Grading A Deardorff

Deardorff cameras come in all sort of conditions.  From 40 year old mint examples to 10 year old junkers. Yes that's backwards but its an example of the care that is given these cameras. This  is about what the true definition of condition really is. It is just my opinion.

New / Mint

      Lets start out with a NEW, LIKE NEW, MINT ++ camera. This is a 100 point camera
A.  It will have perfect wood, no nicks or dents.
B.  The metal parts have a brushed satin finish or on 1950s vintage cameras a bright nickel plated finish.
C.  The rear extension gear racks have no wear in the slots and have  been lubricated with the proper lube.
D. Everything moves smoothly  The front extension, the rear extension,  The rear turntable riding on the rear extension does not wobble more than 1/4 in  back and forth.
E. The front swing unit moves side to side smoothly. The rising front panel is not too  tight. It will hold a lens from sliding down even unlocked.
F. It is a Joy to use because it has been lubed correctly.


This presents a problem to some people. They do not know how to rate this camera. I feel there are a few ways.
    First, if all the moving mechanical parts on the bed are replaced with new parts, racks and focusing shoes
It is a:  NEW mechanically refinished camera. This tells you the metal has been replaced.
    Second, If the metal parts are within specs and when cleaned you can not tell them from new as well as the wood being perfect it is a:  refinished mint camera. This tells you the camera had a poor lacquer finish that was redone but the metal was perfect.
    There are now almost 800 of my refinished cameras out there so there is a good chance you will see one of mine. These have an original type finish. NEVER an OIL finish or urethane or tung oil. Only Lacquer. As the Company did. These are 95 point cameras.
A. The metal parts will be cleaned but may show some brassing unless replaced with  a new part. Might have
     new bellows.
B. Rear extension racks will be adjusted so there is minimal play  ( 3/8 Max. at  handle)
C-F. Same as above. And it is a joy to use because it has been lubed.

A good user

A camera that is in very good condition is one that has nice solid wood but it shows lots of  blemishes as in scratches, gouges, etc. No broken parts. The front swing unit usually has a bent upper plate. The rear extension racks show some wear that may need replacement or adjustment .. Handle is dead and the bed plate that attaches it to the tripod has poor threads. Watch out, it may fall off the tripod ! Bellows  might have  pinholes. They are easy to use but need work. The bed is often split on the glue joint and will only worsen unless repaired. These cameras are 70-80 points. Lubed? What's Lube? See the Wizard of Oz.

Poor condition Deardorffs that have been or are in daily studio use often have broken parts that are worked around. They can't spare the down time to fix it. Many are 40 years old and older. Some have had accessories screwed to the wood and there are modifications that are not original.  The bed is often split on the glue joint and will only worsen unless repaired or replaced.  I've seen these where they have had no lubrication at all.. . Lubed? Been to the desert?

Split Beds
The heart of the Deardorff Camera is the camera bed. This sits on the tripod either  the Round Metal Bed plate (1952 on)
or on the wood bottom of the camera.  MANY beds are split on the joints. This is bad. The damage is done if the bed has split on the rear edge. A split bed there will split the rear extension cross bar and do damage to the racks and focusing shoes. If the split is on the front, it causes the focusing shoes to become tight when moving the unit forward.  The bed either needs replacing or reglued. Regluing is less expensive but time consuming.  The bed is separated into the 4 pieces and rehydrated. ( 2 months )
The wood shrinks the greatest along the long edge of each triangle. The parts are then resized and reglued and clamped using the most modern glues. ( 1 month  ) Then the clamps are released and the bed sits. 3 months. This is to see if it wants to warp or split. Many people put a bed plate on the bed to stabilize it. This only stabilizes the bed under the plate. It is not recomended to fix a split bed.  The alternative is a new bed piece at 650.00. ( includes labor to install the other bed parts)

Main Page