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12-30-2008, 09:53 AM   #1
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Restoring Old Cameras

Hi, I just added a KM to my collection, though it's not in the most ideal of conditions. I mean, the mechanisms work well, shutter speeds check out fine, and surprisingly, the meter even works, though I'll still have the camera CLA'd for posterity measures.

Where the camera's lacking is in the aesthetics department. I'm fine with the camera as it is (everything working for $30, so I'm not complaining), but I just thought that maybe I could give it a bit more love and restore it some, if not fully.

Here's the thing. I don't think I'd want to have the camera rechromed by an auto shop locally, as they might inadvertently ruin something else with the camera, and the local camera repair shops do just that, repair, and nothing more. So I'll have to attempt to do the restoration myself. Is it possible for me to do the rechroming myself? And is it also possible to buy the same kind of paint used for the rewind knob and trimmings? Even alternatives would be good, it doesn't have to be all-original stuff, as long as it blends well with the remaining finish on the camera.

Also, it would be great if you guys can also share your own stories and pictures of restoring cameras, whether by your own hands or someone else's. Nothing like hearing success stories to push one's self to have more confidence to try their own restoration. Thanks!

12-30-2008, 09:56 AM   #2
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I've been wondering about the possibility of sending the plates on something out for powdercoating, if it can be made thin enough: I'd figure one may as well choose a special color rather than rechrome, though, if going that far: it's likely a body in fresher condition would come cheaper than such work, anyway.
12-30-2008, 10:02 AM   #3
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how would one do satin chroming? I mean you would have to do a complete disassemble of the camera to redo any chroming anyway (which is very difficult and requires a few specialized tools) so upon disassemble you could just take the parts to be re-chromed. you would also likely need to redo the leatherette. you can buy new ones though not original of course from CameraLeather.com Custom camera leather and leatherette. I would strongly suggest getting in touch with Eric Hendrickson Home before getting started, he can likely answer far more of the questions than we can. and as already mentioned it would likely be far cheaper to purchase another body in better cosmetic condition. but if you are a strong DYI person, then good luck! what is the purpose? (just curious) is it going to be display or get used? personally I like a little battle damage, it adds character plus I have a hard to bringing myself to using a camera in near mint condition.

Last edited by séamuis; 12-30-2008 at 10:18 AM.
12-30-2008, 10:08 AM   #4
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I'm all about Eric Hendrickson and CameraLeather. Eric's prices are very, very good. And I've been a CameraLeather devotee ever since I wrapped my K1000 in hand-finished green kid leather. Oh baby.

There are some things you can easily do yourself to bring it into working order. The first thing to go tends to be the foam for the mirror and light seals. You can pick up a lifetime's worth of light seal foam from Jon Goodman off ebay for maybe 10 or 20 bucks.

12-30-2008, 10:20 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Finn Quote
I'm all about Eric Hendrickson and CameraLeather. Eric's prices are very, very good. And I've been a CameraLeather devotee ever since I wrapped my K1000 in hand-finished green kid leather. Oh baby.

There are some things you can easily do yourself to bring it into working order. The first thing to go tends to be the foam for the mirror and light seals. You can pick up a lifetime's worth of light seal foam from Jon Goodman off ebay for maybe 10 or 20 bucks.
12-30-2008, 10:58 AM   #6
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That said, I'm looking into paint options, cause I have a couple of projects I'd like to do, myself, (I keep putting off doing this: got to test some paints on some other metal and all. I expect a fair bit of prep work getting stuff to stick over old chrome, if it doesn't all come off.
12-30-2008, 04:03 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by séamuis Quote
Gorgeous camera you got there! I really do regret selling it, but LBA is what it is.
12-31-2008, 01:43 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by séamuis Quote
how would one do satin chroming? I mean you would have to do a complete disassemble of the camera to redo any chroming anyway (which is very difficult and requires a few specialized tools) so upon disassemble you could just take the parts to be re-chromed. you would also likely need to redo the leatherette. you can buy new ones though not original of course from CameraLeather.com Custom camera leather and leatherette. I would strongly suggest getting in touch with Eric Hendrickson Home before getting started, he can likely answer far more of the questions than we can. and as already mentioned it would likely be far cheaper to purchase another body in better cosmetic condition. but if you are a strong DYI person, then good luck! what is the purpose? (just curious) is it going to be display or get used? personally I like a little battle damage, it adds character plus I have a hard to bringing myself to using a camera in near mint condition.
It's definitely gonna see a lot of use. I figured it would be my "beater" camera, which will go with me most of the time. I figured it could also go on display if I can get it restored, but it's not my thing to display stuff. The restoration idea popped in my head yesterday just because it's something new to try. I'm not really a mechanical person, so I'm holding off on doing a full disassembly and repair, but I figured I could do something about the camera's exterior.

