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Building a naked Aero Ektar Speed Graphic: The AEROgraphic project part 4 – reassembly

Welcome to the final stretch. If you’ve made it this far then you’re very close to seeing your AEROgraphic project come together. By the time you’ve completed the steps described in this article you’ll have a fully functioning 4×5 camera, so don’t lose heart.

But…we don’t want to stop there. In part five, I’ll be showing you how to calibrate your rangefinder to your lens, and set your focal plane shutter for accurate speeds. Finally, In part six, I will be showing you some of the photographs I’ve taken with my own AEROgraphic and inviting you to share your own.

If this is your first time here, I strongly recommend you visit the preceding parts to this series first:

If you’re looking for the rangefinder and focal plane shutter tuning guide, you can find it here:

Let’s have a look at what’s covered in this article:

 

 

Preparing for reassembly

Parts one to three already this project’s prerequisites, disassembly of the camera, and finishing the shell with stain and lacquer. If you’ve been following along up to this point you should have the following large components set aside:

  • Speed Graphic shell – sanded, painted, stained and varnished.
  • Front standard and bellows.
  • Graflock mount (optionally stripped and repainted).
  • Bed and focus rails – sanded, painted and varnished.

 

You should also have the following 19 bags of components (in alphabetical order):

  • Bed
  • Bed guides
  • Bed hinge
  • Bed release
  • Bellows mount
  • Camera trim
  • Feet
  • Flash contacts
  • Graflock mount
  • Leather
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Rangefinder
  • Shutter button
  • Shutter cable
  • Shutter cover
  • Shutter curtain
  • Shutter mechanism
  • Shutter retainer
  • Strap

Tools and materials-wise, you will need your screwdrivers, a pair of scissors, some PVC glue, your needle-nose pliers and a mallet.

Let’s get started.

 

 

Step 1: Bed release, strap, shutter retainer, trim, focus wheel cowls

Grab the parts bag marked “Shutter curtain” and remove the two shutter curtain retainers and their six screws. Screw them into the cutouts in the frame near the strap lugs as per the image below.

If you plan on adding a Linhof Left-hand grip, don’t attach the strap lugs as you’ll need the extra space to disengage the grip from the mount. Center the grip’s base plate on your camera shell, mark its position attach it to your frame.

Speed Graphic - Linhof grip mount

Speed Graphic – Linhof grip mount

If you do not plan on adding the grip, find your strap baggie and remove the lugs, retainers and screws. Remount the strap lugs, noting the position of the lug retaining pins. Go ahead and thread your strap back on.

Next, reassemble your bed latch. If you have a side-mounted door release button, start by reinserting the latch spring into the groove on the inside top of the frame. Then, assemble your screws, washers, latch bar and rubber grommets. Finally, slot and screw the entire assembly into place. You may find it useful to glue the bed release button on the sprung pin.

Speed Graphic - Bed - Latch

Speed Graphic – Bed – Latch

For the next step, set out your camera trim and slowly push each piece into place, starting at the bottom of the frame. If you need to, add one or two drops of PVC glue to the trim blades but be sure to use it sparingly. Before securing the trim near the cutouts for your focus wheels, you will need to find your focus wheel cowls and the leather you saved.

Cut two strips of leather just wide enough to be laid in each cowl from end to end, then cut them to length. Place each cut strip in to the cutout directly on the frame and glue them into place using PVC glue.

You may now reinstall the body trim that protrudes into these cutouts, ensuring that the trim rests on top of the leather. Finally, secure each cowl into place using its pin, ensuring that the the order is: shell, leather, cowl. The wider of the two cowls goes on the shutter button side of the body, the thinner one goes by the strap.

 

 

Step 2: Bed

If you removed the tripod mount it’s time to put it back.

Start reassembly by laying down a leaf spring on each side of the bed and then placing the focus wheel bar on top of it. The bar should rest in small cutouts on the left and right of the frame.

There should be marks left in the paint on the bed, spring and bar to show you where they need to go. If not, center the spring relative to the cutouts and place the focus wheel bar on top.

Next, insert the left and right focus rail support boards into the empty frame, lining up the rivet holes. They should be loosely held into place by the bed support arms. Reassemble one rivet/screw pair at a time starting with the larger silver screws on the outside edge of each board.

If your camera has hexagonal rivets, take care to line up each one with the hole. So that it is as flush as possible. Depending on the number of coats of paint, this might take a while.

Speed Graphic - Bed rivets

Speed Graphic – Bed rivets

Don’t make the screws too tight and repeat with the other rail support board.

Once the outside edge of each support board is screwed in, you can make these screws tight, checking that there’s no wobble in the board.

With both support boards in place, it’s time to reassemble the focus rail guides. The top screw on the left guide goes under the focus scale, so you’ll need to loosen it and slide it out of place. As with the focus rail support board, don’t make the screws too tight just yet.

