New 8 x 20 camera - am I insane???

Discussion in 'Ultra Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Dan Dozer, Jul 4, 2006.

  1. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    Well, I've finally done it. After months of planning, designing, researching, and now material shopping, I've finally started the construction of my new 8 x 20 camera. This forum has been a terrific source of information and since i'm not the first to try this, I figure maybe I can also make it work. Many thanks to all those who have contributed to this forum in the past to give me the confidence to try.

    I've taken on first what I consider the most difficult task - making the film holders. I figure that if I can get one made and it is light tight, the rest of the work will seem easy. So, for the last two days, I've been cutting out all the little pieces to go in the holder and am just about ready to start assembling it. Then the big test - will it keep the sun out?

    After that comes the camera. This is where I may be crazy. Not wanting to limit myself to only horizontal images, I've come up with a design that theoretically allows the camera body and bellows to detach from the front and rear supports and be able to rotate it all to accommodate both formats. Time will tell if it will work or not. Has anyone else ever tried this before?

    This "project" also seems that it will take some time to complete, so this is definitely not a two week effort. Hopefully, I'll be done in a few months. One thing that is already a benefit - it was a good excuse to get a new bandsaw and planer for my workshop (at least that is what I told my wife).

    If any/many are interested, I'll take lots of photos and periodically post my progress (and lessons learned).
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Good luck to you. This is a pretty intensive endeavor. I know that others have done this. So who is to say that you can't?
     
  3. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    I'd love to see the progress reports especially if a visual diary is posted too.

    Joe
     
  4. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Good luck to you, I'm looking forward to seeing your results.

    BTW, you are crazy. You can't get Velvia for that thing!! :tongue:
     
  5. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Count me in. I too have been toying with the idea of building a camera. I'd love to watch and learn.

    Best of luck,

    Bill

    PS. I think we are all insane.
     
  6. metod

    metod Member

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    Dan, a lot of encouragements on your project. I remember how excited I was when I started just like you do now. And you are making even your own film holders! I’ll be glad to check from time to time on your progress. Good luck!
     
  7. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Dan,

    Please do!

    Frank
     
  8. PhotoHistorian

    PhotoHistorian Member

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    Dan,
    I wish you well in jumping into the world of camera building. If you want to get a good look at the job you have ahead of you, check out the work of J.B. Harlin. J.B. built 8x20 and 4x10 vertical cameras last year. Here is a link to the progress of the projects from design to completion http://jbhphoto.com/vcam/vcams.htm
    J.B. also presented an outstanding program on camera building at the View Camera Magazine: Large Format Photo Conference last month in Rockford, IL. Really beautiful cameras. They are art piece in their own right.
    Good luck with your project.
    Walker Edmonson
     
  9. argus

    argus Member

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    Dan,

    you're not insane. I just finished a 7x17" including filmholders and it is very rewarding to make pictures with a camera you built yourself.

    Greetings,
    Geert
     
  10. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    We're all a little crazy around here. Welcome to the loony bin!
     
  11. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Dan, I too have begun work on an 8x20! I know my limitations! Film holders are a bit of a reach for my woodworking skills. I have just started the front standard and have made some design adjustments for front tilt. make sure you go over the design layout several times before you cut the wood. You know measure " five times and cut once". Well at least that's the way it is in my case. I didn't realize the fact that I needed an additional bracket on the inside of the front rail to support the tilt mechanism and now I have a small 1/8" sliver cut in the front. I could rebuild the whole front base but I am making an early 1900's style camera (Korona) so if I can finish the patch nicely then I will continue. I may have to re-cut the front. Well this is the first camera I've made and it is a joy to work on. What did you use as you inspiration for design? I will try to post some pic's here soon. Good luck1

    Stay Focused

    Jim
     
  12. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Dan good luck!

    I find interesting the simpler design of the back of theWisner light weight 16 x 20 to be interesting and doable.....it seems it would also enable one to make a film holder that was thicker in frame and thus not such a pain to build. check it out on the Wisner Classic Manufacturing site under 16 x 20 light weight...
     
