Restoring a 5x7 Speed Graphic.

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by raymond_ramos, Feb 4, 2004.

  1. I just found a 5x7 Speed Graphic at a local camera store for $75.00 I love this camera. The focal plane shutter works at all speeds; I don’t know how to test for accuracy. It’s complete and all I need is to make some lens boards and start shooting. The leather is starting to pop up in many places and is pretty beat up. Has any one stripped one of these and restored it by just sanding/refinishing the wood or how easy would it be to rewrap it? Are there any sources out there for replacement focal plane shutter material? Mine seems to be light tight but is dry and not pretty. I want to maintain the use of the focal plane thereby allowing the use of cheaper barrel lenses. I’m going to send it off to Camera Bellows in the UK for bellows replacement using there synthetic material. Mine have pinholes and are dry; any fix would not last long. I’m assuming there is mahogany under all that leather. I’m worried what the front of the drop bed would look like stripped. I can see some cotton padding in there. Will the focus gear be visible when the leather is removed and I decide not to rewrap? Any help on this camera would be appreciated.
  2. A 5x7 Speed Graphic is a sweet find! And for $75?!
    I can't help you with the leather, I've always avoided peeling it up.
    As usual, everyone will guide you to There are some good posts on the forum there as to peeling and glueing the leather down.

    As far as the focal plane shutter goes, I cleaned mine with Lemon Pledge. It worked like a charm! Originally, the focal plane shutter material was dusty and dry. After lightly (LIGHTLY!) brushing and wiping it with lemon pledge, it became pliable again. My Speed Graphic works like a charm and I don't own a single lens with shutter. The focal plane shutter is pretty much dead on too.
    Search for "Andrew Davidhazy" on Google. He has a technical section on his website with articles for testing focal plane shutters, among other things.
  3. Don't worry about the FP shutter accuracy. No matter how far off it it, it's still probably as close to speed as when it was new!
  4. From what I've seen, the biggest problem with the focal plane shutters has been the consistency of exposure from one part of the film to another. If it's giving you a 1/25 of a sec when set for 1/100 of a sec, you can always compensate. If you get one exposure at one edge and 1/2 stop different at the opposite you have some fancy darkroom work ahead of you.

    Does it have a lens? Does the lens have a shutter? Decent lenses mounted in shutters that cover 5x7 can be had for under $200 regularly and under $150 occasionaly. Nothing fancy but most usable.
  5. Crap, I used to have a link to an article that detailed how to lube a speed graphic shutter without toatally dissasembling it. I dont remember if it was on or not.
    I cant find the article now... can anyone else help out?
  6. I stripped the leather off my crown graphic and refinished the wood. It looks gorgeous. I used the satin bombay mahagony stain and sealer from minwax.. it looks really pretty now.
    I wish my digi cam was here so i could post a pic.
  7. I've restored a couple of 4x5s -- one a Speed, one a Crown.

    The Speed had no drop bed on it; I had one laying around. The leather on the bed was shot and I peeled it off. Then I used masking tape and newspaper to mask off the stuff I didn't want to paint, and used flat black primer to paint over where the leather had been. Important: "overshoot" when spraying -- in other words, start and stop the "paint pass" at either side of the work -- and hold the can far enough away from the job so that you get a nice even coat. Make several passes in different directions, and you'll get a good consistent coating.

    The leather on the body I left on it. Where it was peeling off I used contact cement to put it back on. "Rehearse" how you'll lay the leather down several times to get an idea of how it might move while you're handling it. If it has air under it but it's not peeling at the edges, just leave it alone.

    You can get leather dye at any number of places that deal in leather for crafts and whatnot. Use some of that if the finish needs touching up, then apply Lexol to restore moisture to the leather so it won't dry out or absorb water (like rain or spray at the beach). The leather they put on those camera bodies is wonderful stuff; if it's not too far gone, it's worthwhile to leave it on. I think it does a far better job of protecting the camera than most wood finishes will, in the long run. If it does need dying, though, it's prudent to dye all of it, and not just touch-up, because the color probably won't match exactly. But if you take your time, you'll end up with a nice new-looking bunch of leather on the camera. Well worth the little effort it takes.

    If you do choose to strip it and refinish, that's a lot of work, plus you'll be exposing lots of stuff that the leather hid.

    If you can swing the expense, get a leather bellows for it. Then, about once a year or so, use the Lexol on it to keep the natural moisture balance in the leather, to keep it strong and supple. A little of that stuff goes a long way; no need to "soak" it, just apply a little, let it sit awhile, and wipe it off, maybe the next day, and you're done. Then the bellows (and the leather on the body) can last practically forever.

    Good luck! And have fun shooting!
  8. The focal plane shutter should be very simular to the SLR Graflexes which have several discussions on help. Shall I foward via email the shutter repair information for the reflex cameras from another member who is familuar with the older cameras?
  9. I would like that information Charles. I would appreciate any help with this project you could send me.
  10. I have the complete service manual for the Speed and Crown Graphics. It's a 5.7mb pdf file and has diagrams for everything. Even tells you what to lube and with what. If you want it, I can try to email it to you. I'm not sure if my ISP will let me email a 5.7mb file though.
  11. Actually, I just realized that my manual is for the Pacemaker Graphics. You have a Pre-Anniv. Graphic? The Graflex SLR service manual would probably help you more, but I'm pretty sure that the fp shutters are basically the same except the means of changing and displaying shutter speeds.
  12. I'm sorry I should have stated it was a "Top Handle" Speed Graphic(1912-1927), the model before the Pre-Anniversary. On closer inspection and disassembly I found the focal plane shutter to have numerous pinholes and cracks. There is no way I can use it in this condition. Will just have to use lenses with shutters. Maybe I will find a later 5x7 Pre-Anniversary in bad condition but still a useable focal shutter and switch them out. Thanks for all the help guys, I have learned allot from this forum.
  13. Hey Phillip, thanks for the heads up on shutter testing, I am familiar with Andrew Davidhazy's work with converting digital scanners for photography and was just at his site this week but had not seen his article on shutter testing. I have found it and it is very interesting, will be trying this out on my 4x5 Pre-Anniversary and 3x4 Pacemaker Speeds.
  14. Raymond, since you have nothing to lose with the pin holed shutter curtain I'd try to fix it. I don't know how bad it is but it is rubberized cloth anyway, so get a can of that black rubber dip (for handles of tools). Then thin it with the recommended thinner, put the camera on a light table, and very carefully and gently paint the holes over. You can let the wet areas roll in until they dry so it might take awhile but its worth a go. I use the stuff to fix bellows and shutter curtains but it must be thinned and can't be applied too thickly or it will affect movement.
  15. I thought of using something like that but was concerned with it affecting the movement/speeds. Thanks for the advice Rob; I think I will try this.
  16. Equinox photo sells a bellows patch liquid that is made from latex paint and something else that should work very well for pinholes in a cloth/rubber shutter. They seem to know a good bit about large format equipment.

Share This Page