Bellows Making Tips

From: (Dion Johnson)
Subject: Re: Bellows making
Organization: NETCOM On-line Communication Services (408 261-4700 guest)
References: <4b95qt$>
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 1995 02:01:57 GMT
Lines: 70

Bob Martin ( wrote:

: I sure would like to figure out how to fold up 'stuff' in the shape, form,
: and function of a BELLOWS...  I wonder if this can be done by other than
: monks above 15000 feet. I have destroyed a ton of white mylar trying to
: learn how to make a macro bellows...   are there any surviving artists
: out there who could tell a young whippersnapper the secret ??  tia  Bob

This was posted a few months back:

>Subject: Re: How to build a bellows??
>Date: 24 Sep 1995 15:54:56 -0500

I had a hard time finding any "how to" articles but finally succeeded with
the following:

1.  Took apart an old one and looked at the construction.  You can see the
"layout" of lines for the four corners and the pleats.  There's also an
overlap that's usually placed at the bottom for the ends to be glued

2.  Creating my own layout on a full size piece of kraft paper for
practice. (Paper bag material)  I found that folding it up was easier when
I first folded the pleat parts back and forth like a Chinese fan.  Then
bend the "fan" at 90 degrees over the center of the lines made for the
corners.  (This is hard to describe without a picture, and I am in favor
of allowing GIFs in this newsgroup)

3.  Refolding, with the bends in place, back and forth, forming the
corners like a Chinese lantern. Once you get the hang of this, it's really
neat.  (you can practice with a small piece of writing paper.  Just make
about 6 pleats, then make the 90 degree fold.  Open it up again and refold
to make a demonstration bellows corner. It helps to curve the paper once
it's opened up in the direction you want the folds to go.  You then have
to fold some of the old folds in the opposite direction.)

4.  I glued up the final paper bellows.  Once done, I sprayed the paper,
just for laughs, with automotive vinyl paint used to paint over car
upholstery. (black)  It actually resulted in a sort of rubberized material
that appears to be light tight.

5.  This was obviously not too durable.  I looked all over for the
rubberized fabric -- no luck.  Then someone here suggested Tandy leather
as a source for a leather "sciver", which I bought.

6.  The sciver was too soft to hold folds on it's own, but I folded it
over the paper and glued it in place so that the paper bellows stiffened
the leather sciver. Not too bad.

7.  Now I have a bellows of the right shape and size, made of deluxe Tandy
material that I can talk about, and I feel that I understand the basics of
bellows making, if not the materials.

8.  The book "The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography" MacMillan Co, NY 1962
, has a short section on bellows layout.  Somewhat useful for getting the
basic ideas, but not as good as taking one apart.

9.  I'm very interested in learning the "right" way from somone who can
direct us to the correct materials.  In the meantime, the paper/leather
version seems to work adequately.

>Gordon Couger  Wrote:

>Could some one point me to a source of info on how to build a bellows. I 
>remember an article several years ago.       

Bob Crowley, Staff Inventor
Input Devices, Wayland MA

From: (Richard Knoppow) I got interested in how to make bellows not long ago when i had to replace the bellows in an old 8x10 view camera. I had new ones made by an outfit that advertises in Shutterbug-they worked o.k. but weren't asthetically pleasing. The only instructions I've found are in a very old book; _The Book of Photography_ edited by Paul Hasluck Pub.1907 by Cassell and Company, Limited, London and New York This may be available from a large library. I found mine,I think, at a camera sale somewhere. In the back are patterns for the stiffeners for several styles of bellows and fairly complete instructions. The leather covering used on bellows is bookbinders leather which is quite thin, don't know a source for it. The rubberized cloth used for the inside was available from Samy's camera in Los Angeles in rolls for blacking out windows I don't know if they still have it. Making bellows looks like it needs patience more than anything else-and would be a valuable skill to someone who likes old cameras. Dick Knoppow
From: aa688@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (William Franko) Newsgroups: Subject: Bellows making Date: 3 Jan 1996 16:14:28 GMT The following is a brief method that I have used to make bellows for a few cameras. Open the bellow to there full extent, you may have to slide the standards, and use water to soften the hard ,dry material to get the bellows fully extended.( they will harden up when the water drys out). Make a form, from solid block of wood or a Hollow form 1x8, 1x12, plywood ect to the size of the extended bellows, plus the amount needed to fold the front and rear to the standards.. Next comes the hardest part of bellows makings.....finding the material...some bellows use a open weave material, like used on the bottom of chairs and couches, others use a lighttight material as the inside Lay the material on the worksurface and place the form on it and mark it's outline,them roll it and mark till you have 4 sides. Make sure to add some to both edges to make the overlapping seams. Then depending on size of bellows, cut paper( manila folders, fiber folders,ect to make the strips to make the folds. Use old paper as pattern for shape and spaceing. Rubber cement into place. Next select outer cover, light tight if inner is mesh or fabric if inner is lighttight, and lay out on work surface and trace outline of form as before. Rubber cement (thinned) outer cover to to inner cover rolling form as you go. Apply cement to ouerlap, and let dry with lap resting on worksurface a few hours..overnite.. Slide bellows from form and starting from rear, one hand inside and one out push folds to get the proper hills and valleys. Pile on a bunch of books and let dry............. If you chose the correct enjoy....................... bill........................

See also

The outer bellows material is usually synthetic fabric coated with black rubber. Porters Camera sells it as DARKROOM CLOTH:

#22-1125 58"x3 yds. $49.50

Their order phone number: 1/800/553-2001
Their web site: http:/
He has a book on how to make your own bellows.
I bought the book years ago and have used the instructions to make both straight and tapered bellows. for bellows fixing info and bronbellows.html on bellows restoration tricks