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Graflex 3A aqcuired; needs some work. (Long.)

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Joined: 01 Feb 2012
Posts: 2
Location: NJ

PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 5:36 am    Post subject: Graflex 3A aqcuired; needs some work. (Long.) Reply with quote

I recently acquired a Graflex 3A off that auction website (260936325291). Since I have a few other 3A cameras and enough spools & backing paper to make 122 film for them for a while, and what I could see of the shutter curtain looked good, I figured it would be worth bidding on. In any case, for what I paid ($51 shipped), just the lens and lensboard are probably worth that much.

(I've had a Speed Graphic for years, which my grandfather used to shoot weddings in the '40s. Had it CLAd by Essex Camera, but I don't use it much and I can't remember ever using the FP shutter, as I was afraid I'd break it or something. This camera has only a FP shutter and a barrel lens, so I've got no choice but to use it.)

So I received it the other day. Tried out the shutter, and it seems to operate OK on most speeds, no holes in the curtain that I could see. I have run into a few problems, though:

1. On the time setting, it only opens halfway, and I've got to help it along a bit with a fingertip. On the SG this wouldn't have been a problem, but you can't open the back of this one with film in it.

2: The mirror doesn't always retract all the way. Seems to be catching on a piece of metal near the bottom of the mirror housing, which I have to hold back while pushing the lever on the top right side. I don't know if this is user error or something wrong with the camera. It wasn't like that when I got it, but it started doing it a day later.

3. I took off the ground glass to (carefully!) clean the front-surface mirror, which was caked with shmutz to the extent that you couldn't see anything in the ground glass, and I couldn't reach it through the front; when I went to put it back, I realized I couldn't remember which way it went in. Tried it one way (frosted side up) and the infinity focus was way off; flipped it smooth side up, and it's still off, but not by as much. So which way is it supposed to go?

(I'm going to load it with parchment paper at the film plane and see if the ground glass and the paper focus equally; this will at least give me some idea if I screwed anything up while playing with the ground glass. Of course if the mirror isn't retracting all the way, the focus is gonna be off regardless...)

4. The leather is shot. All of it. I didn't notice any huge holes in the bellows, but the corners are starting to flake, and I haven't yet checked for pinholes. The stuff on the outer case, at least on the metal parts, is crumbling, flaking off, or altogether missing, and the stuff on the wooden parts is mostly still there but worn to brown.

I did find some fake leather patterned contact paper (actually made from some sort of thin plastic, what we called "Sanitaz" when I was a kid), which I could stick on in place of the leather. This is the same stuff I'm planning on using for backing paper once I run out of the Kodak stuff; it's opaque, and it's thin enough to fit in the spool. I bought it for blocking off a window in the basement for a darkroom, but then noticed what else I could do with it. It's got zero thickness, unlike the original leather, but if you don't look too closely you could probably get away with it. In any case this is not a priority; once I have the thing working correctly I can worry about what it looks like.

(ETA: It's not as opaque as it looks, I just fired a flash right through it. Oh well. Slow ortho film ought to be OK, though.)

Then the handle is missing, and one of the loops that holds it is also torn. I saw a post in the archives here about removing the rivits and replacing them with a screw and nut (though personally I'd use a 2/56 carriage bolt, which would look more original), and I think I could cut up my belt for the leather for a new handle; it looks about the right thickness, and I need a new belt anyway

The hood is also hardened and cracking at the joints, to where I'm afraid to unfold it. Not sure what to do about that; I saw a post on flickr showing how to make a new hood, but that was for a 4x5, not a 3A, and I don't know if they're the same size. Can that be taped up, or otherwise restored? And if not, is there a stash of NOS parts somewhere?
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Joined: 28 Sep 2001
Posts: 3969
Location: Mid Peninsula, Ca.

PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A. I service these cameras. PM sent.
B. Did you see my post ?

1. Shutter needs a CLA, clean, lube, adjust.
2. That piece of metal is the lower roller opening light trap. It is a piece of brass with opaque cloth over it. It should push forward and down to just clear the bottom of the mirror when it is closed. See pix 12 and 12b in the linked post.
3. The ground glass always goes in with the ground side toward the lens in any camera.
4x. Bellows cloth glued to the inside of the view hood folds to 1/2 inch either side of them will get the view hood stable. There are a few posts on this site about making them. Use the site search function and select the all the terms dot using key word view hood.
The best camera ever made is the one that YOU enjoy using and produces the image quality that satifies YOU.
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