We recently received a Leica IIIc, one of the early and most sought after 'stepper' cameras. They stepper part of the name is because of the raised area just below the rewind lever, which was removed from later cameras. This camera was originally chrome plated but being an early 1940s model, suffered from very poor chrome plating that was peeling in places.
There are those who talk about patina and the the battle scars of previous use but there is a fine line between patina and deterioration and in any case, our client wished to own a grey repainted example of this particular camera.
The mechanics weren't much better. The camera was still fitted with an original set of red shutter blinds. Much mystique surrounds the use of the red material. Was it because there was a shortage of the usual shutter fabric during the war? Was it an experimental Kodak fabric? We don't know the answer to that but what we did realise was that the original material was so badly aged and damaged, painted and patched so much that it had lost most of its flexibility. If the camera was to work again, the blinds had to go. To keep this camera original would mean that it would become a display object and not a useable camera.
Part of what we do at cameraworks-uk is to find solutions to such issues. Where original parts can be preserved, we try to do that. When parts have to be re-manufactured, we look at how the originals were made and attempt to re-create what was done. We had already found a solution for re-creating the red shutter blinds using modern materials but a traditional technology. This camera was a good candidate so we set to work.
The new shutter blinds were fitted to the camera using the same traditional Laq adhesive as used in the factory. Once the shutter block was cleaned and serviced, for the first time in many years, the shutter began to perform as it was designed. The rest of the camera and rangefinder were overhauled and all was working well.
After removing the toxic and crumbling vulcanite, we fitted a new skin. The camera top and bottom plates along with other parts were stripped back to brass before a traditional grey enamel paint was applied. This in time will reveal the brass and for us, we see this camera not so much as a repaint but as a full restoration.