  13. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    Wow - is this generating a lot of interest in a very short time. Thank you all for the encouragement. I'll make sure to post pictures of my progress.

    Geert - I've been studying your design very carefully for the last couple of months - your design and craftsmanship look great.

    Jim - I'm also following the traditional extension bed approach. I have a Kodak 2D 8 x 10 and I'm following some of the same design ideas. However, I'm also thinking about some of the "stability" issues that I will be facing with this larger size and hopefully will work them out. I thought long and hard about the design looking at design approaches for both the extension bed and the flatbed approach. However, with the flatbed approach, I couldn't figure out any way to make the camera rotatable for both horizontal and vertical formats.

    I understand your "challenge" with the front swings - I realized that when investigating design options. I'm going to keep that aspect of my design somewhat simple. Front will have rise/fall and swing and the back will have tilt. I realize the potential perspective issues with back tilt, but most of my work is landscape type I'll just have to deal with it. The camera back assembly will also be removable from the back standards to change from horizontal to vertical format.

    Thanks everyone,

    Dan
     
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  15. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Also Richard Ritter has built a nice 7 x 17 which allows for vertical and horizontal use....google richard ritter 7 x 17 for photos
     
  16. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Dan - what I'd suggest is to first make a prototype, just like Norm does on the New Yankee Workshop, and then have the prototype tested. In fact, there's a ULF testing facility here in Rio Rancho that I'd recommend. :wink:

    Seriously, good luck with the project. I'll look forward to progress photos.
     
  17. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Dan, I also used the Kodak 2-D 8x10 as an example for design. I got the guts off of E-bay for a steal and am using the brass hardware off of it. I'll have to get some more extension bed track and two more nobs. I found a design idea for front tilt from a web listing a while back for a 7x17 that had front tilt that was done by Richard Ritter. I also have a Zone VI 4x5 to use as a guide for the front tilt and I am copying the design. Hence the reason that I need to rebuild the front base. I didn't take into account the extra width for the front tilt. If you are building this camera try the extension support rails to give it more stability. I'm going to build a set for mine. I'm only making mine a horizontal format so I can't help with the vertical side of your design. I'm building the tripod and extra platform to use mine vertical. If i need a second tripod to support the front, well then what's another 5 pounds! Hell, I'm only 55 and still in good shape so I might as well take crazy to the max! What ever you do don't rush it or you will be rebuilding things like I have to.

    Stay Focused

    Jim
     
  18. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Dan, like I said in one of my previous posts take you time with the layout. When you start changing things it can get ugly. My front standard that I messed up, well I finally, after the second cup of coffee this morning realized that I could cut 1/8" off each side of my lens board frame to give me the measurements I need to add the tilt to the front standard. The joys of caffeine!

    Stay Focused!

    Jim
     
  19. Petzi

    Petzi Member

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    So you want to take vertical pictures? With a good ball head, you might as well rotate the camera entirely, and not make changes to the camera. Of course it would generate some imbalance, but you need a good tripod anyway. This could make your design simpler and sturdier.
     
  20. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    Ralph - I think I missed the episode where Norm sends his project out to get tested. However, I did see the one where one of his viewers gives him an obsene amont of money for his lastest "what's it kind of table or whatever" and allows him to retire. Isn't that why Norm isn't on the air anymore?

    Jim - Thanks for the warnings. My wife always complains that I procrastinate to long before making decisions. So far, that has held true on is project. I've draw everydetail and thought I had it all down. However, even with all my plans, when I'm cutting things, I still re-think details and make some modifications. However, I did have to re-cut two small pieces the other day. What I have found so far is to make an extra piece of whatever you are making out of pine or something to use as your test piece. That will significantly reduce the amount of mistakes on your "real wood" that you are using. In the case of my "mistake", I forgot to make a test piece and thought I could get it right anyway (lesson learned). By the way, what wood are you using? I'm making mine out of Makori which is African Cherry. It's pretty easy to get on Ebay as rough cut boards for about $1 per board foot - however it cost more than that to ship it, so my total cost is about $2.50/board foot. One thing I'm doing is with the band saw and planer, I'm getting twice the quantity by slicing the boards down the middle.

