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5×7 Part 4, errata

Camera turned out well, but though I would compile a list of the things I wish I could do over- and probably will have to do over at some point. Will update the list as new ones are discovered.


 I cut the shaft flush with the bed, and tapped and Locktite’d 6-32 studs into each end for the focus and lock knobs. Would have been better to leave the shafts long on the focus side and pin the knobs to the shaft, as done with the gears themselves. The studs are fine for locking knobs, but probably too weak to handle the torque from the focusing knobs over time.

March 2018. To fix this I made some new shafts and knobs. I got some precision ground 3/16″ stainless steel rod, which is roughly the major diameter of 10-32 thread, so I cut this thread on each end. The focus knobs are fixed on one end with a set screw, and the lock knobs will be held captive with a 4-40 screw tapped into the end of the shaft.

Collet chuck and threading die holder in the tail stock makes threading the end of rods pretty quick work on the lathe.

Boring and threading the shaft end for the locking knob captive screw. The head on the 4-40 screw will keep the knob from unscrewing all the way off the shaft and getting lost.

Boring the spur gear out for the 3/16″ shaft.

New shaft parts. I made some new knobs, the hardest part was knurling the stainless steel with my cheap knurling tool. I knurled 4″ of 3/4″ rod before turning the other features. Forgot to take pictures, but taking light passes and flooding with lots of cutting oil seemed to help. I cut a shoulder on the knurled stock, bored and tapped the 10-32 thread, parted the knob off, then repeated for the other knobs. Knobs are only 1/2″ thick, so had enough knurled stock to make a spare just in case.

Aligning the gears. I tapped the hubs for set screws first. Then I set up the shaft on each stage, locked the gears in position with a drop of threadlock, then bored the shaft and continued the thread for the setscrews. If the shaft isn’t square to the gear rack and the gears aren’t radially aligned the focusing stage will skew and bind.

I hate slop in gears, so continued the setscrew thread into the shafts, really locks them in place.

Locking knobs with retaining screws in place.


Bellows frames

Should have made the rear bellows frame thicker to give a little more wood around the hole for the knob’s retention pin. Alternatively, I could have just located the pin in front of the frame to lock it in place. If I ever over extend the camera and put a lot of stress on the bellows, the pin may break through the weak side of the frame. Not a huge worry,  the fabric’s bond to the frame would probably fail before the wood does, but I may inlay a piece of aluminum to reinforce this. Might have been better to locate the pin towards the front of the bellows frame, and just file enough of a divot in the frame so the pin would wedge the frame tight to the back.

[Fix pending]

Gear racks

Friction fit for the gear racks. I haven’t come up with a good way to mechanically fasten these small brass racks to the extension. Too fine and too small for screws, at least the size of screws that I can handle with my ham hands. Friction is fine to keep them from simply dropping out, but not  good enough to resits linear movement under a lot of load. I inlaid these gears with high quality double-stick tape, which works ok. I usually use stopped dadoes for the racks, so the racks are captive front to back. But for a bed this short I wanted every bit of rack I could get. As is, it works fine under regular load, but if I ever try to focus with the movement locked down, it just might force the gear out of its groove. I might get some micro drill bits and just pin the rack to the wood in a few spots between the teeth.
As also shown in the picture above, I used stock black oxide steel T-nuts for the rear shift. They’re a little grabby, will probably make some out of Delrin. The head of the stainless steel screw takes all the load, the T-nuts are just to keep the screw from rotating when tightening/ loosening the control knobs above.

[Fix pending]

Screw layout

I did pretty well locating most of the screws considering the space restrictions. But the screws in the aluminum angles on each side of the bed are meant to easily adjust the tension on the rear extension- except I can’t reach the front and back screws without removing the focus and lock knobs. But this isn’t a big issue, so probably won’t try to fix it.

Accessory mount

With the lens board and bellows clips there wasn’t enough room left to mount a standard-size cold shoe on the front standard. I ran into the same problem with the last 5×7 I made. I’ll never use a flash, but the shoe is a convenient way to mount a compendium shade, french flag, etc. I take a lot of photos in the rain, so really need to figure something out.

December 2017. After spending an hour looking through the 20+ pages of cold shoes at B&H I finally just made one, which ended up taking  much less time. I don’t have a T-slot bit, so to cut the T-slot I drilled a 7/64 hole front to back for each end of the slot, plowed out the waste with an end mill, then squared up the slot ends with a thin file.

I had an extra hot shoe spring on hand,  so after I checked the fit of that together with a flash foot I drilled a couple of mounting holes for #2 screws. I countersunk them pretty deep because I only had 1/2″ screws on hand. There’s no stop on the back of the shoe to keep the foot from sliding through, but with the spring the fit is pretty snug so it won’t be a problem.


Since its milled from solid aluminum and not formed, I had to leave enough extra material around the slot for strength. This  increased the overall size even more, so I just undercut the bottom of the bracket with a rabbet on three sides to allow room for the lens board and bellows clips to have enough clearance to operate. I probably could have just done this last step with a prefab shoe, but most of the ones at B&H I liked are black anodized, over-priced, are already bored for a single 1/4 screw (which means the shoe would spin and drive me nuts), and/or are only available on back order.


Off the shelf, the stainless steel knobs weight about an ounce each. Doesn’t sound like much but there are 17 knobs on the camera, not including the aluminum rear shift knobs or the quick change bellows thumbscrews.

January 2018. I tried a nylon version of the larger 10-32 knobs, but they were surprisingly shitty- expensive, erratically threaded, with a poor overall finish. I tried to reduce the weight of the SS knobs by drilling a bolt hole pattern on each of the 13 larger knobs, but that only shaved off 2.6 ounces total and I’m not that wild about the look. I may eventually turn some aluminum or even Delrin knobs- a similarly sized knob in 6061 aluminum would only be about 1/3 the weight of 18-8 stainless steel- but since it’ll require a bit of work to save a only few ounces it’s a pretty low priority. Also not sure how well aluminum threads would hold up over time. I have a bad habit of over-torquing knobs in use.


August 2018. After using this camera for the past 9 months I discovered another minor knob issue. The round knobs used for the front swing aren’t exactly comfortable or easy to tighten. The lobed knobs for the rear shift/swing work much better, so I decided to make a pair for the front.

The original rear knobs were simply cut down from stock knobs from McMaster Carr, but it was pretty easy to make some from scratch out of aluminum square stock. I used a .5″ end mill to cut the lobes in 1 1/2″ square aluminum stock,  rotating the stock 90 degrees against the positioning stop for each lobe. (The magnetic indicator base isn’t an ideal stop but worked well enough, I was able to make the cuts for each lobe without re-zeroing the feed dials.) I cut the stock deep enough for two knobs, about .750″ total,  taking .180″ with each pass. The stock was then drilled and tapped for the 10-32 stud, surfaced, then a knob was sliced off on the band saw. The cut edge on the remaining stock was surfaced on the mill, then another knob was sliced off. The rough-sawn side of each knob got cleaned up on the lathe during subsequent operations.

On the lathe I cut a round shoulder on the bottom, rounded the outside diameter of the lobes, then cut a shallow face taper on the front.  The knobs can’t be too thick in height or they’ll interfere with the standards when using base tilt and swing at the same time. The face taper allowed me to keep adequate  thread depth at the center of the knob while providing enough clearance at the outside diameter when things get more crowded. The outside diameter of the new knobs is about 1 3/8″.
For these operations, the knob threads onto a simple lathe jig made from a matching threaded stud and a spare stainless steel threaded knob, and can be quickly flipped to work on each side. The cutting force tightens the workpiece on the mandrel thread.

I made the lobes 3/8″ wide and they were a little clunky looking for the front standard, so made another set from the remaining stock, trimming them down to 1/4″. I used the first set for the rear swing, just re-tapped them to 1/4-20.

Not much in the way of weight reduction or style enhancement, but they do work better. Much easier to torque down.

Bearing surfaces

August 14, 2018. Another recently-discovered problem is with the adhesive-backed UHMW film I used for aluminum-on-aluminum bearing surfaces. While it works fine for the dovetails ways and other simple sliding movements (rise and fall on both standards), the film isn’t durable enough for the rear shift/swing platform. The shearing action of the swing combined with the shift has started to tear and peel the film in spots, leaving an adhesive residue. I peeled it off and tried it without it, but even cleaned and waxed the feel of aluminum sliding against aluminum is pretty awful.

The original plan had been to use some 0.015″ Delrin strip stock for this purpose, but at the last minute had convinced myself that adhesive wouldn’t stick to it very well to the Delrin, so used the adhesive backed UHMW instead.  I finally tried some double-stick tape and it actually worked very well on the Delrin, so I laminated it to the bottom of the rear shift/swing platform. The Delrin is thin enough to cut cleanly with a utility knife, so I attached an oversized piece and cut it in place, then beveled the edge slightly with a block plane. The full-length dovetail key that slides in the shift slot was already made from solid Delrin, so now there are no aluminum-on-aluminum movements on the rear standard. I will probably do the same to the front standard eventually, but UHWM film has held up pretty well there, possibly due to the smaller size of the platform and relatively infrequent use.