Monday, November 24, 2014

Oh No! WD-40!!!

This post is not for the faint-hearted or any glove wearing gear lover!

I have not yet posted about my latest turn in classical photography, which brought me into large format. Yes, you read correctly, I am into large format now, more about that in a later post.

Along with a very nice Plaubel Peco Supra outfit came a 65mm Super-Angulon lens with a #00 Synchro-Compur shutter. All was fine with that shutter, but the slow speeds, which were gunked up.
"What do I care about slow speeds, since we have fast film!", you may think ... not so fast my friend. Large format lends itself to very slow film speeds, e.g. by use of photographic paper, rather than film. Now we are talking ISO 3-6 actually.
For me, the slow shutter just had to work!

So, I  decided to give a try and dismantled the Synchro-Compur, well, ok, I just took the lid and the speed-cam off.

First attempt to free the gears:
Zippo lighter fluid. Essentially, I swamped the entire mechanism with that stuff. Firing the shutter gradually freed the gunked gear and the slow speeds were coming up again. After some struggle with some springs, I managed to get the cam-plate back in place, closed the lid and had the shutter firing normally again. All speeds working! .... YEAH! Well ... not for long. 
The slow speed mechanism got sticky again a day later.
Cleaning with lighter fluid only did thus not do the trick!

Second attempt to free the gears (this is were real geeks should stop reading!):
WD-40 next to Duck-tape is the technicians best bet. Both are known for some severe and unwanted side-effects. Actually, the side-effects are somewhat similar, sticky gunk, which is difficult to remove!
WD-40 however, has the brilliant property to to loose old grime real good.
With the motto: no shutter is as good as a useless shutter, I tried to carefully spray some WD-40 into the stuck gears. Of course this did not go to plan... WD-40 ended up everywhere... in the shutter blades, on the aperture blades, etc. etc.
The result was, all shutter speeds ran extremely smooth! The volatile light highly viscous component of WD-40 did an excellent job.
Now, let's remove WD-40 as quickly as we can from the shutter.
In a first step, I flushed the shutter with Zippo lighter fluid.
In a second step (now look away if you are a purist!) I bathed (!) the entire shutter in medium hot water with a high a concentration of neutral (no perfume, no coloring) dish soap. Actually, I poured some of the dish washing soap right into the shutter and on the blades. Having done so, the entire mechanism experienced a dive, during which the shutter had to operate many time through all the gears (speeds).
Some time later, the Synchro-Compur experienced a hot shower of plain water, whilst firing, to be dried on a heating radiator a moment later.

Contrary to the first attempt of freeing the slow gears, the second attempt's result holds up. Fully dry, showing no signs of "lubricant", the shutter speeds, down to 1s, are just fine, finally, thanks to WD-40!?

Time will tell if I managed to also remove the heavy component of WD-40, which has the reputation to keep water away by greasing up, i.e. becoming sticky.

Use with care! Please understand the risks of using WD-40 in such delicate mechanisms as photographic shutters. Having warned you, I wont sign responsible when you messed up your $$$ camera mechanics.

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