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F & S #8 RB Cycle Graflex bellows

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Joined: 08 Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Location: Marina del Rey, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:52 am    Post subject: F & S #8 RB Cycle Graflex bellows Reply with quote

I just acquired a #8 RB Cycle Graflex as part of a #8 Cirkut Camera Outfit. I'm trying to refurbish it and get it in working order.

The biggest problem is the bellows - pin holes, brittle leather and a 3" long tear in the first fold back from the lens board.

I've got the camera 99% apart for a good cleaning, metal polishing and wood restoration, but so far the bellows stump me. I don't see how they are attached in the front, other than glue, and it appears the liner was glued and nailed to the back, and perhaps the leather glued to the back under the wood strips the liner is glued and nailed to.

Anyone ever worked on one of these? Any idea how the bellows are attached, and how to remove them? Thanks.
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Joined: 10 Jan 2002
Posts: 474
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I looked at mine and it appears that they are permanently attached to the frame at the front. If you have dismantled the camera as much as you can, you have probably already removed the front frame on the bellows from the front standard by lifting it out the top of the standard after removing the brass rise/fall hardware. I have not had to dismantle mine that far, so I can only speculate that there may be two wooden frames, one inside the bellows and a slightly larger one that slides in the front standard. If so, try to tease them apart with a thin blade. If that is successful, you should be able to peel back the bellows and remove the inner frame, after which your bellows adventure can begin.

My experience with bellows on other older (non-Graphic) cameras has been that they did not intend for the bellows to be taken apart easily and the process tends to be rather invasive. You may need to be a bit aggressive to get it apart.

Are you trying to salvage the old bellows or are you going to replace it? If you do not care about original appearance then repairing it without removing the frames may be the best approach. You can resort to the old standby of tape on the corners, and the large tear would need an external patch to close it. Just having the bellows and its frames out of the camera should be good enough for you to be able to get that kind of repair done.

Best of luck

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Joined: 08 Jan 2009
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Location: Marina del Rey, CA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:01 am    Post subject: F & S #8 RB Cycle Graflex bellows Reply with quote


Thank you for your input, but I finally got the bellows off, which was folded over the front removable board that attached to the front standard, and hide glued in place, as you suggested. Boy, is old hide glue sticky and nasty to get off!

I bought a hand held clothing steamer at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $19 and used it to remove the felt from the board, and then the bellows. The only downside of this approach was that the steam promptly shrunk the felt. It will probably work with the 5x7 Cycle Graflex now, but not my #8. No big, since the felt can easily be replaced. It was green anyway. I've seen another #8 with brown felt. I'll probably replace it with black felt.

The rear stumped me for a while. It appears that the wood the bellows attaches to are narrow blocks of mahogany glued to the camera frame. They are notched so that there is a lip extending the length of each side - like an "L." The bellows liner is folded over a narrow strip of cardboard and the leather glued over that. The double strengthened bellows end, the thickness of which matches the depth of the "L," was simply nailed to the frame in the notch, no glue as far as I can tell.

You hear about the craftsmanship from those day, but whomever made the camera didn't do such a hot job. The nails look like tiny carpet tacks and weren't always nailed properly, especially in the corners - which would be the hardest place to drive a nail. The frame was split on one side, which I glued together. Some nails came out easily, others lost their heads in the process. Some were in the proper place, others were cockeyed or in the lip, not the notch proper.

The bellows is worse than I feared. I got Talas Leather Condition, which is great. I've applied two treatments. It darkens the leather, but it dries to its normal shade of red. I'll condition the entire bellows a couple of more times because the bellows are still very stiff.

I got a quote from Custom Bellows in the UK. Yup, I'm going to replace the bellows with a red Hypalon bellows. There is just too much damage, although I'll make the final decision when I get the entire bellows reconditioned so I can evaluate the ends, where most of the damage is. I can probably steam open the seams, and open & flatten the bellows and get the liner off, but there are multiply long tears, and I'm not sure it can be successfully repaired to working condition, which is what I want. The ends are so brittle and in shreds that repair may be impossible even with leather reconditioning and using liberal amounts of Tyvek to hold everything in place.

The Skiver I got from Talas is much thicker that the leather in the bellows. This stuff is really very, very thin - .005"! In some places it is like old paper that is ready to crumble.

I did find a source for very thin leather - The Leather Supply House (, which sells leather for musical instruments. I may try to make new bellows myself - just for grins. I can get leather and liner to match the thickness of the original, but I'll have to dye the leather as well as make the new bellows, and I'm not sure I want to grin that much.

Again, thanks for your help.
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