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Ashford, J. | New Patent Camera (2) | Tailboard | 5 X 4 inch Plate

NEW PATENT CAMERA | 1887 ON A smaller, 5x4inch version of these rarely seen, hand-dovetailed quality cameras from James Ashford, 179, Aston Road, Birmingham, with a unique folding mechanism, made to patent No. 541 of 1887. (See also Cat. No. 0197).

There are some, what at first sight, appear to be modifications using 3/16 & 1/4 inch aluminium plate for the sliding chassis of the tailboard section, and as a baseplate with tripod hole, fitted under the existing mahogany baseboard. The baseplate is competently fitted and I can accept that that may be a later amateur addition, but the aluminium of the sliding chassis is an integral part of the camera, machined with precision rebates and with the focusing rack inset as a precision fit in machined grooves, working smoothly on what is obviously the original pinion and mated perfectly to the surrounding mahogany. I cannot believe it was not done by Ashfords themselves as an original option, although I have never before seen aluminium at that date used on a wooden camera in such quantity or as part of the structure, and the word "prototype" springs to mind.

By the mid-1880s, new methods of aluminium smelting had brought the price of aluminium down and a fashion arose for using aluminium in camera fittings. The fad didn't last long but I know of various makers such as Lancaster and Sands & Hunter, who offered cameras with a choice of either brass or aluminium fittings. Did Ashford do the same? I have no access to any of his advertising or catalogues. A half-plate model of the same camera in my collection is all mahogany and brass, no aluminium plate.

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