Bellows for Korona 5x7 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have recently acquired a Korona 5x7 in reasonable condition and would like to clean it up and use it. The bellows is light tight but very dirty inside and out. The inside of the bellows is fabric and the exterior some indeterminate smooth material. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can clean the bellows? Thanks, Simon

-- Simon Parsons (, February 03, 2001


Simon: Bellows can be cleaned, but I would suggest you make a slow project of it. You don't want to soak the material, which can break down the glue. I would start with either Q-Tips or a small, soft clot dampened with clean water. Extend the bellows as far as you can, vaccuum and brush it both inside and out, and start working on small sections at a time. If more is needed, add a little dish soap (not dishwasher type- it is too harsh) and rub some more. You will be surprised at how a bellows will clean up with just water and soap and water. A damp cloth might also be used inside to rub the black fabric to remove imbedded dirt and dust. After cleaning, treat the bellows to keep it soft. I think there is a thread in the old questions section of this site with recommended treatment solutions. If you find it necessary to rub hard on the outside, place your hand inside the bellows for support. It isn't rocket science, but you do need to go slowly and carefully to avoid damage. Sounds like a fun project. Good luck with it.


-- Doug Paramore (, February 03, 2001.

Simon: That should read cloth instead of clot. I don't know why I can't spot errors until after I hit the "submit" button.


-- Doug Paramore (, February 03, 2001.

I have always had good results using "Armour-All". Yes, the stuff you buy at the automotive store for cleaning your dashboard. It works great for lubricating and conditioning a vinyl or synthetic bellows, as well as leather - and cleans at the same time.

-- Matt O. (, February 03, 2001.


I used to recommend Armor -All until someone pointed out to me that sports car owners with Pirelli tires and so on had taken the mfg to court because it contains silicone and that was not disclosed on the packaging. Seems it wrecks havoc with multiple applications over time.

I know Ken Hough advised me to NOT use any silicone based product for bellows and in fact recommends Lemon Pledge

-- Sean yates (, February 04, 2001.

I just spent a couple weeks researching this one with some bellows makers & leather workers. ArmorAll is one of the big NO-NO's on the list of all of them. Also any product that contains petroleum distillates and/or toluene. They say these products make the bellows, almost any kind, look really nice and at times within a year the adhesive holding the bellows together somehow just comes apart. Not right away so when it happens the connection isn't made.

Saddle soap worked gently, while supporting the bellows from the inside by hand, does a nice job. Meltonian shoe polish, the cream kind, does well for recoloring and helping it to look nice. Smooth on with a cloth or paper towel & buff gently with another cloth. Do the buffing more than once after putting it on. Then treat leather with Lexol, gently rubbing in and lightly buffing with a soft cloth or paper towel. As you do so you will get the color from the shoe polish coming off on the cloth or towel, rather than on your hands in the field later.

This will help the leather last longer and keep from cracking as it is folded and unfolded.

Leather dyes should be checked for petroleum distillates, and if they contain them, not used. Or at least not used anywhere near the glued section of the bellows. If you have one of the older red bellows, the dye can really make it look good... but there is always the chance of the adhesives losing strength as a result. Once again, not showing up til later when the bellows starts to separate. One leatherworker who does fine detail work said to use it, but not where the adhesive is. He gets around it by dying first, leaving the color off the adhesive areas and then gluing them, working a q-tip or fine brush with the dye to the edges of the joined area.

The newer synthetic materials will need to be addressed by someone else as I don't have experience in that area yet.

-- Dan Smith (, February 04, 2001.

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