Removing Installing Light Seals Film Cameras USCamera
Removing Installing Light Seals Film Cameras USCamera
Installing light seals requires patience and with detailed USCamera professional instructions, it could not be much easier. Some customers started by installing light seals in friends cameras and as they gained experience, started servicing equipment for stores in their area. Others purchase collectible equipment needing seals at bargain prices and are able to replace the seals and resell them for a profit. Do be realistic, open your camera and look at the door channels on the body. Most channels are less than 2 mm wide and you will be working with 2 foam strips to fit in those channels. Also, door hinge seals and mirror cushions are other seals you will likely replace when installing one of our kits. We truly enjoy film cameras and combined, we have installed thousands of seals in almost every camera and accessory that required replacements. You can gain from that experience. Also, USCamera uses real sample cameras for measurements, the only way to make sure our kits fit perfectly.
Every day, USCamera techs fit custom seals from stock to make kits “just right to keep your equipment light tight”.
Contact us for any kits not listed. Many cameras we are on the list. We add new kits often and customer requests make it happen faster.
The complete list of all light seal kits available
Organize before you start.
Locate a clean, ventilated work area that is well lit.
A small amount Naphtha, mineral spirits or your favorite solvent that is plastic friendly
A pair of technicians quality curved or straight tweezers
Kimwipes (or paper towels)
Technicians work mat
Toothpicks (both square and round)
Q-tips with paper sticks
Adhesive delay agent:
Hand Sanitizing Gel 70% Alcohol (like Purell additive free)
Water ( recommended)
Handling the smaller foam pieces is easiest with a pair of tweezers.
Preparing for removal.
You never need to hurry.
The most important and time-consuming work is removing the old seals. Focus on clean, clean, clean. Clean the old residue from the door channels, mirror cushion area, door hinge area and anywhere else you are replacing the seals. The finest adhesive in the world will not adhere to that sticky, gooey residue that was once a quality light seal. Proper installation will give you thousands of light tight exposures.
Removing Old Seals
Put some of your solvent (1 oz) in a small container.
The easiest way to apply the solvent is to take tweezers and put the points into the solvent. Then squeeze the points together, then relax them a little and withdraw the tweezers. Capillary action should have the solvent in between the points. Look carefully at the tweezers points while they are in the solvent. You will notice the distance between the tweezers points (as you squeeze and release them) dictates how much solvent they will hold. Practice a few times until you can easily fill the tweezers points. You can easily direct a drop or less of solvent exactly where you want it.
Apply even smaller amounts by dipping toothpicks into the solvent.
USCamera Tech Note. Several Minolta film camera models from about the late 1960’s on used light seals with the adhesive applied. After applying solvent to the old seal, wait 10-20 seconds and many times with tweezers you can carefully get under the foam seal and get to the tape. Then just peel the entire seal strip off in one piece.
Door channel seals vary in width and a custom tool can easily be made to help remove and push the old foam out. Take a Q-tip (cotton swab) and cut off one of the tips. Then using a small pair of needle nose pliers squeeze the end carefully until the width fits the door channel. You can easily cut that end with an Exacto knife to a shape that works for you.
The first seals I remove are the door channels. Fill your #5 tweezers points with solvent and carefully moisten the foam in the channels. You must be extra careful around the counter actuation lever opening (upper right-hand corner door channel on many cameras) as you do not want to apply solvent to the interior of the camera.
After a couple of minutes, the residue can be easily removed by pushing it into a pile with a toothpick. The residue will just pile up in the channel and can be picked out and wiped out. Wrapping a Kimwipe around the straight tweezers points and dipping that the points in your solvent, also works quite well in the body channels also. We know of several technicians who prefer to use an old toothbrush to brush out the softened foam. Remember clean, clean, clean.
Now clean the door hinge seal area. Here you can lightly moisten q-tips to apply solvent and then wipe and clean away the residue.
Last, clean the mirror cushion area. Here you must be extremely careful. If the focusing screen is easily removable, remove it. Make sure that no pieces of the old cushion fall onto the focusing screen. If anything contacts the focusing screen it will most likely damage it permanently. We have never found any way to clean a light seal damaged focusing screen or mirror so it would look like new.
