Leica I (a) with Lizard skin
Old 02-03-2019   #1
goamules
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Leica I (a) with Lizard skin

Hi, I found this Leica I (a) recently. It has a 1930 serial number, and a number-less Elmar lens. What attracted me was what appears to be a very old vulcanite covering OVER what seems to be lizard or snake skin.

Was lizard/snake ever a factory option, other than the LUX? I'm wondering if this is a hidden treasure, or just run of the mill Leica 1. Thanks!



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Old 02-03-2019   #2
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Very odd indeed!
I can't tell, but the black vulcanite seems to fit well relative to the top and bottom plates -- in other words: Does it appear the vulcanite is over the thickness of the lizard skin covering? I hope I make sense.
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Old 02-03-2019   #3
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I know what you are asking. It does seem like the lizard/snake area is the same thickness as the vulcanite....i.e. the vulcanite is not covering more lizard/snake. But hard to be sure. Looking with a loupe it's almost like there was a little arch-shaped piece of lizard/snake put around the bottom cover pin.
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Old 02-03-2019   #4
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Without seeing the rest of the camera, it looks to me like that was a repair attempt. As in, I don’t have an exact match for this piece of missing vulcanite, but I do have this nice leather I can patch in there.
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Old 02-03-2019   #5
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Yep, some leftover from a Leica Luxus I'm sure....
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Old 02-03-2019   #6
Erik van Straten
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Very nice! Is the lens clear? Usually the lenses of these cameras are fogged, but the fog can be removed.


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Old 02-03-2019   #7
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There was a calf skin (leather) covered version but I have never seen one...and this is not it.
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Old 02-03-2019   #8
Erik van Straten
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dralowid View Post
There was a calf skin (leather) covered version but I have never seen one...and this is not it.
You've seen one. In my avatar. (Leanekalb)(not mine!)

Erik.

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Old 02-03-2019   #9
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The lens looks clear, but I haven't taken it off. Shutter seems to work too, but hard to tell without taking the lens off! I assume you just take the 2 screws off?

Oh, one thing that bothers me. See how there is "fresh" brass threads showing, at the front of the fixture around the front lens element? What goes there? Is it missing a bezel? Does that hold the glass in (mine seems secure), or why are those two sets of thread there?

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Old 02-03-2019   #10
Erik van Straten
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goamules View Post
Oh, one thing that bothers me. See how there is "fresh" brass threads showing, at the front of the fixture around the front lens element? What goes there? Is it missing a bezel? Does that hold the glass in (mine seems secure), or why are those two sets of thread there?
I've seen that too. It can mean that the lens is recently serviced, but I don't think it is very smart to have a shiny piece of metal next to your front lens. It looks however decorative.

Now I see the close-up. I think someone removed all the paint from the metal parts around the lens. The lens itself looks quite clean, wich is good.

Normally the filter thread is on the thick metal ring on the front. It looks like on this lens the filter ring is deeper inwards. Funny.

Taking the lens off is easy: remove the three screws. Usually there is a lot of shimming underneath, very important for the sharpness. You have to be careful with these screws. They go into the aluminium of the housing. When the threads in the aluminium are damaged, you have a big problem.

Erik.
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Old 02-03-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
Very nice! Is the lens clear? Usually the lenses of these cameras are fogged, but the fog can be removed.

Erik.
I have a Leica 1a with a fogged lens and was wondering about that. Recommendations?
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Old 02-03-2019   #12
Erik van Straten
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith View Post
I have a Leica 1a with a fogged lens and was wondering about that. Recommendations?
I do it myself. There is a manual for cleaning early Leica lenses by Nobbysparrow (available on eBay). This manual is very good, but nevertheless this cleaning operation is not easy.

Erik.
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Old 02-04-2019   #13
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I will probably not take the lens off. I just wanted to see the shutter curtains, shining a LED light through the front glass just shows reflections....I can't tell what's in there! But the shutter sounds very good. I took the bottom off, and if I point the LED just right, I can see the back of the camera on B, looking through the front glass in a dark room. I guess I can just shoot a $6 roll and see what happens!
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Old 02-04-2019   #14
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It cleaned up a little better. It's worn, brassed, ugly, and chipped. But is my only hockey stick model. Found at an antique market, I probably paid too much (a few hundred).

