Sunday, October 27, 2013

Refinished Burke & James View Camera

Refinished Burke & James View Camera.

During the limited time that I am not working on the NS Industrial Project (see previous posts), you'll find me cooking, watching movies and lately, restoring old cameras.

The little Futura S w/ 50mm f2.0.
It began when I came across an old Futura S rangefinder from the fifties that needed a bit of love. A quick inspection led to the discovery of a sticky Syncro-Compur shutter—they often get that way, especially the slow speeds—and some spider mould in the lens. Otherwise it was in fairly promising shape, and is currently loaded with some Ilford  HP-5 to give it a "test run," so to speak. More on my conclusions later.

The camera I am most excited about is a Burke & James 4x5 view camera, also from the 1950s. It has been in my possession for a few years now, but age had gotten the better of it long before it was in my hands. The original grey paint was cracking and the hardware had rusted over its (neglected) lifetime, amongst some other issues. Not to mention, the original lens had been swapped for an old enlarging lens, which was filled with dust and mildew as well. However, I decided that due to the simplicity of the camera and the quality wood construction, it would be worthwhile restoring. The lens was easy enough to rebuild as well, but I'm currently hunting for a suitable replacement outfitted with an oh-so-necessary shutter mechanism. The following photographs show the B&J before, during, but mostly after refinishing—because let's be honest, that's what you want to look at anyways!

Left: The camera components before refinishing.  Right: Cleaned, lacquered and ready for assembly.
Completely refinished Burke & James view camera, demonstrating full movements. 

Left: Original nameplate, made in Chicago, USA.  Right: Detail of wood, hardware and the front standard. 

Folded and ready for travel; front and rear views. It's actually quite compact. 

Left: Re-drawn grid lines, new light seal foam, and new paint.  Right: The B&J in its 'standard' position.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Travelling Nova Scotia

Mabou, Nova Scotia, October 2013

It has been about six weeks since Liz van Allen and I began work on our NS Industrial Project and I have to be honest, we've been going non-stop. As we've been driving from one end of the province to the other, it has really reminded us how beautiful and diverse Nova Scotia is. Travelling during the fall has proven to be as rewarding as we hoped—bold blue skies, warm light, moderate weather, vibrant fall leaves and wonderful sunsets.

Hammers at Craftsman Art Supply
A few weeks back, Liz collected her new bench and some tools from The Craftsman's Art Supply Limited out in Minevine, Nova Scotia. It is a small store but it is packed with excellent products and Bob is very knowledgeable about all the equipment he carries. A real gem—pardon the pun—for local jewellers.

Liz in heaven
While on the north side of the Bay of Fundy, Liz couldn't resist visiting the Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop and Museum—a long name for place with a long history of gemstone and fossil collecting in the area. Eldin George, the fellow who owns the shop is well into his 90's now and opened in 1948 (yes, that long ago). Throughout his life, he's been credited with discovering many "world firsts," including the world's smallest dinosaur tracks. Needless to say, Liz was like a kid in a candy store.

There are a few more locations to photograph yet, with Stanfield's in Truro next on the list, and I'm already looking forward to it! For now, enjoy this collection of images taken as we've travelled throughout beautiful "New Scotland."

Abandoned farmhouse near Earltown, NS

Liz collecting some gemstones at Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop and Museum

Farmland near Milford, NS

Joggin's Fossil Centre, Joggins, NS

Sunset over Pugwash, NS

Monday, October 14, 2013

NS Industrial Project: Railways

Old "Short Line" rail bridge near Tatamagouche, NS.

Fall colours and rust.
Happy Thanksgiving! It has been wonderful watching the leaves change colour as we've been travelling throughout Nova Scotia this fall. We've already driven over 4000 km or so, and we still have more locations to visit. Tomorrow morning we head to Cape Breton, where there Celtic Colours festival is in full swing. The island should be bustling with activity, but we'll be tracking down old mines and industrial locations, rather than celtic music.

Eliot Wright on the Swing Bridge.
If we were to go back 100 years, it is likely we'd be taking the train to Cape Breton. The rail system was king then, and there were many more railways that snaked across the landscape, connecting communities throughout Nova Scotia. Developing in tandem with the industrial revolution, the rail system was incredibly important for industry as a means to move product. As a matter of fact, if you look back, the railways in the province were strategically laid out to pass through communities with a large industrial presence.

Visiting sites in present day, it is interesting to see how things have changed. At some sites—like Ferrona and Londonderry—you can barely pick out forgotten rail-beds, whereas locations like Trenton Works (in Trenton) and National Gypsum in Milford you'll find trains are still used to move material (if less frequently). In other places, you can see retired railways that have been converted into trail systems like the Trans Canada Trail, which meanders its way across the whole country via old rail beds.

Detail of common rail bridge construction, taken by Liz van Allen.

The Swing Bridge, near Wallace, NS, now part of the Trans Canada Trail.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

NS Industrial Project: Slag

Liz explores the slag heap near Ferrona, NS

In our "Week Two" update, we mentioned visiting a slag heap near the former town of Ferrona, NS, but gave no further information. After discovering another slag heap in the once iron ore mining community of Londonderry, NS, we felt we should elaborate. 

Slag heap near Londonderry, NS
In the late 1800's Londonderry was known as Acadia Mines, and was one of the largest and most successful iron ore mining locations in Nova Scotia. Once home to nearly 5,000 residents, it is now just shy of 200. Historically, when the iron ore was smelted, the impurities (slag) would separate from the iron and would be scraped off into ladle cars while still in a molten state. From there, the slag would be carted by rail or horse to a nearby site and dumped, thus cooling and forming large mineral deposits commonly called slag heaps.

Layers of slag formed over the years.
It was shocking to see how different the slag was in colour and texture between Londonderry and Ferrona. 
In both locations, you could clearly see how the layers formed from the repeated pouring of slag over many years. It became clear to us—through some minor research—that the slag varied depending on mineral make up of the iron ore being smelted and the ground conditions of the surrounding rock and soil. Exploring these landscapes, it was hard to imagine what it might have looked like some hundred years ago. To us, these piles of slag serve as a defiant reminder of the industrial history these communities share.

Detail from Ferrona, NS