Carefully pick and scrape at the remaining cushion towards the lens opening. Some mirror cushions are installed with peel and stick adhesive. Sometimes it will just peel off.
Be rested and relaxed.
You do not have to hurry the install, but be prepared.
All I am trying to do is prepare you for a somewhat precise service that generally requires 10 minutes or less. Installing light seals goes very fast after the camera has been cleaned. You will be surprised how quickly you will finish. If you continue installing light seals, say for your friend’s film cameras, you will be quite proficient after 5 to 10 installations.
This is a technical task however not a difficult task to accomplish. You should have steady hands and not be frustrated easily working with small objects with tools and tweezers. As far as the difficulty level working on photo equipment, using a 1-10 scale, installing light seals is a 3. The skill level required goes up if you are removing covers. You would know your skill and ability better than anyone else.
It is very difficult to damage your camera performing this service.
I have trained many photo technicians and for the most part, women had better hand-eye coordination, learned quickly and became proficient much faster at servicing photo/imaging equipment than men.
New to installing light seals? I recommend starting with the shorter seals first, such as the door hinge seal. This is a rather short piece and can be handled easily. I do not recommend starting with the mirror cushion seal first.
The replacement seals are cut to exact lengths. Stretching the seals during installation and around corners will result in some leftover foam which can be easily trimmed with an Exacto knife or razor blade. Because of the type of adhesive used, some door hinge, mirror cushion, and other seals do not stretch during installation. Typically, the thinner the width of the seal the easier the material can be stretched and or torn.
Understanding wetting agents as an adhesive delay.
When installing seals that already have the adhesive applied requires a different technique than applying seals with no adhesive.
Delaying the adhesive from setting/sticking immediately upon contact is a must. You have less of a chance of a successful install if do not use a wetting agent because of the limited time before the seal has to be placed and positioned. Alcohol has the shortest working time, hand sanitizer the longest and water is somewhere in between.
I personally found water is the best and Purell a close second. Both did not react with the adhesive and gave a workable handling time before the adhesive bonds. Purell makes easy installation where some seals were nearly impossible to install as it needs to be slid into place. Camera manufacturers install many seals to single parts that are part of an assembly, then put it together as a unit.
I check the adhesive bond, by applying water or Purell to the adhesive and then applying the seal material to smooth surface plastic laminate and another sample to painted steel. After the wetting agent dried all foam was damaged somewhat when removal was attempted. The damage was enough that a replacement seal would be required.
We found three ways to delay the adhesive from setting:
3) hand sanitizer (Purell), alcohol-based with absolutely no additives, no fragrance, no moisturizers, etc. Any additives will prevent the adhesive from bonding.
Preparing your equipment.
Remove all the old seals and spotlessly clean where the new seals fit.
Installing the door channels can be the most challenging. When installing the door channel seals, always start at the door hinge side and work towards the latch side of the camera. Many ways of applying the door channels or any seals for that matter will work, however, what I am just trying to relay what worked best for me.
If I can see the upper door channel completely, fine. If not, I loosen the top cover screws first and check again. Most of the time the top cover will not have to be removed but sometimes it does. I check the bottom door channels for corner damage and remove the bottom cover if necessary. If the door closes and latches and unlatches easily this usually indicates the channels are ok. If any of the door channels show a little damage, just stretch the seal a little bit and it will fit easily into the damaged channel.
USCamera Tech Note. Camera manufacturers install light seals with the covers. Many times, when the top and bottom covers are installed, it will obscure a clear view of the door channel making it more challenging to install those seals. Over the life of many film cameras, they incur impact damage sometimes at the bottom cover corners. This can damage the door channel at that location. This will constrict that channel some making it a little more difficult to install the seal. Never try and straighten the channel, it will break. See below.
