Category Archives: Tools

The Universal Machine

Back in my youth I made a hammer entirely of metal. This was in grade 9 machine shop course.  I have kept the memory of machines ability to shape material (metal and also wood) … so when a friend of mine offered me his old metal lathe, I jumped on it.



Now, I will have to say that my friend is a skilled metal/wood worker … and he also does have a metal lathe like that (I even helped moving it out of the basement of his house when he moved … he had to use a block/tackle to get it down there and assembled). When I told my wife our friend was giving me a lathe she wondered how it was going to fit in the car … but that is not what he was offering me.

So here is the primer …

Maier & Company in Austria introduced a machine in 1953, called the Unimat. This was a multi-purpose device aimed at hobbyists making small things. Some of their first ads were presented in model train magazines. The advertisement states it is 8 tools in 1 – lathe, drill press, table saw, surface grinder, mill sander, screw cutter, portable drill. It was also known as the Emco Unimat, though I am not sure where the Emco name came from.

It was made with die-cast ZAMAK and offered all the mechanisms that you would expect from a metal lathe, including the ability to change the layout to do other jobs, but was made on a scale so small it would fit in a small box. The wood box with all the accessories packed in it.

Sometime after 1956 Simpson-Sears Ltd. started distributing it in Canada. This Unimat, I suspect, came from the original owner to his son (who was another friend of mine) and was given to my machinist friend as he had no use for it. He was using it for very small metal work, but he needed to upgrade for his clock repair … so now it has been passed down to me.

This is the Unimat DB 200 … light ZAMAK with the green tone, made sometime after 1965.

It still had some of the accessories to change it up like for milling, table saw, and also had the auto feed … but no original box. It needed a cleaning, new belts, and bearings (Doug has parts) … also it was missing the pinion lever. Since replaced the headstock bearings, we took parts of it off … and so we forgot to put the tailstock back on before I brought it home.

Did I mention it is small ?


To give you a better idea of scale vs. my Dremel drill press.


… and vs. a Canon AE-1


Now I have to figure out what to make with it … hmm, off to watch youTube videos.

You will find that the Unimat lathe is still sold new … this is not the same as the early models … the Unimat 1 is considered a “toy” lathe.

Finally … tech and Tse converge.

I have been waiting for someone to do this … with the advent of 3D metal printing it was just a matter of time before we would get access to new replacement parts, for cameras that are no longer supported, built on order.

One such part is the focus lever on the Minolta Autocord. Due to the crap pot metal they used, there are many Autocords just sitting on shelves (Minolta Autocord – the knobless one)… relegated just for show and tell. Now they can come back to life taking pictures like they were born to do.

Recently, a fellow film camera user decided to take advantage of his skills and produce a 3D model of the lever!!! I give much credit to Edward Tse for his efforts.

Thingiverse – Edward Tse

Note that he designed the knob shorter than the original to reduce the knob smashing effect by the back door.

Back to that F-1n needle … solution.

Soooooo, I got everything working on that F-1n except for that sticky needle. I really did not want to take the mirror box out to get at the mechanism as I tried it on my test subject and it is not an easy thing to remove and especially replace.

I figured if I washed out the area it will eventually run free … but every time the Naptha dried out the needle would stick. I figured that it needed some oil to keep the metal parts moving … but that means opening it up !!!

DSC00630Then I remembered a tip that someone told me … put a drop or two of Nyoil in a bath of Naptha. Well I did not have any Nyoil, but I did have some Moebius 8040 watch oil, so I made a bath … then dribbled some into the opening for the diaphragm sensing lever (or the servo port if it isn’t covered).

Some exercise of the lever and stop down switch … and then waited for the solution to dry.

Next day … the lever does not stick !! Thanks Dimitri.

Working with seals … this ain’t MarineLand, no fish for you!

There is one thing that is common to more modern camera’s is light seal material … something I started encountering when I got into cameras made in the 60’s and 70’s. Older cameras were physically designed to reduce light leaks coming in. Over time as camera design changed they became more susceptible to light entering the film chamber from the film loading door. Manufactures started adding in fabric and foam material to reduce light entry.

Many of the TLR’s I’ve had used simple yarn type material, some wooden cameras use velvet, while the rangefinder cameras added felt and more modern foam material. While the yarn and felt materials survived decades, the foam material they used had a tendency to degrade … becoming brittle or soften with age, and eventually requiring replacement. The Canon QL’s and the Olympus SP that I have written about all required a light seal replacement … ahhhh, I am melting!!!!!

Now, this ain’t a tutorial on how exactly to do this … there are already sooooo many references on the Web about how to do this on many different cameras … I am just going to mention some things to add to what is already out there.

You have a choice of buying material then cutting them to size to fit your camera. This is a more economic way if you have a lot of cameras, but if you just have one camera then you probably can get a pre-cut kit.

There are many types of foam you can source. One thing you will probably see is open and closed cell types. If the cells are open they will allow more air between cells to escape, thus is more flexible … but less durable and may leak light through if it has very large cells. Closed cell is most common if you just look for foam, it is less compressible as it has enclosed air pockets.

I have read many articles from DIY’rs that use things like mouse pads …. as I was a scuba diver and being familiar with Neoprene, I can say that this type of closed cell foam is way too uncompressable for usage in camera seals. Many of the old cameras that I have had used open cell foam. I did find some semi-open cell foam which is kinda in the middle … also there are a number of different materials used to make foam, and that plays a part in its feel.

Milly’s Camera has a nice set of various types of foam for camera seals. Here are a couple links to instructions on replacing seals: Matt’s Classic Cameraspeter_de_waalbikebeerun1960.

If you search the web for pre-cut kits you will probably come across Jon Goodman’s name. Jon started selling kits over a decade ago, and has been the go-to-guy for them. Many people have praised the materials and instructions he provides … though he has disappeared from the Web ( old Classic Camera Repair forum ) and eBay but you can contact him directly via email  or

DIY material:

  • 8 ply black yarn
  • velvet strips or felt
  • open, semi-open, closed cell foam
  • Ronsonol
  • acetone – use with care as it will dissolve plastic
  • bamboo chopsticks – a straw – toothpicks
  • glue – Pliobond
  • and I don’t have to mention Q-tips

Carefully look and feel the original material and try to replicate it.

Draw a map (so you can get back to where you came from), then measure the existing foam before removing.

Removing old foam seal material is a messy thing.

With self adhesive type foam, you can use hand sanitizer or lick the back to delay the adhesive … this is handy if you are putting the thin ones in those slots.

bikebeerrun’s video shows G-S hypo cement … hmm, that precision tip looks very helpful getting glue into tight spots.

Blast from the past …

Just before I started this Blog, while I was working on fixing my first cameras, I discovered a great forum dedicated to people who fixed their own photographic equipment.

board_logo The Classic Camera Repair Forum was created by Kar Yan & Henry on their site to share information about reviving old cameras.

I found this site while searching for repair manuals. They had some links and their own articles about repairing … but they also created a Forum.

This forum is where I first bumped into Rick Oleson, and many others who contributed information that has helped me over the years.

Sadly the site shut down in 2013. You can view it via WayBack Machine:

The archives are also available on the RangeFinder Forum: RFF – Gearheads Delight … you can dig there for lost information … and you will find that the discussions still go on thanks to RFF.