setting up a workshop to make cameras

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by raizans, May 2, 2010.

  1. raizans

    raizans Member

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    what types and specifications of woodworking and metalworking tools would i need to make cameras? i'm thinking anything from pinhole cameras all the way up to 8x10 field cameras, maybe even 7x17 and 16x20!

    does anyone recommend a particular forum that discusses woodworking and metalworking in general?
     
  2. unclemack

    unclemack Member

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    There are forums if you search for them.
    If there are further education courses in your locality a metalwork and a woodworking course might be a better place to start.
    I find using hand tools more satisfying than doing everything with machine tools.
    This assumes you want to build cameras for your own pleasure rather than as a commercial venture.
    Turning a hobby into a business sometimes takes all the fun out of it...
     
  3. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    My only camera making venture was my 8 x 20. It took me the better part of about 8 months from start of design to end of construction. I used primarily power tools, but those that you would normally have in your home workshop (drills, table saw, good router and router table, band saw (don't really need this). I bought a fairly inexpensive planer so I could buy my wood rough sawn (cheaper) and thickness plane it myself. However, you can for more money buy your wood already planed to the thickness you need. I also found that a Dremel tool came in very handy at times. All of the metal used in the camera that needed to be cut with anything other than a hack saw was brass and aluminum, and you can get a special table saw blade that works great for that (it also works on plastics).

    One bit of advice - making film holders requires it's own special attention to light leaks. I initially made two, but it was a continual struggle for me with light leak problems. I eventually ended up buying a couple of film holders (real expensive by the way).

    Now - all that being said, Jim Fitzgerald made his 8 x 20 at the same time as me, and he did it all in his appartment with nothing more than hand tools. I still don't know how he did it. He eventually also made an 11 x 14 camera the same way. You might want to contact him to get his advice.

    The skills that you require for a venture like this are not really special. However, if you don't have prior woodworking experience, you will probably face a long difficult task.
     
  4. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Dan's got it covered.
    I think the most useful tools will be the table saw and router w/table. The router is really versatile.
    I think vickers dc also uses a milling machine but IMO it's a bit overkill.
     
  5. tim k

    tim k Member

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    I just finished a little 4x5. I found the table saw was mandatory for me. But I did use a milling machine quite a bit. However I suppose a router table could have done the same things, but perhaps a little more setup time. I also found a bench sander very helpful.
    Good luck with your venture.
     
  6. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Member

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    The router table will be a valuable friend. I would also recommend getting an 'Incra Jig' Fence, or one of the similar ones from Rockler woodworking. They provide REALLY good joint making capabilities that will last. Like everything, bleed once on this stuff. You also need to be creative and comfortable making your own jigs to help fabricate certain camera parts more efficiently. I found that well over half my time was spent making and setting up jigs and measuring ready to make the cuts.

    Other useful tools for camera making is a good bandsaw. Many of the parts used for cameras are strips of wood that you build in layers and the bandsaw is invaluable for that and saves real estate in your workshop.
     
  7. raizans

    raizans Member

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    there are some classes at the local community college, maybe i'll register for a couple next semester. it might be difficult because of all the budget cuts and increased demand, but i don't mind doing this at home. this is just for fun.

    this is what my list looks like:

    router and router table
    table saw
    band saw
    drill
    planer (optional)
    Dremel tool (optional)
    bench sander (optional)
    "incra jig" fence (optional)
    milling machine (optional?)

    do i need a milling machine for metal parts? can you get most of the metal parts pre-made?

    re: hand tools vs. power tools, i'm guessing power tools make it easier to do a good job, but is it that hard to do quality work with hand tools?
     
  8. tim k

    tim k Member

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    While I did use the milling machine a bit on the brass stuff, I mostly used it on the wood. Gears and knobs are easily available. Its the little weird things your most likely going to have to make, like the little do-dad that holds the lens boards on. You could make the little slots with a dremel, but a milling machine make the job rather easy.

    Regarding power vs hand, consider this. You go out to the wood store and come home with this new 2x6 hunk of cherry wood. Now what you want is a little strip say, a quarter inch by say half an inch. Table saw takes a couple of minutes, hand tools a couple of hours? And if I was doing it, it would be all screwed up and crooked.
     
  9. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    I do quite a bit of woodworking, and when I made my camera & printing frame I found the following useful:

    Table saw & disc sander (I have a Shopsmith and it's ideal).

    Milling machine (Proxxon MF70), and despite John's comment above about it being overkill, I have to say that I use mine all the time. It was extremely useful when making the rear standard to accept 'standard' 9x12 slide-in plate holders, and for putting in recesses for velvet light traps, and for reducing the thickness of the lens board so that I could tighten the lens locking nut, and for milling slots, and putting flats on pan-head screws so they wouldn't turn in the milled slots, and for doing all the mortice & tenon joints that were 2mm thick with 2mm shoulders on a 6mm thick piece of wood, and for...).

    A router and dovetail / comb-jointing jig would be good (although I made a jig to fit on the table saw fitted with a dado-cutter).

    Then there's the daft little things like a metal ruler, clamps of varying sizes, dust masks, etc...

    I'm very lucky that I too have a planer / thicknesser and wouldn't be without it; the ability to size timber to your requirements shouldn't be understated.

