View Full Version : A Gandolfi Conundrum

03-04-2009, 01:42 PM
As you might know, I have a few Gandolfi cameras. One of them is a ca. 1923 Gandolfi Universal, a fine old tailboard-focussing camera. it's been "upgraded" to 4x5" at some time, but looks vitually unused.

So yesterday I was setting up to take a picture of it, and started looking for my lens spanner to swap the far too modern 150mm Xenar with something more "appropriate".

Search as I might, I couldn't find it. what I found was a small square of mahogany with a brass "ear" on it which looked strangely familiar. I have no idea where it came from, but I suspect it was in a large box of "miscellaneous" I bought some years ago. That box has so far yielded nine wire-spun cable releases, three short-ferrule cable releases which work great in sunken lens boards and inside folding cameras, an iris lens mount which fit my Speed Graphic, and six working light meters - and there's still lots of "miscellaneous" left in it.

Anyway I took the lens panel and tried it on the little Gandolfi - and it was a perfect fit! Not just a "good fit", but absolutely perfect!

So now the conundrum: I have a classic plate/LF camera with an original uncut lens panel. I have a Thornton-Pickard T&I shutter with two front panels. One of them has a thread which miraculously fits one of my casket sets, the other one has a not very nice hole. So I'm thinking of mounting the TP shutter on the new lens board, and using the "ugly" TP front plate to mount another nice casket set - the Thomson Brothers set with the funky front cell. But cutting a hole in that nice unbroken plate scares me...

Peter Black
03-04-2009, 02:49 PM
But cutting a hole in that nice unbroken plate scares me...

Hmmm, does this not change you into an Elitist Luddite? :)

03-04-2009, 02:58 PM
Ole- if you're worried about it, I'd take the NOS (new old stock) undrilled lensboard, and copy it in plywood or some other material of your choosing so you can make a mess of the copy all you want.

Mike Crawford
03-04-2009, 05:46 PM
Think about the people who refined and produced that plate all those years ago. What did they do it for? What would they want? For you to now again sit and look at an old bit of wood or to drill a hole in it, put the lens on and go and take some photographs? I believe the younger generation call this a no brainer. :)

Or you could sell it to someone else and they too can spend their time looking at a piece of wood!

03-04-2009, 09:04 PM
If the bad karma upsets you, copy it and then sell the original like a cursed jewel. You'll have a nice lens board and someone else will be able to claim all their bad juju is because they used a NOS antique as an every-day piece of hardware.

Don't hold on to the hot potato.

03-05-2009, 02:49 AM
Go drill a hole. I think you know something about such things in your line of work, eh? :)

03-07-2009, 10:01 PM
I discovered I had brought the useless T55 print with me as a bookmark - I exposed for the negative. So I plonked it on the big fancy printer/fax/scanner/everything out here on the rig and mailed it to myself.

Here's the camera, with "blind" board, surrounded by old brass:

Barry S
03-07-2009, 11:06 PM
Ole-- that board was waiting for you all this time. Drill it out and mount the TP shutter, because what's the point of hoarding a lensboard? You want to build a shrine to it? If you fall off an oil rig one day, it'll go into a landfill or someone else's junk box.

Samuel Hotton
03-08-2009, 08:58 AM
Hello Ole,
I vote NO to cutting that lensboard! I too have a Half plate / 5x7 tail boad Gandolfi portrait camera with 4x5 reducing back. It once belonged to Dorothy Wilding. I has been in my care since about 1976.
I was carrying it into my photo lab in Suffolk England one icy morning. I slipped and fell ON it splitting the base board. I took it down to Fred and he replaced the base board with the matching wood he maintained in stock. Fred on another occasion serviced it and tightened it. I wanted a spare bellows for it even though nothing is wrong with the original bellows. He provided me with a new set in red "Russian" leather. They are square in profile in case you wonder. I also had him make a spare lensboard for me. I use this UNDRILLED to keep dust and debris out of the camera body when not in use. This undrilled board is a thing of beauty as it is. It adds value and beauty to this camera. As I am the owner/ caretaker of the camera at present, I choose NOT to drill it. Should a future owner decide to drill it, then that his choice. IF it was a daily use camera which I needed to change lenses back and forth, maybe I'd think about it. Some people would argue its just a tool. Well then I guess a Bugatti type 57 is just a car, lets put curb feelers and mudflaps and a CB antennae on it. A Durs Egg or Manton duelling pistol is just a pistol, lets drill and tap the barrel and mount a laser sight on the barrel. Nay I say, There will NEVER be more of these, either make some boards to test with or get the NEW Gandolfi people to make you some.
Just my thoughts, its your camera.
Sam H.

Samuel Hotton
03-08-2009, 10:35 AM
Ole, I've had some second thoughts on this.
Is this undrilled lens panel in question a SECOND spare panel you have? Meaning that you have a Gandolfi panel for this camera with a lens already mounted???
IF this is a SECOND spare panel, I hold with my opinion of NOT drilling it.
IF on the other hand you DO NOT have a proper Gandolfi lens panel with a lens mounted, then I say drill it and mount a lens to get the camera up and running as it should be.
The camera should have a correct Gandolfi made lens board, with lens mounted for your use. If it has one, then I'd keep the spare uncut.
Sam H.

03-08-2009, 02:07 PM
I do have a second original Gandolfi lens board, which has a 1960's Schneider Xenar on it. If I'm going to have a lens permanently mounted on it I would prefer to have a 1920's lens, not a post-WWII one.

So both boards are originals, one uncut, and one cut, then a small plate mounted on it covering the old hole, then a new hole in that for the Xenar.

Unfortunately the boards are on the small side for making adapters to anything else, most of my other cameras use larhe to huge boards. That's why I thought of the TP shutter.

Mark Layne
03-08-2009, 03:02 PM
I wouldn't use the lensboard other than for a lens contemporaneous with the camera. I've made many lensboards for my Gandolfi.
If you need some nice Barbados Mahogany slices ( not that open grained Honduras stuff) let me know. Be a good project for the machins shop on the rig

03-08-2009, 03:18 PM
Oh bloody hell! It's only a bit of wood!

03-11-2009, 02:11 PM
Ole, Eddie Hill at Gandolfi only charges 6.00 to drill a lensboard! Sit back and relax knowing it will be done well.

03-11-2009, 02:41 PM
Having Eddie drill the lensboard is an option - but how much would he charge to make me another in a different size? These lens boards are not just a rectangle of wood - the top and bottom edges are profiled to fit in a profile on the "updown board", which again has profiles edges to fit in profiles on the front assembly.