Cleaning Rust and Corrosion on Lens Body

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by katie_pype, Apr 17, 2018.

  1. A few days ago I went to the annual rotary sale like I always do in search of any gems. Imagine my compete shock as I found a table with lots of leather cases and German cameras! One of which was a Leica IIIc with a half case and a lens with a cross threaded lens cap. Ten dollar sticker on the top, I couldn't pass it up along with a few others. Using some gentle love that involved popping it back onto the threads, the cap revealed this lovely Nikkor S.C. 5cm f/1.4. Like a miracle this lens hasn't suffered any fungus, haze, or terrible cleaning marks, just a tiny scratch on the front. Focus and aperture ring work smoothly. However, both the camera and outside of the lens body has suffered from light rust and corrosion.

    I know this lens won't clean up to be perfect, in fact I'll appreciate the character! I just don't want rust or corrosion to spread. Is there also any way to polish it up a bit or will that pitting be permanent? I've seen anything from Naval Jelly to Simple Green to clean but I need a couple more opinions, I'm not sure how gentle I have to be, I've never dealt with so much corrosion and rust on this vintage of a lens.

    (Unfortunately the IIIc will need a thorough CLR before any use. This lens will happily sit on my operating IIIa for now)

    The 10 dollar Leica:

    The Nikkor's outside: received_1889506124393810.jpeg


    That stuck lens cap saved this lens though:
  2. SCL


    You lucky son-of-a-gun. I'd be careful in the cleaning process. First I'd gently wipe the surfaces (except the lens, of course) with a microfiber cloth lightly spritzed with isopropyl alcohol to remove dirt & grime. As far as the rust covered surfaces, if I wasn't terribly worried about some light burnishing, I'd probably take a pencil eraser and lightly see what rust I could remove, followeed by another wipe with the microfiber cloth moistened w/ isopropyl alcohol. I'm sure there is a point of diminishing returns, so go lightly. I've occasionally used a metal polish like Flitz or Maas, but very gnetly so as to not burnish the metal, if I could avoid it. Take your time and go at it gently and Good luck!
    katie_pype likes this.
  3. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Great find! The microfiber cloths (terrycloth type, not the smooth type) are very useful. Thomas Tomosy (camera repairman author) recommends using Fantastik cleaner with a toothbrush.

    I've also found that the white Miracle Eraser sponges work well for safely cleaning the crud off of chrome. Flitz polish is a good product, though it will likely brighten the finish, so may not be suitable for everything. If the metal finish is pitted, then there's probably not much you can do about that.
    katie_pype likes this.
  4. Replacement screws are available on Ebay under Leica parts and repair, or buy this body for good clean parts

    :Leica IIIc 35mm Film Rangefinder Camera Body - Needs Service - Parts / Repair | eBay

    Another gentle polish is Silver Foam jewellers polish, a water based polish which will remove the stains on your Leica. Use a cotton tip gently

    The lens was probably saved by not only the stuck cap but also by plenty of air circulation getting around and through the camera. Old cameras I've bought that were free of fungus and subsequently cleaned up spotless were dirty and dusty when they arrived. Cleaning was a joy when I noticed the mint glass, especially in my Mamiya C3, a cheap buy covered with dust and took hours to clean. Every now and then I leave my camera display cabinets doors open for a day to allow air to circulate through them
    katie_pype likes this.
  5. What a find! Keeps us posted!°!
  6. Grats on your catch!
    Upon the cleaning: I'd try to chat up some dentist / dental technician for shopping advice, where those guys get their rubber tipped tool inserts for Dremels and the like and if they start with green and finish with brown ones when polishing metal surfaces or vice versa. - The rubber polishing discs from the dental realm might be handy for your job. A cheap knockoff supermarket power tool should be OK as long as it is capable of mounting the dental inserts. - You are unlikely to find anything usable beyond maybe a disc shaped brush inside the original box.
    Microfiber clothes and everything mentioned above sounds good. - Here I'd try Nevr Dull too. It worked pretty well on bikes and knifes.
  7. Thank you all for the suggestions!

    A bit of an update, as I finally had a little quiet time to tackle the job. I got just of the initial dust off of it when I first got it with a microfiber. Today I took the more conventional route and got isopropyl alcohol and some Q Tips and began to tackle some of the surface rust spots. With a little persistence I was able to make most of not all of those to disappear, yay! As I expected though, the alcohol didn't do much on the green corrosion spots. What I also found is most of that blemishes are just simply spots and pitting in the finish. The blemishes I can live with, the corrosion I cannot. I know a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and water does great things for corrosion on like your car battery terminals but would that potentially hurt by being too abrasive? I was thinking of maybe soaking a q-tip in the mixture and holding it on the corrosion then wiping it with a clean microfiber.
  8. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    I don't think baking soda would be harmful, but you might want to read this article below, which suggests ammonia for green corrosion. It is also an ingredient in many metal polishes.

    Best way to remove that green corrosion? [Archive] -

    If you haven't yet tried the white melamine sponges I mentioned earlier, they can work quite well. They are sold in the US as Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
    katie_pype likes this.
  9. The reality? Good luck taking it apart without damaging the frozen parts. This is either a lerner DIY project, or a parts-salvage at best. This type of comprehensive corrosion indicates a fully 'Water Damaged' camera (Likely submerged). Once the covers have been removed, it will be very apparent that the precision internal moving parts have been continually corroding.

    Very few if any technicians would accept this unit into their shop. One simply cannot economically give it everything it needs in order to provide trouble free use, little alone offer up a warranty. This is catastrophic damage...

    My guess is the Leica owner who dropped the combo in the water (Knew it was a valuable camera), tried to get it serviced, but was faced with multiple service refusals... Still, $10 is a bargain for both-either-or just one piece like the lens; it sounds totally usable !
  10. I will have to get a couple of those Magic Erasers and try those out. On hand I did have Windex and baking soda so I gave those a try, using small amounts and using Q Tips directly on the small bits of corrosion.

    Windex: Didn't do anything. Tried to rub the cotton swab in a circular motion for a good minute, checking it and nothing. Maybe it's my generic window cleaner that's the issue lol.

    Baking soda: This I mixed it with water to make a watery paste. Initially using that watery paste to rub gently on the spots wasn't doing too much anytime fast. Then I used a mix that contained more grit by using less water and rubbing it. Now more of a gritty paste I was seeing results! On the smaller spots it took only a little rubbing with the swab and paste to make it disappear. The largest spot took a lot more work and after some persistence I have more than 95% gone. Underneath it left shiny finish in all except that large spot which had eaten into the finish. I made sure to use a bit of the isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber to wipe the lens body to make sure all that gritty stuff is all gone.

    All in all it doesn't look like I did much, but the surface rust and corrosion is gone and overall to my eye looks to be an improvement.



  11. Yeah I knew after looking over that body that there was no saving it, not from me personally. :) That's okay, I already sold that body for parts only for more than $10. This lens now is happy on my functional and working IIIa.

    m42dave likes this.

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