Restoring a Deardorff 8x10 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Does anyone know how involved it is to restore/refinish the typical well-used Deardorff 8x10? I'm pretty familiar with woodworking/refinishing basics, but I'm not sure what mechanical problems I might run across. Any first-hand experiences? Any shopping tips? Any websites that cover the ins and outs? Thanks!

-- Scott Atkinson (, September 27, 2001


I found it to be relatively easy even with my meager skills. About the worst problem you'll encounter is stripping of the wood where screws attach, especially along the chrome plate along the rails. I found that about 50% of mine were in need of repair. Otherwise removing the old finish was about the most tedious problem.

-- Chad Jarvis (, September 27, 2001.


First, take a look at the following article on the LF homepage. It covers B&J view cameras but the same issues will apply to Deardorff. 8x10.html

Kodak also has a generic article on restoring antique cameras ( tml) and there are a couple of general books including:

Antique Camera Restoration for cameras before 1928, Compur, Compound, pneumatic shutters, wood, leather and brass refinishing. (available from

Restoring Classic & Collectable Cameras by Thomas Tomosy (avaialble from

If you are looking for parts (especially rack and pinion gears) take a look at the following web pages:

In addition, see for camera repair equipment,tools, and supplies.

There are also several articles on camera refinising in View Camera. Check their article index or drop me an e-mail and I'll give you the specific issue numbers, pages, etc.

Finally, take a look at the various posts on this forum listed under repair/restoration.

I hope this helps.


-- Dave Willison (, September 27, 2001.

I refinished mine 2 summers ago. Like Chad, I had to replace some of the screws, but probably only about 5 or 6 total. Mine is a pre-1950 that had front swings added later. Because of its age and what I assume was professional use at some point, it had seen better days but was still structurally sound. I took an approach to refinishing it that would probably make a collector cringe, but it yielded a wonderful user that looked much improved. Most people, when refinishing a camera like a Deardorff 8x10 will try to make it look as much like it originally did as they possibly can. This means re- plating metal parts, stripping and re-finishing the wood in a finish similar to the original. I had neither the time, money, nor resources to take my beater of a 'Dorff and make it a museum piece. So, what I did was disassemble it, strip the wood of its old finish, and refinish it with several coats of tung oil. Metal parts were gone over with #000 steel wool to remove corrosion and were then given a clear-coat. I put it all back together and while it doesn't look all shiny and perfect like a collector's item, I don't worry about it like a collector's item, either. If I get caught in the rain, I don't panic, I just fold it up, pack it away, and give it a good once-over with a towel when I get home. I bought mine to use, not to look at, and I use the heck out of it.

Make sure you keep track of where everything goes- it took me 3 tries to put it back together again. Some metal parts may not only show brassing and some corrosion/pitting, but be dented or bent and in need of repair. The focusing track on one side of mine had a good- size impression that carried through to the wood on the other side. While I had it disassembled, I *carefully* pounded out the dent in the focusing track using a couple pieces of wood (no direct contact between metal and hammer) and a small hammer. The impression in the wood was partly remedied by wetting the unfinished wood with water to get it to swell locally. This helped some, but I ended up using wood filler to fill it out (only about 1/16" total depth). Depending on what sort of bellows you have on yours, you may or may not want to try to restore them. If they're leather and in reasonable shape, go for it, but if they're synthetic and not looking too well, you're best bet is going to be to replace them. I've got the later synthetic crap-ass bellows on mine. Haven't replaced them yet, but a little bit of tape and a few applications of Armor-All to the exterior have made them usable for the time being.

For a lot of it, I think common sense should be enough to get you through the process successfully- worked for me. Don't rush it, keep track of everythig, take notes. If you run into a snag, stop and figure it out before you do something dumb like me and strip a few screws (3 of the 6 I replaced). Basically, just go about it in an intelligent manner as I'm sure you would anyway and you'll be fine. Good luck.

-- David Munson (, September 27, 2001.

Good info! Many thanks for all the responses. I have one more related question: anybody know how much one should expect to pay for a beater Deardorff--a "fixer-upper" that 's cheap but can be restored to look decent and operate at 100 percent?

-- Scott Atkinson (, September 28, 2001.

Sorry to respond to a question with a question but while the wood on my Deardorff is in good shape some of the metal isn't, mainly the front standard. It doesn't seem to be pitted so much as the nickel plating seems to have worn off in a lot of spots. I spoke once with Ken Hough about replating it but he was too busy at the time. I know absolutely nothing about replating except that it sounds like something a pro should do. Is this right or is it possible for a mechanical novice to do it? If a pro should, does anyone have any suggestions for someone to do it other than Ken (and Patrick Alt, who also was too busy to restore things in a reasonable time when last I checked with him). Of course I could be wrong about what I'm seeing too. Maybe what looks like wear is actually some kind of pitting. If it's pitting, can this be fixed by lightly buffing with steel wool or some such product?

-- Brian Ellis (, September 28, 2001.

Brian, you should be able to take your hardware to a small plater in your home town to be replated. Look in the yellow pages under chrome or metal finishing. Nickle plate is a step in chrome plating, just tell the shop you wanr nickle. As for small gears inside the camera, I found mine in a hobby shop, from a Lionel train! Brad

-- Brad Karraker (, September 28, 2001.

There are two useful articles in back issues of View Camera. You should be able to buy photocopies from them. The Nov 1989 issue has an article by Ken Hough "Buying the Used Deardorff". This gives tips on common problems to look for. The March/April 1995 issue has an article by Patrick Alt "Refurbishing View Cameras" which describes his procedure.

Re the plating question: plating is not advised as a do-it-yourself project, it is not easy and the chemicals and electricity make it dangerous. Take your piece to a local plating shop. They will probably be willing to advise you about what preparation you should do before they plate it.

-- Michael Briggs (, September 29, 2001.

Thanks for the suggestions. I really wasn't anxious to try it myself so I'll look into having it done by a plating shop.

-- Brian Ellis (, November 21, 2001.

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