It’s a Kodak moment!
As I got myself a good stash of Kodak over Sunday’s car boot sale, one particular camera which I am dying to try out making a Wet Plate camera is the Kodak Brownie six-20 model C (KB).
-Completed mod of the Kodak Brownie with magnet tripod attachment-
It is a beautiful piece of camera… lightweight, solid, and one part which I favour the most, was it’s large viewfinders and its mirrored lenses. I prefer to have it as large, bright and as clear as possible. That is the fantastic part about the KB Six-20s. (have a look at this site: http://www.brownie.camera).
My first read in using the KB was from John Coffer’s Doer’s Guide manual, in which he had described extensively and explain in using Kodak Brownie as a good camera for the wet plate (see his manual on page 63-65). Though, don’t get confused with his old horse, “Brownie”. Coffer’s manual is certainly a great part for your wet plate literature, in which you could get yourself a copy via mail and details in getting it from his website here.
What I am about to do to it will disgust collectors, in which please do look away.
Coffer had recommended that you could use the ready made internal film holder inside the KB, which I think it is fine, but I rather build myself another plate holder from laser cut acrylic, which will be easier to clean before and after use.
The internal bit was measured, (61mm depth x 70mm width x 97mm height), and would be replaced with a laser-cut acrylic joint box. Please do be mindful as I believe measurements will vary from one KB to the next.
The dimension plate for the KB’s plate holder that it will do would roughly be at 90 x 64 mm, but instead, I shrunk it down at 50 x 70 mm, nice little jewelry sized plate.
The Camera Mod
The “Mickey-Mouse” designed faceplate is wedged and jammed onto its body. To open it, I had to push it apart bit by bit with my thumbs from all sides (do not use your nails, you will break it away from your fingers!).
Once the faceplate opened, you will see the simple, and elegantly finished shutter spring mechanisms.
The joints were dabbed with oil, which I used 3-in-1 multi-purpose oil. I had moved away from using WD-40s as I began to realised that it dries up at some point, and do not retain its lubrication well.
The mirrors and the lenses were cleaned with denatured alcohol from dusts, gunks and whatnot.
Holding down the shutter with a quick grip clamp, as the KB had only two modes of shutter; one is 1/30 of a second, and the other is Bulb, set it at Bulb and clamp the shutter down.
I had measured the aperture of the KB, and it comes out to be around ± 6.9mm, and the focal length towards the film plane is at ± 85mm. Presuming the aperture is at ± f12.
That will take ages to make do with a wet plate shoot!
I will have to widen the opening slightly, just to let in more lights as possible with the KB.
Though the lens’ maximum diameter is at 12mm, and the shutter’s leaf is limited to ± 8.9mm. I will have to make do drilling it close enough to the edge of the leaf.
Still clamping down the shutter release, and add on a masking tape to hold down the shutter leaf as drilling into the box will vibrate quite a bit and I don’t want to extend work to more unnecessary repairs.
Using step drills, which is fabulous type of drill bits which I think most woodworkers and camera modders will need to enlarge any holes (they’re not too expensive, if you using it sparingly to work, unless you go for those fancy spiral titanium bits).
Once drilled, I measured the aperture and the diameter goes close enough to ± 8.6 mm, a little bit better than the original ± 6.9mm.
So, the current aperture is at ± f 9.8, about 3/4 stop faster, which may not seem much, but it will do.
Once the hole were drilled, I had to glue the sides with epoxy, as from 2 bits of metals that is placed together instead of one, which I realised once the drilling was done. This is to prevent it from further slipping and mess about the aperture.
Now the camera’s aperture’s done, the next bit is to deal with the shutter.
Since it will be a long exposure for the camera, I might as well have a small shutter release attachment. Not doing anything as fancy as the Silent Grundner (see the previous post of it here).
Using an M4 nut, which would be perfect to hold onto the cable release threads.
Taking a bit of bamboo ply scrap, I drilled a hole on one side, halfway in, of the size of the shutter button (which is at 8mm). Then I drilled 4mm right through it for the cable rod to pass through.
And the other side was drilled at 7mm, somewhat 1/3 of the way, to rest the M4 nut.
Using epoxy glue, I bind the M4 nut onto the 7mm side. Leave it to dry overnight.
Once the cable release attachment dried and later oiled and later painted black, as much as I loved the bamboo ply’s textures, it’s just irritating to look at it as if my KB had a bad ‘acne’ growth on the side.
The first try was a simple glue onto the surface of the camera, and it snapped off as the pressure of the cable pushing the button was too much and the surface to retain the bamboo bit was too weak and start pulling it out.
So, the next step was to cut away the fake leather surface (which was plastic) of the size of the cable release holder bit.
Sand the surface of the metal with wet and dry sandpaper (100 grit) to have a clear and roughen surface for better adhesive contact.
I re-glued the cable release holder bit and clamp it down onto the camera and just leave it overnight.
The cable release was tested and it holds.
The back panel was triple coated with Bonda Seal, a marine grade epoxy that resists almost all chemical, which had protected most of my gears up to date. Which I am forever in debt to Mark Voce for this recommendation.
The last bit needed will be a place for it to rest onto a tripod. Since it is all metal camera, what better than magnets to hold the camera.
Neodymium magnets baby… neodymium.
Which it could be simply switched between landscape, and portrait format.
Just glue it onto a bit of wood about the size of the tripod plate.
I placed a 2mm high dense foam around the magnets to the edge of the block of wood to act as a grip.
You could use 600 grit sandpaper as well, which works perfectly as a grip surface as well.
Having a spare tripod plate, which is conveniently there’s small holes to screw into the magnet bit of wood.
All set and ready to work.
At an average the shoot was between 25 seconds and 40, depending on how intense / close the lights were from the subject.
Based on the current measurements and opening of the aperture, the estimated angle of the coverage seems to be around 131.2°, and the subjects starts to fall into focus at an estimated 2.5 meters away.
This is one time that I felt the joy in using the Kodak Brownie, it is small, very simple. The magnet attachment is perfect as I could easily attach and detach from the tripod’s plate holder and carry it away to the darkroom to be developed.
It is limited to the given lens, granted, but we have legs to move forward and back, and our hands to alter the position of the camera since it’s darn small.
My personal opinion, have a go at it. Certainly the camera does not costs much to begin with and worth having one among many wet plater’s enthusiasts.