Before the rush

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by evan-pak

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I have just bought a Hasselblad (500EL) medium format camera for a play with, and it's in quite "used" condition.

Some of the leather covering is starting to show its age (peeling/shrinking) so I want to get it re-covered (and possibly re-chromed at the same time).

I really can't afford to have this done professionally (if such a service even exists), and given that it's basically thin leather cut and glued on, I cant do any damage in trying myself.

Has anyone any experience in camera restoration that could give any tips? I have looked but can't find any pre-cut kits or templates either.

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See, if you were Canadian, you'd know that the only possible answer to this is duct tape. ;) – John Cavan Aug 11 '12 at 14:10
Haha!!!!!!! nice :-) – Digital Lightcraft Aug 11 '12 at 14:17
Americans are also high consumers of duct tape. Mythbusters love duct tape. – J. Walker Aug 11 '12 at 14:47
true, and I love the Mythbusters :-) (in a bro-mance way... nothing iffy...) – Digital Lightcraft Aug 11 '12 at 16:17
Photographers should know, though, that gaffer's tape beats duct tape. – mattdm Sep 20 '15 at 10:50
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I don't know that re-chroming is a good idea -- to have it done anything like properly means taking the body (and probably the back(s), assuming they're in the same sort of condition) down to nothing, then going further still. They need to be taken down to the bare brass, polished, then replated (normally with nickel, then chrome). Careful masking (usually with a tarry substance) can preserve some surfaces, but there's an actual removal of, followed by an accumulation of, metal involved, so the fit between parts might not quite be what it was before. Machining after the fact may be necessary to get everything working again. Someone who specialises in camera restoration will have the equipment and spec sheets handy, but your local plater probably won't. If you can find somebody who does brush plating (where one of the electrodes needed is rather like a paintbrush, so you can do limited areas of a larger object) then it just may be worth a shot, but expect to be able to see the repairs.

As for the recovering, you'll find the leather most easily if you look at bookbinder's supplies (although it is available elsewhere). The type of leather you're looking for is called "top grain", which is just the hair side of the hide (assuming a mammal, of course) skived off of the whole thickness. (The remainder of the hide, depending on the species and area, is used for suedes, laces and stiffened shoe findings like toe caps and heel counters.) You don't need a whole lot, so you can go "exotic" if you want to have people ask which collectors' edition they missed.

The glue normally used is just a contact cement. Liquids tend to be better than sprays in terms of longevity and flexibility. (The Barge brand used by shoemakers is particularly good.) You may find that getting a smooth coating on the camera metal is easiest if you thin the glue quite a bit. Don't worry too much about the excess, it's pretty easy to remove with a crepe rubber block (available from shoemakers -- it's used on Clark's Wallabees, and used to be a very popular soling back in the '60s and '70s -- as well as in art supply shops as a "rubber cement pick-up"). You probably don't want to thin the glue used on the leather nearly as much, to avoid having it soak through. Use wax paper (or, if you have some handy, silicone release paper) between the leather and the body as an aid to positioning -- once you press the two together, they're stuck.

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+1, but I'm sticking by duct tape as The One True(tm) answer.. – John Cavan Aug 11 '12 at 16:07
Excellent answer there Stan! i was going to reply yesturday but the site went into some sort of read-only mode... I'll look into brush plating kits, may be the best way - hey maybe i could go all bling and do a blue & gold version :-) – Digital Lightcraft Aug 12 '12 at 6:52
@Stan Rogers - as it happens, im a little disappointed to report that the 'Blad in infact covered in leather effect vinyl. so im doing an upgrade it seems! – Digital Lightcraft Aug 14 '12 at 11:18

Precisely precut latherette body & magazine covers are available at 15 to 34$ at eBay. Just clean existing damaged leather(synthetic) by using paint thinner. Brush metal with zero sand paper, clean with thinner. Apply liquid gum thin coating (normally used for sticking shoe soles). Put uniform pressure on each part one by one. Dry for 3hrs. Remove excess gum if visible in the edges. Using can order any colour black, Brown, green.

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