Category Archives: Tools

Collimating … collimating … hello?

At some point in time you will need to collimate a lens/camera.

I recently serviced a Frank Six TKS shutter, and I had to unscrew the front cell. As the camera not a through the lens viewfinder, I am not sure if the lens has been correctly set for infinity focusing … how do I know I screwed it back on the correct starting thread ?

This is where you need to check with a lens callimator … well I do not have such a dedicated machine, so lets go with a DIY solution … so I checked the web. There are many online docs about this (I noted some below) … so here is what I did.

First you need to have a camera to mount the lens on … unless the lens is part of the camera … then you need to put something on the film plane for the calibrator to focus on, then you need a second camera with a (preferably) telephoto lens to be the calibrator, and lastly some light.

  • I cut down the clear plastic from an old CD case (a Dremel is really handy for this) to about 61.5mm x 63mm (in this case the camera was Frank Six 6×6 format). I roughly sanded one side to make it a ground screen, and used a Sharpie to make some marks on it.
  • Sony NEX-6 with an adapted Minolta MD 135mm f/2.8 lens
  • USB LED light

I taped the “ground screen”, ground side inside, to the back of the camera. I pointed the LED light to shine on the screen. The Frank Six lens was set to infinity.

The Sony NEX was positioned right up to the Frank Six lens as close as possible but left enough room for me to turn the front lens cell, and the Minolta lens set to infinity.

Using the Sony live view and flip up rear screen, I was able to see if the marks on the ground screen were in focus, or not. First try it was not, so I back out the front cell and tried a different starting thread … until the Sony showed an in-focus marking. Done.

Callibrator Camera+Lens — infinity — Lens+Camera+target

As I mentioned … more detailed info can be read below:

Rick Oleson – collimator options

Mike Elek – collimating your lens

Addicted2Light – collimator

Feuerbacher – infinity lens calibrator

Sonic … hedgehog, screwdriver … no, ultra!!

Tools … tools … more toooooollllllls.

Can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisps … opps, wrong thought. Ok, tools.

Eh, got mentally distracted by the TV.


My last post was about taking a Gauthier type shutter apart … and one of the things I really did not want to do was break the escapements down to their individual gears to give them a cleaning, as I would have to put it back together. So I thought of getting an ultrasonic cleaner.

Now I know somewhat about them, as my clock fixing friend has one and has suggested I get one, and also suggested by the Learn Camera Repair group … but I have never felt I needed it. Well, I changed my mind once I noticed that these thing are pretty cheap … in price, and possibly in quality … so why not.

I decided to buy the Magnasonic Compact Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner, cause it looked cute … and it was one of the cheapest ones, yes I have a cheap thing. Ok, so lets try out cleaning stuff by putting it into a collapsing void !!


Well, it is slightly larger than a Rolleicord.

Ok, so lets see how it does … I took a knob off of a Kodak Vigilant Six-20 (1939-49). I cleaned the right half with my usual Q-tip, toothbrush, ronsonal, alcohol, and soapy water … the left I left untouched for the ultrasonic cleaner to tackle.


First attempt at cleaning by hand.








One round through the ultrasonic cleaner … which is only 5 minutes long.

Solution of water, a drop of dish soap, and a cap of vinegar.



DSC00776This is the second round.


I will let you be the judge.

I think it is a keeper.





Clean up those escapements.




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.