On the right guide, you will need to make sure that you reinstall the focus resistance lever. The lever itself is installed after the guide has been screwed into place.

Once both guides are in place, insert your focus rail into the back of the bed and pull it forward as far as it will go. Next, ensuring that the rear, hinged section of the bed is flat, rack the focus rail so that it slots into that rear section. Once the rail is in, it should be engaged with the focus wheels and move freely as you turn them. If not, loosen the screws and try again. Finally, make your screws are tight. The finished bed should look something like the image below. Note how the rear focus rails sit under the guides.

Speed Graphic - Bed removed

Speed Graphic – Bed removed

The last step for the bed will be to bolt it back to the frame. If the thin retaining bolts (which were glued to the bottom of the frame), came off when you took off the camera’s feet, find them and use them to secure those bolts into place. You may want to only screw the bolts in partially and then close/lock the bed, as it may make the next step easier.

 

 

Step 3: Feet and bed support

Reinsert the feet by using your mallet to tap lightly on a chopstick placed over the foot you are refitting. Be patient and make sure to slide the feet all the way in. Once secured, open your bed and make the bed hinge screws are tight.

With the feet securely installed, move your attention to the mounts for the bed support arms (the flat pieces of metal which hold the bed arms in place and allow you to lock the bed flat). Grab the bag labelled “Bed guides” and slot the guides into the bed arms before secure each one into the normal open position, 90′ from the frame.

Speed Graphic - Bed mount

Speed Graphic – Bed mount

With the bed now fully secure, ensure that opens to 90 degrees and rack the focus rails back into the body. This process should be smooth. If not, loosen a couple of screws at the rear of the focus rail guides and try again. Once it’s done, tighten the screws up but not excessively so.

Close the bed.

 

 

Step 4: Flash contacts, shutter button, front shutter release cable

Using the picture you took or the example below, reassemble the flash contacts. There are two contacts that extend into the rear of the camera from the left-most part of the image below. Do not install them yet. Reattach the leaf Spring you removed (center of the frame).

Speed Graphic - Flash contacts

Speed Graphic – Flash contacts

Find your shutter button mechanism and press the button in. You can use a cable release it it makes life easier, as you’ll want to keep button pressed and reinsert the mechanism into its slot before securing its retaining screws – but not too tightly.

Speed Graphic - Shutter button

Speed Graphic – Shutter button

Once installed, our next step is to reattach the front shutter cable release. The release cable should still be connected to your bellows/front standard, so slide the front standard onto the focus rail and lock it tight at the very front of the bed.

Reassemble the cable release mechanism as per the photo you took during disassembly, or the image below. This is going to be fiddly.

Speed Graphic - Front shutter

Speed Graphic – Front shutter

Reassemble the shutter spring and linkage, taking care to ensure the “wrench” connects with the small arm that protrudes from the shutter button assembly to the inside of the shell.

Step 5: Bellows and flash contacts

Remember the two flash contacts you have spare? Install them now. After that, assemble the four rear plates at the back of the camera, taking care to ensure that the plate with the integrated and shutter contacts is installed with the shutter contacts towards the top of the frame.

Reach into the camera from the rear and pull the bellows from the front standard back towards you. It may help if your front standard has been moved to the middle of the focus rails.

The rear of the bellows have a thin steel support and this needs to be snapped into the left and right of the bellows mount at the rear of the camera frame.

One you’ve done this, pull the bottom of the bellows towards you and use one of the U shaped clips to secure it. The short end of the U has two dimples, these face towards the rear of the camera. Repeat with the top clip.

SG- Parts - Bellows - left/right clips

SG- Parts – Bellows – left/right clips

SG- Parts - Bellows - top/bottom clips

SG- Parts – Bellows – top/bottom clips

You may now install your Graflock mount but before you do, you will need to mount two L-shaped brass pieces to the top of the camera frame.

Speed Graphic - Varnished - Top (brass mounts in place)

Speed Graphic – Varnished – Top (brass mounts in place)

Once the brass plates are mounted, you can screw in the Graflock mount. At this point you have a working camera. In fact, Crown Graphic users can do just that and skip the next part entirely.

For the rest of you Speed Graphic folks, it’s time to install (but not calibrate) the shutter.

 

Step 6: Shutter mechanism

Remember I asked you to cut out the leather from over the shutter cover? This is where it comes in. Find that piece and place leather over the shutter “pit”. Lineup the holes and tape the top right in place with painter’s tape.

Speed Graphic - Shutter mechanism and curtains removed

Speed Graphic – Shutter mechanism and curtains removed

Next, reinsert your shutter curtain, making sure that the wound up side (with small cog) is at the top. Make sure that the top of the shutter curtain looks like the image below and move your attention to the shutter mechanism.

Speed Graphic - Shutter position

Speed Graphic – Shutter position

The shutter speed selector may have moved out of alignment while you’ve been messing around. Set shutter speed on mechanism to “O O”, just like the picture below. Keep spinning the selector knob until you get the correct alignment.

