Film / Film Photography / Photography / Ultra Large Format / Victorian Studio Camera / Wass Camera

Wass Camera Rebuild Post #8 – The Bellows

The bellows were always going to be an interesting part of this reconstruction, namely due to the fact that they were so big, and so badly damaged – finding something from another camera wasn’t really an option. Likewise repairing the originals, something I had originally considered but decided against after seeing just how badly they had deteriorated over time. This badly:

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Yep. So that left me with two options:

1. Make your own bellows from scratch.

2. Find someone who can make huge bellows and get some made up.

Option 1 was out of the question – whilst there are many guides and books which explain the process in great detail, making bellows on this scale really seemed beyond my ability and budget, especially bearing in mind that they may not actually work or be light tight in the end!

Option 2 – who on earth makes bellows for cameras in this day and age? And particularly such an unusual size? In the UK too? Step forward Custom Bellows, a company that have been in existence since 1895, probably the time this camera had been made originally.  I did consider that they could have even made the original bellows first time round, but lets not get carried away with ourselves…

So after firing off a quick email with details I received a very competitive quote, and after a chat with Keith from Custom Bellows to confirm a few details I agreed to go ahead with the order (thanks to a very kind parental loan) and sent the originals down to Birmingham.

Keith had originally quoted me a 6-8 week turnaround, very reasonable I thought, I was a little surprised (in a good way) when he called me up to let me know they would be ready in less than 10 days. Now that’s service! I have also kept what was left of the originals should they ever be required again. The package arrived and I wasn’t disappointed with what was inside:

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Couldn’t resist a trial fit into the camera:

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I suppose in an ideal world they’d have been red like the originals but that’s not so much of an issue. Some bellows are better than no bellows:

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Keith recommended gluing the bellows to the frames with contact adhesive, and he had also left plenty of extra material which was trimmed to size. Did one side at a time, allowing the glue to dry properly overnight before starting the second side:

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Left to dry:

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And the finished product! (Bit dusty, sorry)

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Inside, the supporting frame in the middle would probably benefit from a coat of non-reflective black paint:

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Cat back scratcher:

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And next to a Mamiya C330 to give a sense of scale:

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And this is pretty much where I am with it right now, still a few of the smaller fixtures and fittings to clean up and refit but nothing major. Work is continuing on the film holder repairs and ground glass before testing with photographic paper. Can’t believe it’s almost ready for testing!! Aiming to test over the Christmas/New Year period – watch this space…

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