Camera Repairs & Restoration Luton England
Vulcanite coverings as used on Leica Cameras from 1920's
WHY DOES THE VULCANITE COVERING DETERIORATE & EVENTUALLY FALL OFF .
Q. Why does the vulcanite covering on Leica bodies deteriorate and evetually fall off ?
A. Moisture and damp are the main causes. Moisture , from bad storage or a humid enviroment , penetrates beneath the vulcanite and oxidizes the aluminium in the surface of the shell of the camera. This powdery , white oxide separates the adhesive holding the vulcanite tightly to the shell. Vulcanite , at room temperature , is brittle , like an ice-cream wafer . Consequently , when an area of vulcanite has separated from the body , it is easily snagged on a finger-nail , or just the pressure of the hand will crack the , already weakened covering.
Leica IIIa body shell showing powdery , white areas of oxide which have caused the vulcanite to separate.
Q. What can I do ?
A. Normally this isn't a complete disaster if you find the missing vulcanite piece. It can usually be stuck back in place and no-one is the wiser. But life doesn't always allow such a simple solution. Under normal circumstances you pick the camera up and notice a piece missing , not knowing when or where it came adrift. It may be in your camera bag or on the floor just as you picked the camera up. If you are lucky you may find the missing piece , but usually this has broken into several smaller pieces and may need the help of a jigsaw expert to help you restore it. If the missing vulcanite is in a small area then you can fill the space with black picien wax and it will go un-noticed. Larger areas present a problem , as it is highly likely that the rest of the vulcanite may soon dissappear. The remedies are patching up the old vulcanite as best possible , removing the remaining vulcanite and re-covering your Leica in one of the many vinyl & leather coverings available from third party manufacturers such as camera-leather.com or cutting your own material and glueing it in place .
Q. Where can I get original vulcanite for my Leica.
A. Nowhere ( that I know of ) . Leica stopped using vulcanite when the M6 came out in the early 1980's. When I worked for Leitz they still supplied it in rectangular sheets but delivery stopped soon after the M6 was on the market .
We have manufactured a modern 'vulcanite' with the same properties ( brittle when cold ) and the same grains and patterns as the Leitz originals ( 3 types). The only difference is that the tree resin used by Leitz has been replaced by a modern synthetic resin which handles , looks and feels exactly like vulcanite . Its properties , being a synthetic , man made alternative , should allow it to have an equal if not greater life span than the original.
Unfortunately , fitting this material cannot be done as easily as recovering your camera in the self adhesive pre-cut vinyl available from other sources.
Recovering a Leica LTM ( or M ) camera with our EM vulcanite
Our EM vulcanite for Leica III a/b/c is a rigid material , like the original and has to be heated to apply it to the shell.
To recover the body-shell of your Leica M or LTM requires dismantling the camera . The shell has to be removed so that the old vulcanite can be stripped off and any corrosion cleaned away .
Leica IIIa shell after it has had the old vulcanite and corrosion removed and close-up of EM vulcanite showing pattern
The surface of the , now , clean shell , is ready for recovering in our EM 'Vulcanite' . First it is heated and the adhesive is applied to a quarter of the surface . The vulcanite is offered up to the shell and more heat applied. The temperature necessary is 150 degrees C and both the EM vulcanite and the body need to be very hot during this process. leather gloves are used while handling the body . Pressure is applied while the material is hot.
IIIa body shell after the EM vulcanite has been appplied , with close-up of front slow-speed dial recess .
Not everyone knows , but in the original production at the factory , the vulcanite was fitted before the strap lugs were rivetted in place. This stems back to the fact that early Leicas didn't have strap eyelets and they were fitted on later models as well as upgrades to the first cameras. The same method was used right up to the last M4's and the lugs were always attached after the shell was covered.
After the shell and the EM vulcanite has cooled down , the camera can be reassembled. The slow speeds have to be reset and adjusted , and the body collimation has to be checked and shimmed-up if required. The rangefinder normally will need slight adjustment as it is highly unlikely that the shell will go back exactly , with the same flange to focal plane distance so this is checked and any adjustments made.
We can recover your Leica M ( non-metered ) or screwthread camera with EM vulcanite for GB pounds £ 95
You may think that £ 95 ( GB pounds ) is expensive to recover your Leica , but the job takes a number of hours to complete and entails dismantling and recollimating , but you do receive your camera back looking exactly as it should do . If you want a less expensive alternative , Fargo Enterprises sell a self adhesive vinyl that is very good . You will have to cut this yourself and for US $ 25 plus postage it is probably the best you will get for the price . There is enough material to allow for errors and you won't have to dismantle your Leica !
There are numerous patterns of Vulcanite used on Leica cameras . We can re-cover your Leica I or III F/C in the orginal factory pattern .This is made of a modern synthetic resin which has the same characteristics as the original covering.
Original Vulcanite was manufactured using resin from a Malaysian rubber tree , and is very hardwearing , as is testament from many Leica I's that are still in perfect condition after 70 years or more. Being an organic material , Vulcanite , can suffer from over exposure to UV light , human sweat , and general contaminents in the air. When cold it is brittle and has to be heated before being applied to a body shell . Heating the material softens it sufficiently to allow it to be wrapped around the camera body without cracking.
Vulcanite pattern used in Leica I 's and II's
This pattern is fairly deep and has a characteristic antique look . We can match this pattern exactly with our modern resin vulcanite .
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You can often find that , due to the cross-over point , where the Leica I and II & III were made that these models have the same pattern vulcanite . Some earlier cameras were modified at the factory from Leica I to II or even to a Leica III. Normally the round metal plug on the back centre of the camera denotes a round pressure-plate , first introduced in the early Leica. Some later IIIc's have the same vulcanite as the Leica III and post-war IIIc's have the more modern looking vulcanite of the IIIg & M.
We will be starting production of the sharkskin pattern vulcanite later this year , although the original material is so hard wearing that demand will be low. A lot of the IIIc's with the sharkskin covering have had holes drilled in the shells by third parties fitting flash synchronisation and this can normally be invisibly 'mended' by using Picein wax so that the camera can be restored to original condition.
This vulcanite is used on Leica II , III , A B C D, 250ff/gg
The pattern on this vulcanite is different from the earlier cameras , in both depth of grain and style.
It is difficult to tell from these images the exact differences between the vulcanite patterns , but there are distinct types for each model & era . Ageing effects tend to make there appear to be more. For example , a brown vulcanite , sometimes with a shallow pattern, is really just a camera that has been in a shop window for some years and been bleached by the sun , although, some genuine calfskin factory fitted coverings are known of , but only a small number . Again, we can match this pattern exactly with our modern version vulcanite .
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This vulcanite is used on Leica III C/F/G M1/2/3/4/5
This vulcanite has the more common deep grain pattern , as used on cameras from late forties and fifties onwards. There are slight variations between this pattern type mainly due to the process used to manufacture and 'roll-out' the material . Increased pressure from the pattern drum during manufacture gives a deeper grain and vice-versa .
We can only fit this here as the material, and the body shell , have to be heated to apply it to the body.
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We can also supply a modern leatherette type , self adhesive material , so that you can cut & fit it yourself .This has a similar grain to the Leica vulcanite but is not an exact match.