That said, rechroming sounds like serious work, and potentially needs tools that I can't easily source. A repaint looks to be more doable. I'm not looking to sell it anyway, so I'm not concerned about the loss of resale value.

Perhaps I should give it one of those Lomo-style colors? That certainly would get less people to look at me when shooting street photos, I think.

Camera Leather - check. Eric Hendrickson - check. I'll check their sites for info. Thanks for the tips.

QuoteOriginally posted by séamuis Quote
Your K1000 looks good, by the way.

QuoteOriginally posted by Finn Quote
I'm all about Eric Hendrickson and CameraLeather. Eric's prices are very, very good. And I've been a CameraLeather devotee ever since I wrapped my K1000 in hand-finished green kid leather. Oh baby.

There are some things you can easily do yourself to bring it into working order. The first thing to go tends to be the foam for the mirror and light seals. You can pick up a lifetime's worth of light seal foam from Jon Goodman off ebay for maybe 10 or 20 bucks.
Light seal foam - check. I'll probably need this, too. Thanks for the tip.

QuoteOriginally posted by Ratmagiclady Quote
That said, I'm looking into paint options, cause I have a couple of projects I'd like to do, myself, (I keep putting off doing this: got to test some paints on some other metal and all. I expect a fair bit of prep work getting stuff to stick over old chrome, if it doesn't all come off.
I'd love to hear about your paint work. Any tips?

12-31-2008, 09:02 PM   #9
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I think you would end up spending much more money rechroming a KM than the camera is worth.

Painting one would be a much more realistic option assuming you do the work yourself (there are guys out there that will repaint cameras but it can cost hundreds of dollars). I have repainted a couple of cameras - it is a pretty time consuming affair.

Realistically you would have to strip the top/bottom plates off the camera (and any other parts you want painted). Chrome plates found on older cameras are generally made of brass that is covered with thin nickel plating. The nickel is then covered with chrome. You do not want to paint chrome - it will not stick long term. Chrome can be removed easily enough (using muriatic acid - this is NASTY stuff and you can cause some serious bodily harm if you don't pay careful attention to what you are doing). After the acid dip you will be left with a nickel covered brass plate. Nickel holds paint well (compared to chrome or brass). If you are so inclined you can also remove the nickel layer but it requires some pretty specialized chemicals (and in all honesty, for a backyard job nickel is going to be easier to paint than brass so why bother).

As far as paints are concerned the sky is the limit. I would avoid any of the cheap hardware store stuff in spraycans and stick to products meant for for painting automobiles or guns. When I painted my cameras I used some old Nitrocellulose lacquer formulated for automobiles that I picked up from a garage sale (I don't think nitro has been used for autos in decades - this stuff was OLD). Considering the age of the stuff it worked out great (not as durable as modern 2 part auto paints or some of the baked on enamels, but it was easy to work with, ended up looking very nice and is very easy to touch up).
01-01-2009, 01:05 AM   #10
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CLA, Refurbsihment & Restoration

Restoration is quite expensive for cameras (as it is for everything). I like my beat-up MESuper as much as my pristine KX - because I can just jam it in a pocket with a pancake lens and not worry about a scratch or two.

You'd be best off emailing Eric Hendrickson and asking him if he could do a CLA and replace your top and bottom plates with NOS or better used ones from his parts bin. His website link is Pentax Camera Service - http://pentaxs.com/index.html

He is highly regarded here and throughout the Pentax User community. His CLA's start at $63.

