View Full Version : F & S #8 RB Cycle Graflex bellows

01-08-2009, 09:59 PM
I just acquired a #8 RB Cycle Graflex as part of a #8 Cirkut Camera Outfit. I'm trying to refurbish it and get it in working order.

The biggest problem is the bellows - pin holes, brittle leather and a 3" long tear in the first fold back from the lens board.

I've got the camera 99% apart for a good cleaning, metal polishing and wood restoration, but so far the bellows stump me. I don't see how they are attached in the front, other than glue, and it appears the liner was glued and nailed to the back, and perhaps the leather glued to the back under the wood strips the liner is glued and nailed to.

Anyone ever worked on one of these? Any idea how the bellows are attached, and how to remove them?

Also, I'm looking for the camera instruction manual, which seems to be extinct - any idea where I might find one?


jamie young
01-08-2009, 10:05 PM
Manual for the camera or the whole cirkut outfit?
Don't know if there was one for just the camera, but I could scan a #8 cirkut instruction manual, if it's a governor camera,. Don't have a fan camera manual.

jamie young
01-08-2009, 10:08 PM
There might be some screws inside the camera/bellows, hidden by the bellows folds. Or possibly under the felt in front, but the first is more likely

01-08-2009, 11:42 PM

I have the Cirkut Outfit manual, I'm looking for just the camera manual. The outfit uses the #8 RB Cycle Graflex camera, but I've never seen a manual for it alone, but it must have had one.

01-08-2009, 11:46 PM

I found screws in the front and removed the lens board housing from the bellows, but there is still a board attached to the bellows from which I can see a glue line. Looks like I'll have to remove the glue. The back is a complete mystery. I can see nail heads, so most likely it is both glued and nailed in place. Gonna be a big, careful job. Thanks. Loren

jamie young
01-09-2009, 12:08 AM
Never seen a manual just for the camera, but you can just play with it to figure out operation. If you have specific question just ask. I've used the camera a fair amount. Probably shot a few hundred rolls of film at this point, and some sheet film as well. Likely the inner front board is just glued, if it is like my #10.
I haven't taken the bellows off on my 8's or 6's, but figure they are similar.

Len Robertson
01-10-2009, 11:40 AM
I looked at the Cycle Graphic for my #8 Outfit. I'm not sure about the front bellows attachment, but I suspect it is just glued on. Probably with hide glue, which softens in water. You might try laying a damp tissue along the glue line for a few minutes, then gently try to slip a dull knife blade between bellows and wood frame. The rear attachment looks just like an early 8X10 Deardorff I took the bellows out of. You are right - glue and nails. I guess when they built these cameras, they weren't thinking of making bellows replacement easy for someone 80 years later. I don't remember how I pulled the nails on the Deardorff. I'd try slipping the tip of a cheap import jeweler's screwdriver under the nail head and pry up. Use folded cardboard or something to pry against so you don't damage the wood. Once the head is up a little, a pair of small wire cutters (hobby shop or electronics) can be used to pry the nail the rest of the way out. You don't want to squeeze hard enough on the handles to cut the nail off. Needle nose pliers might work well too. The nails in the corners inside the revolving back frame look like fun to get to. You may have to unscrew the whole frame and get it out of the way. I hope you can take pictures as you do this and post it for the rest of us. I don't think it will be really difficult, just very time consuming. But then that is almost the definition of Cirkut photography. Keep us posted on your progress.


01-20-2009, 10:07 PM
Just an update to my progress: I stripped the #8 Cycle Graflex down to a pile of wood and screws.

I have a new FS mirror to replace the broken mirror in the little rangefinder.

I discovered that the reason for the chittering while turning the bellows extension knob was due to many cracks in the wood base, screws that wouldn't hold, and one of the brass bellows rails being bent. Coming from Michigan, the camera probably spent most of its life indoors, a heated dry environment in the winter and a hot humid environment in the summer. Enough to crack anyone's base.

I spent days getting liquid hide glue in all the cracks and clamping the base. Then I drilled out all the screw holes. I bought a chunk of Mahogany at the House of Hardwood in West Los Angeles, and made 20 or so tapered plugs. I glued the plugs into the drilled out screw holes, planed them down to the base surface with a tiny finger plane. I'm at the point now where the areas where the finish was worn off and the area under the rails and hinge, where all the plugs are, have multiple coats of shellack. I still need to get a few more coats of shellack into the brass gear shaft groove, which I cleaned. Since much of that is end grain it has just soaked up the shellack and still looks unfinished.

Next I'll buff those areas out with 000 steel wool and then use Howard's Mahogany Restor-A-Finish with 0000 steel wool to make the entire base look uniform without stripping and totally refinishing - I think it is supposed to "reflow" the finish.

When the rails and other brass parts go back on (after cleaning and polishing with Simichrome Polish), all of the plugs will be invisible, but the screws should hold like when the camera was first made. When I made and installed the plugs I made sure the grain paralleled the surrounding grain. I didn't make plugs from the end grain, so there shouldn't be any splitting. I also have a tapered screw starter bit to make tiny pilot screw holes.

