Model T Ford of cameras
Was hauling an old desk to the dump for a friend when I noticed the bottoms of all those drawers were gorgeous ash plywood. Made lots of lens panels out of that and then there was the fiberboard that Dagor 77 packed a couple of ground glasses in, made a few out of those. I need to make several for my 5X7 2d also. Wish I was clever enough to make a 4 1/2" to 4" adapter board but my wood working skills and tools preclude anything that delicate.
Had the old 2D 57 with the Graflex focal plane shutter out today while I was getting my bride a Christmas tree. Had the double Protar VII 9 1/8" lens in barrel so was using that old focal plane shutter. I've found it needs about a 6 pound weight balanced on top to settle that old shutter down. Film will be a revelation whether all this Model T era stuff can still make nice pictures!
I use 1/8" birch plywood that I get from a local art supply store; most hobby shops carry it as well.
I've made boards for my Shen-Hao (the same as Technica boards), for my 2 Cambos, and for my Calumet C1. The wood's always been very stable, easy to work, and can be stained or painted as desired. And it's cheap, too...an $8 piece of 12" wide wood gets me about 6 or more lensboards depending on the cameras I'm working with. I use a box cutter and a Dremel tool for all of the shaping work, and wood glue if I need to combine pieces (as, for example, a C1 board). I think the longest it took me to figure out how to make a board (for the Cambos) was about 10 minutes. It really isn't rocket science...and you get the satisfaction of making something that really works. As an added bonus, the boards are generally lighter in weight than metal boards.
Lately I've been using hardboard from Home Depot. Comes in 1/8" and 1/4" thickness. Is almost free. Looks ugly but if somebody really cared it could be veneered. Works easily with machine tools but I'm not sure it would work well with hand tools. Usually I just use wood scraps but this stuff is easier.
My wife and I hbuilt a new house two years ago, so I spent the first winter building a darkroom. When the lumber yard delivered the sheetrock, they used a damaged sheet of 1/8" hardwood wall paneling to protect the bottom sheet of sheet rock from being damaged by the bet of their truck, and they left the paneling with the sheetrock. This paneling is a laminated material - a nice hardwood (mahogany?) skin over a fabricated substrate.
This summer I had to make a board for by Zone VI. I bought a strip of 4" x 1/8" basswood at the lumberyard. Cut a 4x4" square with a hole for the Copal 0 shutter. Then, I cut a piece of the paneling 3.5" square, and drilled a hole in the center of it that is larger than the ouside diameter of the retaining ring on the lens. Then, I glued the paneling to the basswood making sure that the grain of the basswood is at 90deg to the grain of the mahogany paneling. Finally, stained and varnished the basswood, and painted the back a flat black.
I've only used this for a few months, but so far it has served me well. It was fun to make and was far less expensive than purchasing a new lensboard.
If you need to, a hobby shop has thin plywood which can be glued up into the correct thickness for just about any application. Ralph's suggestion about a rabbet cut is a good one, since light travels in a straight line. If you don't have a shaper or a router for the edge cut (essentially, a long notch cut completely around the edge of the board which would normally be too thick to fit inside the groove for the lens board in the front standard), two thin boards can be glued up to make a stiff board which fits into the recess, has the notch acting as a light trap on the back side and mounts the lens properly.
Be sure to make several extra boards if you are going to the trouble of doing this work. Have the blanks made up so you can drill them and glue them up as needed for a copal 0, 1 or 3 as needed. The front boards should fit well into the recess, the back boards should have enough clearance to allow an easy fit around the inside of the openeing in the back side and room for the shutter and mounting ring.
If YOU are gonna make it, you may try any of suggestions given. If you are gonna pay for professional work, ask for the best material for that purpose: aluminium.
Any hobby shop carries plywood for airplanes. Baltic Birch is best. Then hunt down some "Band-it" brand craft veneer. Woodworker's supply has it among others. The veneer comes in packs of 8x12 sheets and you glue it with contact cement. I use mahogany for my boards. It's neat to mix woods with a contrasting pattern too. Band-It brand is made by the Cloverdale Company PO Box 400 Cloverdale, Va. 24077
Some very good advice above. Nevertheless, it is also well to remember that all woods are living.It may sound strange but all woods move to some extent with the change of temperature and humidity - which is the reason why hard woods with tight grain are preferred in decorative cabinet making and the like. I would avoid all forms of ply if the board is to be used over long periods, but agree it would make a satisfactory improvised panel.
Even famous artist of old came unstuck by not selecting the correct woods with little movement for their art work. I would go for ebony personally. Good luck Stan. L-B
"Doorskins" would be a good material, and probably the stuff monophoto was talking about. It's a tropical hardwood plywood, looks something like mahogany but isn't (sometimes marketed as "Philippine Mahogany").
If any plywood is properly varnished you won't have to worry about it delaminating. If it is properly dried when it is varnished it is most unlikely it would be dimensionally unstable.
Real ebony is very rare and expensive. There is some wood out there marketed as ebony which is simply black wood, or a wood stained black. Not to say it wouldn't work, whatever it is.
Any of the plywoods mentioned would work if they are the right thickness, and 1/8 inch is fairly common. And they can all be stained before varnishing to look reddish so they won't clash with the mahogany or cherry.
p.s. I disagree with Stan's comment re the plywood. Plywood is much more stable than a single layer sheet of wood.
Since no ones mentioned it, you can get some nice hardwood from cigar boxes. Mahogany, spanish cedar, etc. Probably won't be the correct thickness, but very good wood and often very pretty too.