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Old 02-04-2019   #15
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I would go ahead and give it a try.

As Erik has said, theoretically working on the lens is not difficult, however it is old and may well resist attempts to dismantle. Also the shims behind it may be small thin bits of paper, these sometimes fall apart.

So when testing, test for the obvious but also take shots at infinity to check focus.
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Old 02-04-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goamules View Post
I guess I can just shoot a $6 roll and see what happens!
Don't forget to cut the filmlip with the aid of a Filmanschneideschablone (ABCON).

The glass of your lens doesn't look bad. Should take nice pictures.

Erik.
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Old 02-04-2019   #17
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Originally Posted by Dralowid View Post
I would go ahead and give it a try.

As Erik has said, theoretically working on the lens is not difficult, however it is old and may well resist attempts to dismantle. Also the shims behind it may be small thin bits of paper, these sometimes fall apart.

So when testing, test for the obvious but also take shots at infinity to check focus.
Yeah, I'll get a measuring tape out and try the lens settings at their various marks.
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Old 02-04-2019   #18
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I'll use the Swiss version of the film cutter, the scissors on their pocket knives!
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Old 02-04-2019   #19
David Hughes
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I've noticed some leather covered Barnacks have a thick spacer behind the lens mount; so the question is:- is there one? Just a longshot...

Regards, David
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Old 02-04-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
I've noticed some leather covered Barnacks have a thick spacer behind the lens mount; so the question is:- is there one? Just a longshot...

Regards, David
The thing that I remember is that on an early I the vulcanite is machined and forms part of the distance between lens and film plane. This on camera 10xxx and also 12xxx

In other words the vulcanite goes under the lens flange and the screws go through it.

Now...this sets a hare running... does the vulcanite go under the flange on all fixed lens and non standardised cameras...and then it changes with mount standardisation to the later style with a cut out for lens flange?

Sounds logical but who knows?
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Old 02-04-2019   #21
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On my No 6535 the vulcanite goes under the lens flange, but its texture under the lens flange is different: fine structured circles, like an grammophone disc.

I have seen later examples on wich the vulcanite under the lens flange has the same structure as it has on other parts of the camera.

Erik.
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Old 02-04-2019   #22
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That's it, your 6535 sounds the same as those that I had. I took it to be fairly coarse machining.
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Old 02-04-2019   #23
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Well, those circles are very fine. But the idea to have vulcanite under the lens ...

The texture of the vulcanite is on 6.535 different than what you see on later cameras, but it is the same as on the earliest ones. The change is around 12.000.

I like it very much (the early stuff, that is).

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Old 02-04-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goamules View Post

"It cleaned up a little better. It's worn, brassed, ugly, and chipped. But is my only hockey stick model. Found at an antique market, I probably paid too much (a few hundred)."
We should get some T Shirts made with that on it; then we could all recognise each other...

Regards, David
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Old 02-04-2019   #25
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On Sunday night I was woken from my sleep in front of the tv by the mention of the word 'vulcanite'. It was Antiques Roadshow and they were talking about some faux Whitby jet jewellery that was apparently vulcanite...popular when the queen was in mourning for prince Albert.
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Old 02-05-2019   #26
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Is that why they were described as jewellery for men?

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Old 02-05-2019   #27
Erik van Straten
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On some Fisons some lens caps fit. But it is rare.

Erik.

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Old 02-05-2019   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dralowid View Post
On Sunday night I was woken from my sleep in front of the tv by the mention of the word 'vulcanite'. It was Antiques Roadshow and they were talking about some faux Whitby jet jewellery that was apparently vulcanite...popular when the queen was in mourning for prince Albert.
"Vulcanite" as a name for the stuff that is put on Leicas is wrong. The name of that stuff is "gutta percha". I found it rather strange to read that "gutta percha" was also used to make dental prostheses. I knew however that is was used for the isolation of telegraph cables in the deep sea.

Erik.
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Old 02-05-2019   #29
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Yes I have read this too, handles for pistols etc as well. It seems to be tree resin/latex that could be mistaken for black tar...in old cables. Moulded when warm.

Peter used to recover Leicas with it using a heat gun. I have no idea if he still does.
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Old 02-05-2019   #30
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Strange stuff, as it is very strong and brittle at the same time.

