Bringing a box camera back to life

I find cameras in different places, and some are in better shape than others. This Conley Kwepie No. 2A Box camera was in pretty good shape but after 96 years or so on the planet it needed a little TLC.

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The front standard was loose so I took out the four screws and removed the front plate on the camera. Inside I found two of the four wooden triangle pieces floating around loose inside the camera. With a little pressure the third one came out as well.

I used some wood glue and reattached the wooden pieces, and while I was at it I re-glued one of the focusing mirrors it was loose as well. Look at how these mirrors are held in place with tiny nails. I love the details in older cameras, even simple box cameras.

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While inside the front standard I cleaned the lens, mirrors, focusing viewfinders on the side of the camera, and the tiny focusing windows on the front standard. The shutter is a simple see-saw type that opens and closes, and has a bulb setting if you pull on the top lever. It was in pristine shape and needed no work.

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I also used a mild cleaner and took care of all the external surface dirt. This brought the shine back to the leather on the outside of the camera. I don’t repair any of the blemishes, I think they show the camera’s history and are earned marks of age on these survivor cameras.

There are almost always pencil marks inside old box cameras. Sometimes hidden behind panels after assembly and other times in plain view. I like to picture the operator that was in charge of this particular part number while assembling these cameras. It brings a personal touch to a mechanical object.

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After a few Q-tips, a soft cotton cleaning cloth, paper towels and some elbow grease this camera is back in shape and is as close to new as I can get it. The viewfinders and lens are now crystal clear, the shutter is snappy and the leather is clean and shiny.

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These older cameras have such a fantastic history. That is why I like finding and offering them in my shop. I hope the new owner enjoys this camera as much as I did getting it cleaned up.

I’m glad I could save this Conley Kwepie No. 2A and make it a great camera again!

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