the Rayment Kirby camera. There's just enough info there to get you started. However many of the more detailed bits--like the focusing rack--are "left as an exercise for the reader" so to speak. Happily I have access to CAD software & have been picking at it when time permits. I think I have the rack figured out.

    Anyway, I am obviously of the just build what you are after camp. Half the point for me in this is to build it myself & see if I can pull it off. Now that I've gotten really deep into pondering the whole thing, the mechanism doesn't seem all that complex. The main tricks will be patience & precision.

    I possibly have access to a bunch of "figured teak" for a final camera (I'm going to build a trial one out of cheap material first). Any idea if that's as suited to the purpose as "normal" teak?
     
  21. richard ide

    richard ide Member

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    If you Google Mahogany species, there are several different woods that are considered to be mahogany. I have used four and have seen two or three others. All considered to be Mahogany but with different characteristics.
     
  22. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Yes, crazy indeed! I even built 2 Walnut tripods! One for each camera. For me I needed to see what I wanted to build. I'm no master designer but I can make decent copies! I took my 4x5 Zone VI and made a 11x14 just like it. I took my Seneca Improved 8x10 and made my 8x20. Yes I did this with hand tools in my apartment and lots of time and love went into the project. It depends on how you build things. Most important thing is to take your time and set no deadline. When you are inspired to work on it then do it. Took me a year and change to make the 8x20 and about 10 months to do the 11x14. Second was faster and more inspired. Good luck and don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. That is what i was told and I have some nice negatives and nice prints from both cameras that I wasn't able to make because I lacked a proper shop and tools.
    My 11x14 is with me on my avitar.

    Jim
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 26, 2009
  23. NormanV

    NormanV Member

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    If you wish to be part of todays "must have it now" society then go ahead and buy another camera to use the parts. On the other hand if you want to make something that is yours and you want to get the pleasure of designing and building it for yourself then get hold of a copy of Stroebels "View Camera Technique" look at other peoples ideas and decide on your own approach to the problem. Ther are many different ways to 'crack a nut'. Find your own, don't be a sheep, find your own way.
     
  24. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    And if you are looking for some fine power tools have a look at the Proxxon program, they have some great tools for the fine work.

    Just get started and if you feel unsecure, start with some cheap wood to practice and when you are happy with the results start on the real thing with mahogany or what ever kind of exotic beautifull wood.
    Don't over-rush your self and step back at times to see the results and photograph the steps, in that way you will have a full record of the building.
    Make mistakes with the cheap wood, ask questions, there will be people here to help you along with answers and tips.

    And not to forget: post some pic's here when your camera is finished in a year or so !

    Peter
     
  25. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    You're right, a lot of wood does get called Mahogany. Traditionally there are two "real" mahoganys: African (various Khaya species, probably all with slightly different characteristics) and Honduran (Swietenia macrophylla, which grows in other countries in Latin America besides Honduras). The imitation mahogany is usually from Asia, usually various species of Shorea, and commonly known as Meranti or Lauan in the trade. Not bad woods in their own right, but not Mahogany.

    More than anyone wanted to know about Mahogany I'm sure.

    But who is to say the OP doesn't have the real stuff? Take a sample to a good wood working shop, I'm sure they can tell you if you've got the real stuff or not.
     
  26. claudermilk

    claudermilk Member

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    Bingo! I'm having a ball just figuring out how to fill in the blanks from the information on the Rayment Kirby site. It's taken some thinking, lots of searching on McMaster-Carr and other suppliers, then some re-thinking.

    I'm planning on building two of these: #1 is a trial run to verify my design work was right & get my rusty woodworking skills a little better, then #2 will the the real thing.

    The thought of answering the "cool camera, where'd you buy it?" question with "it's not bought, I made it" is a nice incentive. Already getting some of that from the hot rod project. It's addictive...:D