Cleaning Your Rolleicord Shutter

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by steve_mareno|1, Apr 19, 2013.

  1. Here's a simple tutorial on cleaning your Rolleicord shutter. These cameras come in all types of shutters, but this is how I cleaned the one on this particular model. Usually, all that's needed is to unscrew the front lens element and carefully clean the shutter blades w/ a Q-tip wetted w/ lighter fluid, then quickly cleaned up w/ a clean Q-tip. You'll need to get the oil/gunk off the back of the blades as well, but if you're patient and careful (lucky) you can just keep cleaning one side and let the shutter blades get wetted w/ fluid, so that it goes over to the back side of the blades. Just keep at it, and use about 20 Q-tips or so. Any fluid that gets on the back element can be cleaned off w/ the shutter on 'B' and a Q-tip through the open shutter. Unfortunately, this didn't work on this shutter. It was still hanging open on all the speeds even after the cleaning, so I had to go a little deeper.
  2. First, here's my tools. Not pictured are the little screwdrivers. You only need one or two. The purple light deal is something I bought at the Dollar Store (along w/ the pliers), and it is perfect for checking bellows leaks on folders, because you can twist it to shine exactly where you need it to when you put it into the inside of the bellows.
  3. The pliers were filed on the tips to make it easier to get to small stuff. I bought these about 7 years ago and they're still going strong. They're indispensable for camera repairs.
  4. The covering has to come off the front of the camera. I was lucky on this one, as the previous owner had just recovered it w/ one of those kits you can buy, and it peeled right off.
  5. Next, take the shutter arm knob off w/ the pliers and your fingers. If you need to use another pair of pliers to get it off, wrap it w/ tape or use a cloth because it will mar the finish very easily. It just screws off, and you put the retainer back on it and put it in a safe place.
  6. I went ahead and pulled the rear element too, but if I had it to do over again I'd just leave it in and clean it up later. Use the filed pliers to take the retaining ring off and the element will fall out when you turn the camera over. You may have to tap it to get it out, but mine just plopped out.
  7. Here's the rear element and it's retainer. The convex side (the side that bulges outward) faces the rear of the camera.
  8. Now, take out the screws that hold the front cover on. They're easy to pick out. One of mine was a little bigger and longer than the others, so I just made a little drawing of where it came from.
  9. The front element comes out w/ the trusty pliers. You could have done this at any time. I don't think this element has multiple points where it can unscrew and screw in since it's a unit focusing lens, but just to be safe I made a little mark on the lens at the point that it came free of the threaded shutter housing, and will put it back the same way that it came out.
  10. With all the screws out (not many at all), you're ready to take the front cover off. You'll have to tilt it up at the top some and fool around w/ the shutter arm to get it free. Don't sweat it if you have to bend it a LITTLE. It's soft metal, and can be recent later. Surprisingly, you don't have to do anything w/ the aperture and speed arms. They come right off w/ the cover.
  11. Carefully slip the pliers into the two small holes in the crescent shaped thing, and turn it so that you can remove the shutter's round cover. It's easy to pop it out w/ a small screwdriver. Don't force anything, and from now on, don't twist the shutter speed arm past the 'B' and 1/500 markings or the piece below it will pop out! It's not the end of the world if it does (mine did). Just look at it, and it will soon become apparent where it needs to be to go back in place. Good light, a magnifying glass, patience and calmness are your friends on this type of stuff. It is easy work though. Nothing complicated here at all.
  12. Now, over to the sink for a through lighter fluid flush.
  13. And the back. Make a good mess, because you're in the sink.
  14. It didn't work though. I redid this over the course of 4 days, letting it get all dry inside before trying the shutter speeds each day. Nope, it still was hanging up, and there was a sticky coating on the blades ever after the flushes.
  15. OK, I need better chemicals. A quick trip to Linda's medicine cabinet was a treasure trove of chemicals! I finally selected this nail polish remover (hey, if it will remove hardened nail polish, what else might it remove)? It said "acetone free", which was a bummer, but the first ingredient was acetate, which sounded close enough to me, and the smell sure reminded me of acetone.
  16. Wow, the gunk on the blades dissolved in front of my eyes! Just a little of this stuff on a Q-tip, and this is what the Q-tip looked like.
  17. The shutter looked like this afterwards, and it worked perfectly. Just in case, I let it set for a week and checked it each day. Worked perfectly.
  18. OK, time to button it back up. I really wish I hadn't taken the rear element out, as there isn't a lot of room in there to work, but happily it went right in. I used my little screwdriver to get the threads of the retainer started, then cinched it up w/ the trusty filed pliers. Make sure the element is facing the right way or you will get some creative photos from the camera, and make sure it's fully seated in there before you start turning the retainer. Or, better yet, don't take it out in the first place. Whatever you get on the lens element can be wiped off if you decide to leave it in.