I have thought about Abilene Camera Repair's Gold Service, but that would probably only work for more expensive vintage cameras (F1's, some Nikons) - I said expensive, not better - its all supply and demand - Abilene Camera Repair

Scroll down to the Gold Service description - they will replace your top and bottom plates (and any other external knobs or parts) with better looking parts from the parts bin. A KM is $195 for the Gold Service. Camera Repair, Pentax Prices
01-01-2009, 07:02 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by DAP Quote
I think you would end up spending much more money rechroming a KM than the camera is worth.

Painting one would be a much more realistic option assuming you do the work yourself (there are guys out there that will repaint cameras but it can cost hundreds of dollars). I have repainted a couple of cameras - it is a pretty time consuming affair.

Realistically you would have to strip the top/bottom plates off the camera (and any other parts you want painted). Chrome plates found on older cameras are generally made of brass that is covered with thin nickel plating. The nickel is then covered with chrome. You do not want to paint chrome - it will not stick long term. Chrome can be removed easily enough (using muriatic acid - this is NASTY stuff and you can cause some serious bodily harm if you don't pay careful attention to what you are doing). After the acid dip you will be left with a nickel covered brass plate. Nickel holds paint well (compared to chrome or brass). If you are so inclined you can also remove the nickel layer but it requires some pretty specialized chemicals (and in all honesty, for a backyard job nickel is going to be easier to paint than brass so why bother).

As far as paints are concerned the sky is the limit. I would avoid any of the cheap hardware store stuff in spraycans and stick to products meant for for painting automobiles or guns. When I painted my cameras I used some old Nitrocellulose lacquer formulated for automobiles that I picked up from a garage sale (I don't think nitro has been used for autos in decades - this stuff was OLD). Considering the age of the stuff it worked out great (not as durable as modern 2 part auto paints or some of the baked on enamels, but it was easy to work with, ended up looking very nice and is very easy to touch up).
Just the information I needed. I did some reading last night, and, yes, rechroming seems to be really expensive, so I decided to go with a repaint (there are a whole lot of different color schemes I'm thinking of ), and probably order from Camera Leather, as I really do like some of their patterns and colors.

So automotive and gun paints it is. The lacquer you picked up, is it one of those deals that you have to bake overnight or some such? I'm hoping there would be paint that would be good enough to paint on and let dry in the air.

I'll be going out tomorrow morning to look for the supplies. So I need acid and car/gun paint, then. Check. Thanks for the helpful tips.

By the way, any chance I could see your repainted cameras for inspiration?

QuoteOriginally posted by monochrome Quote
Restoration is quite expensive for cameras (as it is for everything). I like my beat-up MESuper as much as my pristine KX - because I can just jam it in a pocket with a pancake lens and not worry about a scratch or two.

You'd be best off emailing Eric Hendrickson and asking him if he could do a CLA and replace your top and bottom plates with NOS or better used ones from his parts bin. His website link is Pentax Camera Service - http://pentaxs.com/index.html

He is highly regarded here and throughout the Pentax User community. His CLA's start at $63.

I have thought about Abilene Camera Repair's Gold Service, but that would probably only work for more expensive vintage cameras (F1's, some Nikons) - I said expensive, not better - its all supply and demand - Abilene Camera Repair

Scroll down to the Gold Service description - they will replace your top and bottom plates (and any other external knobs or parts) with better looking parts from the parts bin. A KM is $195 for the Gold Service. Camera Repair, Pentax Prices
I'll check this Abilene Camera you mention, though I'm leaning towards a simple CLA then a DIY repaint, just for the heck of it, new experience and all. Thanks for the tips.
01-04-2009, 11:28 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinzer Quote
Just the information I needed. I did some reading last night, and, yes, rechroming seems to be really expensive, so I decided to go with a repaint (there are a whole lot of different color schemes I'm thinking of ), and probably order from Camera Leather, as I really do like some of their patterns and colors.