Erik.
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Old 02-05-2019   #31
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"Yes I have read this too, handles for pistols etc as well... "

Only cheapo ones, the rest use walnut or similar exotic woods...

Regards, David
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Old 02-05-2019   #32
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All I've ever heard is it is Vulcanite, made from natural rubber. There is a lot of confusion about early black materials. Some are called Gutta Percha, some Hard Rubber, and others. They are all made differently. Gutta Percha is a synthetic rubber, and quite hard. Gun grips were made from it, they typically chip off large pieces. I think the Leica coverings are more "hardened natural rubber" i.e. vulcanite. As their advertisements say.

See this too: http://www.nemeng.com/leica/032b.shtml
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Old 02-05-2019   #33
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On the shims and lens being mounted over the vulcanite, I can confirm my 1930 has this. I pulled out a loupe, and can easily see the vulcanite goes under the lens flange, but there are what looks like a stack of 4-5 paper shims between the flange and vulcanite.
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Old 02-05-2019   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goamules View Post
All I've ever heard is it is Vulcanite, made from natural rubber. There is a lot of confusion about early black materials. Some are called Gutta Percha, some Hard Rubber, and others. They are all made differently. Gutta Percha is a synthetic rubber, and quite hard. Gun grips were made from it, they typically chip off large pieces. I think the Leica coverings are more "hardened natural rubber" i.e. vulcanite. As their advertisements say.

See this too: http://www.nemeng.com/leica/032b.shtml
Guttapercha is not synthetic, but a natural product, imported from Indonesia.

Guttapercha is a product obtained from the milksap of gutta-perch trees (genus Palaquium, family Sapotaceae) from Indonesia, consisting of poly-trans-isoprene. It looks somewhat like rubber, but is harder.

It is used, among other things, for electrical insulation, in dentistry (as a nerve canal filling) and in golf balls.

It was used in times when there where no synthetic plastics.

Could be that for Leicas it was mixed up with rubber. Sometimes the cameras have a rubber-like smell.

Above all the covering of the black-and-nickel Leicas III have a brownish color that can become very light brown (coffee with milk color) when the camera is exposed to bright sunlight. In the dark it becomes dark brown-grey again.

Erik.
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Old 02-05-2019   #35
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What I meant is Gutta Percha is not hard rubber. But why are we talking about Gutta Percha? Vulcanite is made from vulcanized natural rubber. Leica used vulcanite, natural rubber. Not Gutta Percha.
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Old 02-05-2019   #36
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Yes, but guttapercha isn't synthetic rubber! Guttapercha is a product obtained from the milksap of gutta-perch trees (genus Palaquium, family Sapotaceae) from Indonesia. It was used for the coating of the Leica bodies. In 1925 synthetic rubber didn't exist.

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Old 02-06-2019   #37
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Neoprene was probably the first substitute but wasn't exactly suitable when first made and by the time it was Germany had managed to isolate itself...


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Old 02-06-2019   #38
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So...presumably there is a date when the covering changes from a natural material to something synthetic???
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Old 02-06-2019   #39
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So...presumably there is a date when the covering changes from a natural material to something synthetic???
I think it was with the coming of the M6. Although I've read somewere that the covering of the M4-2/M4-P looks like guttapercha (the same texture as M5, M4 and so on), but in fact it is something synthetic.

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Old 02-07-2019   #40
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Yes, but guttapercha isn't synthetic rubber! Guttapercha is a product obtained from the milksap of gutta-perch trees (genus Palaquium, family Sapotaceae) from Indonesia. It was used for the coating of the Leica bodies. In 1925 synthetic rubber didn't exist.

Erik.
Gutta Percha was NOT used to cover Leicas. Hardened natural rubber, aka latex was. Unless you have some documentation, everything I've ever read says the covering called "vulcanite" in the 20s and 30s was rubber/latex, that has been Vulcanized. The link above, by a chemist, says it's hard rubber too. Hard rubber was used for gun grips starting in the late 1800s, because it had some give and didn't chip as easily as gutta percha. For the same reason it was used by Leica. When new, it would have had a somewhat soft, grippy feel. Not like gutta percha, which is hard as plastic.
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