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Help with Jammed Bolex


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#1 Ian Marks

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 05:06 PM

I've just obtained a second Bolex 16M (flatbase model M4). The seller had advised me that a friend had inadvertently "overwound" the camera, and that the camera wasn't running. Sure enough, that seems to be the case (I was hoping that the lever that disengages the motor was simply in the wrong position). Does anyone have a fix for this (short of sending it off to a technician)? Any help would be appreciated.
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#2 Milton Reid

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Posted 15 January 2006 - 12:26 AM

One quick fix would be to disengage the clockwork motor and get hold of an electric one which clips/screws on the side connecting with the 1:1 or 1:8 drive shaft. Look on ebay. The trouble is to vary camera spped one must vary voltage to motor but thats not too difficult. Older electic motors will not reach high speeds however due to corrosion and there may be instability even around 24fps. Don't even thik about shooting synch sound tho there are crystal motors available. I have never used one myself (crytal)but have made my own time lapse motors and they work fine.

Not sure which model you have, mine are all RX 4 or 5

This will not work for any electric bolex H16EL.SBM,EBM only RX with screw sockets on the side to mount motors. Best info from Andrew Alden who publishes BOLEX BIBLE 1998 from UK
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#3 Boris Belay

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Posted 15 January 2006 - 08:08 PM

Hi, The first thing to do is to run the camera without the spring motor engaged, ie, to run it with the rewind handle (Srping lever on '0' and side release locked into running position). You can run it backwards (rewind) or forward, and this will tell you if the problem is with the spring (if the camera runs smoothly with the rewind crank) or something else, in which case, the camera will not run run well with the rewind crank. Possible problems are with the shutter (bent), release (I've seen faulty releases on M4s before), or some of the axles in the film-advance mechanism.
When run through the rewind crank, the camera should run smoothly and easily up to the speed indicated on the speed dial. Play with the speed dial too, as any mechanical part on these 40 year old cameras can be stuck and prevent the camera from running. Re-engage the spring motor a few times and see whether it starts running -- I've had several stuch H16 that started running again after this simple trick.
I'm not sure what an 'overwould' H16 is... there is a security on the spring system that prevents the spring from being overwound, and unless the camera has been completely dismantled to get to the spring assembly, I don't see why that security would have failed.
You may have a broken spring, though. To see if that is the problem, set the camera in the rewind cranking position (as above) and crank the main motor crank clockwise (opposite the spring winding direction) : if the camera runs when cranked this way, the spring is probably broken.
Boris
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#4 Ian Marks

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Posted 16 January 2006 - 12:40 PM

Thanks for your responses. I haven't have much time to look over the camera since receiving it, but will look into Boris' method of turning the camera using a rewind crank (if I can find one). This camera is a spare (I have an M5 in great shape) so I may try just attaching an old electric motor - if and when one presents itself - and forget about the spring situation until I can get the camera to a qualified repairman. Thanks again.
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#5 Boris Belay

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Posted 17 January 2006 - 01:37 PM

Thanks for your responses. I haven't have much time to look over the camera since receiving it, but will look into Boris' method of turning the camera using a rewind crank (if I can find one). This camera is a spare (I have an M5 in great shape) so I may try just attaching an old electric motor - if and when one presents itself - and forget about the spring situation until I can get the camera to a qualified repairman. Thanks again.

The electric motor is an obvious solution, but only if the problem is with the spring... If something is wrong with any mechanical part running when using the motor (shutter, release that sticks out, frozen drive axles,...), you'll be no better off. So try my tests first (and do get a rewind crank as it's useful for many things, including removing jammed film -- not that that's ever happened to me on a H16 !).
And if you do get a motor, I suggest the MCE-17B for variable speed, but if you only do 24/25 ips shooting, a better value is the MST motor or the more recent EM motor ($50 on eBay if you're patient), both using the 1/1 motor axle of the M4/M5 models. The ESM motor is even better but far more expensive ($200+).
-B
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#6 Sam Wells

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 11:19 AM

So try my tests first (and do get a rewind crank as it's useful for many things, including removing jammed film -- not that that's ever happened to me on a H16 !).


You live a charmed life. Well it's rarely happened to me. But I've had a couple issues - had a camera with improperly set loop formers for instance - - and before I figured out the trick of 'manual intervention' (and then got the repair) the rewind crank let me reload easily. Very useful to have one I agree.

Re-engaging the motor trick was needed on my first Bolex, and old "Rex1" (which otherwise ran like a charm, although once I switched to Rx 5 & then used Arri & Aaton cameras I still can't believe I composed shots with that finder. I was younger I guess..... )

-Sam
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#7 Ian Marks

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 01:21 PM

"The electric motor is an obvious solution, but only if the problem is with the spring... If something is wrong with any mechanical part running when using the motor (shutter, release that sticks out, frozen drive axles,...), you'll be no better off. So try my tests first (and do get a rewind crank as it's useful for many things, including removing jammed film -- not that that's ever happened to me on a H16 !).
And if you do get a motor, I suggest the MCE-17B for variable speed, but if you only do 24/25 ips shooting, a better value is the MST motor or the more recent EM motor ($50 on eBay if you're patient), both using the 1/1 motor axle of the M4/M5 models. The ESM motor is even better but far more expensive ($200+)."


