The Anniversary Speed Graphic Project

Well after a few months of research and hard work, I finally finished the Anniversary Speed Graphic in August. It's been a labour of love but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.

The Anniversary Speed Graphic as I bought it

The Anniversary Speed Graphic as I bought it

When I first bought it, I was quite stumped about what to do with it - restoration vs customisation. The emotional side of me wanted the camera to look like new as it would have 70 years ago. The practical side of me knew how hard that would be - my ability to re-trim a camera in leather was questionable, but also finding the parts for an American camera to restore it properly. In the end the head ruled and I decided I was going to strip the camera down to it's bare components - be them brass, mahogany or stainless steel. I secretly preferred this option.

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Test paper bellows for measurements

Test paper bellows for measurements

The biggest job out of them all were the bellows - the state these were in rendered the camera useless. I attempted to make my own and was not far away from getting a template but in the end I contacted Henry De Haas in Belgium who was recommended by Jo Lommen, camera restorer who also worked on an Anniversary Speed Graphic among others.

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Whilst the bellows were in Belgium, the camera sat in my office and staring at me. The peeling leather was like an unstuck bit of wallpaper asking to be picked at. I started to pick and peel, unscrew and dislodge...there was no going back now, I had started. I had downloaded the service manual for the camera thanks to Graflex.org which broke the camera down into groups and then parts for that group. With that in mind I ordered various sizes of clear ziplock bags - one small size for parts and one larger bag to keep the parts in their groups. The bags were labelled and the parts stored away.

Glue removal

Glue removal

Working on the shell, the leather was held on with an animal glue so soaking it with a hot damp rag would soften it quickly for it to simply be wiped away. Underneath the glue and cheap leather was a lovely Honduras mahogany which is too pretty to cover up. I was doing the right thing.

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A few weeks passed an then Henry sent me a new set of bellows developed from what was left of the bellows that I had posted him. I don't know how he did it but he did an amazing job. I can admit now, especially after my initials attempts at creating my own bellows, that without him I would have been quite stuck and had to wait along time to get the camera up and running. They fitted perfectly first time.

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With the bellows in place, the rest of the camera build was gathering pace. The body was glue free and and sanded down and once oxidised brass fixtures were shining once again. Work began on the rear which was also covered in leather. With the leather removed, it exposed a metal backing plate with painted mahogany screwed onto it. I decided to clean up the metal, prime it, and spray it matt black. I was instantly taken with the look. The black painted mahogany was sanded down to reveal the natural colour of the wood again.

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The front was treated in exactly the same way - cleaned up, primed, and painted matt black. The oxidised studs were all cleaned up and polished, and I had a look I was happy with.

The next problem caused the project to grind to a halt. Some of the screws that were on the camera were clearly the wrong size and had been replaced with cheap alternatives. They were important screws as well - the ground glass retaining screws and the drop bed side arms. This proved I had chosen the right direction with camera because a screw specialist here in Edinburgh spotted I was looking for American screw sizes and that was a problem. Eventually, I turned to a recommendation from a friend and found a good supplier who was able to help me out.

Finally, the camera was finished.

Click for larger version

Click for larger version

I've get a huge amount of satisfaction when I look at this camera now. I love that I can see the flaws and changes that have happened to the body in the 70 year history. What I am very excited about is the ability to shoot large format, something I had no plans to do any time soon.

I have a number of projects lined up for it, all which I'm really excited about so I'll keep you posted on the shape these take as I tackle them.

Resolutions 2014

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope 2014 is a good one for you all. We had a wonderful Christmas and New Year with our son and shared his first festivities with family.

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Another year and another set of resolutions. I've been making them since 2010 when I resolved to get back into a form of art, something that I had left behind in the late nineties. That was when photography raised it's head again. Since then I have made resolutions that tie into photography to direct what I'm doing, except for last year when becoming a Father seemed like a big enough challenge to set myself. 2014 is here now and I've been thinking lots about what I want to achieve in photography.

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Looking at 2013, my first resolution has to be to shoot more - it might seem like a simple resolution but, outside of my DSLR, I really didn't shoot much at all. I made a large format pinhole camera but never really experimented with it, I was out in the field with the Bronica medium format camera but the majority of those rolls still lie undeveloped, and I made cameras to create solargraphs which I have just had the results back from. I need to get these cameras out and working, and make sure the film is developed.

What I never shot a lot of last year was 35mm. I was put off after using my Nikon F60 last Christmas and then again during our trip to London. This demand has now passed since I have a DSLR so I'm going to take my favourite 35mm camera - the Pentax SP500 - and my favourite film stock - Ilford Delta 100 - and start carrying it around in my bag as well as capturing my family.

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Next up, I want to print more. Nearly two years ago I searched Gumtree looking for an enlarger that I could use to print at home. Eventually I found what I was looking for and after a 150 mile roadtrip to north of Aberdeen, I had what I wanted and lots, lots more. For the small sum of £40 I had a 75% of a darkroom and a plethora of photography books. Scouting eBay got me the rest of what I needed and I was ready to go. What I soon found was that setting up a temporary darkroom is quite a task and it took me a few attempts to get it down to a reasonable time. The truth is, it was a hassle to do and maybe one day I will be able set it all up permanently in my house.

At Christmas I decided to make a print for my wife and used my local darkroom, Stills, instead. This proved to be a quicker and far more productive time in the darkroom and I would like to do more of it.

So those are my resolutions for 2014 - shoot and print. As I said, they may seem like simple resolutions but I really want to get back into the flow of creating images and that doesn't need to be complicated

Let me know your resolutions.