Graflex 8×10 Focal Plane Shutter (Part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about the Graflex 8×10 focal plane shutter I recently acquired from Ebay.

The condition of the shutter was pretty good, for what is probably a ~100 year old item; the wooden frame had a few minor chips and cracks, which I fixed with some Elmer’s wood glue as well as Wood Filler for the chips.

A missing pin was replaced by a segment of K&S Precision Metals #8169 Brass Rod (1.83 mm), although I think I could’ve used #8168 (2.06 mm) for a better fit.

The big issue was the cloth used for the shutter.  After all the years, it had developed wrinkles as well as stiffening, which caused the shutter to travel slowly, and be completely useless at the slower shutter speeds, including the “T” position, which wouldn’t “close” at all.

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Wrinkles in the cloth as well as slight rusting of the metal tabs caused slow and non- movement of the shutter, especially at the low speeds.

I found information on the web that applying Lemon Pledge (yes, that Pledge) will soften and refresh the cloth.  So I went and got some:

Pledge

After a generous application of the liquid on both surfaces at each shutter position, letting the whole thing sit for a while (~1 hour), and then a careful wiping (hint: it’s really messy, do it over a drop cloth or a generous layering of kitchen paper), the cloth did indeed become soft again, and the shutter mechanism began to move smoothly at all speeds.  It got a really fresh scent to boot.

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Pinholes in the cloth (see the yellow dots, lower central area)

Unfortunately, the problem with the shutter went a little deeper.  The prolonged storage, wrinkling, stiffening, etc., of the cloth created numerous pinholes, which would be a major pain to fix (although apparently it can be done by applying some thinned Black E6000 to fill the holes), so I decided to get a professional to repair & adjust the shutter mechanism.  Online search revealed that Frank Marshman of Camera Wiz would be a great choice. I contacted Frank and he has kindly agreed to take a look.

With one condition.

You see, the problem now is that it’s impossible to obtain genuine spare parts for the shutter.  Most problematic is the cloth itself, as a rather surprisingly large amount of it is required.  Frank said that if I could obtain the necessary amount of cloth at the right dimensions, then he would do the repair.

This is where I lucked out. Some more web searching brought me to Aki-Asahi Custom Camera Coverings in Japan. They sell shutter curtain material that seems to have the right properties (thickness, rubber coating on one side, etc.). And they were willing to cut me a large enough piece of the cloth that could be adapted to the Graflex FPS. In fact they were absolutely kind enough to offer that piece for me to test to see if it will actually work; if the material is too thin or too thick, the shutter may not correctly function, since the amount of travel for each shutter position is dependent on the overall diameter of the rollers on the two spools that constitute the shutter mechanism, which obviously will change depending on the thickness of the cloth.

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Shutter cloth sent to me by Aki-Asahi. Extremely well packed and fantastic material to the touch. These guys are awesome.

Here are the rough dimensions I calculated.  The width of the cloth is just shy of 28 cm.  The total length of the cloth is roughly 200 cm; the shutter is basically one long piece of cloth with progressively thinner “slits” cut out in the appropriate locations to achieve a “faster” shutter speed (the mechanism does also travel faster at the faster shutter speed positions). Aki-Asahi agreed to send me a piece that is 30 cm wide and 250 cm in length so that Frank will have some wiggle room.  If and when Frank is able to fashion a shutter cloth out of it, I will ask him to provide the precise measurements of the overall cloth as well as the locations for the slits, etc.

So, the shutter as well as the cloth from Aki-Asahi are now in Frank’s hands. He has some backlog work to finish before he delves into this item, but once he gets around to it, I promise to document the entire process in detail, with Frank’s help.  If it works out (fingers crossed), this would be great news for those few who are lucky enough to own one of these historical products.  Stay tuned 🙂

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