  19. Put the round silver donut back on the shutter, and twist the crescent retainer w/ the pliers to lock it on. No pressure is needed at all, it goes very easily. You could probably make a tool for the crescent retainer from a paper clip too. Using your pliers, give the shutter arm a little bend to facilitate getting that front cover back on. Before you do that though, put the Shutter on 'B', and open the aperture all the way. Set the arms on the cover to the same points, and slip it back on. You may have to jiggle the cover a little, but mine went right back on. Make sure the speed setting and aperture are working correctly before you screw it back down.
  20. Put the front cover back on (may need re gluing, but mine was still tacky and didn't need that), bend the little shutter arm back down straight, put the little chrome deal back on the end of it, and go take some photos. By the by, the lettering on my lens was like that when the camera came to me. You might have saved yourself a couple of hundred bucks. If this hadn't have worked I would have disassembled the shutter further in order to get it off, and taken it to my watch repair guy to go into his ultrasonic cleaner, but that very rarely is needed. Most of the time, on any camera, it's just oil on the shutter blades messing things up. These shutters run dry by the way, so I didn't lube anything..
  21. Brave, bravo, and thanks. I have a Weltiflex that tends to get sticky if I let it sit, and I have a "brand-new" Ikoflex 1c winging its way to me, I hope.
  22. Steve many thanks for posting this excellent walkthrough. Actually you shouldn't have to mark the position when unscrewing the front part of the lens, as it seats itself naturally, there are no multiple starts like in front cell focusing systems.
  23. I figured as much on the front element John, but w/o any experience on this (meaning, w/o any mess ups to look back on) I played it safe. I got price quotes on this repair from $200 to $450!!!. Crazy.
    I guess it's similar to when I was turning wrenches in sports car dealerships. We had a flat rate book, and it gave us the times that a repair job was SUPPOSED to take. Multiply that by whatever the hourly rate was, and that determined the final labor bill. Now, a good tech should be able to do most any repair job in anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3rd of the time that the book gave you, but there were always times when a bolt might seize or strip, or any one of a dozen things wouldn't work out they way they were supposed to. Didn't matter, that was what we charged. So it all evened out over time I suppose. However, when it's my money, my brain works differently. If a job is simple and doesn't take very long, I don't want to pay a lot of money. And this couldn't have been simpler. I'll possibly do a tutorial on getting the top and bottom lenses in sync later, as this is something that some repair people have made a Black Art out of. It isn't, it's very simple, basic stuff, and anyone w/ a loupe (or a 50mm lens) and a ground glass can do it. It's a little more complicated on the Rolleiflex models, but the basic idea is exactly the same on just about any TLR.
  24. It plain hurts to watch this "tutorial" on messing up a compur shutter and distributing dirt and old lubricants at several wrong places - instead of taking the shutter apart, cleaning and properly lubricating all parts and putting things back together properly.
    Anybody curious may check for the places to lubricate. It is not about giving the shutter a douchebag lighter fuel cleaning (in the toilet / bidet) and a good red neck squirt of WD40 or vaseline.
  25. Steve, I find you've done a good job! Thanks! Sometimes these are the things you just need to get a camera going (and using it!)... Sure it has to be done careful.
    Jan - could not open the files of your link so I cannot compare. But so far no lubricants other than lighter fluid have been added - and why dismantle a working shutter? As good as any repair can be - it means changing the original state anyway...
    And what btw. is a red neck squirt?
  26. Lighter fluid is a solvent, not a lubricant. The lubricants and all that was stuck to and in them are dissolved when you flush the mechanism with lighter fluid, and are then spread all over any part the lighter fluid bath reaches.<br>After the lighter fluid evaporates, there will be a film of lubricant and dirt all over.<br>And as luck works, the bits of the shutter than need lubrication will have most of it washed away.<br>You can get a non-working (!) shutter going giving it a solvent bath (i have done so, i will admit, myself). But only as a stop gap solution, after which the thing really needs to be taken apart, cleaned and relubed again. That's lots more work after a lighter fluid treatment than if you had the shutter cleaned and relubed straight away, i.e. before giving it a lighter fluid treatment.<br><br>Nail polish remover contains acetone or an acetone like solvent. That is great for dissolving nail polish, plastics, paint (blackening on shutter blades - the "gunk"...) and such. It degreases finger nails to the point of making them brittle. Which is remedied by dissolving fat, grease in the nail polish remover.<br>So when you use nail polish remover instead of pure acetone, you will again be leaving a film of grease behind on everything you 'cleaned' using the stuff.<br><br>Lighter fluid should be used to fuel lighters. Nail polish remover to remove nail polish. Neither are camera or shutter repair tools.
  27. Thanks for taking the time to post the tutorial, it takes a bit of courage to get inside a Copal shutter and try to clean it
    up. But on the other hand, your method is not one which I would recommend doing. These shutters require certain
    parts to be dry (oil free), while other parts are going to require the right type of lubricant to the right places.