    However, there's no reason why you can't do it all by hand tools (as evidenced above), and there would be huge satisfaction from doing it that way, but for me the ease of use and speed of machinery (and the available spare time I have) means that those tools listed above work for me.

    Cheers,
    David.
     
  10. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    You can use a router & table to plane smallish strips 1-1 1/2" using a straight bit & shims. Rockler & others peddle them.
    Dremel also has some nice accessories for their tool, Drill press, router, circle cutting guide & more.

    DIY camera guy here may have much of the hardware available for you.
    I think that's the most difficult to find stuff. He's also got bellows kits & patterns and will custom design bellows.
    Harbor Freight tools I think, has a combination milling machine/drill press that might be nice rather than two separate machines.
    Forstner bits would allow you to make recesses for mounting flanges or drilling holes for lens boards.
    IMO if you can farm out/buy metal bits it's going to go much faster than making your own. Metal working & wood working are similar but do you really want to cut, bend, polish or plate?
     
  11. sv@diycamerakit.com

    sv@diycamerakit.com Member

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    A few things I learned from my experience building cameras :

    1) Tools can be : good, cheap, new. Pick any two!

    2) Low volume = expensive

    3) The little do-dads cost in total more then the big ticket tools. For example, I got a 14" band saw in good condition for $150. Two good band saw blades, $60, band saw fence $120, band saw cool blocks, $20, Band saw tires $35.
     
  12. sv@diycamerakit.com

    sv@diycamerakit.com Member

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    Oh, and unfortunately the hardware kits/parts are not yet available.
     
  13. vickersdc

    vickersdc Member

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    John alluded to a point worth making - do you want to cut & bend any metal items? Cutting timber is simple to achieve, cutting metal _sheet_ can be difficult to do cleanly and time-consuming without a guillotine. Whilst there are plenty of ways of bending metal, a proper bending tool makes a good clean job - but at least you could use a wood-faced vice for that.

    The other thing I left out of my list was the metal lathe - ideal for making the knobs you'll need (especially if you've access to a knurling tool). You can get mini-lathes to do the job pretty cheaply - Google "mini-lathe".
     
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  15. Changeling1

    Changeling1 Member

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    I wish someone would buy Ron Wisner's former camera factory and resume building those wonderful wooden field cameras- some of which were downright glorious. Someone could make a fortune just custom building those leather kid-skin bellows lined with Chinese silk.
     
  16. sv@diycamerakit.com

    sv@diycamerakit.com Member

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    >Someone could make a fortune just custom building those leather kid-skin bellows lined with Chinese silk.

    Based on the interest I had so far in the bellows kits, I doubt that. But then again, I'm not using leather and it is a DIY kit...
     
  17. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Something else I missed was repeatability making metal parts by hand. The industry changed when making firearms with interchangeable parts became possible. Earlier, every weapon was a one off.
    If you have the machinery it's easy but even simple things like struts can be a challenge.
     
  18. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    Do you make things with power and machine tools now?..Evan Clarke
     
  19. unclemack

    unclemack Member

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    I'm lucky enough to have access to a very well-equipped toolroom so my preference for hand tools really is a choice rather than a necessity.
    It also occurs to me that one could buy two or three very nice cameras for the cost of the equipment mentioned so far.
    Buy a mill and eventually you'll need an indexing table... or something else... and so it goes on.
    Hand tools don't necessarily have to be used freehand. I've used hardened and ground rod & flats as tool guides for many purposes. Perfect box joints can be cut with a simple hacksaw using guides. A cross-vise has "micrometer" travel in two directions, easily accurate enough if you adjust out the backlash.
    I find it's just more fun figuring out how to do things well with minimal tools.
     
  20. Ty G

    Ty G Guest

    I know a bit about building cameras; and it is a tricky craft. The tools I can not live without in my shop are:
    The table saw,
    bandsaw,
    planer, jointer,
    disk/belt sander,
    drill press,
    miter saw
    router table (although I use a small grizzly shaper instead of router table)
    good dato blade for the table saw,
    a box or dovetail jig cause ain't nobody gonna want a camera with butt joints and screws in the standards.

    And a lot of studying how cameras are put together to allow for wood movement.
     
  21. raizans

    raizans Member

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    maybe it's easier to let a machine shop make the metal parts you can't buy off the shelf. has anybody done that?
     
  22. richard ide

    richard ide Member

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    Having parts made, unless you know someone with a shop, would be very expensive.
     
  23. Ty G

    Ty G Guest

    I have a local machine shop that makes my brass knobs, but they get to my work ... just whenever suits them, which of course I understand. So, my next tool purchase will be a mini metal lathe; I started researching them today. In my course of making cameras, I have tried to outsource stuff, but it has never worked out, from ground glass to bellows to brasswork.
     
  24. symmar_man

    symmar_man Member

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  25. raizans

    raizans Member

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    i'll add a metal bending tool and mini metal lathe to the list. guess it's better to DIY.
     
  26. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I am lucky enough to have the use of a CNC drill/router and a laser cutter at work. When making things at home though, I prefer to use hand tools instead of power tools. I am also a guitarist and I don't want to lose any fingers.!


    Steve.