Argus AA purchase and repair.

Brownie

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Last week I bought an Argus AA off of eBay that had a crack in the Bakelite body. Normally I'd pass up something like this, and if it were an A, A2, or one of the other A variants I probably would have. The AA was made for only one year in 1941. Production stopped due to WWII, and as a result there were about 13,500 of them made. Sounds like a lot, but it's paltry considering the millions of C3's they made. Serial numbers are sequential ignoring the 5 prefix so this is AA #07,493, about the middle of the manufacturing run.

It's a real shame about the crack because the rest of the camera is in beautiful condition. The seller tells the story that it was used in WWII by a soldier, hence the crack. Maybe, maybe not. I was told a long time ago to buy the item not the story. I had planned to remove the rewind assembly and fix the crack, but after it was delivered what I had assumed to be one crack turned out to be three.

02 by telecast, on Flickr

Everything is still in one piece and holding tight, probably thanks to the nut that mounts the film rewind shaft to the body, so I decided to just fix the main crack instead of taking it apart and risking a bigger mess. If the others ever open up I'll address them then.

The "soldier" had applied some medical cloth type tape over the crack which left residue behind. I tested Goof Off on the Bakelite with no adverse effect, and it was able to get almost all of the old adhesive off. Afterwards the crack was flushed clean using a hypodermic needle and isopropyl alcohol. A clamp and epoxy closed the crack up quite a bit, but I couldn't get it completely closed. After the epoxy cured I used a Dremel with a round head carving bit to route the crack a little wider and deeper on the inside and then leveled it with another application of epoxy for strength. Since the epoxy was clear (chosen in case it oozed out the front of the crack) light was still getting through, so the interior was painted over with flat black paint. The epoxy was also used to level and trap the large crack and pieces on the bottom from the outside.

The back is in great shape with a few minor scratches and scuffs. The cushion that holds the film cartridge was dried and hard, so it was replaced with a piece of stuff kind of like weather stripping but a little higher density, made for speaker building. A little flat black paint fixed the scratches.

04 by telecast, on Flickr

The Argus group helped a lot (once again) with lens removal and cleaning. I was able to completely clean the interior and exterior surfaces of both lens groups.

After the paint dried I turned my attention to the viewfinder, which was very foggy. Cleaning the outside didn't help much. Gathering my courage I removed the retaining ring from the rear viewfinder lens. I was careful to drop the lens out in my palm to make sure I knew proper orientation, then cleaned the interior surface of the front lens by reaching through the rear opening with canned air, Q-Tips, and lens cleaner. Getting the ring back in was a bit nerve wracking but not terribly difficult. A good wash down and general cleaning followed.

The crack repair isn't perfect, but it is perfectly serviceable. When I first saw the camera on eBay I dismissed it because of the crack. He had it listed as an A not realizing it's an AA. The price of $5.50 was too good to pass up and I kind of felt like I wanted to rescue the little guy. I'm going to let it set open for a few days to make sure the paint is cured, then load it up and shoot some film.

05 by telecast, on Flickr
 

PakkyT

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The price of $5.50 was too good to pass up
When I read the first line about how you would normally pass a cracked one up, I figured it must be a somewhat collectable item costing tens of dollars or more. But $5.50? It was worth buying simply for the parts should you run across another one later without a cracked body but has other issues like missing knobs or whatnot.
 
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Brownie

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When I read the first line about how you would normally pass a cracked one up, I figured it must be a somewhat collectable item costing tens of dollars or more. But $5.50? It was worth buying simply for the parts should you run across another one later without a cracked body but as other issues like missing knobs or whatnot.
Agreed, although I'd hate to scavenge this model to provide parts for something more common. If it were an A, AF, A2B, etc. I'd have no problem with it.

With a blazing fast f6.3 lens!!! :drinks:

Nice find, I've never seen an A in the flesh myself.
This is cited as pretty much the worst lens Argus ever put on a 'A' model camera. I failed to mention that this is the first A with flash capability. They evidently made some concessions to the lens due to either engineering or more likely cost restrictions. It doesn't collapse, there is no focus, no shutter speeds other than Instant and Time, no range finding, and it falls short of the standard apertures. It seems this camera was designed to put 35mm film into a Brownie or other box camera type setting so everyone could use it as a P-n-S. Still, it's a lovable little cuss and I'm betting it'll make decent photos given the limitations.
 

Brownie

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I suppose f6.3 (instead of f11 like the much later Argus 75) makes sense considering the slower films of the day.
Argoflex Seventy Fives, Argus Seventy Fives, and Argus 75's were designed to be P-N-S cameras, much like a Brownie box camera. No focusing, no aperture adjustment. They were inexpensive and marketed to people who just wanted to stick film in it and take a shot. I just went through an Argus Seventy Five that I picked up for $4.99 and it's in top-notch condition. I also have a $2.88 Argoflex Seventy Five that was purchased for parts. The listing photos sucked and I didn't expect much, but now that I can see it up close and personal I may keep it and clean it up.
 

John King

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I recall reading somewhere that the only way to stop a crack from propagating was to drill a hole through it at the propagation end. This presumably causes the forces to be evenly distributed around a circular hole, and thus it has nowhere to go. Same principle applies to rivet holes and cracks in airframes.

Great repair job, BTW Tim. These objects are as much a part of our human legacy as a Song dynasty bowl ... just IMHO.
 

Brownie

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I recall reading somewhere that the only way to stop a crack from propagating was to drill a hole through it at the propagation end. This presumably causes the forces to be evenly distributed around a circular hole, and thus it has nowhere to go. Same principle applies to rivet holes and cracks in airframes.

Great repair job, BTW Tim. These objects are as much a part of our human legacy as a Song dynasty bowl ... just IMHO.
True, but since this crack is now held with epoxy it doesn't matter. Back when I used to make custom counter tops if the Formica had a crack we'd drill a hole to stop it from going further and destroying the entire sheet.
 

Brownie

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Rats. I shot half a roll of film today under bright sunny skies. I set the aperture at 12.7. This afternoon the clouds rolled in and when I went to change the setting it was already at 6.3. No idea when it changed, there are no detents. I hope most of what I shot was under the correct setting and film latitude will take care of the rest.
 
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