The Kodak 1A Autographic Jr: Bringing a nearly 100-year-old medium format camera back to life (Part Two), 08 December 2023

The Kodak 1A Autographic Jr: Bringing a nearly 100-year-old medium format camera back to life (Part Two), 08 December 2023

Restoring the Kodak 1A Autographic Jr is turning into quite a marathon as we move from one step to the next. In tge first part of this restoration we took a broad look at the camera and identified a number of issues that will need attention such as the leaky bellows, the dirty lenses and peeling leatherette. 

What was probably most concerning, though was the sticky shutter. The Autographic is one of the later models with a Diomatic shutter N°0 (I assume that's the manufacturer). On the left (looking from the back) is a cocking lever and to the right is the shutter lever. The shutter cocks fine, but when I fire the shutter it hesitates half open for a second or so before firing. I realised that the first thing I would have to address is the sticky shutter. If I can't get that working again, there's little point in doing anything further.

I was hoping that it's just some nearly 100-year-old gunk that's making it stick and a bit of lighter fluid will get it firing again, but first I would have to remove the shutter assembly from the body of the camera so I could gain access to the shutter blades. 

Removing the front lens and the rear lens was quite straightforward, it was simply a matter of unscrewing them from the body. Once they were off I cleaned the lenses with methanol and gently wiped them.

Underneath the rear lens was a ring holding the shutter assembly onto the body of the camera. I managed to unscrew this with a piece of wood, taking care not to touch and damage the bellows any further. Once unscrewed the shutter assembly came off quite easily and I put this aside for layer.

At this point I took the opportunity to clean and dry the outside and inside of the camera body and glue down the peeling leatherette, and clean the viewfinder and mirror. I also used a bit of glue to re-fit the missing red window in the rear of the camera from an old camera that I had cannibalised for parts.

I was now ready to attempt to loosen the shutter blades. Before I started I had asked advice from the Vintage Camera Repair group on Facebook. Some of the suggestions were really helpful and most involved using a solvent to loosen the material stopping the blades running smoothly. I jad managed to get the shutter assembly out of the body but I couldn't get the back plate off to gain access to the shutter blades because the screws holding the back in place were welded shut with age. So I dropped plenty of lighter fluid onto the blades and the shutter loosened and worked fine at all speeds.

However, as soon as the solvent dried the shutter started to stick again. I did think that I could drop the smallest amount of WD40 around the edges of the shutter but advice from the Repair group advised against that and I abandoned the idea. In the end I also abandoned the idea of taking the shutter assembly apart from the front. There were so many intricate bits before we got to the shutter that I knew I would screw it up.

So what I did was to drip lighter fluid onto the blades and then clean them up with a cotton bud. I could see the green gunk coming off the blades as I gently wiped the front and back of the shutter. I did that a few times and left it to dry. Then I did it again. Then I applied lighter fluid onto the cotton bud and wiped the blades with that. Then I let it dry again. 

At this point the shutter firing smoothly at all speeds. I gave it one more clean to remove all of the gunk that I could and now the shutter blades look as clean as I can possibly make it. After one last check that the shutter was firing smoothly at all speeds I remounted the shutter assembly and lenses back into the body of the camera. It was a bit fiddly,  and I think the rear screw needs a little more tightening, but now we have a semi-working camera again. Now I'm going to leave the camera for a few more days, and then I'll move onto the next part: making the bellows light tight.

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