How to fix a sticky Yashica TLR shutter

I recently bought a very cheap Yashica 635 TLR on eBay. The reason I chose the 635 was due to it being the only medium format camera ever produced to use either 120 and 35mm film. 35mm is still fairly affordable and easy to develop whereas 120 is becoming more expensive. If the rumours are true that Fuji no longer make film and Kodak aren’t making any more c41 120 then in the near future this will become incredibly expensive, having the 35mm option on the TLR at least allows me to still play with it and not relegate it to being an ornament.

So the reason it was so cheap was due to the sticky shutter leaves and the camera was filthy, the shutter wouldn’t open at all. I did some research and found it’s due to the old lubricant on the shutter leaves becoming sticky. The general gist is to send a dodgy Yashica TLR to a former Yashica builder, Mark Hama who is now retired and lives in the USA. I emailed for a quote for a strip and clean, and it was as much as buying a working example. Mine was looking like it had sat in a cupboard or a attic for thirty years, and after some cleaning amazingly looks like new. I toyed with the idea of sending it at that point but thought sod it and to have a go.  One thing to mention here is the timer can cause problems with the shutter sticking, and people suggest never to use it.  I unwittingly didn’t realise this at the time but found mine works perfectly but do be careful.

I could see the shutter leaves twitching when operating it so thought the internals must be okay and decided to strip and clean myself.  I obviously recommend you taking it to Mark Hama and having a pro doing this, these cameras aren’t so young anymore, but if you’ve nothing to lose, then this is how I did mine.

I bought a cheap spanner wrench to take out the lens. Start by setting the spanner wrench and knocking the tension off the lens.

Spanner Wrench

Once loose finish removing lens with fingers.

Now removed use a Q-Tip (cotton wool bud) dipped in naphtha (lighter fluid) to carefully clean the shutter leaves.  You’ll see it evaporate rather quickly, hopefully leaving the sticky old lubricant on your cotton bud.

Select the bulb shutter setting and operate the shutter, you’ll hopefully find it starts to move. Very carefully clean the edges of the leaves and it’ll probably start popping in and out.

This is a cheap fix and obviously isn’t fool proof, but works for the time being and a cheap short term fix.  I tested the shutter speeds and they all seem to be working perfectly, so I’m rather happy.  The camera cost me well under half of what working examples go for.

Get out and take some pics: