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Leatherette / Vulcanite

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Old Sunday 4th March 2018, 12:51   #1
simonineaston
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Leatherette / Vulcanite

Hi folks, as I dip my toes into using vintage binoculars, I notice that there's a lot of pairs around second-hand, some in better condition than others! I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that some that have suffered a great deal of wear & tear on the outside, may still be in reasonable conditon optically (although I recognize too that a battered pair are more likely to have been less well looked-after than a pristine pair). Were I to find a pair of vintage binoculars that performed well optically, do any kind readers care to comment on refurbishing the external surfaces of a vintage pair? Is it common to have a go at recovering deteriorating vulcanite with leather, or an artificial equivalent? Or would I be ploughing a furrow of my own? I have searched but can't find much on the subject.
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Old Sunday 4th March 2018, 18:48   #2
WJC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonineaston View Post
Hi folks, as I dip my toes into using vintage binoculars, I notice that there's a lot of pairs around second-hand, some in better condition than others! I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that some that have suffered a great deal of wear & tear on the outside, may still be in reasonable conditon optically (although I recognize too that a battered pair are more likely to have been less well looked-after than a pristine pair). Were I to find a pair of vintage binoculars that performed well optically, do any kind readers care to comment on refurbishing the external surfaces of a vintage pair? Is it common to have a go at recovering deteriorating vulcanite with leather, or an artificial equivalent? Or would I be ploughing a furrow of my own? I have searched but can't find much on the subject.
The leatherette was available in 12"x12" sheets. However, I have covered some by stripping the covering from an 80 or 100mm model. It's probably better to replace small patches. If you are precise and careful to match the testures--including the direction of the grain--the patch can be almost flawless. Trying to layout the leatherette to match the contours of a whole bino is a chore I never looked forward to.

Bill
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Last edited by WJC : Sunday 4th March 2018 at 19:01.
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Old Monday 5th March 2018, 01:17   #3
gunut
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the easiest way to replace the covering is to first remove the old covering....then make a pattern using tracing paper and wrapping it around the bin....start where the seem in the old covering was and tape the tracing paper end there....I use a piece of colored chalk and rub it on the paper along the edges of the bin...cut out the pattern ..transfer it to the covering material and cut out the covering piece.....but like what WJC said....its is a royal pain....I think Cory still does this repair....but it will cos$t you....or get to it yourself and post B4 and After pics.....
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Old Monday 5th March 2018, 05:12   #4
simonineaston
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Thanks guys - I have a pair of recently purchased vintage bino's on their way in the post. They are in very bad condition externally and were bought with trying an external restoration in mind - most of the vulcanite covering is already missing! I'm kind-of looking forward to re-covering them myself and may take the opportunity to change the colour scheme from black to some combination of brown, olive, khaki...
I've seen fabulous results when folk recover old cameras, although I'll probably avoid the temptation to try lizard / snake skin ;-) http://cameraleather.com/leica_m/preview.htm
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Old Monday 12th March 2018, 19:17   #5
simonineaston
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Said bin.s have arrived and are exactly what I wanted, that is clean inside and horrid externally. They are Swarovski Habicht 7x42 and perform a lot differently to my only other reference, a pair of very late Zeiss Deltrintem 8x30s. I think they are very early examples judging by the 3 digit serial number, with no sign either of sealing or multi-coating. I have purchased leatherette sheet to match the few remaining patches of cover on the binoculars and will make up my mind whether to try to re-cover these old Swarovskis, or else, leave them as they are.
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Old Thursday 15th March 2018, 00:30   #6
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Hi Simon; Congratulations on your purchase. Re-covering old binoculars can definitely be done, but isn't a straightforward job. Here is an example of an old Leitz that has been beautifully refurbished by forum member Bencw: https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=345748 Ben used a kind of artificial snakeskin which dare I say it looks amazing.

Or you could strip off the old covering altogether as this gent did with his Rangemaster: https://www.birdforum.net/showpost.p...3&postcount=25 - make sure you're sitting down before you click on the link!

Cheers,

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Old Sunday 25th March 2018, 09:44   #7
simonineaston
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I've bought a sheet of covering & glue and have taken the binoculars to basic pieces - eye-piece pair, prism box and the two objective tubes. This model is so delicate! It's all coming together nicely. All the small pieces are carefully stored in placcie bags and all the glass appears good & clean. However, many of the painted parts are in poor condition, with lots of paint missing and some minor corrosion. Looking at pictures of other early Swarovski models, this appears to be common.
Does anyone have any tips about repainting the pieces? (I have lots of experience restoring bikes and so I'm comfortable preparing and painting small metal parts, but it does no harm to ask you guys for advice and not jump in to treating the lovely delicate pieces of vintage binoculars as if they were a 1959 Honda Benly!)
In particular, it's obvious that the metal is a light alloy, probably magnesium based, as far as I can tell, and so I should take that into consideration when choosing how to proceed. Any thoughts?
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Old Sunday 25th March 2018, 10:00   #8
simonineaston
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Some photos might help folk see the extent of the corrosion... a quick dip into the 'web suggests that deoxidising the alloy properly is really important. Judging by the frequency that the older models utilising magnesium alloy (which appears to be common in binocular manufacturing) begin to loose their paint coating, it looks like treating the castings effectively was a bit of black art back in the day. Presumably with advances in coatings and treatments, the quality of new binocular paint has improved, although it would be interesting to fast-forward fifty years to see what a magenisum alloy body binocular will look like in 2068!
I've attached a piccie of a much more recent pair of Falke by way of comparison and the castings have the same issue.
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Last edited by simonineaston : Sunday 25th March 2018 at 11:03.
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