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#1 Paul Bruening

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 08:31 AM

What the heck is the usual camera body made of? I can't find this info on the web. Every camera I can think of is cast from this same kind of stuff. I've run across references to aluminum. These bodies seem a little heavier and harder than aluminum. I've run across magnesium. Did they have magnesium as early as a B&H 2709?

Whatever it is, it's freakin' heavy. It seems to me that the only parts that have to be made from steel are the gate/pull-down assembly and the continuous transport assembly. The rest could be plastic or genuine aluminum. If the works are tooth belted instead of geared you wouldn't need to worry about expansion issues.
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#2 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 06:27 PM

Beats me. But cast iron seems like an excellent possibility. Strong, dimensionally stable, rigid, works well with steel, relatively easy to machine.

They used a lot of it in Model A Fords.

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#3 Simon Wyss

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 05:43 AM

Paul

When they go into bigger series the alloy is silumin. But - here comes the big but as usual - once the alloy is not very precisely met you can have deterioration. The metals disintegrate. I have seen this with many comsumer products like Super-8 home projectors.

There are many more different alloys. It's a question of what the designer wants to achieve, be it ruggedness versus weight, be it advantages with the assembly versus price, and so on. You can probably imagine that it is not the same to build a Mitchell in 1928 or to release an Arriflex 35 BL forty years later.

As to the Bell & Howell "Standard Cinematograph Camera" of 1911 I know that it was cast in a special aluminium alloy number 12 . More is not available up to now. Possible they put magnesium in. Chicago, the city of steel and steam, was leading in metallurgy at the time. I still doubt that Howell and Bell were in the position to construct the first all-metal motion-picture film camera. There must have been someone in the background with the necessary know-how. If you look at such a camera body, I mean the single piece freed from everything else, you are amazed by the complicated form it demanded to be cast. It's sand casting, no doubt. On December 1st, 2005, I had the opportunity to see it with a friend of mine who is the master of camera restoration. He has three 2709 entirely restored including carrying box and side viewfinder. He even found that the glossy black lacquer was a Swiss product. He recovered the formula. He has also restored two Mitchell.

Gears versus timing belts: Today you have movie film projectors with timing belts. They work, but you don't know when the drop out comes. With solid lubricated gears there is no worry for fifty years. And belts are not more silent than gears. Mitchell had hard paper cog wheels alternating with brass or bronze gears in the "sound" model.

Edited by Simon Wyss, 25 September 2008 - 05:46 AM.

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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 07:40 AM

What an extraordinary post. Thank you.
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#5 Patrick Neary

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 05:05 PM

On December 1st, 2005, I had the opportunity to see it with a friend of mine who is the master of camera restoration. He has three 2709 entirely restored including carrying box and side viewfinder. He even found that the glossy black lacquer was a Swiss product. He recovered the formula. He has also restored two Mitchell.


Ditto what Paul said- thanks for the interesting post!

Does your friend shoot with the 2709s or are they just for display?
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#6 Simon Wyss

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 05:22 AM

He did CIRCUS with one of them, a short. You'll find an article on that production here, July 2008 issue.
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#7 Patrick Neary

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 09:57 AM

He did CIRCUS with one of them, a short. You'll find an article on that production here, July 2008 issue.


That's extraordinary- So that's not a 2709, that's THE 2709!

I saw the article in the print version awhile back, is that really the same Chaplin camera that was up for auction at Christie's a year or two ago?
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#8 Simon Wyss

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Posted 27 September 2008 - 05:42 AM

To be frank, no, it is not. Carlo only spoke of his B. & H. as the Chaplin camera as a type. Chap's personal 2709 at Christie's is in a bad shape. It wasn't used by Charlie, he was unable even to load it. To me the negatives are far more valuable. These don't show up at Christie's.
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#9 Simon Wyss

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 06:08 AM

What the heck is the usual camera body made of?

Now after some time have I found the source again of my information. I am citing from the manual for the Bell & Howell Standard Cinematograph Camera:

“The camera frame consists integrally of but four parts,―main frame, door, turret plate mounting and turret plate. It forms the complete housing of the entire camera mechanism.
The main frame is cast in one piece from special alumimum alloy No. 12.” (Page Four)

It's good to reread the old things. A mistery arises. There stands black on white: “The Bell & Howell Standard Cinematograph Camera is not an experiment. The first Bell & Howell Cameras, built in 1907, are in use today by the side of later models.” (Foreword)

1907 ?

The company was established in early 1907. Where did a camera come from almost instantly only after Howell, Bell and Mrs. Bell had signed with the County commercial record office? Until today I was believing that a first camera was completed in 1909, the wooden box model.

Everything goes so fast. Bell and Howell met in 1905.
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#10 Paul Bruening

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 10:05 AM

What are the latest bodies made form?
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#11 Simon Wyss

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 03:00 AM

Aluminium-magnesium alloys, sometimes plain (hard) alum.
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#12 John Sprung

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 12:58 PM

The company was established in early 1907. Where did a camera come from almost instantly only after Howell, Bell and Mrs. Bell had signed with the County commercial record office?


Typically what happens is that engineers with an idea do the fun part first, in their garage or wherever, finding out if their ideas will actually work. It's only when they outgrow the garage that they do the boring business bit.




-- J.S.
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#13 Simon Wyss

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 09:45 AM

“The camera frame consists integrally of but four parts,―main frame, door, turret plate mounting and turret plate. It forms the complete housing of the entire camera mechanism.
The main frame is cast in one piece from special alumimum alloy No. 12.” (Page Four)

More information about alloy No. 12: It's been called American Alloy Number Twelve. Easier to work than pure aluminum and smaller degree of shrinkage. Copper addition by a pre-alloy of Al and Cu fifty-fifty.

For those of you who cannot resist to restore a Bell & Howell Standard
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#14 Hal Smith

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 10:43 AM

More information about alloy No. 12: It's been called American Alloy Number Twelve. Easier to work than pure aluminum and smaller degree of shrinkage. Copper addition by a pre-alloy of Al and Cu fifty-fifty.


That would put it in the modern 2000 series (duralumins) which were once heavily used in aircraft structures. According to the Wikipedia article ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duralumin ) the initial development of those alloys was in 1903 in Germany which nicely fits the Bell and Howell timeline. In 1907 using an aluminum/copper alloy would have been cutting edge technology.
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#15 Paul Bruening

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 01:28 PM

I assume the copper makes it behave better under tools since aluminum can roll and buck when cutting? 50% copper would definitely account for the weight.
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#16 Tom Jensen

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:10 PM

Lead.
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Broadcast Solutions Inc

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks