The trouble with rubber is that it gets loose and crackled over time. If you are a fan of vintage lenses, I’m sure you’ve learned this the hard way. But there’s a quick and easy fix for loose rubber rings on old lenses, and it even looks much nicer and more elegant. Marek a.k.a. teh_m uses leather, and he shared with DIYP some tips on how to do it.
Marek was lucky to find a dirt-cheap Cosinon 50/1.7. However, its rubber focus ring was far from perfect:
There are tutorials online teaching you how to fix loose rubber rings, and Marek divides them into two groups:
- Try applying heat: put the ring in boiling water or use a heat gun/hairdryer. The heat should make the rubber shrink a bit.
- Cut it and use some glue. “I thought I’d pass on this because maybe there’s some method of refreshing the rubber that I simply am unaware of,” Marek writes.
Now, rubber stretches, breaks, turns gray or loses its strength with time. Or like Marek, I’m also unaware of ways to return its elasticity and strength. But either way – it becomes more or less unusable. Marek tried applying heat to the loose lens ring, but it didn’t work. So he decided to make a new one out of leather. He tells me that there are many vintage lenses that have leather rings, like Zeiss, Rollei, and Voigtlander, as well as some Soviet ones. However, neither he nor I have seen it as a DIY project, so I figured it would be a good idea to share.
Okay, so, how do you do it? It’s fairly simple:
First, cut a strip that’s the same width as the rubber.
Next, cut the leather to length. Marek notes that you can cut it 1mm shorter if you want it to sit as tight on the lens as possible. “The leather can stretch a bit, so you’ll be able to put it on the lens without any problem.”
For the final step, you can take two approaches. You can glue the leather with a special type of glue for it, and here you can find a bit of info about it.
The second approach is the one Marek used and the one I also prefer: sew it. You’ll need strong thread and a needle, and Marek notes that it’s easier to make holes first. “It takes a bit of force to push the needle through,” he notes, but here’s a pro tip from me: put rubber gloves on. I do embroidery on various mediums and rubber gloves really help to push the needle through firm materials. And you gotta appreciate the irony of using rubber to help you get rid of rubber. “The type of the seam and the color of the thread is up to you,” Marek notes, and here’s how it turned out for him:
Something to keep in mind is that standard cotton thread won’t work. “It will be destroyed by chemicals that are present in the leather,” Marek notes, so make sure to use nylon, polyester, or kevlar. The last will even make your lens bulletproof (or its seam at least).
Leather is durable, and Marek jokingly says that this ring will probably last longer than the lens itself. But keep in mind that it needs conditioning from time to time (hand cream works well from my experience). You also want to keep it away from moisture, but you do the same for your lens. At least I hope you do!
Of course, you can give it to someone who works with leather. But I think it’s especially satisfying if you do it yourself, and it’s really not that difficult. After all, you can use other materials, and Marek suggests nylon cable braid, thin paracord, or even copper, stainless, or brass wire. This gives you even more possibilities and more looks for your lens, and I’d personally love to see one with the wire!
If you love vintage lenses, check out the sub-Reddit Marek runs, you’ll find plenty of great tips. And if you make this leather ring for your lens – do share, I’d love to see how it turned out for you!