Dry Bellows restoration question

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Just bought an 11x14 Empire Sate View which seems to have been stored for the better part of this century. The bellows is original but VERY dry. I was able to carefully extend it for about a third of it's max extension and it seems to be light tight but again it is very very dry..... Is there something I can treat the bellows with to make it pliable again? As it is now any more extension would probably cause cracking and light leaks to apppear. I've heard of something called Lexol for treating leather.... anyone have any experience with it? thanks

-- Gregory Kriss (74bug@hotbot.com), February 10, 2000


I have the same problem with an old 5x4 folding technical camera, and have come across a recommendation to use something called Neatsfoot Oil. I've never heard of it here in the UK, so I can't say if it works or not.

Anyway the link to the tip is at:

Classic Cameras Linhof page

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), February 11, 2000.

Lexol will work well if the bellows is in fact genuine leather and not some sort of vinyl or leatherette. If it isn't genuine leather then I don't think Lexol will do anything except make the bellows sticky so that it will attract a lot of dust. I used to think that Armorall would be good for leatherette or vinyl type bellows since it is advertised as serving as a preservative for those types of materials but I think I recently read somewhere that Armorall has something in it that isn't good for camera bellows. One of Lexol's principal uses is for automobile leather interiors so you can usually buy it at any automotive supply store.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis@tampabay.rr.com), February 13, 2000.


Neetsfoot oil is used to soften baseball gloves, wonderfull stuff. It is available from most spoting goods houses here in the USA. ( I coach a girls softball team and am used to using this stuff ) Another, possibly better, alterantive is to use hypo-allergenic foam type shaving cream! There are less perfumes and additives that might discharge onto your lens or groundglass. Both the shaving cream and the Neetsfoot oil work on leather, not synthetics.

The problem with Armor All is that it releases a really nasty gas when exposed to sunlight. It is a real problem in the automotive world. If you use Armor All on your dashboard and then park the car in direct sunshine a nasty residue starts to build up on the windshield. It is a bear to clean off of a windshield, I cannot imagine trying to get it off the inside of a lens ! ! !

Hope this helps, -harry

-- Harry Pluta (hspluta@msn.com), February 14, 2000.

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