Interesting question. I've often wished I was a machinist with access to all that CNC and crazy water table stuff. Man, I'd build exactly the perfect view camera and enlarger for me, and it would be so precise it would be ridiculous. The tolerances would be incredibly small, with scales as precise as possible. Of course that's all just dreaming - although I've pretty much built/modified all my negative carriers so that they work exactly how I want.
More realistically I think in the end there are only a few things I'd fix on my Saunders 4550 (VCCE head):
1. I'd redesign the lens stage (ie focusing) to be more rigid and precise. I never liked lens stages supported by those two rods on one side. Mine hasn't gone out of alignment, but it just seems wrong for that kind of money and I feel like if I had a particularly heavy lens it might go out of alignment.
2. Swing/tilt on the lens stage. Of course this would have to have extremely precise scales for zeroing it. It's a feature I'd probably only use very rarely, but nice to have.
Other than that I'm pretty much fine with my enlarger. I check alignment from time to time and it is still bang on (luckily). As for light sources, I guess LEDs and fancy metering/exposure/timing devices etc are kind of cool but they wouldn't add any value to me.
Designing a view camera from the ground up, that's another story.
Precision pro enlargers have certainly been made! They just cost fifty or even a hundred times more
at the time than the typical Beseler or Omega. Today's aluminum extrusions and CNC-cut plate stock
are no match for old-school machined die-castings and solid alloys. You'll never see that kind of
quality again; nor will many labs be interested in spending 75K or more on a new enlarger! I could
easily spend 50K on a state-of-the-art colorhead alone - and that's just the cost of the materials and components (but I obviously never will). For now I'd just like more time to enjoy the enlargers
I already have built!
A possible solution would be to utilize a helical focusing mount combined with threaded lens cones to ensure that the lens and film stages are always in perfect alignment. From there, just add X- and Y-axis adjustments to the entire head assembly so that it could be aligned to the baseboard. Slap on a VC LED hybrid light source and mount the whole head to a strong column with geared height adjustment, brace it to the wall, and call it a day. Ideal construction would be a lightweight head and a rigid column attached to an MDF or ABS baseboard (for dimensional stability and precision of machining) to reduce pendulum vibration as much as possible.
Or can't someone please just make a new Graflarger back with LED's?
Sounds like ya wanna build a doghouse there, using scraps behind some Home Depot, Capn Joe, not anything precise. Warp-free those things definitely are not. Even heavy Garolite phenolic will warp
if not properly countertensioned. What Durst did in the old days was really clever and fancy: they
made the baseboard out of matched lumber-core strips, clad them front and back with formica, then
dadoed in a precision bronze strip diagonal in the backside to counter-pull any temp-induced warp
on the upper, replete with precise little adjustment pins to reset the tension - and that didn't work
either !! The "baseboard" on my 8x10 color enlarger was salvaged off a 22-ft long process camera.
It's a machined steel vac easel with a full set of registration pins. I added an adjustable masking frame. It won't warp. In fact, I can stand on the thing. But it weighs about 400 lbs.
Nothing so particularly crude as a dog house, and certainly not a part on the thing from ;)
Now that I think of it, the plate bases used on hand lithography press beds might be of the right sort of design, as they have to absolutely flat, perfectly smooth, and free from warp after repeated exposure to extremely high pressures. At my alma matter (which I still do some technical consulting for), we'd have them custom ordered to spec, made from some sort of fiber-reinforced resinous plastic. Similar idea to Garolite, but with a much more visible reinforcement weave. Dense as hell, and they get the job done. Only time they get retired is when some idiot comes along and thinks they know how to lift and maneuver that sort of load, then it inevitably hits the floor and chips. They've started replacing them with aluminum, so that when (not if!) they get dropped, the dents can just be filed away.
Agreed, creating a flat plane that is completely free of warping is a very difficult task. Perhaps a different solution would be to make the baseboard from some nice wood laminate, and couple it to a vacuum easel with some sort of leveling mount. At that point, any deviation from perfect flatness should be inconsequential in terms of the optical system.
Speaking of lithography, another potential base material could be stone. Couple the column to a metal leveling base like the Durst L1000s and then put a slab of stone on top of that. Weighs the whole thing down, good dimensional stability, easy to come by. Might have a winner.
Stone it is! My next baseboard for my Leica Ic which has suffered termite damage will be granite I think.
I love my DeVere 5108. It is very easy to align precisely in all three stages. It is also rock solid when bolted to the wall. One improvement they could have made is larger lens boards. It uses the same board as the smaller 4x5 version, which is just barely big enough for a 300mm Schneider Componon-S, and definitely too small for a 360mm lens, a 300mm El Nikkor, or even a 210 APO El Nikkor if you have one.
Originally Posted by emerson531
Cap'n Joe: before this current era of composites, there was a product called Benelex which weighed
a ton and had to be machined with diamond. It ate carbide alive, but was dimensionally stable, and
was ridiculously impact resistant, but not resistant to strong solvents. I still have a film punch made
on it. What I did for my enlarger column is take a highly stable kind of strand structural beam material, with phenolic glue throughout, squared it off on our 600V 22" table saw here, pickled the
whole thing with penetrating epoxy, then fully laminated it with black formica and extruded edging.
I did this both for sheer support (I live just a few blocks from the infamous Hayward fault), as well
as for precision. I can fine focus a neg up to say 30X40, leave it in there all winter, come back,
and the focus will still be perfect.
I knew I liked you for a reason, Drew Wiley. :)