Rolleicord Art Deco Compur shutter service


Ira's father's Art Deco Rolleicord (the first Rolleicord model dating from 1933) suffered from the slower speeds sticking/hesitating. I've had good luck with dropping a little lighter fluid on Kodak Supermatic shutters so we decided to give it a try.

First step: remove the glass! The front lens cell was screwed in very tight. Looping a strand of insulated electrical cable around the lens gave enough purchase to get it going.

The back cell: It is too far into the camera to reach with a lens spanner to loosen the slotted retaing ring, so we filed the tips of a pair of needle-nosed plers to fit the slots:

We worked over a developing tray to catch any tiny screws or other parts. A pair of dividers is good for turning the locking disc.

With the faceplate off, the works are exposed and we applied a little lighter fluid:

Shutter ran perfectly, but after a while it was sticking again. So then we tried removing the shutter completely from the camera, and soaking it overnight in lighter fluid. Same problem, and that's where matters stood a year ago. Recently, Todd Belcher has been kind enough to give the following advice; we'll try again when Ira gets back from India:

(5 Feb 2004) We hit a wall with Ira's dad's Art Deco -- we removed the lens cells and the front plate of the shutter (eventually took the shutter completely off the camera), cleaned it with lighter fluid so it ran as smoothly as it should, but malfunctioning (sticking on slow speeds) again by the time camera reassembled...many cycles of this. Camera is sweet otherwise; it has a very clean 3.5 Tessar.

Todd replied: Did you try soaking the whole shutter in lighter fluid? You'll have to give the shutter a number of shakes over the course of a day as it soaks to remove old dirt from where it is lying and causing the sticking.

(6 Feb 2004) Greetings Todd, I'm John Wilton's 'camera repairing buddy'; I know John's been getting some great guidance, etc. from you & I just wanted to get some feedback regarding my attempts to get the dear old Rollei working smoothly.

As John wrote, I gave the shutter assembly several rounds of squirts of
lighter fluid, gently soaking up the fluid with lintless tissue each
round. Immediately, and while still slightly wet with the fluid, the
shutter seemed to work splendidly & smoothly, but after awhile it became
even more sluggish than BEFORE cleaning! At this point, ONLT the 300th
sec works properly. Can I assume that there's STILL some micro-gunk that
once the fluid has evaporated, is gumming up the works?

John forwarded your reply re: soaking the entire assembly & shaking
periodically. I'll give that a try shortly. While at John's yesterday I
did read a number of online articles & I do recall one mentioning
shutter lubrication; what's your opinion on this?
Is thorough cleaning sufficient to get the Compur shutter working
properly? I can't help thinking that where metal parts are involved
there's always some friction & lubrication, when properly used, might
keep things working smoothly.

Hello Ira (and John),

Indeed, the shutter is worse after cleaning because the gunk is softened and then becomes sticky after a few cleans with lighter fluid. This is the case when there is a lot of gunk is somewhere critical to the functioning of the shutter. 'A lot of gunk' may not really be a lot, but is a relative measure. Hence the shutter soaking. This will hopefully dissolve the gunk rather than simply softening it.

Good question regarding lubrication. Shutters can be left unlubricated, but it does lessen their life - by about a third. But the shutter does and will happily work for quite a while under these conditions. Very, very light lubrication with a thin oil is the best way to lubricate shutters. As you can see in your extreme case, a thick oil or grease will impede the action of a shutter. I use the end of a dental pick to apply a quarter drop of oil to the pinions in the shutter timing mechanism that poke through the flat metal top and bottom. You have to remove the timing piece to do this. It falls apart if you do not take care when removing it because it is the screws that hold it in the shutter that also hold the tops and bottom plates of the mechanism together. The screws also allow some adjustment of timing as one side of the timing mechanism has an elongated hole for time adjustment.

(24 Jan 2006)
The butane is acting as a lubricant when still a bit wet. When all the butane has dried, the shutter parts bind again. You need to find a very, very fine water-like oil and judiciously and very lightly lubricate the right parts of the shutter.

I use a very light oil that has teflon in it. The right parts to lubricate are limited. Just a pin tip on the speed mechanism spindles. You can put a smear on the main spring spindle. But that's about it.

I have a feeling there is either some gunk still in the shutter mechanism, or something is bent and binding, or it is worn and binding. Judicious oil might work.

One of the lube point on the Deco Shutter might be the 'hammer' ring. This is the ring underneath the rimset dial. The hammer ring can be identified easily because it has a long spring connected to it and the function of this ring is to cock the shutter and 'hammer' the right parts when the shutter is released. This ring rotates around the lens mount and as such sometimes needs very light greasing to ease it's movement. If this ring itself is tight and sticky, it can retard the movement of the shutter speed timing - especially the slow speeds. Most people apply far too much oil or grease to cameras and shutters. All the hammer ring requires is a very light coating of grease - when done, one should not be able to see any grease, but the ring should be slippery. More grease than this and the viscosity of the grease actually serves to impede the movement of the ring - as it does with many more delicate parts, especially true of oil and the shutter speed regulators.

Here's some useful links: