Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Thoughts on the First VALOY enlarger

With the help of Ebay I recently acquired a box of early Valoy parts from a dealer in the North of England.  They went for 0.99p plus postage and  included some Gamer parts that no doubt will well cover the cost. The Leica parts included another column cover that I described in an earlier Blog posting and all was in remarkably fine condition. I have added a few odds and ends from my spares box and have ended up with an example of the first model of Valoy to put into practical use.

The later Valoy chassis as in the Type 11 derives it's geometrical integrity upon the interface of a number of flat surfaces and planes which assemble at right angles but the first design had a few 'built in' problem areas for the Wetzlar engineers. The thin dome sections containing the lamp and negative are affixed by precision screws to a cast hollow arm uniting the column and the head in a factory set relationship. It follows that this fixing is of the utmost importance in ensuring that the axis of the head is at the precise 90 degrees to the column as no other adjustment is possible. The care taken by Leitz is clear from the almost tissue thin spring steel shims used in the head assembly and the torque applied to the three heavy screws-which I recommend should never be undone.

I have attached some illustrations of the restored enlarger using a few spare parts I had. The column supplied was authentic but the electrical wiring had been modified and had non standard exit holes drilled so has been replaced ,again from spares,  I had  selected a stainless steel tube from a early De Vere 203, of exactly the same diameter,  which solves the corrosion issue once and for all. However, there is the question of drilling and threading for the set screw for the foot and this has defeated me so far as it is a hard metal. The Leitz electric plug system is almost impossible to restore and, as received, had been replaced by a cable running through a hole drilled in the corroded plug!

I make no apology for a column foot that came from an early Type 11 in black with a superb name plate that could not be resisted but made the question of earthing even more complex.  The red screw at the foot of the  original column no doubt met the regulations in Germany when the enlarger was made-1932! and the machine had the serpentine original wiring.  Rewiring advice is beyond the ability of this Blog,  but, whatever you decide,do fit an efficient earthing system and if in any doubt get it checked by a professional.  Remember that contact between the various parts may be poor.

The last Leica darkroom guide from the v35 period makes the valid point that beyond the safety issue effective earthing may reduce dust attracted by static.

This may be the right place to remark that I have found at least four types of lampholder in Valoy/Vasex/Focomat  enlargers fitted to a lamphouse which differs little in construction between 1920 and 1970.  This Valoy had an Bakelite holder with three insulated  brass spring pins surrounding the lampholder and permitting the adjustment screws to be used to obtain the precise lamp coverage. In this case the brass pins were firmly fixed  in place but still springy.

I have not seen the small light trap in any lamp fitting prior to the last Color-Focomat when this took the form of a spring washer floating around the cable entry tube and was presumably fitted for colour printing sensitivity purposes.  The first and oldest holder seen is all metal and has an interrupted annular ring around the lampholder bearing on the outer tubular housing and giving the same adjustment.These seem very fragile probably due to the heating of very thin metal.  Some of the metal fittings use brass pins with springs recessed onto the pin and some do not!  In later examples the solid pins will fly out with some force and care should be taken to remove the lampholder in,say, a plastic bag to avoid loss of these tiny, but vital, spares.  The last metal holder has strips of thin brass pressed out of the holder to form spring bearings but are still forced outwards in some cases with small coil springs which seems a logical way of saving money and obtaining efficiency at the works when the much revised lampholder on the Colour Focomat was issued.

The condenser bears no similarity to the Type 2 and is more like the first Focomat with a rotary lifting arm of super smooth action. In fact it is best described as a short Focomat  type.  Absence of a bellows means one less part to worry about when restoring after 80 years.  I am told that neither of my anti- newton plates are really satisfactory with the Valoy 2 as they distort the light paths but they find little use with the Valoy 1 as a thin plate of card or acetate in the classic Leica Guide pattern will suffice. Two of my a-n plates are the correct Leitz fitting and the other a Japanese replica product made in small numbers in the last year or so, but of similar high quality.

Should the inner dome require repainting this can be done with car aerosol spray but this job will be eased by first removing the reflector surface which is a loose push fit in most cases.  Do bear in mind that a wide range of 'silver' shades is available and I have often found that the short household cans from hardware outlets are easier to work with. This applies, in particular, to the later white finish.

