Some internet research (quite a lot for a change) indicates that this is an early 1930’s folder. It was the butkus.org site that finally helped identify the camera. If you are looking a camera manual butkus.org is the place to start. Don’t forget to pay Mr Butkus the suggested few dollars for his massive work in keeping the site and information up!
I think it is the most visually attractive of the folders in my little collection.
The early Bessa F/6.3 set in portrait mode.
The lens is a Voigtar Anastigmat with a slow f/6.3 aperture. Apparently this camera came before people worried about focal distances and such, the internet resources claim it is a 105 mm lens which is likely true.
Usually when I get these old nuggets the mechanisms need a going over as the lubrication often has dried and gone stiff. Or if the mechanism is intended to run dry as in the Zeiss folders decades of accumulated dirt prevents the cogs from running smoothly. In this case the times actually were precise! Here it was the lens that was the problem, with an ugly yellow tint all over. It looked a bit like dried oil. Clearly an evening with the small set of screwdrivers was ahead.
In the end it was necessary to not only remove the front lens but also remove the shutter assembly from the bellows and split the entire shutter in two parts. Small screws accessible only from behind had to be removed and then a small surgical knife was put into the slit between the two parts. Some easy bending around the circumference and it fell apart easily.
The rear lens was removed and cleaned in alcohol as was the front lens. Then the lenses were put back in place. The middle lens was never removed, it could be reached and cleansed from outside. All went well so far. Just as I was grabbing the two pieces to put them together again I noticed a small thin wire of dust on the rear lens, seen from the inside. Rather than removing the rear lens again, I tried to pick up the dust with the end of a bit of paper I had lying around. That turned out to be a disastrous move! On the paper was an ever so small drop of alcohol and it accidentally touched the aperture blades. I didn’t notice that until everything was reassembled and back in place on the bellows: The aperture slider was stuck! Odd. Disassemble again and then I noticed the aperture blades really were stuck. Very odd!
Taking apart the aperture assembly was not something I had intended but now I had to. What made it jam like that? Further investigations showed that several aperture blades were glued to each other. With a razor blade I managed to cut them free in all instances except two.
What had happened was that the blades dissolved in the minute little drop of alcohol that was on the paper I used to clean the rear lens before putting the halves together! I had never heard of anything but metal aperture blades but now I know better: Some early cameras had blades made out of shellac (for weight and non-magnetic properties I assume?) and shellac dissolves readily in alcohol! Two blades were severely glued together and as a last resort I tried dipping them in alcohol hoping the joint would dissolve the quickest, thus separating them. Alas, no! They only became more and more like wet flakes of soap in my fingers while colouring my fingers black.
Long story short: Out of the original 12 aperture blades only ten were rescued. It was possible to get the assembly working with only ten but the aperture is not entirely round anymore. Pity as 12 blades gave a perfect circular aperture opening. Since two blades had been removed I had to change some dimensions in the aperture assembly or the blades would fall around out of control in there. It now works, but only with 10 blades and non-perfect aperture circle. Phew! That was close!
A newly cleaned shutter and lens of a Voigtländer Bessa F/6.3.
Here is a last shot of it:
The aperture lever has markings of f/6.3, f/11 and f/22. Focus distance is set with the front focus lens either in metres or the “Portrait”-, “Gruppe”- (group), “Landschaft”- (landscape) markings in red.
If you are looking for the serial number it is stamped on the plate just below the shutter assembly. It is really hard to see but it is there!