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6th November


Although, as you may know, I am not great fan of the Son (ugh!), at least without me or it undergoing radical surgery, but I quite like the Gem, particularly for its shape and the clever stow-away spool arm and, of course, it isn't trying to be something it ent. I bought a Gem at Harpenden and have since been re-furbishing it. The insulation of both the mains cable and the wires from tranny to lamp had gone brittle and flaked away, causing an obvious safety hazard. Simple enough, but the main problem was the rubberised motor mountings had also rotted, making the motor loose and allowing it to move so that the main drive belt had become too slack. Fortunately, I was aware of the problem and the solution, in the form of a little jig made up by my friend Pete Giggle, together with glue and some 3mm thick rubber wot I had. The old rubber was a real devil, resistant to most solvents and very sticky and nasty. Once again, I was disappointed in Araldite, which I had to replace in several instances as it simply did not stick. Everything else was pretty much a matter of cleaning - nobody ever cleans projectors so it is easy to make a big difference - except for the sprocket. The Gem sprocket is a game of two halves (well, three actually), with the sprocket teeth on a ring which is then sandwiched between two plastic cheeks. This ring, and the inner cheek, were seized in place by corrosion of the shaft they ride on and, in removing them, the lip of the cheek broke off in several places.


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I suspect a problem of the plastic deteriorating over time. Anyway, I made a replacement in brass so I now have a Gem with a hybrid sprocket.

QI conversion had already been done, saving another job.

I was again struck by the relative crudity of the Gem (as most 9.5 machines), just the bare minimum necessary to do the job. This is not necessarily a criticism; if that's what it took to achieve a low price for penurious 9.5ers, this is a good thing, and its longevity speaks for itself. And of course we have that beautiful shape, tho' as so often the paint job, mainly on the base casting, seems to suffer from poor adhesion. I found it was losing the bottom loop, apparently caused by excess tension on the take-up belt; anyway, a looser one fixed it.


The other thing I've been occupied with is this dratted 17.5 Rural Sonore. Have a butcher's at these pix, which chart my attempts to sort out something to keep the film on the sprockets, just one of the many detailed, time-consuming problems I have to resolve with this machine.


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I have one functional example of a film retainer/guide and one that's the right shape but too narrow. The exact shape of the curve is vital in ensuring a snug fit round the sprocket. In pic 1 you see left my first attempt, using the intact example of the whole thing as a guide, made in thick aluminium. These were not satisfactory, partly because it was difficult to trace the shape from the intact pattern and partly because the aluminium was just too soft. However, useful experience for my second attempt, still in progress. Pic 1 centre shows the correct-shape-but-too-narrow example, sacrificed by being sawn apart to make it easier to trace the two sides for the new ones. This resulted in pic 1 right which, as you can see in pic 2, is in fact two sides bolted together. Pic 2 also shows the extra material at each end of these sides for the various fittings. The bits in pic 3 right show bolts and nuts I have made to replicate this extra material (I hope). I used two of the "bolts" to lock the two sides together so I could file them to an identical profile. One of the nuts I have left hexagonal, but the others are round, with a view to them all having a Pathstyle notch for a special screwdriver (which I shall probably have to make to get something big enuff). The N&B are about 10mm diameter, the screw thread on the B is M7 and the idea is that there should still be enough thickness to allow a 5mm thru hole, which is the largest thru size required, altho' the "pockets" you can see in pic 1 centre are bigger, but nut (do I mean not?) right thru. I'm still not sure if this will work. Finally, the idea is to replace what in the original is an integral cross "web" (single-piece casting), with three of the spindles in pic 3 (to match the holes I made in the alu sides so I could test for rigidity. The top one is my first attempt and for museum purposes only). These will be held in place by having their ends threaded (M3) and fitted with half-nuts like the one at the bottom of pic 3. Finally, pic 4 is the real thing, so lots more to do and make yet. Wot fun, eh?


30th October


I have added a load of pix of the 35mm Cosmograph, courtesy RenVillareal, giving them a separate page. Any info on this unusual machine would be most welcome. I have also improved the link to a write-up on The Educator, another 35mm machine that also has a separate page.


28th October


I am trying to assemble all the various parts I now have in order to make up one, or preferably 2, Rural Sonores in 17. 5mm. There are all sorts of problems. The most difficult is the turrets top and bottom of the mech, which carry the sprockets on cross-gears that mesh with gears at either end of a vertical drive shaft. Here are some pix (all from 16mm Rurals, I fear) to show you what I am talking about.


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There are two basic problems. The first is that the turrets are made of Mazac and, if not actually distorting, are fragile. So I am running out of intact ones to use and may, as I said in an earlier post, have to actually make some, which would be tricky and time-consuming. The vertical shaft in pic 4 has to mesh with the cross shaft seen in pic 3 for each turret. The second problem is that all the machines I have are equipped, often only partially, with an eclectic mixture of rollers, sprung and unsprung, which are meant to help keep the film on the sprockets but which I do not really see how they work. I quite like the two-roller, sprung type as appears in pic 1 on the top sprocket, but of course the necessary curve is a bit different on a 16mm machine so I can't re-use and it's hard to find anything to copy and tricky to make a suitable, rigid replacement even when one has something to copy. Yet another problem appears in pic 5; obviously, something is missing but I do not know what. There are tantalising hints in a pic from a website I have seen, suggesting maybe some kind of static reader, but I do not know anyone who has a complete machine so I could get pics or maybe even borrow to make one of my own. And it takes time. Even when one has all the parts, it still takes time because basically I am restoring/deep cleaning as I go along. And although parts are basically interchangeable in theory, in practice some parts will only fit with their original assemblies and cannot be purloined for another machine. And there are two different lens diameters, and a variety of detail differences in the gates, and I really need to convert to QI but still provide a light feed for the sound reader. And I am still not sure how the sound drum will work as this is one part of which I have no original 17.5 example to work from. This is all basically a sustained moan about the general recalcitrance of machines, which you have heard from me before, but it helps me feel better. I guess I just have unrealistic expectations of what is achievable and how long it takes.


23rd October


I think I have mentioned before that I am not impressed by the Bolex G series of projectors, principally because there is no springing to the claw and virtually none to the gate, so if a film gets out of rack, especially 9.5, we are talking holes in the film or severe denting and scratches as there is no slack for the claw to slide over the film until it reaches a sprocket hole. I had a G3 with only 400' spool arms, only 9.5 parts and already significantly hacked about by a previous owner. I saw little chance of getting a decent working machine out of it, so I have dismantled it. One thing I was interested to see was whether, if such a bizarre set of circumstances arose, one could transplant 800' arms onto a 400' machine. Here are a couple of pix of the mech, with the arms removed or part-removed. It looks to me as tho' it could be done. I kept various spares just in case - I think I've managed to convert the G3 9.5 spindles for a Bolex DA, as these are often missing their 9.5 parts.


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22nd October


Interesting Film Fair at Harpenden. More stalls and more punters than I can ever recall seeing at this venue. Perhaps people are coming to understand that fairs will be few and far between and they'd better support the ones that still happen. Ken Valentine dug out a great wodge of papers, which I relieved him of, comprising material assembled by one Peter Feesey, whom some of you may recall. I've put some of it in the Vox section under A Nerd and his Vox.


Here are some pix of my latest (2014) batch of 28mm films. When it goes bad, 28mm really goes to town. Two of eleven reels are hopelessly gone; one smells more of vinegar than any film I've come across and one appears to have turned into a solid lump. The product of this decay is a nasty brown powder, very like rust but far more virulent, affecting especially cans but also reels. The cans in this case were a write-off, with completely illegible labels and rusted thin. The spools are nasty but mostly salvageable (at least where there are spools), I have known some that have become almost like lace in places, a load of holes held together by not very much. Transferring them onto cores is a smelly, dirty job best carried on outdoors to avoid choking on fumes and dust. It's astonishing any of the films remain intact, but they seem to survive except for the few that are on a different, poorer stock. This batch includes several reels of a feature of which I already have part. Sadly, Reel 8 is the one that's gone vinegar; (interestingly, the titles seem relatively unaffected, suggesting vinegar is from defective stock, assuming titles are added separately). Such is the life of the 28mm collector.