I cannot say this loud enough. RESIST the temptation to insert a screwdriver or ? and carefully attempt to straighten the bend in the door channel. Many camera bodies are cast aluminum and some are plastic. You will break off the casting before you believe you have put any pressure on the channel. Lesson learned from experience.
If working on an RB/RZ back and inserts, I remove the top and bottom covers.
Using water as a wetting agent.
Holding the seal with wet fingers, I remove the backing and apply water liberally (but not soaking) to the seal by dipping clean fingers in a glass of water and gently guiding/carefully pulling the seal around/through my wet fingers. Colorado has a dry climate. I can take a wet seal and place it, remove it and place it again without damaging it. However, after the second time if you have not placed it correctly, re-wet the seal. The results I describe are from testing seal placement on clean door channels of a test camera body. After wetting, I found I had about a minute or so, to place the seal in position before the adhesive started to become tacky. If I placed the seal in the channel and removed it, water would need to be re-applied as it loses moisture when contacting the channel.
Installing the seals.
As I said earlier, beginners should install short seals first saving the channel seals and the mirror cushions for last. However, it is of course entirely up to you. I am assuming you have confirmed the channels are not damaged. Also, you have loosened screws or removed covers to have full access to the channels and other areas requiring seal replacement. You should also have the tools you need.
Below I am explaining how I install the seals. Remember, how you install the seals is up to you, but the following is what works for me.
I place the equipment flat, on a tech work mat so the equipment does not slide or move around easily. I take a square toothpick and trim it so it perfectly fits the door channel of the camera I am working on. Make a couple of them. I have several toothpicks and q-tips I have made before. I also often use pointed bamboo sticks to push the seal or hold it in place.
Lay out the light seals.
I am right handed. For this seal piece, I rotate the camera so the hinge is on my left.
Select the top door channel seal (which is now on the bottom) starting at the hinge side, with backing on the seal, I hold it up to the channel and size it from the beginning of the channel to the counter lever opening. Then I cut that seal length. The remainder of that seal will fit the rest of the top channel.
I wet my fingers, remove the backing on the short seal and moisten it, making sure that the edges of the adhesive are wet. Then I hold one end of the seal with tweezers and place it in the channel, holding the end I just laid in place with a toothpick, I lay the rest of the seal in position. Again with my fingers wet with water, I remove the backing from the remaining top channel seal and moisten the seal. Then starting at the other side of the counter lever opening I place the end of the seal in the beginning of the channel and press about 10 -15 mm of the seal in place with a trimmed toothpick or bamboo stick. Then I hold the other end of that seal with tweezers and guide the remainder of the seal in place. Then with the trimmed toothpick or bamboo stick I carefully press the seal into the channel. Now I perform the exact same service installing the bottom channel seal. I also install the rest of the seals used on the back cover. Then I close the back cover to seat the seals in position. Last, I install the mirror cushion. Now I open the back cover and leave it open until the seals have completely dried. In the Denver area, this is about 4 – 6 hours.
Using Purell as a wetting agent.
Everything above applies concerning the installation of light seals with the exception of how Purell is applied to the seal and application area. I found it easiest to use a small brush (for example, nail polish brush size) to carefully paint the Purell on the application area and apply the seal. Some installers say they have found it easier to also apply a brush stroke of Purell to the adhesive on the seal itself. Remember you are installing the seal on a fine instrument and do not need a lot of Purell. The more you use the drying time increases.
When using Purell in the Denver area, average drying time is about 24 hours.
Model Specific Use of Purell. It is almost indispensable when installing the door hinge seal on the Konica C35 and Auto S3. Really helps when sliding that seal under the plate.
Through experience, we have found some seals would like a little adhesive to help keep them in place. Goodyear Pliobond is great contact cement for this purpose. Remember, you are attaching small pieces of foam to a precise instrument. A toothpick works great for applying just the right amount of adhesive to the foam. Always apply the adhesive to the foam first. Never try to apply adhesive to areas near the focusing screen. Should adhesive get on the screen it will permanently damage it.
Your comments and questions are always welcome.
As always …………good luck.
The USCamera Team
Removing Installing Light Seals Film Cameras USCamera