Touchless Cure for Lens Rheumatism

I have had this old Nikon micro lens hanging around for a long time. To turn the lens barrel I have considered bringing a pipe wrench in my bag. I can’t recall when or how it happened, or even if I bought the lens this way. Originally it was a bit taut, but I am sure the grease dried from inattention leading to rigor mortis. I took the lens into my mortician for an autopsy, but he recommended I retire the lens to the the ethereal. I could not bear to do this to such a fine piece of glass. It is one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used. This led me down the path to take the lens apart. Unfortunately, the tiny screws are frozen in place. I have since learned I can free the screws with a cotton swab and naphtha, and a retry of the surgical procedure was on the list to happen someday (probably never). I figured even if I ruined the lens it would be cool to see its internal organs. I was meandering around the web and came across a post suggesting to put a lens with rheumatism into an airtight container with a cotton ball soaked in naphtha (lighter fluid). According to the author, the fumes from the naptha soften the old grease. Not having much to lose, I tried it. It is a miracle. I am not sure if this will last, or if the inners are smattered with oil, but as of now, the blades look clean and the glass looks fine and the lens is again focusing smoothly. I left the lens caps on during the process. I used a Tupperware tub and some makeup removing pads and left the lens in the tub for 5 or 6 hours. If you have an old lens that is stiff, it might be worth a try.

I have cleaned up the lens from the condition in the primary picture shown below and it looks very good. The old skin looks fit for a cool cream commercial! The grease/naphtha residue on the externals of the lens barrel was wiped away (note the barrel’s dull patina). Some (a thin film) was caused by the the spa treatment and some (more cakey) was pre-existing. From the barrel exfoliation, smoothness improvement occurred a measure more than the original scented treatment.

  1. I’m wondering if this would work on my Walzflex TLR with a frozen focus knob. Might be worth a try since the technician I took it to wasn’t interested in digging into it.

    1. Hi David, it is worth a try. You might want to tape some gauze over the inner and outer portions of the taking and viewing lenses. I would also remove the viewing plate and while it is out given that a cleaning. Let me know if it works. I am very pleased with the initial results, we will see how long it lasts. The lens was pretty much frozen before the treatment. Lou.

    2. If the problem comes from oil on the aperture blades it might worsen the problem, but I think it is still worth a try. It sounds like a project to go thru a disassembly, cleaning and greasing. I have no skills for this and it would probably be a disaster. There are some good videos on You Tube about disassembling TLR’s. You will likely have to remove the leatherette. Naphtha and a cotton swab is good to free up frozen small screws. Get a good quality set of miniature screw drivers also.

Leave a Reply