The baseboard on this one was missing but they do come up from time to time and it would be nice to have an original rather than one shown which is attractive, but modern.  In the meantime that fitted has been constructed from block board which arrived as part of an Ikea wardrobe and proved to be solid timber which could take a precision cut from a power rail saw.  ( Short advertising break for my son,  Rupert, of 'Money for Nothing' BBC TV-On a TV near you. Thanks for the carpentry, Ru. )

The panels had six inches removed at each end which was glued under pressure at each end of the new base  to guard against warps, and to give a firmer base for the column.  Care was taken to see that the blockboard seams did not match.  Four doorstops lift the finished base off my darkroom bench and allow tidy cable runs. This board is larger than necessary but gives me some options for future use.

I first examined a number of original base boards, some of which have been beyond realistic recovery.  The subsequent delamination by dampness reveals  most  to be composed of three plies of hardwood each about seven millimeters thick with a outer coating of veneer.  There are countless shades ranging from deep Mahogany varnish to an acid green/blue tinge in flat varnish,  no doubt reflecting what was available in difficult times.

Older readers will recognise the column extension which represents, with the Purma camera, one of the few Welsh contributions to camera history being a product of  'Gnome'  of  that country. It was a product  marketed when the hobby in UK had to produce all it's goods from home industries as imports were restricted.  It bears some likeness to the Reprovit bracket but for full security and integrity of the geometry a further bracket at the top would inspire confidence.  A very similar bracket was available as 73930 in the New York price list of 1939,  also an extension arm was advertised by "R.G. Lewis" in 1946.  I have contrived to cover all possible bright metal in the light path using an early Leitz column  felt cover.  Finally,  the type of red filter and fitting shown is it seems a stock Leitz size as it is also a perfect fit on my Vasex enlarger.The 50mm lens shown is an attempt at authenticity and is an Elmar such as the Leica user might have transferred from his camera as was popular at the time.

Not a faultless restoration, and in some ways not authentic, but acceptable , I  feel, for 0.99p and the scrap box!
First , the Focomat style negative stage
 The early type dome/ arm joint
 The column offset, courtesy of Gnome
 The base,masking frame and column cover

This is the Elmar in place-too valuable to heat up by switching the light on!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I've seen the light- but it should be dark red?

Almost all the negative carriers for 35mm film on Leitz enlargers follow the pattern of a single metal plate with few variations. Yes, Esmiralda, I know there are 3x4 and 4x4 versions which I have, with glass,  never used and am never likely to.

However to start to plough a new furrow I wonder just how these items were made?  I ask from the practical viewpoint of a man trying to replace the red gelatin in two standard holders. At a guess the channel is formed  by soldering shim onto the base brass after the red windows are filled. Trouble is you just can't see the join. ( Avoiding obvious humour)

Use of a magnifying lens on the outer edge shows no trace of two parts having been joined but a faint line is visible around the film aperture, always assuming you have not opened it out to 25x37 with a file. The tiny screws holding the silver 'ramps' are not involved.

I have found a holder from a pre Valoy model which must date to the 1920's which had missing red gelatine but an obvious milled recess into which a replacement gel can be fitted in a few moments. I used a slip of the safelight that used to come in Ilford MG filter sets and bedded it in with UHU which did not react. However, no nearer the real question of how do we repair standard negative carriers?

The only rather poor solution I can come up with is to cut a mask such as appeared in the Morgan Leica manual at one time.This was a possible cure for Newtons Rings. Made from red acetate and covering both the gaps it should then show film numbers against red film.

Yet again,  any ideas welcome. This is a picture of the older carrier which was easy to repair.

The Long and the Short of things...

There has been a discussion for some time about the correct bulb to fit to a Valoy 2 enlarger. An excellent illustration appears on one commercial website which has been on display for some time.

This refers in particular to Osram products  (beloved by the factory)  I was at a loss to know what I should fit to be correct, although I had used a Valoy for years with no complaints and any old 75 watt enlarger bulb that came to hand.  I have just checked my small stock of bulbs and find that the 75 watt bulbs of modern issue in bright glossy boxes all measure 4.13 inches long which is even shorter than the 'short' Osram product, but,, moreover,  also shorter than early Phillips bulbs in distinctly 1950's packs. I would assume that I have bulbs small enough to give optimum coverage in a Valoy 2 -if I notice !

