Can he do real precision machining in wood? If he can, then just buy a camera in an interesting format, maybe 7x17" or 8x20" or 7x11" or 11x14" or 20x24", and ask him to make you filmholders, which can be the largest financial obstacle to getting into an Ultra Large or custom format. Custom filmholders tend to run around $300-500 up to 11x14" or 7x17", and Lotus 20x24" filmholders are around $1000 a piece.
If he's successful, we could all use a few more competitors in the filmholder business.
Check out these custom filmholders from A.W. Brubaker--