Test shots – Ansco Speedex

Developed the test roll of Acros from this camera today. I have to say, I’m impressed with the Solinar.




Images taken at St. Paul’s Mission Church, Union Township, PA. One of my favorite places to shoot.

There are a few little odds and ends to tie up on this camera, and it’ll be ready for sale. It’s a stunning little camera.


6×6 Bellows installation – Ansco Speedex

A large part of my spare time is dedicated to camera rehabilitation.  I like working on old folders and rangefinders – I find it calming, and I can always use some of that.  I like to troll around for old Agfa/Ansco 6×6 folders to repair.  I’ll shoot them a few times, but always end up selling them to support my repair habit.

Such is the case with this Ansco Speedex.  It’s not a “Special R”, but does have an uncoupled rangefinder (technically, it’s the “Speedex 4.5 Special With Uncoupled Rangefinder” model which predated the Special R).  As is the case with just about every single Agfa/Ansco folder, it suffered from three predictable maladies: Frozen unit cell focus, frozen rangefinder, and shredded bellows.  The first two problems are due to the lubricant Agfa used in their cameras, which, after 50-some-odd years, congeals into a sort of green cement.  The last problem – the shredded bellows – is due to the extremely cheap materials used as a cost-cutting measure.

For years, the best bet on fixing these cameras was to find a suitable donor camera on eBay.  Early models had better materials, and sometimes the bellows could be harvested to replace the ones on the project camera.  There are  problems with this, though: The donor may or may not have leaks in the bellows, the camera may not be easily disassembled for harvesting (many older cameras were riveted together, and disassembly would damage the bellows), and the donor camera is lost.  So, you’re trashing a camera to fix a camera.  Expensive, and not very good conservation.  Replacement with new bellows was almost always cost-prohibitive, costing as much as twice the initial cost of the camera or more. 

Now, however, there’s a good, and economical, alternative. Sandeha Lynch is a photographer/technician located in Wales, and he’s become an artisan when it comes to bellows fabrication for the Agfa/Speedex range. I’ve personally used many of his bellows, and they’re top-rate, beautfully made and folded, and use premium materials.

Case in point, the subject Speedex.  I’m in a holding pattern on the Seneca 8×10 rehab, so I wanted to replace the bellows on this Speedex today.  The old bellows come out after pulling the film gate, and separating the old glue from the housing.


The brass mounting plate for the shutter is installed first, using some contact cement to adhere the front of the bellows to the plate. The bellows are then installed from the rear of the housing, taking special care to securely fit the folds to the gate. Excess material is trimmed, and the flaps cemented in place. The film gate is then reinstalled, and the shutter installed.

The final repair? Looks nice, and should be ready for decades more use:


Information about Sandeha’s bellows can be found on his “Visual Records” webpage, and his contact information is there.

Super-duper wide angle, Seneca Improved View 8×10

Ok, so I wanted to play with the new finish schedule on the lensboards.  Grabbed one of the three blanks, and on a whim, drilled it to fit my 121/8 Super Angulon, which, in 35mm-speak, is around a 21mm lens on this format.  Mounted the lens and covered the camera with a blanket.  Astoundingly, it covers 8×10.  Not only are the corners lit, but there’s good, sharp detail there as well.


Now, I doubt there’s much/any room for movements, but talk about a wide angle on 8×10!

First board finished, lens installed – Seneca Improved View 8×10

Here’s the finished board, lens installed:

The lens, an 18″ Wray Process Lustrar f/10 lens, is casting a nice image on the ground glass, even with no bellows.  The thin layer of paste wax on the threaded wood allowed the Wray to thread all the way down on the board.  It’s now a permanent installation, so far as I’m concerned.

And, after some discussion on nelsonfoto.com, I think I’m going to play with the finishing schedule on the next ones.  I think I’ll lay down a couple coats of dewaxed shellac as a sealer, level it with sandpaper, spray the black, then topcoat with shellac.  A little more work, and a little slower to dry, but I think the result will be worth it. I’m not too pleased with the finish on this particular board, but, considering how beaten and scarred the Wray is, I think it fits.

Lensboards, final fitting and first drilling – Seneca Improved View 8×10

After quite a bit of head scratching and test cutting, I got the lensboards fitted to the standard this evening.


It’s a weird design, and I’d love to see an original board sometime. There are two rabbet depths on these boards – along the top and bottom, you end up with a 3/16″ or so tenon, and along the sides about a 1/8″ tenon. Makes for a snug fit, and seems very secure. Just an odd design.


I drilled the first board to fit the 18″ Wray Process Lustrar f/10 lens which, foreseeably, will be the standard lens for this camera. It’s a tight fit, and I can thread it on with about half the threads. Part of me wants to takes some 220 grit paper to the periphery of the hole and make it thread farther; thankfully, I’ve learned when to leave well enough alone. It’s very solid, so I’m moving on to the black lacquer spraying tonight.

Lensboards, joinery and glue-up – Seneca Improved View 8×10

After a wonderful morning fishing with Braedan, I got down to joinery on the lensboards.  But let me back up a little.

The lensboards (four of ’em) started out as a single 4/4 piece of poplar that’s been sitting in the scrap pile for years.


I’d already made a pattern out of 1/8″ veneer stock, so I measured up the board and figured there was enough material for four three-piece boards, with 3/4″ wide breadboard ends. Poplar’s a good wood for this, not too heavy, easy to mill, and takes a finish well. Also, one of my lenses will be threading into the wood directly; poplar is just right for that.

I planed the wood down to about 3/8″ and cut the pieces. Four center boards, and two long strips for the ends:


Time for joinery. I don’t get hung up on dimensions here; I default to somewhere around 1/4″ long for the tenon, and I just run a groove down the centers of the long strips. I set the blade height, adjust the fence on the tablesaw, and run the groove. Turn it around, lay the opposite face against the fence, and run the groove again. You end up with a perfectly centered groove this way:


The tenons are cut on a horizontal router table with a two-flute straight bit. I like the horizontal table for this, because you keep the faces flat to the table when you cut, making for a more stable, better controlled cut. I set the bit height for something less than the should depth required, test cut on a scrap of planed wood, then ease the cutter up slightly over and over until the tenon just fits the groove.

Some glue on the tenons, and here’s the assembly clamped up:


A few hours in the clamps (though only about 45 minutes is necessary), and I’ll cut the individual boards apart, size them, and layout the rabbets in the back.