So the strap for my Rolleiflex has now come to the end of its usability, and could probably snap at any minute now. This is something that is too familiar for owners of rolleiflex cameras, and there are also a lot of horror stories out on the forums from owners that have not updated their straps, resulting in smashed cameras. Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the leather straps and cases are excellent. The problem is that many of them are pushing 60+ years of heavy use, and being made of a natural material such as leather, they are more sensitive to the elements.
Many photographers like to use their gear, and with modern materials there is not much to it than just plainly use your stuff until it wears out. In vintage products the usage of leather in the design is common. The majority of photographers do not have any leather craft skills so most of them do not know that leather oxidizes over time and will turn dry ,brittle and eventually fall apart. There are ways to slow down the process with different types of oils and balms. It is often enough to at least once a year do some conditioning maintenance on your leather straps.
My strap was way beyond salvation and I wanted to replace it with something looking as original as possible. The options for a new one is pretty limited, and if you find a new old stock original Rollei brand you pretty much have to pay through your nose. The second route is the Chinese knock offs, which are over priced for the quality you get. They are often made of artificial leather and there are reports of the metal clips falling apart.
After some browsing around the web I came to the conclusion that I would probably get away with a lesser cost and pretty much the original quality, by making one myself and reusing the hardwear from my original strap. I scored some leather, leather rivets and waxed linen thread and begun the leather crafting process. Most of the tools I already had and those I did not have I made improvised versions of, like the edge creaser made from a pinion puller and feeler gauge blades. The edges were smoothened with a soldering iron and then burnished with beeswax. The resulting strap is pretty much spot on, except that the leather I got was of a slightly darker brown colour, and the strap does not have the “Made in Germany” and “Rollei” stamping.
I actually enjoyed making the strap. If you happen to have an old rolleiflex strap, or any other type of camera strap that needs to be replaced, feel free to contact me, and I might be able to help you out.