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Bellows Checking and Repair

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Thanks to Juan Trinidad who has kindly provided the information in Italics on this page.


Fixing light leaks in the Bellows

Most light leaks consist of pinholes in the very corners of the folds - due to wear.

Point a flash unit at bellows while looking from inside the camera. Popping the flash will identify pinhole points. Seal pinholes by applying Black Silicone Gasket Maker from auto supply stores.

Retest bellows with flash.

Alternatively I use a torch in the back of the camera in a darkened room. This shows the pin holes up quite clearly. For fixing - I use small pieces of black plastic electricians tape. This particularly suitable for post war Agfa folding cameras as it is similar to the material their bellows are made out of. However please note that black plastic electricians tape is only really a temporary repair as the tape needs cleaning off and replacing from time to time.

Also thanks to Frank Klee of Elgin, IL for the following info:

The following concoction has been found to be long lasting fix for fabric-plastic bellows in good looking  condition but with corner pinholes.

  • 1 teaspoon Elmer's glue
  • 2 small drops liquid dish detergent
  • 2 small drops black lampblack or shoe dye

mix well, apply to corners inside bellows with small art  brush and with bellows open, immediately open--close-- open bellows a few times after application to work in  the paste, open bellows and leave open at least 24 hours  to dry.

Elmer's multipurpose glue is white and has been  sold in USA for decades. It appears to be water based,  dries flexible, smells neutral, and is used for porous  or semiporous materials. Apply it to hard to reach areas  inside the bellows using a hypodermic syringe and  artist's brush but a small cake decorating tube or an  air bulb such as that used to suck mucus out of an  infant's nose could also be used. Three or 4 light  applications are suggested. Open and close the bellows a  few times after application and always let them dry  overnight with bellows open. Check light tightness  repeatedly using a flash inside the bellows while  eyeballing the exterior in a darkened room. Back up this  internal treatment with judicious application of black  vinyl tape to exterior corners.

Thanks also to Charlie Stobbs for the following useful tip:

I have a repair for pinholes in bellows that has worked quite well. I put a small lamp inside the camera in a darkened room and push a pin down through each of the pinholes. Then (in the light) I put a small blob of black silicone rubber (RTV) on the point of the pin(s) and pull them back up through the holes. Then I put a small smear of RTV on the outside where the pins were (hopefully forming a rivet head of sorts to the blob on the inside). The camera should be left open for a day or two to allow the RTV to cure fully.

One question we often get asked is how to replace bellows. This is not something we have tried yet - however please check out our
new page showing how to make an Isolette bellows!

Here also are a couple of links which might prove useful.

The website of "Camera Bellows" - one of the few manufacturers left

They are UK based and certainly make bellows suitable for Agfa Isolettes. Mario's website has more info:

Mario Groleau's excellent antique camera website

Mario has purchased at least one bellows from the above company talks about it and other aspects of camera restoration on his website. Well worth a look even if you are not intending to change a bellows.

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