    To do the job more correctly, the shutter should be completely from the front standard, and the self timer and slow
    speed mechanisms removed. These can be put into film containers filled with lacquer thinner to soak out the old
    lubricants. The release levers and small parts can also be removed and cleaned the same way. I also remove the
    shutter and aperture blades for proper cleaning as well. Taking it all apart is easy enough, putting it back together is a
    bit more of a challenge. A little watch lubricant applied with a syringe to the link points and axles is necessary for these
    parts to move smoothly.

    The first time I took a leaf shutter apart, I never got it all the way back together. Taking pictures step by step as you
    take the shutter apart will make reassembly easier. The second time I attempted the job, it went a little better, the
    shutter actually fired at most of the speeds. Now having done it a few times, it only takes a couple of hours to do the
    job properly.

    Next time you might jump a little further into the deep end, you are halfway there already.
  28. It's been a year and a half since I visited this site. Today, I was doing a web search on something else, and this posting came up. Gotta say, except for JDM, who always posts intelligent and well mannered writings, the other responses to my little tutorial here are ridiculous.
    The only reasons I wrote on this forum in the past was either to share some tips w/ others, or to ask advice (that part didn't work so good). I'd hate to see someone get the wrong information from some of these comments on this tutorial, so let me correct things, and then I can go away and maybe revisit in another year and a half :} Or not.

    First, the camera featured here has worked beautifully since this repair, and has been working faithfully ever since. Second, I understand mechanical things. I'm a retired automotive dealership tech, and was factory trained at Toyota. I also have experience in other dealerships such as Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Nissan, and Mazda (first factory trained Mazda tech in my state, back in the day). I was certified by the National Automotive Institute for Service Excellence, have a certificate of training and work experience as a machinist and layout man, and also a certificate in air conditioning and refrigeration. In short, I can build a Rolleicord if necessary, except for the optics. I'm not saying this to convince anyone here of anything, but to assure others that perform web searches on camera repair that I know what I'm about. For the uninformed, who will undoubtedly respond (I know this forum) that none of this concerns cameras, I'd like to point out that a mechanical object, is a mechanical object, is a mechanical object. It's not rocket science, it's just common sense in most cases.

    Probably 90% of the shutter problems on these old cameras is a result of oil on the aperture blades, which causes them to stick. In the camera above, I suspect that lubricants had leaked onto the shutter blades and gotten cooked onto them by heat (left in a car in the summer perhaps), or simply over the course of time. Usually, a flush w/ lighter fluid (a rather benign solvent compared to what's available) fixes the shutters if duly wiped clean w/ lots of Q-Tips. You only have to unscrew the lens elements to do this. There's no need to disassemble the camera any further. Don't try blowing them out w/ canned air, because some tiny springs could be blown out.
    After cleaning the blades on this one w/ the stronger chemical, the speeds were checked w/ an electronic tester, and found to be within spec. The camera exposes film properly. As a note, aperture blades are made of hardened steel in most cases, and lighter fluid or even stronger solvents will have no effect on the metal. They are not coated, and if they were back when the camera was made (I have found no evidence that they were), the coatings would have been long gone by now anyway. Aperture blades do not need coatings. On some cameras, the blades are made from plastic, so lighter fluid MAY not be an appropriate cleaner. But please note, the lighter fluid in the photos above resides in a plastic can from the manufacturer, so draw your own conclusions on this one. The shutter above was not given a full CLA because it did not need one. When you bring your car into a repair facility and the tech runs some tests and suggests a valve job, they don't overhaul the whole engine. They only repair what's wrong. Run as fast as you can from techs that suggest unnecessary repairs in order to run up your bill.
    Most of these old cameras are very simple, light-tight boxes for film. They're easy to design, build, and maintain. Don't be put off from doing your own repairs. It's easy, and will save you a lot of money that could otherwise be better spent on Tri-X, or a new lens for your enlarger. There's always the satisfaction of a job well done too.
  29. I meant shutter blades in the above post, not aperture blades.
  30. bravo bravo!!!
    this is inspiring me to buy a Rolleicord sold for parts/not working and get to work!!

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