Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Thoughts on the First VALOY enlarger

With the help of Ebay I recently acquired a box of early Valoy parts from a dealer in the North of England.  They went for 0.99p plus postage and  included some Gamer parts that no doubt will well cover the cost. The Leica parts included another column cover that I described in an earlier Blog posting and all was in remarkably fine condition. I have added a few odds and ends from my spares box and have ended up with an example of the first model of Valoy to put into practical use.

The later Valoy chassis as in the Type 11 derives it's geometrical integrity upon the interface of a number of flat surfaces and planes which assemble at right angles but the first design had a few 'built in' problem areas for the Wetzlar engineers. The thin dome sections containing the lamp and negative are affixed by precision screws to a cast hollow arm uniting the column and the head in a factory set relationship. It follows that this fixing is of the utmost importance in ensuring that the axis of the head is at the precise 90 degrees to the column as no other adjustment is possible. The care taken by Leitz is clear from the almost tissue thin spring steel shims used in the head assembly and the torque applied to the three heavy screws-which I recommend should never be undone.

I have attached some illustrations of the restored enlarger using a few spare parts I had. The column supplied was authentic but the electrical wiring had been modified and had non standard exit holes drilled so has been replaced ,again from spares,  I had  selected a stainless steel tube from a early De Vere 203, of exactly the same diameter,  which solves the corrosion issue once and for all. However, there is the question of drilling and threading for the set screw for the foot and this has defeated me so far as it is a hard metal. The Leitz electric plug system is almost impossible to restore and, as received, had been replaced by a cable running through a hole drilled in the corroded plug!

I make no apology for a column foot that came from an early Type 11 in black with a superb name plate that could not be resisted but made the question of earthing even more complex.  The red screw at the foot of the  original column no doubt met the regulations in Germany when the enlarger was made-1932! and the machine had the serpentine original wiring.  Rewiring advice is beyond the ability of this Blog,  but, whatever you decide,do fit an efficient earthing system and if in any doubt get it checked by a professional.  Remember that contact between the various parts may be poor.

The last Leica darkroom guide from the v35 period makes the valid point that beyond the safety issue effective earthing may reduce dust attracted by static.

This may be the right place to remark that I have found at least four types of lampholder in Valoy/Vasex/Focomat  enlargers fitted to a lamphouse which differs little in construction between 1920 and 1970.  This Valoy had an Bakelite holder with three insulated  brass spring pins surrounding the lampholder and permitting the adjustment screws to be used to obtain the precise lamp coverage. In this case the brass pins were firmly fixed  in place but still springy.

I have not seen the small light trap in any lamp fitting prior to the last Color-Focotar when this took the form of a spring washer floating around the cable entry tube and was presumably fitted for colour printing sensitivity purposes.  The first and oldest holder seen is all metal and has an interrupted annular ring around the lampholder bearing on the outer tubular housing and giving the same adjustment.These seem very fragile probably due to the heating of very thin metal.  Some of the metal fittings use brass pins with springs recessed onto the pin and some do not!  In later examples the solid pins will fly out with some force and care should be taken to remove the lampholder in,say, a plastic bag to avoid loss of these tiny, but vital, spares.  The last metal holder has strips of thin brass pressed out of the holder to form spring bearings but are still forced outwards in some cases with small coil springs which seems a logical way of saving money and obtaining efficiency at the works when the much revised lampholder on the Colour Focomat was issued.

The condenser bears no similarity to the Type 2 and is more like the first Focomat with a rotary lifting arm of super smooth action. In fact it is best described as a short Focomat  type.  Absence of a bellows means one less part to worry about when restoring after 80 years.  I am told that neither of my anti- newton plates are really satisfactory with the Valoy 2 as they distort the light paths but they find little use with the Valoy 1 as a thin plate of card or acetate in the classic Leica Guide pattern will suffice. Two of my a-n plates are the correct Leitz fitting and the other a Japanese replica product made in small numbers in the last year or so, but of similar high quality.

Should the inner dome require repainting this can be done with car aerosol spray but this job will be eased by first removing the reflector surface which is a loose push fit in most cases.  Do bear in mind that a wide range of 'silver' shades is available and I have often found that the short household cans from hardware outlets are easier to work with. This applies, in particular, to the later white finish.

The baseboard on this one was missing but they do come up from time to time and it would be nice to have an original rather than one shown which is attractive, but modern.  In the meantime that fitted has been constructed from block board which arrived as part of an Ikea wardrobe and proved to be solid timber which could take a precision cut from a power rail saw.  ( Short advertising break for my son,  Rupert, of 'Money for Nothing' BBC TV-On a TV near you. Thanks for the carpentry, Ru. )

The panels had six inches removed at each end which was glued under pressure at each end of the new base  to guard against warps, and to give a firmer base for the column.  Care was taken to see that the blockboard seams did not match.  Four doorstops lift the finished base off my darkroom bench and allow tidy cable runs. This board is larger than necessary but gives me some options for future use.

I first examined a number of original base boards, some of which have been beyond realistic recovery.  The subsequent delamination by dampness reveals  most  to be composed of three plies of hardwood each about seven millimeters thick with a outer coating of veneer.  There are countless shades ranging from deep Mahogany varnish to an acid green/blue tinge in flat varnish,  no doubt reflecting what was available in difficult times.

Older readers will recognise the column extension which represents, with the Purma camera, one of the few Welsh contributions to camera history being a product of  'Gnome'  of  that country. It was a product  marketed when the hobby in UK had to produce all it's goods from home industries as imports were restricted.  It bears some likeness to the Reprovit bracket but for full security and integrity of the geometry a further bracket at the top would inspire confidence.  A very similar bracket was available as 73930 in the New York price list of 1939,  also an extension arm was advertised by "R.G. Lewis" in 1946.  I have contrived to cover all possible bright metal in the light path using an early Leitz column  felt cover.  Finally,  the type of red filter and fitting shown is it seems a stock Leitz size as it is also a perfect fit on my Vasex enlarger.The 50mm lens shown is an attempt at authenticity and is an Elmar such as the Leica user might have transferred from his camera as was popular at the time.

Not a faultless restoration, and in some ways not authentic, but acceptable , I  feel, for 0.99p and the scrap box!
First , the Focomat style negative stage
 The early type dome/ arm joint
 The column offset, courtesy of Gnome
 The base,masking frame and column cover

This is the Elmar in place-too valuable to heat up by switching the light on!

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