    Petzi - thanks for the suggestion on the Ball Head. However, I'm already "insanely" committed to the design I've worked out. Maybe that approach will come with the next camera.

    Keep the ideas coming,

    Dan
     
  21. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Dan, I'm building my camera and tripod out of Walnut. I've had some stock for several years that I am putting to good use. I love the look of finished walnut. I'm doing a hand rubbed oil finish. wet sanding to 800 grit with oil. It looks nice. i put a protective wax over the wood. It is a lot of work but man does it look great. I had to pick up some additional pcs. on e-bay and I found a guy who has excellent wood cut to very fine tolerances. Camera building is a challenge but it is very rewarding.

    Stay Focused

    Jim
     
  22. Kameraman Craig

    Kameraman Craig Member

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    Dan, your not insane! I am currently building my 2nd 12x20!!! The first one works fine, Its' just too heavy. I bought the film holders though instead of making them. That saved me a lot of time. Good luck and keep at it. Craig
     
  23. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    Jim,

    Your finish work sounds beautiful. I've been considering a hand rubbed tung oil finish on mine. I've never used it before. So far, I've put three coats on a scrap piece just to get the feel of the look, and I think I'm sold. One question - isn't the oil supposed to seal and protect the wood surface by itself? Is the protective wax really needed? Sorry if these questions sound elementary, but I've lived for a long time on Varathane.

    I hope when you are finished, you'll be able to post a few pictures of your completed work.

    Dan
     
  24. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Dan, I'm working on the front standard assembly and I hope to have it finished this weekend. Check out this guys post on finishing with tung oil. http://www.wwch.org/Technique/Finishes/OilFin.htm.
    His article is Wood Finishing with Oil. by Ray Lancon. I found this article one night by using google. There is a lot of time involved in the finishing process but after all of that work you can't take a shortcut on the final finish. I sometimes refinish marble and granite for extra $$$ for camera building, film, etc. I sand my woodwork dry to 320 grit. I switch to his wet process from 400, 600, 800 grits but I use my hand diamond sanding pads and the final finish is beautiful. The Watco satin wax helps to protect the finish. When it gets dinged from use it is easy to take the wax off and do touch up. It just works for me. i'm sure others have different methods of finishing but I love to see the wood and not a coating. Jim
     
  25. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    Jim,

    Thanks for this - it is really great. I've not much experience with oil before. So far, I have tried two different types of oil - Watco Danish Oil and Minwax Tung Oil on a piece of scrap wood. With a very rudimentary sampling, I liked the Minwax a little better. However, I would think that if I followed the technique outlined in Ray Lancon's write-up, they would probably look just about the same. The thing I like best about this is that the color of the Makori with the oil is so rich, there is no reason why I would ever want to consider staining the wood (and covering up it's natural beauty). You have obviously had much more experience with this than I have, but I can imagine what it will look like as the finished product. The one problem is that I would probably have to finish the film holder pieces before I assemble the whole thing - not sure if I can wait that long. I may use this first film holder as my "prototype" and not spend quite as much time on the finish for this one. I think I'll go the whole route regarding the finish on the camera and the rest of the holders when I get to them.

    Thanks for all your info - it is a new inspiration for me to make this project as beautiful as possible. It will take more time, but to me it will be worth it.
     
  26. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Dan, I just posted pictures of the Walnut tripod in the camera and building area. Check it out. The legs are finished with this process and the yoke needs a little more work. The color is rich and there is a glow to the wood with a hand polished finish. I like it and that's what counts. yes, it is a lot of work but why not. Large format and ULF photographers are not known for speed I believe, just quality! I should post some pictures of the front standard this weekend. Any more questions you have don't hesitate to put it out there!

    Stay Focused

    Jim