I'm pretty sure that the problem is the spring. I've been able to observe the shutter turning by (gently) moving the sprocketed drive spindles (or whatever they're called) with my finger. Everything looks okay there. The release does not seem to be stuck - it operates as on my other Bolexes. I will definitely try to get the right crank. I had one, but it must have been for an early model, as it would not fit my flatbase models.

For the motor, I was thinking of getting the MCE-17B because they seem to be cheap, although the battery arrangement seems very strange - I think you need at least 24v to get 24fps. The little bit of reading I've done on this motor seems to indicate that it is used with the spring motor still engaged. If I've got a problem with my spring, however, I'm not sure if the motor will work for me.

I had an MST long ago and I seem to remember disengaging the motor to use it. Unfortunately, the MST isn't a true sync motor, and has that weird power pack with a strange electrical coupling (does anyone make an adapter to use this with a standard XLR jack? That would sure make the MST more attractive). Every MST I've seen for sale recently has either had no power pack or a bad one that wouldn't hold a charge. The newest Tobin motor would be ideal - multiple crystal speeds, a standard 12v XLR power plug, compact, and apparently easy to move from camera to camera as needed - but I'm looking for a cheap solution to making this camera a user, and the Tobin is $495. That's a good price, but out of line with my penny-pinching approach. I'm all for putting together a workable camera together at the lowest possible cost.

Again, thanks everyone for your helpful responses - this forum is a wonderful resource.

Edited by Ian Marks, 18 January 2006 - 01:25 PM.

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#8 Clive Tobin

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 07:43 PM

The little bit of reading I've done on this motor seems to indicate that it is used with the spring motor still engaged. ...
I had an MST long ago and I seem to remember disengaging the motor to use it. Unfortunately, the MST isn't a true sync motor, ...


The Unimotor is used with the spring disconnected. The governor is always there and that is what governs the running speed. The voltage is varied to get the power into the right range to not overstress the governor. You can even use the mechanical release button to start and stop, with the clutch in the Unimotor screeching away and drawing current continuously, but this is not something I would do.

Your best motor is of course a Tobin one. :-) However, the MST is a sync motor, and a fine one, just not a crystal one. You need a pilot cable to go from the power pack to the Nagra or similar sync recorder. This is not compatible with a crystal-only sync recorder. Whatever you play back your pilot tape on needs to be able to resolve the pilot signal to some reference, when copying to fullcoat or video or whatever. This would be the line frequency or video sync respectively.
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#9 Ian Marks

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 08:50 PM

Hi Clive -

Thanks for the information. Yes, my best bet would be a Tobin motor... I have your motor on my ACL, which I guess makes it bit of a rarity. When I said the MST wasn't a sync motor, I should have said it wasn't a crystal sync motor (if it were, I'm sure they would be more sought after - and expensive - on the used market). Then there's that odd power pack to contend with.

Here's a thought - wouldn't there be a market for a single-speed, 24fps, $150 AC synchronous motor for the Bolex that could be plugged into the wall? An AC motor would provide acceptable sync for student and low-budget filmmakers without eating into the market for the multi-speed battery operated crystal motors. I'd buy one.
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#10 Boris Belay

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 02:18 PM

Ian, The MST (or later, and similar EM) motors are really OK if you don't need the variable speed (and they'll drive an MM magazine motor on your M5). I would definitely prefer those over MCE-17B and other kinds of Unimotors ((if yo don't need their multiple speed flexibility) for the simple reason that you don't use the camera speed dial with the MST, and so your speed setting will be more precise.
Synch-pulse sound recording sounds like a big headache at this point, so if you don't shoot crystal, I would still recommend you get a good fixed-speed motor and do audio adjustments on your computer (if you use one, of course). You'll be close enough, esp. if your takes are short.
The MST also runs on 12V., which is very convenient, and its battery pack is not really a problem. You have 3 possible solutions (given that most are dead now) : change the connector on the motor to XLR (mildly complicated), find the right connector from a site that sells them (Tuchel 6 or 7 poles, depending on the motor version) and connect it to a battery pack of your choice (I have the electrical diagrams, so it's a simple +/- soldering job) ; or get a bad MST battery pack, remove the old cells (easy) and either find a new battery that fits in the original container along with the charging circuitry, so you have a charger/battery unit as convenient but more powerful than the original Bolex unit. I've done that, it's simple, and when I need more power, I go to method 2.
Of course, if all your shooting is indoor, you can also use the MST powerpack to power the MST motor off a wall socket, even with the original bad cells in the power pack.
So, in my opinion, the MST motor is really a bargain for cheap shooting with decent speed accuracy. If you get the motor and power pack separately, just make sure you get compatible ones : same Tuchel connectors, either both 6 poles (older models) or both 7 poles (newer).
For twice that money, you can also step up to the nice, crystal-controlable (add-on by Bolex or Tobin), multi-speed Bolex ESM motor, which is basically the motor and circuitry of an EBM camera in an external package. (The ESM, MST, and EM, all need the 1/1 drive shaft of the Rex-4/M4/S-4 cameras -- just a reminder to other readers.)
And of course, Clive tobin's motors would be even one step up, and well-worth the money : not only better electronics and built-in crystal speeds, but also a brand new motor that's guaranteed to work (thanks, Clive for supporting our old Bolex cameras!).
So, all of this info is obviously only to make the best of available gear for the least money -- it's obviously simpler to have more advanced gear, but the most important is to shoot, and there are solutions for every budget out there !
-B
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