One or the rarer Minox sub miniature cameras is the shop display dummy. My camera came to me several years ago at Photographica from a Manchester dealer. I had never seen one before and had no idea of its value but a deal was struck and I went home with an interesting new item for my collection of subminiatures. The camera model was a type III (could be a II there is no way to know) and had the number F38 stamped on the bottom next to the extra hole that was drilled by the factory to ensure that the dealer and customer knew that it had no internal mechanism. These cameras were first issued in 1951 for shop display when there was a shortage of working cameras. The only problem with my camera was that it rattled. The frame counter, the cover where the chain fits and the snap-lock for the back cover were loose inside. I put it in the display case and thought to myself that one day I will sort the camera out. Meanwhile the collection continued to grow and the dummy sat on the shelf looking forlorn. Then at Photographica 98 I saw another dummy III. It didnt rattle and looked great so I said to myself that the time was right to repair my camera. A couple of days later I started to attempt to strip it. The first problem was how to get inside. Unlike normal precision cameras it was glued together! Looking carefully I could see a run of glue between the end and top plates, near the shutter dial, so taking a razor blade I tried to cut the glue with no success. It was obvious that stronger methods were needed so I borrowed my wifes nail polish remover and dripped the acetone on to the joint (I did first make sure that no components would be damaged by this solvent). Eventually the end plate came loose and pulled off revealing a block of wood covered with glue. I have many wooden cameras in my collection but they are usually made of polished mahogany and not something that looked as if it had been cut from a tea chest. It was obvious that the dummy Minox had been assembled, with glue, round this block of wood. I tried the acetone again but it just wasnt enough. I gave it a bit of thought and put the kettle on, not for a cup of tea but for the Minox. My theory was that the hot water would soften the glue and allow disassembly (remember there was no mechanism inside). I put the camera in a Pyrex jug and poured on the boiling water, left it for a few minutes and then easily pulled it apart. The Viewfinder front and back plates had been held on to the wooden block with wood screws and glue! This assembly had then been then glued into the outer case. The components included a perfect shutter blade (a bonus because I had a Minox II with a damaged blade) and half a frame counter dial (I would imagine that the other half went into another dummy to save manufacturing costs).
After scraping the remains of the glue from the wooden block re-assembly was easy using adhesive that could later be dissolved if necessary. Cleaning of the metal was done with soapy water and my damaged Minox II shutter blade was glued into place.
I now have a dummy that looks good doesnt rattle and my extra reward is that after a bit more work I also have a working Minox II.
The above technique was specific to stripping the dummy and could not be applied to a normal working camera, but does show some of the creativity that may be needed when working on cameras.
This article first appeared in Photographica World the magazine of the Photographic Collectors Club of Great Britain