New project work begins – Seneca Improved View 8×10

On impulse a couple weeks ago, I jumped back into 8×10 photography after about a year or so off.  The camera?  A Seneca Improved View 8×10:

Seneca Improved View 8x10

The camera is in decent shape – some wood wear, lacquer wear, bumps and dings.  The bellows, predictably, are shot.  The ground glass didn’t survive the shipping.  On it goes.

Good news, though – this camera came with a nice Packard shutter, two-barreled with time and instant pistons!  The nickeled hardware is in good shape, and is cleaning up nicely with Tarn-X.  First thing tackled?  New ground glass.  Found an 8×10 piece of glass from an old picture frame.  I have a bunch of lapidary grits.  I’ve done this before.  This time, I decided I wanted a really fine grind, so I started with the aluminum oxide pre-polish.  Guess what?  It’s polish.  Didn’t grind anything.  Backed up to the 500 grit silicon carbide.  Now, I’ve made plenty of ground glasses, and usually start lower and end with the 500 grit.  Always have at least some grain visible, usable, and in some cases very nice, but always grain.  Turns out the grain is caused by the silicon carbide essentially tearing out chunks of glass.  Micro chips.  But this time, I wasn’t seeing that at all.  This was the finest, smoothest glass I’ve ever ground.  What’s the difference?

After a bit of thought, I decided that the only difference between the other glasses and this one was my technique.  I use a small (~4×5″) lapping glass, sprinkle some grit and water on the glass to be ground, and lap with the smaller glass.  I’ve always tried to keep firm, even pressure.  But this time, I applied just enough pressure to move the lapping glass, instead letting the grit do all the work.  I think that’s the key.

Anyway, while putting the finishing touches on the glass, it broke.  It was very thin, maybe 1.5mm, and there was a wrinkle in the towel underneath it.  Just snapped.  Went to Ace, bought a 10×12″ piece of standard thickness glass (about 3mm) and ground the whole thing, using as little pressure as possible.  It’s as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen, easily as good as the Satin Snow I used to use, and I think better. 

So, with the glass done, I refinished the ground glass holder and the back.  My protocol is this: Scrub the lacquer with 0000 steel wool dipped in lacquer thinner.  Wipe clean with a paper towel dipped in thinner.  Spray a couple coats of new black lacquer, then topcoat with a couple coats clear gloss lacquer.  Once dried, I rub out the lacquer with some 0000 steel wool dipped in Johnson’s Paste Wax and buff clean.  The hardware gets a soak in Tarn-X, and touched up with Flitz.  Ended up looking like this:

Back, finished

And it’s time to move on, to the front.


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