Asanuma project camera – base plate construction

Nevermind the cold – I got out in the garage this morning and completed the base plate!

This all started out with a dimensioned 1/2″ thick piece of mahogany. I held it centered to the underside of the camera’s bed and traced the openings for the original tripod legs. I marked off diagonals to find the center, and measured from the tracings to the center to make sure everything was properly aligned. It was.


The other time I made such a base plate for a camera, the clearance under the rails was enough that I could use a large machine bolt cut to length, and the head of the bolt fit into the tripod sockets. Not so with this camera – there’s less than 1/32″ of space between the rails and the bed itself. So, I used a design borrowed from Rafael Garcia – some 8-32 all-thread, 8-32 T-nuts to fit the sockets, and some 8-32 brass knurled knobs. I drilled a hole in the center of the traced openings allowing the all-thread to clear, screwed on a T-nut, and measured the necessary length on the all-thread:


The all-thread was easily cut using a Dremel and cut-off wheel. This method of cutting doesn’t foul the threads; pressure-applying cutters, such as bolt cutters or tin snips, do foul the threads.

The T-nuts as supplied are a little too thick to allow the rail to move over the bed. As they’re aluminum, they’re easily filled to an appropriate thickness:


A few minutes later, I was able to check the fit:


The tripod mount is a 1/2″ long threaded insert that requires a 5/16″ pilot hole. Since the layout is marked on the reverse of the plate, I drill a small pilot through the center:


Then drill from the front surface with the 5/16″ bit:


I used a 1/4″ roundover bit in the router to ease the edge and did some finish sanding:


Then I sprayed about six coats of gloss lacquer:


After the lacquer dried, I installed the tripod bushing:


And installed the base plate on the camera:


The finished plate:



It works exactly as intended, but leaves me a little disappointed; even with the relatively thin mahogany, the whole piece adds significantly to the weight of the camera. Oh, well – couldn’t be avoided with this method. Ultimately, after a good suggestion from Robert B, I may end up doing a faceplate turning on the lathe to make an appropriate roundel to fill in the hole in the bottom of the camera, which would be significantly lighter. But that’s a long-term goal.

Next, I’ll mill some lensboards, then wait anxiously for the bellows to arrive from Wales.


Asanuma project camera – bellows update

I’m leaning again on Sandeha Lynch for the bellows on this camera. A brief update: after all of about 5 days in First Class Mail, the original bellows have arrived in Wales! I’m too excited right now – this is a huge milestone. Once Sandeha gets the bellows made, the camera will be ready to rock.

With Maddie’s help, I decided on a vibrant red for the bellows (Sandeha can accommodate many color requests). The exact shade can be seen on this Agfa Billy Zero (post from Should make for a beautiful camera.

In the meantime, I’ll be adding hardware to the base plate this weekend. I also found an approximately 5/16″ thick board of planed cherry I resawed years ago; I plan to mill several lensboards from it this weekend, too. I want to be ready to hit the ground running as soon as the bellows get here.

Seneca View 8×10 – sourcing a gear rack

The Seneca needs an extension bed to give it full usability. This one was missing its original bed. I figured that gear racks are readily available through suppliers like McMaster-Carr and Boston Gear. Should be a simple thing to source a suitable rack, fabricate the wooden bed, and make a rail.

Turns out, not so much. A machinist friend schooled me on how these things work. Essentially, the existing rack and pinion is based on an obsolete size (a demetrial pitch of 46). Today’s closest match is a DP of 48, but that’s not good enough. Using the old pinions on the new rack would cause binding in use. That leaves few options: Have a shop fabricate a new rack with the obsolete specs; replace all the existing rack and pinion parts; find a donor camera in irreparable condition and scavenge the parts from it. The first two options are cost-prohibitive and logistically difficult; finding a donor to cannibalize seems the only workable solution now.

So, I’m trolling for a parts camera. I can’t foresee continuing the restoration of this camera without the proper extension. Drat.

Seneca View 8×10 – current status

Alright, I’ll admit it: I’m excited to start working on this camera again. Brought all the bits inside today and laid them out:

*Another* project...

The camera is a beaut. Really, aside from needing a new bellows and new extension rail, it’s just a refinishing job. I need to drill and tap the post rivets from the rear box (I have the tap, and bought the needed #36 drill bit today). I’ve already ground and replaced the original, broken glass. The back’s been completely refinished. Now I just need to brave the cold in the garage and start working forward on it.

This is symptomatic of a broader issue: I’m in love with these old wooden field cameras. They’re elegant, and speak to a time when process and quality in design were more than just advertising slogans. That they’re still completely usable after 100+ years is amazing to me – my Canon 20D is obsolete by years.

Now, I need to collect parts to finish the base plate on the Asanuma half plate conversion (likely tomorrow) – I shipped the original bellows to Sandeha today. I have the glass for the Eastman Empire State whole plate camera, and would like to get moving on that project. But this Seneca is dear to my heart – I have a soft spot for Senecas. And this one’s gorgeous. It’ll get a new bellows ultimately, and Dean Williams is helping spec the replacement gear rack for the rear extension. Going to be fun to get started on again. And, until then, it’s so much fun to just gaze at…

Current work – a few updates

Well, I’ve been in a holding pattern the past few days on the Asanuma base plate. Need to get out in the cold and buy some parts for the mounting system. The plate itself is dimensioned and milled. Just need to get to Ace for hardware.

And, while at Ace, I’ll be picking up parts for the long-mothballed Seneca View 8×10 project camera. When the Asanuma base plate is done, the work ceases until the bellows come in. Unfortunately, I haven’t sent the original ones off to Sandeha yet. I’m the bottleneck. So, I have to move on other projects.

And, since I have no time for the projects I already have, I picked up a new one, too:

Next project...

A beautiful Eastman Empire State #2 whole plate view camera, complete with extension rail, sliding tripod block, and just about everything it needs. Just some minor repairs and TLC for this one – new ground glass, some rail work, refinish, polish the brass. And a new handle.

‘Cause I need more projects.

Asanuma project camera – base plate reconsideration

Well, I cut the roundel. Unfortunately, what should be round is ovate at best. My bandsaw is in dire need of a major tune-up, and a new blade wouldn’t hurt. I think, for convenience sake if no other reason, I’m falling back to the 1/2″ base plate attached with screws into the existing spider. Not as elegant, but elegant enough.


Asanuma project camera – base plate plan

I’ve decided to make the roundel and fill in the hole in the base of the camera. Required a little sketching to make sure I could visualize what needed to be done:


Essentially, I’ll make a round work piece 6-1/2″ in diameter (actually, just a hair less). I’ll do this in 1/2″ mahogany, and cut the circle with a circle cutting jig on the bandsaw. Then I’ll use appropriately-sized bearings on the rabbeting bit to rout the needed profile – first with a 3/8″ cut, then with a 1/4″ cut. Flip the thing over, rout a 1/4″ roundover along the edges, drill the hole for the thread insert tripod mount, and it’ll be ready for finish and gluing.

I’ll plane the mahogany to thickness this afternoon, and if I can tolerate the cold (yuck), I’ll set up a rudimentary circle cutting jig and cut out the roundel. Routing the composite profile will be tomorrow.