In 1975, or thereabouts, my grandfather gave me his collection of cameras. A mixed bag of six models from different eras they also ranged in size from very large to compact folders. The oldest was a Sanderson plate camera with wooden body, the largest a single lens reflex press camera and the newest a Zeiss Ikon folding camera from the 1930s. In fact there were two Zeiss Ikon cameras, one making negatives 3¼” x 2¼” and one 2¼” x 1¾”, both using 120 roll film and I have put a couple of films through the former. The others were a small folding Kodak from the 1920s and a very small folding Agfa Rapide which took 35mm cassettes of a design not dissimilar to the standard 35mm cassette still in use today. This small collection then was the basis of what was to become a much larger collection accumulated from various sources over the next couple of decades. I lost count at 70 and have cameras of all shapes and sizes, none of which have cost me a great deal, usually a pound or two at auto jumble stalls and other places of that ilk. The most I have ever paid was £35 at an antique shop, I think I must have had a rush of blood to the head that day!
This then is the Sanderson plate camera I inherited some 40 years ago and I had no idea that what I was about to do would remove a great deal of any future monetary value. It was very scruffy, ingrained dirt in the leather covering of the wooden body, the lacquered brass was pitted and peeling and generally the exposed wooden frontage was shabby. I carefully dismantled the camera and set about cleaning the brass removing all the lacquer and cleaned and polished the mahogany front and base panels. I left the lens and shutter mechanism alone, didn’t want to mess with that but gave it a good external clean. I then tackled the leather-covered body and with black shoe polish brought it back to life. I then did something that is unforgivable, I dyed the the tired-looking red bellows turning them black. Of course, I now know that was not the right thing to do but forty years ago all I was really interested in was something nice to look at in a display cabinet.