Some thoughts on bellows making

Cameras, lenses, tripods..
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Barry Kirsten
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Joined: 27 Feb 2015, 11:13
Location: Brookfield, Vic.

Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby Barry Kirsten » 18 Jan 2017, 10:06

Below is a pic of a 5x7 bellows I recently completed. I followed a pdf by JB Harlin which is very informative, however I ran into trouble. He suggests the top and bottom panels take their dimensions from the outside sizes of the two frames, and the two sides are sized from the inside dimensions of the frames. It didn't seem right to me because both frames are square and it seemed to me that the bellows would not be. I went ahead anyway because the mysteries of bellows design are beyond me and obviously the product of higher intellects than mine. But the bellows came out rectangular, as I'd anticipated. Back to square one.

I was also disappointed with the flexibility - no fault of the instructions, but of the materials used. For the main light-tight material I used black curtain blockout from Spotlight. Excellent material for stopping light, as it has three spray coatings of polyurethane (I think). But sadly too thick. For the inner lining I used cotton lawn, also from Spotlight. The result was that the bellows will not stretch beyond 300mm, and I calculated on at least 360. And so stiff that I'd hate to use simple movements like moderate rise or shift with short-ish lenses. I'd say that for 8x10 or smaller cameras curtain blockout is too stiff, but it may be OK ULF cameras which need stiffer bellows.

5x7 bellows web.jpg


Where to from here... I've thoroughly searched the offerings from Spotlight, and also online. I can't find anything online that isn't available at Spotlight. Trouble is that none of the other materials they carry are opaque enough, even when tested with a sample of lawn behind it. I'm happy with lawn as an inner lining, so have decided to next try an outer layer of ripstop nylon and spray the outside with flexible plastic paint applied after folding. Such a paint is available from auto spares stores and is specifically designed for plastic car bumpers to withstand bumps.

Why go to all this trouble? 1) I have a very tight budget for equipment and consumables; 2) I think it's good to keep alive these old crafts; and 3) I love making things, especially things that help me make photographs.

Cheers to all.

andrewch59
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Joined: 08 Sep 2013, 12:56
Location: Stanthorpe, QLD

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby andrewch59 » 22 Apr 2017, 08:17

Barry I had the same problem with material when looking to patch old bellows and the like. I went into a local material/haberdashery store in Warwick and to my surprise they had some material no thicker than normal polyester which was light tight. It would need some scotch guard to waterproof it, but I think it would be perfect for bellows. I use it as a focussing cloth.
If you are interested I could see, on my next visit to Warwick, if she still has some??

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Barry Kirsten
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Joined: 27 Feb 2015, 11:13
Location: Brookfield, Vic.

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby Barry Kirsten » 16 May 2017, 16:57

Sorry Andrew, I completely missed your last - and I visit here twice a day! That material sounds good. It'd be handy to know the name of it, as I could probably get some in Melbourne.

As an update to my first post, I've been very perplexed about the whole theory of bellows making. I can't for the life of me understand how the above process is supposed to produce a square bellows. I decided to unfold the bellows and re-fold it in the opposite direction i.e., instead of folding the longer ribs outward, I folded them inward. With all bellows apparently, if one rib folds outward, the adjacent one folds inward, and so on. So folding in the opposite direction... wait for it... produced a square bellows, on the bottom, but rectangular at the top. It must have been the other way initially, but I didn't notice the geometry of the small end - only that the large end was rectangular.

My conclusion is, that with this method, the only result possible is one end square and the other end rectangular. My next trial will either be to use this method - but - with all dimensions the same, OR try another recipe like that of Smetz.

I'm afraid with all these methods, I find after many readings of each that I have unanswered questions and doubts about the likelihood of success. I think this is a common feeling.

andrewch59
Posts: 90
Joined: 08 Sep 2013, 12:56
Location: Stanthorpe, QLD

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby andrewch59 » 18 May 2017, 07:50

I'll keep you in mind next time I'm in Warwick. It was always an activity I wanted to partake in, even have a couple of instructions somewhere, but never got around to it. The one time I needed a set I went to Custom Bellows UK, I checked the exchange rate at the time and it wasn't too bad. When they sent the invoice for payment the rate was woefull and ended up costing me over $500 for a set of 10x12 to fit on a Vageeswari.

Lachlan717
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Joined: 03 Aug 2012, 16:49

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby Lachlan717 » 18 May 2017, 10:20

Have a look at ecbuyonline. Did a great set of bellows for me.

Heaps cheaper than the Custom Bellows.

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Barry Kirsten
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Joined: 27 Feb 2015, 11:13
Location: Brookfield, Vic.

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby Barry Kirsten » 18 May 2017, 14:13

I agree. Rudy at ecbuyonline does a great job. I bought a bellows for my Linhof 4x5 several years ago from him; $75 if I remember correctly and I'm still pleased with them. He'll also make bellows to your specifications.

andrewch59
Posts: 90
Joined: 08 Sep 2013, 12:56
Location: Stanthorpe, QLD

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby andrewch59 » 18 May 2017, 18:06

That's very timely, I have two sets to make for vageeswari 10x12 field cameras and another square set for a Globus studio.

Walter Glover
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Joined: 31 Jul 2012, 22:31
Location: Leichhardt, NSW

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby Walter Glover » 18 May 2017, 18:10

Is that the guy on the north coast of NSW? At Forster, I think?
Walter Glover

"Photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition." —Robert Galassi

Lachlan717
Posts: 489
Joined: 03 Aug 2012, 16:49

Re: Some thoughts on bellows making

Postby Lachlan717 » 18 May 2017, 23:42

Walter Glover wrote:Is that the guy on the north coast of NSW? At Forster, I think?


Ecbuyonline? Nup; China.


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