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4th October


Bin quiet some more, but most of September was spent on holiday or visiting the Film Fair at Argenteuil. There I made, as is traditional, various foolish purchases including a very broken-down but seemingly genuine Rural Sonore that is really 17.5. Some bits missing or damaged, but together with my recent eBay purchase, I am now confident I can get a complete 17.5 machine working. Didn't I tell you about the eBay one? It was an even more broken-down item, with no motor or sprockets, but although apparently 17.5, turned out to be a re-conversion in progress from 16 back to 17.5. Some very ingenious features which are going to be very helpful in my consolidated machine. The sprocket turrets on these machines seem to be a weak point - they are complex Mazac castings and subject to the usual problems and generally very fragile. I may have to see if I can't make some, or at least have some made.....

Another September activity was about 3.2mm (one eighth of an inch) film, but I am embargoed on that for a while.

Just back from Rickmansworth, where I actually managed more sales than purchases! I am really getting desperate for space and must shift some stuff!


25th August 2014


I have been quiet for some time but, as you probably guessed, this does not mean I ent bin busy.



I have been looking at some fairly basic nut-and-bolt restoration. I have found the Vox and KOK to be very prone to serious cosmetic deterioration, due to damp, rust, aluminium "rust", general neglect or just a poor paint job from the start. The problem is that, while I don't mind having a go at smaller parts, KOK frames or Vox bases are several steps too far, and the sheer volume of stuff I have to address makes DIY impractical. So I have found someone to do it. I have been stripping down (extremely filthy) parts, removing rust and sanding as smooth as I can in the hope of getting a decent finish in the end. This is dull and time-consuming work and not much to tell you about. However, I have now had the very first piece back from painting, a Vox amp case.


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I think the result is stunning. It looks absolutely brand new and, if the finish is not an exact replica of the original crystalline/crackle, it is certainly a very respectable finish for an old projector and well in keeping. I look forward to more in due course.


I mentioned to you some time ago that I had concluded that the only feasible way to convert a 16mm Rural Sonore back to 17.5 was to accept that the film would have to be run wrong way round, with a redressing mirror or prism. So I have been having a go at the claw side of the issue. Here are a couple of pix.


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The first pic shows , from the top, two different 16mm claws from Rural Sonore (RS) machines and my first attempt at a 17.5 version. Pic 2 shows the very significant difference between the two gauges. I elected to make a two-pin claw, because I figured out that a 17.5 version of a 3-pin would just be too big.

16mm pitch is about 7.5mm, give or take, and 17.5 is 9.5mm So a 3-pin claw is going to be 4mm longer in 17.5, and have a stroke another 2mm more. There just didn't seem to be room. The third pic is from the RS section, just to remind you of the general layout. The front cam you see is the up/down cam; the silvery band behind it is a shaped "track", along which the slot in the back of the claw rides to give in and out motion. This is exactly the same mech as the Path Baby, just writ large.


You may be able to tell that I made the end of my claw a bit deeper where the slot is at the back, to allow for the increased stroke of the claw with the new up/down cam,, whilst using the 16mm in/out cam. The problem here is, the extra stroke seems to split, half up and half down (obvious, really, I spose), and I made no allowance on the up side, hence the very thin bit left at the top of the slot. In fact, I cannot at the moment see how to build more slack in at this point as it would foul the frame in which the claw slides. Need to do some serious thinking here. Why is nothing ever simple? To add to this, the up/down cam I had made a few years ago is not quite right - it binds at two points as it goes round. Not sure what to do about this either. In theory, in my understanding, which is fairly minimal, the new cam should be of the same dimensions as the 16mm one, but with its centre of rotation shifted. Maybe this is not so?





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