In a post on the Yahoo Cameramaker forum I detailed my search for a bellows liner. I still have a sample of camera shutter cloth coming from "Aki-Asahi" (info@aki-asahi.com) in Japan, a sample of BFK12 Hypalon impregnated fabric on the way from ThorLabs, and some e-mailed feelers still pending, but the UK's Custom Bellows will sell me a rubberized cotton (@ 16.00 per metre) that they use for bellows and The Leather Supply House (http://www.leathersupplyhouse.com/) sells a number of fabrics that are used for bellows including a very thin unlisted rubber + silk fabric that can be used as a light tight liner (# 030-6 @ $56.30 a running yard).

By the way, the UK's Custom Bellows was the Camera Bellows division of Lee Filters, which went out of business - or as they term it, stopped trading. Custom Bellows will start trading in the March time frame with the people from Camera Bellows.

I bought a chunk of red skiver (very thin leather used in bookbinding) and some acid free thick paper for new bellows ribs from Talas in New York. I also got some of their Leather Saver (used by museum conservators), Saddle Soap, Neetsfoot Oil, Lexol Leather conditioner, and Jade 711 acid-free PVA adhesive which is used in conservation and bookbinding. I'm ready to tackle the bellows!

I just shipped the Betax Shutter off to Carol Miller (flutotscamera@earthlink.net) at Flutot's Camera repair for repair and cleaning. I'll see about getting the lens elements cleaned and perhaps re-cemented at a later time.

I have been taking pictures and when the whole thing is together I'll post them all - before and after. After the camera is working I'll dig into the Cirkut back. However, it doesn't look like it needs to have too much work done to it. I also bought a F&S #2 Tripod so I can use the camera with the one 6.5x8.5 film back I found - I don't know if it was made for the Cycle Graflex, but it fits and appears to be good enough. I'll find out later.

I'll post again when I've removed the bellows.


jamie young
01-23-2009, 11:11 AM
So you know, though you can probably use the #2 tripod. the camera came with a # 4 tripod and is pretty heavy all set up. Just be really careful, as even the #4 is light for the setup. The #10 came with a eastman professional or similar heavy duty tripod, and the #8 is about the same weight. The optional center brace (extremely hard to find these days), if you can find one,helps a bit, but be ready to catch the camera with the lighter setup, especially with any wind

01-28-2009, 10:52 PM
Jamie & Len, thanks for the information. I'll be careful when using the #2 tripod. I could actually use my heavy duty Manfrotto tripod without the pan head, but that wouldn't look vintage! The #2 looks like it spent most of it's life in a Bob's Big Boy kitchen - it has a heavy coating of dirt & grease.

The camera shutter cloth arrived from "Aki-Asahi," and it is beautiful! The only thing is that it isn't too flexible - too flexible probably isn't a good trait in a shutter curtain. The rubber+silk may be, but since I've decided to replace the bellows - see below - it is moot.

I finally got the bellows off. As Len guessed, the bellows was folded over the front removable board that attached to the front standard, and hide glued in place. Boy, is old hide glue sticky and nasty to get off!

I bought a hand held clothing steamer at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $19 and used it to remove the felt from the board, and then the bellows. The only downside of this approach was that the steam promptly shrunk the felt. It will probably work with the 5x7 Cycle Graflex now, but not my #8. No big, since the felt can easily be replaced.

The rear stumped me for a while. It appears that the wood the bellows attaches to are narrow blocks of mahogany glued to the camera frame. They are notched so that there is a lip extending the length of each side - like an "L." The bellows liner is folded over a narrow strip of cardboard and the leather glued over that. The double strengthened bellows end was simply nailed to the frame in the notch, no glue.

You hear about the craftsmanship from those day, but whomever made the camera didn't do such a hot job. The nails look like tiny carpet tacks and weren't always nailed properly, especially in the corners - which would be the hardest place to drive a nail. The frame was split on one side, which I glued together. Some nails came out easily, others lost their heads in the process. Some were in the proper place, others were cockeyed or in the lip, not the notch proper.

The bellows are worse than I feared. The Talas Leather Condition is great. I've just started applying it. It darkens the leather, but it dries to its normal shade of red. I'll condition the entire bellows.

I sent an email off to Custom Bellows to see if Keith wants the bellows flat, or as is right off the camera. Yup, I'm going to replace the bellows with a red Hypalon bellows. There is just too much damage, although I'll make the final decision when I get the entire bellows reconditioned so I can evaluate the ends, where most of the damage is. I can probably steam open the seams, and open & flatten the bellows and get the liner off, but there are multiply long tears, and I'm not sure it can be successfully repaired to working condition, which what I want. The ends are so brittle and in shreds that repair may be impossible even with reconditioning.

The Skiver I got from Talas is much thicker that the leather in the bellows. This stuff is really very, very thin! In some places it is like old paper that is ready to crumble.

I have some 3M 3224-1 hook & loop tape on a dispenser. I got it years ago at an electronics supply. 3M calls it Electrical Tape, but it is some kind of hook & loop tape. I'm trying to find out what the current part number is. It is very thin and I'm thinking it could be cut down from its 1" width and glued to the bellows and frame, and the bellows simply stuck in place. Beats nailing if it works.

The front viewer has the new FS mirror in place and the other optics cleaned. Next up, waxing the wood and polishing the brass.

After a couple of days waiting for the Shellac, I'll buff the base with 0000 steel wool and wax it. Then I'll start cleaning the rest of the brass and putting everything back together, sans bellows.

Still waiting on the new ground glass and word on the shutter. The camera should be in working order by April, at which point I'll add a Cirkut page to my web site and put up all pictures I've taken.

Again, thanks for your help.