Homemade Camera, Part 2: SJGR!

Previously, with homemade camera:

Read all about it in part 1

The Story Continues
After the success of getting better scans and seeing the possibility of exposing onto another medium, film and paper, I noticed something. This lens might have more coverage than just 8×10.

I cut a larger hole on the back of the cardboard frame and set about positioning the ground glass around that space and I was right, the coverage was way more than 8×10.

Plans for a 16×20 camera, made from wood, came alive at that moment, and here they are:

As you can see above, I measured distances from the ground glass to the lens and the front-standard including what the actual focussing distances were to the subject. This was to gauge how far the back-standard would need to be moved to focus on a subject at a certain distance.

For example; for a subject to be in focus at around 2m the backend, plus ground glass, would need to be about 90cm from the front.

The dimensions of the main body came out at 40cm long; a height of 56cm, plus wood width; 46cm wide, plus wood width.

The focusing backend would be whatever the inside height would be determined by the thickness of the wood I chose.


For wood I simply went to B&Q because there was a store nearby. The store assistant I spoke to admitted that B&Q was not the cheapest
place to buy wood and instead recommended a lumbar yard.

I couldn’t be bothered searching out a lumbar yard and was already in the store so I went with a couple of sheets of MDF at around £14 a sheet. I eventually went back for one final sheet so for 3 sheets of wood it came to around £36.

Add onto that 4 packets of angle brackets at £3.98 each for 4 angle brackets we’ve reached £49.92.

Of course I need to be able to cut all this wood up so I also had to buy a drill and a power-saw. I got the power-saw/drill at another more local hardware store so adding the power tools to the total cost I was looking at around £90.

A Cut Below The Rest: The Horror
I vaguely remember doing Craft & Design classes at school, it’s maybe called Woodshop or something like that in American schools, but I was terrible at it.

When it comes to physically making or handling things I’m carelessly aggressive and what I call ‘Bosh Bosh!’; not the noun for ‘nonsense’ but the sound effect of me recklessly hitting things until they work.

Nonetheless I got stuck in about it and gave it my best-ish shot. The first board was the worst because I learned the valuable lesson NOT to follow the marking on the saw because it was just utter bullshit.

My cut line was all over the joint; from then on I had to lean over and watch the blade cut through the wood.

Take note though, it didn’t mean that from then on I ever managed to stay within any line but at least it was closer to ‘*almost but not quite completely unlike*‘ straight.

* That was a nod to a Douglas Adams quote from The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy in reference to a cup of tea.


I managed to build the basic main camera body which was bracketed on the outside but still pretty wobbly and badly needed the lens board in place to give it some strength.

Cutting the hole for the lens was a calculated guesstimate and it took such a long time to sand down the hole for the lens to slide in that my hand was aching. First I drew the centre point of the board then the shape using the lens.

I then drilled holes at each point within the circle and cut between them with the power saw, sanding the hole down until the lens was able to be squeezed in snugly.

I finally ran some sealant around the outside frame to try and keep it light tight and stupidly did the same on the inside but more on that shortly.

The Backend
After collecting the third sheet I set about badly calculating the size of the inside box that will control the focus with the back standard.

I cut the wood to some weird measurement I made up then realised I had to shave off a centimetre, fortunately before constructing the pieces.

After shaving off that 1cm I built the backend box and bracketing it on the inside but when I tried to stuff it into the main camera box the buggering sealant got in the way.

After scratching out the still moist sealant I tried it again and it fitted better but still not great; I went at the backend edges like a madman with a blade shaving them down, see below. Now that was better.

So this is was it, nearly done …


The last piece of the puzzle is the hardest, making the ground glass holder and a film/paper/plate holder with dark slide.

I had an idea this morning but I’ll need to seriously think this through, a single sheet of film costs almost as much as a pack of 4×5 film.

That’s the story so far but more still to come but maybe not for about a week because I’m back to work on Monday.

For those who are wondering what SJGR means, it is:
Shit Just Got Real!


le fin

2 thoughts on “Homemade Camera, Part 2: SJGR!

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