I've been thinking about making a small LF camera probably in a 4x5 size. What do you do for a simple lens? Don't really know anything about LF and haven't really looked into it very much. Can you use an enlarger lens? Or, is there something else you folks would recommend as a good starting lens?
as long as you don't need a shutter ..
lenses harvested off of folding cameras
and old box cameras sometimes have shutters attached,
and are cheap !
Ok, starting lens with a shutter. So where do you look? Harvest off something old and used? That could work.
I've extracted some decent lenses in Compound and Compur shutters from Folding Pocket Kodak Specials. The cameras were offered with gazillions of different lenses from different makers. IMO the best relatively common lenses fitted to them are f/6.3 Tessars, which were engraved Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat, Tessar, B&L Tessar IIb. f/6.3 Tessars from #3 and larger FPK Specials will cover 4x5. The 170/6.3 Kodak Anastigmat in Ilex shutter fitted to larger FKP Specials is the same design as the 203/7.7 Ektar, should do very well as a slightly long normal lens on 4x5.
You can find FPKs at camera shows and on eBay. If you search for them at camera shows, you'll have to open a lot of them (to see what the lens and shutter are) to find a good lens. You'll see a lot of B&L Rapid Rectilinears with horrible balsam in EKCo Ball Bearing Shutters.
"looks pretty good there--does it slide out the front? what's inside "the door" on the top?"
the back slides in and out to focus. the door on top opens to access the focusing screen and where the plate/film holder goes. I made this one to take a wet plate holder as well as a film holder. it works pretty good and looks great if your into the old style.
no movements though.