Care of wood and bellows etc. : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi all, Just got done with some TLC for my 5x7 Anba.I lemon oiled the wood and it looks fantastic with no more dry spots. Also I oiled all the metal joints where moving metal meets metal with a light model railroad oil that is inert...seems to work great.Easy to apply in tiny amounts with its needle applicator.I had a leather weatherproofer and refubisher for fine shoes that looks like vasolene and did a great job on my very dry bellows.I was simply amazed!The bellows looks almost new now.And put some vasolene on the tracks.Anyway the camera worked great before but now it is tremendous...everything incredibly smooth and easy to use.All the ajustments are way better and lock down with smooth a effortless confidence.My Anba is smiling!Just thought I would share that.I had no idea that this procedure would make such a difference.

-- Emile de Leon (, April 27, 2002


Emile, if you actually take the camera apart and clean all the parts it will be even better. I did that with my Korona and found parts that were broken but hidden. One such part was the back tilting mechanism. Once I resurfaced the camera and chnaged all the loose/broken parts the camera feels like it was new.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, April 27, 2002.

While the camera looks great be aware that some of the treatments one puts on bellows can cause the adhesive to lose its strength. Nothing like being out shooting & discovering the great looking bellows is coming apart where the seams join together.

-- Dan Smith (, April 28, 2002.

I found these notes on the web a while back, but couldn't locate the original source. This was from a reputable camera restorer. Hope it's useful.


Care and Lubrication

Following these instructions will increase the longevity of your camera. It is your obligation to your camera to do this

1st. The Wood. If it gets wet donít worry ! The lacquer is water proof as is the bellows fabric! Wipe yourself down then wipe the camera and bellows. Let dry and spray the ENTIRE camera (not Ground Glass) with Spray Lemon Pledge. Let it sit a half hour. Wipe to a sheen with a VERY SOFT DRY CLOTH TOWEL. NEVER EVER WASH THE GROUND GLASS. The lines will WASH OFF !! If the Glass has no lines wash by immersing in soapy water. Wipe with a soft wash cloth and rinse and dry. The bellows were made with everything from Leather to Naugahyde to a material that was used for military rain coats. On the synthetics wipe with a soft damp sponge and let dry. Spray with Pledge. On leather be VERY carefull. Some conditioners can soften the glue holding them together. I use Lexsol with out any problems. Some use mink oil. What ever you choose do so with caution and test it on a small spot on the bottom of the bellows. The glue softening takes 6 months or more to happen.

2nd. The Metal. DO NOT USE ANY POLISH ON IT. EVER !! Polish will get under the parts and rot the wood screw holes. Keep the camera waxed as above.

3rd. The most important lubrication is the rear extension racks. Those are the 12 in long (on an 8x10) or 8 in long (5x7 or 4x5 ) straight gear racks. Each has 2 slots in it. Each year Fill the slots with LUBRIPLATE #630 brand grease. Roll the rear turntable forward and wipe the excess off. Fill the slots again and roll it back. Wipe excess off. and clean up. If grease gets in the teeth, use an old tooth brush to pull it out. DO NOT CLEAN THE SLOTS OUT. This is good for a year. Pinion Rods need a drop of oil every year also. Lubriplate can be bought at a hardware store. Get the thickest, Like peanut butter. If you can not get Lubriplate use a thick white lithium grease. Remember your car needs its lubrication so does your camera !! Wood to wood surfaces get waxed with a block of Candy making wax available at the grocery store.

Do this on your birthday or every 6 months if it used heavily. Your camera will thank you !

-- Jay wolfe (, April 28, 2002.

The above advice is courtesy of Ken Hough.

-- Hans Berkhout (, April 28, 2002.

I think I like the feel and look of pure lemon oil vs lemon pledge.Lemon pledge kind of has a weird smell..years ago I used to polish my drum set with it...when I didn't have anything else.

-- Emile de Leon (, April 29, 2002.

The post above mentions that wood to wood surfaces should be waxed with a block of candy making wax. I've found that using any kind of wax can cause serious problems while shooting in cold temperatures (< 30 degrees F). The wax seems to get very stiff causing the focus rail to become almost impossible to move. I followed the recommendations in Jack Dykinga's latest book cleaning all the wax off and using a dry silicon lubricant. This has worked very well.

-- Scott Bacon (, April 29, 2002.

FWIW, on the Deardorff Historical Website,I recall Ken recommends using lubriplate #630 to lube the geared metal to metal parts. This isn't the usual lubriplate used on locks and guns, but really thick stuff. I ordered a small tube online from lubriplate(Fiske Brothers Refininery) Though I haven't tried on my LF cameras, K-Y lubricant does a pretty fair job in sub-zero weather(Lubricating cameras! What do you think I'm refering to?)and is easy to remove---water soluable-- -when the weather improves. Cheers!

-- John Kasaian (, May 02, 2002.

I think the lemon Pledge advice above is extremely poor advice for a woodfield camera. If the camera is in fact lacquered, it is not waterproof, it is dampness resistant only. Pledge has fairly agressive solvents in it that clean, redissolve previous wax coats, and evaporate to leave the polish behind. Repeated use on lacquered and "piano finished" woods will make the finish brittle, and in the case of some variations of the older style wood finishes, it will craze the finish. Equally, oiling must be done with considerable care - excess oil will get under the surface finish and ultimate soften and lift it. A better treatment is judicious application of a white floor paste wax ,or a carnauba, applied with the tip of a finger in a cloth, then thoroughly buffed out with a clean soft cloth.

-- Paul Coppin (, May 03, 2002.

A lot people call overcoats 'Lacquer' which may not be an overcoat of Lacquer(nitrocellulose), in any case as Paul Coppin pointed out, Lacquer nor is any other overcoat waterproof.

"1st. The Wood. If it gets wet donít worry !"......regarding this statement, it's never a good idea to let wood get wet after it's been worked into a piece of furniture or a camera.

I'm not sure about 'candy making wax', which I think refers to parafin wax(used sometimes as a lubricant) which is okay, but in any case a furniture wax or good automotive wax is the best protection for the wood and metal in you camera, pledge and a lot of other stuff out there, looks good when applied initially, but will cause problems later as Paul has mentioned. I wouldn't go any where near a camera with silicone.

I use Liberon furniture wax, and/or Mothers California Gold automotive wax, with a light application and/or rubbed/buffed out, this protects the wood and metal from the elements, it's not the use of a wood camera that tears it up, it's the exposure to the elements that beats up the wood.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 04, 2002.

Maybe this will shed additional light on the issue.....after a period of time wood will take on the characteristics of the envirement that it's in, the wood takes on the humidity/moisture content of where it's at, move the wood somewhere else, the cycle starts all over again.

Each time you place the wood in a new envirement it expands and/or contracts depending on humidity/moisture content, and/or warps, cups, twists, splits, and stresses the joinery. None of this is dramatic, it is cumulative, over years, and after a prolonged period of doing nothing to maintain the wood, something will break or a joint will fail.

Wax everything once for about 20 minutes once every three months and odds are that you can forget about anything failing ever, since the wax helps in the wood resisting these moisture/humidity changes and you will not have to pay for needless repairs.

You really don't have to do a whole lot to maintain wood, but you do have to do something.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, May 04, 2002.

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