working with brass sheets
Anyone have any guidance on how to work with brass sheets to make parts for the front and rear standards? does it require machine tools or can you do it without a multi-thousand dollar investment in power equipment?
Working with sheet brass can be very expensive if you run out and buy a bunch of new tools. Brass sheet can be worked with tools as simple as a hack saw,Files, drill, hammer and a pair of pliers. Throw in a vise with good jaws and you are pretty much set up. I might trade the hack saw for a jewelers saw and some fine blades for fancier work, but most of the brass on the front of a view camera is pretty simple with the hack saw with fine tooth blade, vise, file and drill. A set of inexpensive needle files are very handy for cleaning up the slots on the sliding lens holding part. Drill a series of smaller holes then file the slot. I like to use a raw hide mallet to straighten or bend the brass. Use a strip of hard wood (oak) on each side of the sheet positioned in the vice. Then gently with a third piece of hard wood
lay it against the brass you intend to bend. Then striking the wood with the raw hide hammer , tap the brass over to meet the wood in the vise to make a right angle bend. The vise makes a very good bending break especially if the jaws are lined with the above mentioned wood strips, or aluminum ange material to keep from marring your brass. For the most part, work with the sticky surface protecting paper in place, remove when you are finished. For the stationary lens holder it is just a rectangle with a few holes in it to mount to the camera. Go to a hardware store, Home Depot, Lowe's etc. and buy a brass kick panel/plate for a door There are various sizes available in a good thickness for camera hardware.
All in all a time consuming job, but very easy to do with simple tools.
I totally agree with Charles on everything he said. He has obviously done this before. I would add that you can get the proper thickness of material easily and inexpensively from:
They are very customer oriented and will go out of their way to help you.
I would also add that the job is made very much easier if you go to an industrial supply like:
to buy some layout dye like machinists use. This is a blue or purple colored liquid that you paint onto the part. Then you can use a marking knife, dividers, squares etc. to lay out lines on the material. Then when you are filing you will be able to tell when you have filed enough.
When you are drilling a line of holes that will become a slot (chain drilling), you will get far better results if you drill the odd nombered holes first then come back and drill the even numbered holes. If you try to drill a string of holes from beginning to end, at some point the drill will wander and you will have a very very hard time getting the hole where you want it. Skipping every other hole also allows you to overlap the holes and remove more of the material with the drill and less with the file making it faster and easier.
Young Camera Company
You can get inexpesnive Jewelers saws, from Frei and Borel, or Rio Grande. There are many more out there, but I have to go find my catalogues to tell you which ones they are. When you first use a jewlers saw, practice on a scrap piece of plastic or metal. Get saw blades a little bigger than you would think, they are less prone to breaking. Also make sure you have some jewlers wax to occasionally run the blade over so it will not break. Saw a little bigger, outside your markings. Then go back with a good small file like the ones the jewelers use (#2) and do the finish filing. If you have a straight edge, you can do this by placing sand paper on flat surface then running the edge back and forth over it until it is at the right markings. It gives a very clean perfectly straight edge. We use to cut out the pattern on a piece of self adhesive shelf paper. Stuck it on the piece we were making and cut it out that way. Painting it on, can leave wavy lines. With the patern piece you can get very precise. If you buy a rawhide mallet (good investment for all sorts of things). take the thing outside when you get and beat a cement step up with it. It needs to have the leather broken in. When it comes it is so stiff it could pass for a metal hammer. Do not worry that it will look all frayed and deterioated from what it was when it arrived. The softer the actual surface the better. The weight of the hammer and the rest of it is solid. This helps to keep from marring the surface. A scribe is good for marking where you want to drill. Then take a nail, and tap it on the mark to leave a bit deeper indent. It makes drilling little or even bigger holes much easier. If you work the piece too much, and have more work to do, it becomes what is known as work hardened. You will need to anneal it again before you do much more work. That can be done with a little hand held propane torch. Put the metal piece on some bricks on a surface that is impervious to high heat. heat up the metal piece until it just begins to glow. Have an old crock pot ready. A good substitute for the pickle compound (that is what you do to the metal to clean it off after annealing) is to get some swimming pool acid. Make a dilute solution of this, about 25% acid to 75% water. But add the acid to the water. Set the crock pot on high and let it warm up. After you anneal the metal, use tongs and either wait until it is cooled, or rinse it under water before you put it in the pickle pot (crock pot). after it has set in the pot for several minutes, use the tongs to take it out. You can finish cleaning it with 409 or fantastic. They work marvelously on metals. Ohhh and the files I would get are a half round, flat, and maybe a full round one to do those spaces you need a special file for.
Except, to anneal brass you heat it to cherry red and then quench it in water. If you do not quench it, it will become harder. Just the opposite of ferrous metals.
Layout dye has been used for more than a hundred years in machine shops to make the most precise parts ever made like the parts for the Wright Cyclone engine. We still use layout dye to mark parts in precision manufacture of machined parts. It is FAR more precise than using a paper pattern
Young Camera Company
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I've done a lot of work in brass bronze silver gold and platinum. Especially in copper. I've never touched Ferrous metals, I just don't have the strength for them. Ferrous can be air cooled, water cooled or oil cooled, depending on the type. My experience is small metalsmithing for the art trade, and also jewelry (bench certified). What might be fun is to add the artsy bit by reticulating the metal for that nice textured look.
Everything mentioned above is excellent advice!
Aggie sounds as if you used to hang around in the same places I did.
I have had excellent service from Rio Grande over the years. They stock some of the finest blades I have ever used. I have worked for years with Gold, Silver, Brass and copper and steel. Next to picture making I guess it is my second love!
The layout dye I am currently using is called Dykem, and comes in several different sizes. Buy a small can, as it can/will dry up fairly quick with the lid left off. Dykem is similar to the old Prussian Blue, but is much easier to work with, and remove. Available from most machine shop suppliers.
I don't think you will need to worry about "work hardening" or annealing,
as the hardware for a camera front is pretty much cutting, drilling and fileing. I use Sharpie pens for simple lay outs.