As ever, comments on this tenuous point are welcome at the email address above as the 'comment' facility seems to have ceased to function.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Leica News and Technique- Jan/Feb 1937

This edition is a rather interesting publication of E.Leitz from the London office sent out to all registered owners- and sold at six pence to others.  A suitable winter picture was selected for the cover, as appears below, which is credited to Dr. Robert Semple,of Aberdeen.  Efforts to trace the background of this Leicaman were quite easy-always assuming that I have the right person- as a lengthy account of his life in Medicine and his War Service appears on the Internet. He is not credited with an interest in the Leica but it does appear that he must have been aged about 20 at the time the picture was published.

All this would be interesting but would not have taken my eye had it not been for an item on Ebay last week. Advertised for sale was a lantern slide in a 80mm mount of this very picture. As you can imagine I had to 'Buy it Now' at a very modest price. Now, black and white slides were often made in Eldia film holders but these were of the exact size of the Leica negative. This picture has been printed to about 60mm x 45mm.  The label reads "from Leica Magazine"  as  1936-217 and the mount is signed "R.W.Blakeley".   I am lost as to why this picture should become a lantern slide in a larger size when one would expect to see it printed on film to produce a positive image for 2x2 mounts which existed in 1936.  In fact 'Agfacolor' was advertised in the magazine concerned.  I was interested to see that the slide shows slightly more than the printed page so may well have come from the original negative rather than being a copy of the magazine.

I have not attempted to take the research further but should any reader have personal knowledge which might help then do let me know.  Just use the email address at the top of the Blog.

And here is the slide, under glass.

Footnote October 2017: I have only just noticed that Dr Robert Semple(M.D) of Aberdeen appears as a Prize Winner for a picture of a Gull in Flight in the Competition results in my post of 2/7/2017.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Cri de Coeur - 1950

Also found in a Magazine of 1950 was this small plea from the Secretary of the Circle which strikes a familiar note 67 years later..........All very true today, except that contact should be the Hon.  Sec........ to hear from you!

Artist at Work- R.G. Lewis copy from 1950

From the first page  of Miniature Camera World for April 1950 comes a delightful illustration from 'R.G.Lewis'. The derivation of this name (which only disappeared recently) is a story for another post but it is clear that in 1950 genuine works accessories were in short supply, or manufacture had not resumed after the war.
It should be added that all the addresses shown are decades out of date!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Our 100th Post on this Blog- Recruitment

It is appropriate that this 100th post returns to the original aim of publicising the Leica Postal Portfolios, now Leica Society, and its Circles. Fuller details can be found on The Leica Society website but what an opportunity to scan an article by H.S, Newcombe from 1938 on the very subject.

PLEASE NOTE: All the above addresses are well out of date-Please follow the Club Website.

Leica Competition No. 2 - 1937/8

An interesting competition entry form came into my hands recently,  folded inside a copy of Leica News and Technique, but no hope of entering as entries had to be in by January 31st 1938 !

This Competition was conducted by Leitz at 20 Mortimer Street. Those of us who support the Society in the Annual meetings and Exhibition will be surprised at the relaxed rules that apply today, contrasted with 1938. The practice of requiring contact prints with entries seems to have dropped out in the post war period and was introduced in order that the sponsor could check the fixed relationship of sprocket holes and frame which is the tell-tale signature of a Leica negative.  Also noted is the first rule which precludes 'grey' imports from competing,  but , after all,  Leitz were  putting up the prizes which were not inconsiderable in the values of 1937/8. The submission of 20x24 prints seems to have gone out of fashion in most amateur work and probably just as well knowing the difficulty of mailing even 16x20 prints.  Clause 11 would not be accepted by modern workers and is difficult to justify as reproduction in the magazine was probably the limit of use made of prints. Use of a' nom de plume' is novel and one wonders why a simple number would not suffice?  Finally,  in a nice touch of detail, a small transparent envelope is attached to contain return postage.

and the Winner was.................

In passing, Dr Robert Semple(M.D) of Aberdeen has a mention in my post on this Blog of 2/7/17 when I record his cover picture for Leica News and Technique

The March/April  1938 edition of the Magazine contains the results which are lengthy. From my own knowledge of the early membership, and well known Leica users of those days, it would be usual to find familiar names right across the winners but it is necessary to go to Group 1V and the winner of
 Prize (Extra) to find Dr. Jouhar  and in Group V - 3rd prize- Frank Dumur of Haus Rosenberg Wetzlar, which might be a questionable entry under Rule 12!.