Now that the shutter curtain and mechanism both in the open position, install the shutter mechanism top side first, ensuring that the shutter mode selector (the long knurled bar at the bottom of the image above), is in it’s lowest position.

Keep an eye on the top of the shutter curtain and make sure that it does not rotate during the installation process. Once the pin for the top roller engages in the hole marked in the picture above, do the same with the bottom curtain roller pin. This may take a few attempts but keep at it.

Speed Graphic - Shutter mechanism top pin engaged

Speed Graphic – Shutter mechanism top pin engaged

Once both pins are in place and you’ve verified the top curtain hasn’t moved, screw the mechanism into place and then reinstall the beveled washer nut and its retaining bolt as pictured below. The beveled washer nut is your shutter tensioner.

Speed Graphic - Shutter tension washer

Speed Graphic – Shutter tension washer

The image above shows the shutter mechanism’s “governor” engaged. This clever little device slows down your shutter to provide you with slower shutter speeds. Flip it to the right – as per the image above – and you can select slower speeds. Flip it to the left and you can select faster ones. When you install the shutter mechanism, it’ll be easier if you have this switch flipped to the left.

With the shutter speed retaining bolt loosened, use a screwdriver to turn the beveled washer counter clockwise one or two full turns. Relax your screwdriver and let it slowly spin back if needed. The trick is to “reset” your shutter spring, putting it into a neutral position.

Once you are happy that your spring is neutral, draw a line using a pencil/sharpe and give it eight full counter-clockwise rotations. Tighten the retaining bolt. The image above shows the shutter tensioned after calibration. Mine took 7.5 turns.

The main thing here is to be gentle. Your spring is old and likely tired. DO NOT OVERWIND YOUR SPRING!

With the shutter installed, wind your shutter selector knob clockwise until you reach “1000”. Set your shutter mode selection switch (the long knurled bar three images above), to the top most position and press your shutter button consecutively to cycle through your shutter speeds.

When you get to the “O” position, press it again. If the shutter does not close by itself, you will need to wind your shutter back to “O” and give your beveled washer another full or half counterclockwise turn.

Once you’re happy, add the shutter selector mask (the funny shaped flat, black piece of metal), and then reinstall your cover.

Step 7: Rangefinder

Separate the rangefinder arm from the assembly, then separate the rangefinder cover from the base as per the image below:

Speed Graphic - Rangefinder assembly

Speed Graphic – Rangefinder assembly

Mount the rangefinder base (second from the right)onto the newly installed shutter button mechanism, then mount the cover (third from the right). Leave the rangefinder arm and flash bracket for the moment.

When installing the rangefinder cover, cut a 1x1cm piece of leather and fold it in half and half again. Slide this wedge under the bottom section of the cover and tighten the two screws that secure it into place.

Once assembled, try pressing the shutter button a few times to ensure you have good, clean movement. If you don’t, it’s because those two screws are too tight. Loosen them until you have free movement of the shutter, ensuring the rangefinder cover is not too loose.

Finally, we want to reinstall the rangefinder arm.  With the front standard still at the front of the focus rail, slip the rangefinder arm on its pin and let the arm touch the back of the camera frame. Tighten the retaining bolt and move to the next step.

Step 8: reinstall viewfinder

Top - Optical viewfinder removed

Top – Optical viewfinder removed

Top - Optical viewfinder Mounted

Top – Optical viewfinder Mounted

Reinstall your optical viewfinder mount and slide the finder back into place.

You’re done.

 

 

 

End of part four

No, seriously, that’s it. You have essentially rebuilt your camera and can use it to take photographs with your lens of choice.

All that remains to be done is double-checking that your bellow are light-tight and setting the infinity stops on your focus rail.

You’re welcome to do this now, or later, it’s your call. You should be able to cycle your camera through all of its shutter speeds, as well as trigger your front shutter release, so if you want to go ahead and ignore parts five and six, you’re welcome to do so.

For those of you looking for a complete build with the Kodak Aero Ektar lens, you’ll need to head over to the next part, which will be released on March 17th. Part five will cover a complete calibration of your shutter speeds and your rangefinder.

The end result will be a camera which you can use to reliably and accurately focus to your Aero Ektar lens at f/4 and smaller apertures. using the side-mounted rangefinder only.

For those of you whose journey ends here, your rear shutter should be accurate within 1/3 of a stop. If you’d like to learn how to tune it down to thousandths of a second I look forward to seeing you for part five, which you can jump to using the links below:

Thanks for reading!

~ EMULSIVE

 

 

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About The Author

EMULSIVE

Self confessed film-freak and film photography mad-obsessive and OVERLORD at emulsive.org. I push, pull, shoot, boil and burn film everyday, and I want to share what I learn.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for your generosity in doing this. Just ordered a nice Linhof left hand grip for mine, planning on following your lead here, shortly, once I muster the will to dismantle it.

    Reply

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