So automotive and gun paints it is. The lacquer you picked up, is it one of those deals that you have to bake overnight or some such? I'm hoping there would be paint that would be good enough to paint on and let dry in the air.

I'll be going out tomorrow morning to look for the supplies. So I need acid and car/gun paint, then. Check. Thanks for the helpful tips.

By the way, any chance I could see your repainted cameras for inspiration?


Vinzer – real lacquers do not need to be baked - they dry by evaporation of solvents. I used nitrocellulose based lacquer (which is really nasty stuff – it is highly flammable and toxic…use a respirator and make sure the area you are working in is well ventilated). I honestly don’t know if nitrocellulose lacquer is still even sold anymore. My understanding is that it was pretty much replaced by acrylic lacquer decades ago (I’ve been told that acrylic lacquer is a bit more durable and has better UV protection).

I sold off the majority of my gear in the last year and a half – the two cameras that I painted are history (to me at least)…unfortunately I didn’t keep any photos of them. The paint job on them ended up being pretty glossy (glossier than most cameras). I know that you can add flattening agents to lacquer if you want more of a satin finish, but it comes at the expense of paint hardness. The paint was relatively durable, but it was easier to scratch than a good enamel/urethane/epoxy. If I had to do it over again I would probably go with either baking enamel or a 2-part auto paint…just because I think it would end up being a bit more durable in the long run. I think most cameras are painted with enamel (however I do suspect that Pentax did use lacquer on some of their cameras – you can remove the paint on my black KX using lacquer thinner and the finish is VERY glossy – very similar in look to the cameras I painted using nitro lacquer).

Realistically the metal prep before painting is going to be just as important as the actual paint you use. Paint will not stick to oil and it needs to bite into the metal so make sure the metal is oil/residue free and scuff up the surface a bit (sanding, media blasting, or acid etching). You might or might not need a primer depending on the paint you choose.

One thing that I forgot to mention in my earlier post…make sure you know what kind of metal you are dealing with before you strip in acid (aluminum and muriatic acid do not play well together).
01-04-2009, 12:17 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by DAP Quote
Vinzer – real lacquers do not need to be baked - they dry by evaporation of solvents. I used nitrocellulose based lacquer (which is really nasty stuff – it is highly flammable and toxic…use a respirator and make sure the area you are working in is well ventilated). I honestly don’t know if nitrocellulose lacquer is still even sold anymore. My understanding is that it was pretty much replaced by acrylic lacquer decades ago (I’ve been told that acrylic lacquer is a bit more durable and has better UV protection).
You still find dedicated camera paint in matte and glossy at Microtools. Also Tetenal used to sell this stuff, to. At least the old Tetenal paints wre also Nitrocellulose based and worked very well on cameras. It gives a very smooth surface (not the usual painting marks, like dried drops or marks from the brush). I never found a ready-made paint though, which met the exact gloss factor of the Pentax. But if you use a matte and a glossy paint of the same forumulation, one can mix those to achieve the desired result. That at least worked very well with the Tetenal paints.

Just be careful, because the best paints for the job, tend to be those most unhealthy... So keep a goof airflow.

Ben
01-04-2009, 06:08 PM   #14
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DAP and Ben, thanks for the additional info. I've still only had been able to window-shop paint so far, as the camera I'd be working on is still undergoing CLA. It's coming back tomorrow, and I intend to try to sand off the chrome first before resorting to acid.

I haven't been able to find nitrocellulose paint in our local stores, so I'll have a look-see at Microtools first and determine if the price is good enough, including shipping. Otherwise, I'll probably resort to car paint. I don't mind the extra gloss, really. It won't be hitting the used marketplace anytime soon, anyway.

Again, thanks for the info. Some good stuff here.
01-04-2009, 07:08 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ratmagiclady Quote
I've been wondering about the possibility of sending the plates on something out for powdercoating, if it can be made thin enough: I'd figure one may as well choose a special color rather than rechrome, though, if going that far: it's likely a body in fresher condition would come cheaper than such work, anyway.
Oh please paint it white and have it posted here. I'd love to see if it can provoke as many silly reactions as the white K-m!
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