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Refurbishing an 1896 Kodak Bullet

I think it's amazing how long photography has been around. To think that back in the 1800s, people were able to capture images that show us what the world was like back then is amazing. What's even more amazing is that the cameras used during this time period still work today and can take some pretty good pictures.

Kodak No 2 Bullet Before

Here is a Kodak No. 2 Bullet camera from 1896. I got it on eBay for $31. It looks pretty bad. It was designed to shoot with 103 film which is a film size (3-3/4" by 4-3/4" or 9x9 cm) which has not been made since 1949. It was a transitional camera that could also shoot dry plates, which were what got George Eastman started in making his fortune. See the little flap on the left side of the picture.

The Bullet minus the dry plate chamber was called the Bullseye. The 1896 version is the only one with the brass fittings.

Here's what it looks like after I stripped off the leather and applied some sealer and polyurethane, added a new leather strap and polished up the brass.

I used a leftover spool from a Kodak Swinger and a couple of washers to make extensions to a 120 spool so it would fit into the 103 size film supply. Then I wound black plastic tape to both ends of the original 103 take up spool so 120 film will wind up properly. It now takes 6x9 cm pictures on standard 120 film.

Before fixing light leaks

When I took the first pictures, it had a lot of light leaks, primarily due to the fact that removing the leather created a big gap between where the top of the camera meets the sides but also from some light seeping through the 120 year old joints in the wood.

To fix the light leaks, I applied some leftover foam stick on light seal material I had bought for my Olympus Trip project and applied it to the bottom side of the top edge.

Then I put some marine liquid electrical tape (same material you can use to fix the covering on Leica cameras) over the cracks at the seams of the wooden body.

This seemed to fix the light leaks pretty well.

It's only a miniscus lens, so not the sharpest pictures, but what do you expect from an 1896 camera?

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